August 2002 News

NCM opens a door for Kashmiri Pandits’ return

18 August 2002
The Indian Express
Kota Neelima

New Delhi: The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has decided to ‘‘study the possibilities’’ for the return of over three lakh Kashmiri Pandits, who fled the Valley about 13 years back, by taking the first batch back to their home state. The date of journey will be finalised this week, after consultations with J & K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah who is visiting the Capital. The NCM today postponed a three- day visit scheduled to begin from tomorrow, following a faxed message from the J & K Chief Secretary asking them to take the Election Commission’s permission. ‘‘There is no need for NCM, which is an autonomous body, to take permission from any other panel to visit a state. But since all the arrangements were to be made by the State Government only, the Commission has decided to postpone its visit,’’ said NCM vice-chairman Tarlochan Singh. ‘‘We had informed the official in charge of Kashmir affairs in the Prime Minister’s Office of our plan and we were told that any move to resettle the Kashmiri Pandits in their home state would be welcome. The main objective of the move is to let the migrants interact with their neighbours, check the state of their property and pick up the threads of their lives where they had left them,’’ said Singh. Pointing out that the migrants would be going through a neutral body like the NCM, Singh said this would increase the chances of a meaningful interaction with the administration, who could address their problems. The first batch of Kashmiri Pandits mainly comprises heads of various migrant organisations, both in Delhi and Jammu. ‘‘The difference between this move and earlier efforts, which have mostly been at an individual level, is that through the Commission, the migrants, as well as others, can be motivated to come up with a scenario for resettlement,’’ said H.N. Juthu, president of the All India Kashmiri Pandits Conference. ‘‘We want to open a ventilation on an issue which has been shut for over a decade. It is only through this apolitical people-to-people interaction that the migrants can be motivated to return to the state,’’ he added. According to the NCM, the main agenda of the trip is to address property and security concerns. ‘‘Many Kashmiri Pandits had left their property in a hurry. These were occupied later on. The administration has to look into these properties and ascertain whether they can be vacated or an alternative arrangement can be made,’’ said Singh. Compensation for distress sale of property is also likely to be discussed. ‘‘However, the real problem is that of security. The plan is to earmark and cordon an area where the early migrants can stay for some time before returning to their villages,’’ revealed Singh. Admitting his doubts and hesitation about joining the trip, another delegate, T.N. Razdan, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Vichar Mangh said: ‘‘Our main concern, as expressed repeatedly by the migrants, is that of security. Until we can go to various districts and talk to the neighbours of Pandits who fled, we will not know whether we are welcome back or not.’’ Razdan added: ‘‘If a Pandit’s property has been occupied by a neighbour, there is bound to be some animosity. That is the issue on which we would need the help of the local organistaions and the government.’’


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