Pandits Who Stayed On In Kashmir Valley Giving Up

29 July 2015
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Sumit Hakhoo

Jammu: Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA-government in New Delhi is making plans to resettle displaced Kashmiri Pandits back in the Valley, Hindus who did not migrate after the eruption of separatist insurgency in 1989-90 are leaving their homes now due to economic and social pressures. Isolated and ostracised, only 651 families comprising around 2,500 persons are left in the Valley who endured one of the most violent periods in recent history of J&K. About 3.5 lakh Hindus had left the Valley after militant organisations started a selective killing campaign in 1989, but thousands of families stayed back in the hope that the situation would improve. However, they feel discriminated against as non-migrant Pandits have been kept out of every relief and rehabilitation package announced by successive governments for people living in Jammu and other parts of the country. It is estimated that there were 19,000 Hindus in Kashmir in 1998, but following the Sangrampura (Budgam) and Wandhama (Srinagar) massacres, the population was reduced to 10,000 in 2002. However, in 2003, there was another exodus after militants killed 23 members of the minority community in Nadimarg (Pulwama). Since then, the exodus continues. 'It is not militancy but unemployment which is driving out families now. We are paying the price for not migrating despite threats and selective killings. The resettlement plan should include all Pandits, which can act as a confidence-building measure,' said Sanjay Tikkoo, president, Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti. The samiti represents Hindus living in Kashmir. Tikkoo said members of their own community living outside the Valley saw them with contempt for not leaving Kashmir. 'Nobody talks about our plight. A majority of people are living in rented houses or temples in Srinagar. They had to flee their villages as militants used to roam around freely in the chaotic years of the 1990s,' he said. Minister for Relief and Rehabilitation Syed Basharat Bukhari and officials of the Relief Department did not respond to repeated attempts to get their views on the issue at a time when resentment was growing among Pandits against the government. Members of the community said lack of economic security and failure of the authorities to resolve their issues forced many families to leave their villages as they saw no future for their children. 'The government has misplaced priorities. Packages are announced for only those Pandits who left the Valley in 1990. Those who stayed back despite militant threats have been left out of everything, slowly forcing them to leave,' said Sunil Kumar Bhat, running a small shop in Pulwama. Most members of the community said the financial package must extend to Valley based Pandits, who had received negligible assistance from the state and Central governments and local civil society groups so far.