'Separate Colonies Problematic, Would Create Divisions In Society'

9 April 2015
The Indian Express
Mir Ehsan , Adil Akhzer , Arun Sharma

Srinagar: From political parties to separatist groups, every prominent outfit in Kashmir has favoured the return to migrant Pandits to their homeland. The disagreement is only over where and how - the PDP-BJP government's reported move to create separate townships for displaced Pandits in the Valley has met with opposition from several quarters. The Opposition as well as separatist leaders want the Pandits to return to their homes and not to live in separate townships. Even in the civil society, there were only a few takers for any such plan. Professor Noor Ahmad Baba, a prominent political commentator, had termed any such move as 'problematic'. 'It would not serve any purpose. Rather bridging gaps between the two communities, it would create divisions,' he said. Even, All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina said the BJP-PDP 'plan' was aimed at 'dividing the Kashmiri society'. However, there has been growing demand for a formula where all displaced Kashmiris, including Muslims and Sikhs, can live in separate settlements. Many Muslims, Sikhs and non-Kashmiri Hindu families too had fled the Valley due to militancy in the 1990s. Such a formula, according to the migrants, would not only address their security concerns but also help the minority community get integrated with their majority brethren. 'How I can go to a place where population of Pandits and Muslims is in the ratio of 1:25?' asked Maharaj Krishan Kaul, 57, who migrated to Jammu from Kokernag along with his family in 1990. He said it is better if the government settles them in composite colonies no matter if these house even migrant Muslims and others. 'At least by living together we all will have a sense of security and it will also be easier for government to ensure our safety,' he added. At present, nearly 62,000 Kashmiri migrant families are registered with the government who have migrated to Jammu, Delhi and other places after militancy erupted in the Valley in 1989. Previous experiments to bring back the migrants have failed, even separate complexes at four places in the Valley did not succeed. In fact, the only successful return was in Baramulla town where Pandit families voluntarily came back to their homes with help from their Muslim neighbours. 'Locals accorded us warm reception in Baramulla town. Muslim neighbours even gave us money to run our business,' said Ashok Ganjoo, who runs a clothes' shop. His father, Hardev Nath, brought 30 families in 1996 who took shelter in a local temple. 'The government never helped us they only made false promises,' added Ganjoo.