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'Kashmir is not okay, Mr Sayeed'
May 02, 2003
Once again, spring is round the corner and the majestic chinars will enrich the Kashmir skies. But will it change anything for the Kashmiri Pandits? Will this year be any different?
Having been overlooked for so long, the Pandits were daring to dream about returning to the homes they had left years ago. After nearly a decade-and-a-half of bloodshed, the air was again filled with anticipation. Whenever any such feeling occurs, it is cut short by brutal massacres forcing them to put their dreams on hold again.
Whenever there is a massacre of Kashmiri Hindus, it makes news for a day or two. A central government team pays a flying visit to the site of the tragedy and reiterates that the government has formulated a strategy to combat such cold-blooded killings. The political parties are quick to denounce cross-border terrorism sponsored by Pakistan while the Hurriyat leadership and other self-styled intellectuals describe it as a handiwork of security forces or Indian intelligence agents. A bandh is observed for a day and then everything is forgotten till another massacre.
The mindless attack in the Nadimarg hamlet of south Kashmir on March 23 has spilled water over the state government claims that security and rehabilitation of the minority community is their top priority. What security are they talking about? Nadimarg is one of the most gruesome genocides in the long history of mayhem in Kashmir.
How can a human being possibly commit or even witness such a gruesome act? Kashmiris were famous for kangri jung (fire pot war) or war of words, but not anymore.
Surprisingly, the Nadimarg incident happened in the backyard of a police picket. Such carnage would not have been possible without long time planning and help from the local police. As per some reports, the terrorists disarmed policemen and used their guns to kill people.
The incident has shattered the hopes and aspirations of about 400,000 Pandit refugees scattered all over the country and abroad. Those Pandits who stayed back braving all odds in the valley are rethinking about their safety and are horrified by the recent statement by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba threatening to eliminate Hindus in the valley. Some Pandit families have already moved to Jammu for their safety.
So where do they go from here? Is this going to be the final exodus for Kashmiri Pandits?
The endless death-list highlights the grand design to trammel any proposal for the return of the Pandits. Targeted mass killings have ensured the failure of every proposal to resolve the problem of the exiled Pandits. This also proves beyond doubt that instead of making tall claims about their safe return, successive governments have completely failed to provide proper protection to even the few members of the community who braved all odds to stay back in J&K.
The People's Democratic Party-led state government is releasing more and more criminals from jails, providing the 'healing touch' to their families and convincing the central government to hold talks with the Hurriyat Conference. They are wooing Bollywood and courting industrialists to invest in Kashmir in the name of peace and prosperity.
Providing jobs for the kin of terrorists is a 'healing touch,' but doing the same for a Kashmiri Pandit is nowhere in the agenda. What is Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed trying to prove? Does he want to say he has taken care of terrorism and all is fine in Kashmir? Does he seriously think industrialists will pump in money at a place where the common man's life is uncertain and terrorists are released to kill innocents?
Kashmir is not okay, Mr Sayeed. Kashmir is not fine. Why can't you see it? Fourteen years, thousands of lives, billions of rupees and not a lesson learnt.
In fact, the conflict is at its worst today. The series of attacks on army camps, increased number of encounters and heightened security operations all support this -- a view that both the state and central governments are at pains to contradict.
The recent spurt of violence, they say, is just a spurt. Another wave that will soon subside. Perhaps they don't understand it is the 10 major strike after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's government took over power in the state. As per his healing touch plan for the Pandits' return, they are to be kept in two security zones, where all security will be provided and the Pandits would be herded in worse than a concentration camp-like situation. Even if the plan succeeds, is this the solution to their plight?
Looking at the present scenario it seems Kashmiri Hindus serve only one purpose for the country: as convenient political footballs. Leaders kick them as per their needs and they get torn between the whims of politicians.
The Bharatiya Janata Party literally came into power by selling their plight. They promised that once in power they would abrogate Article 370 which would put an end to the turmoil as outsiders could also buy property and live in Kashmir. It was a good card, but once in power they never practised it.
So what did they do different from the previous Congress regime? Mere talking and condemning is not going to solve the Kashmir situation. Leaders in Delhi blame Pakistan, but cannot do anything about it. Who are they scared of?
There is no use of democracy for countries that cannot protect their people. We definitely need a dictator who can regain the self-respect of the country. Why can't these leaders take some lesson from the Western world where leaders waged a war just to protect their citizens from future attacks.
If the US can attack Iraq, terming Saddam Hussein a terrorist, then Pakistan is a terrorist hub. India can take this opportunity and destroy terrorist camps inside Pakistan. If the US could not use peaceful measures in resolving the Iraqi situation, why should India not follow suit?
The time is ripe for India to show that there cannot be two definitions of what constitutes terror. Taking such provocation lying down would be the surest way to invite many more such heinous acts. Inaction is already breeding a feeling of betrayal among a majority of people in the country, which can one day prove catastrophic.
The irony is even now, when so many Kashmiri Pandits are being killed due to lack of security, leaders are telling them to stay back. Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani while blaming Pakistan for the recent massacre told the Pandits that if they felt insecure they could migrate, but felt their migration would only amount to playing into the 'enemy's hands.' True it might, but what about their lives? Who is going to bring back all those dead? How long will Kashmiri Pandits get killed in order to keep the Indian flag fluttering in Kashmir?
Fourteen years and still counting. How many more years can they last before being added to the ranks of India's forgotten race?
Seema Kachru is a freelance writer and PR consultant in Houston, Texas, USA