Govt's Proposal To Rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits Not Enough: Amnesty

24 June 2014

New Delhi: Amnesty International India has welcomed the government's pledge and proposals to properly rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave Jammu and Kashmir after the insurgency in 1990. But it added that much more work needed to be done by the government in this regard. In the wake of Arun Jaitley's recent visit to Kashmir, Amnesty, in a press release, said that the NDA government's proposed steps for the security of the citizens of Kashmir were positive. However, it also urged the government to consult all communities living in Jammu and Kashmir before taking any steps in this regard, and also asked it to provide effective remedy and reparation to victims of human rights in the state. It also asked the government to respond to recent threats made by armed groups, including a video released by al Qaeda, in a manner that respected the human rights of Kashmiri citizens. Without these steps, the organisation said that proper rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits was not possible. Earlier, the home ministry had announced plans to approve a package of Rs 20 lakh for every displaced Kashmiri Pandit family to help them reconstruct their houses in the state. In 2008, the UPA government had announced a similar package in which the amount set for reconstruction of houses was Rs 7.5 lakh per family. However, this package was only meant for those who had sold their properties between 1989 and 1997. NDA's proposal applies to all Kashmiri Pandits. In his presidential address to a joint session of Parliament, Pranab Mukherjee had also said that the government would ensure that Kashmiri Pandits return to the Valley with full 'dignity' and 'security.' 'Special efforts will be made to ensure that Kashmiri Pandits return to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood,' the president had said while addressing the joint session of both houses of parliament. Regarding NDA's commitment to 'zero tolerance for human rights violations,' Amnesty claimed it has continued to receive consistent reports of human rights violations including allegations of extrajudicial killings, torture, and arbitrary detention by state security forces in Kashmir. The Amnesty press release also said that according to the head of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) Sanjay Tickoo, not a single Kashmiri Pandit family has returned to the valley. The KPSS estimated that there are currently 651 families living in the Kashmir valley, and up to 75,000 families who are eligible to return. 'If the government wants them to come back, then they have to take into confidence the local politicians, all the civil society actors, both separatist and mainstream. That is the only way (violence between the communities) will not happen again,' Tickoo said. Rashneek Kher, the founding member of Roots in Kashmir, an organization comprising young Kashmiri Pandits born outside the Kashmir valley, said, 'No one left because of money in the first place. And no one will go back because of money. Not a single family went back to Kashmir when the scheme was first announced in 2008, and no one will go back now.' Amnesty International also urged the government to establish a rehabilitation programme which provided comprehensive reparation including restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition to all victims of human rights abuses.