Pvt Member Bill On Kashmiri Pandits Brings Parties Together

11 December 2015

New Delhi: A private member resolution on displaced Kashmiri Pandits in Lok Sabha today brought together different parties which unanimously pushed for their early return to the Valley while voicing concern over their pitiable conditions even 25 years after their migration due to terror. Members from parties like BJD, BJP and Trinamool Congress unanimously condemned the pro-Pakistan elements for bringing about 'ethnic cleansing' of minority Hindus from Kashmir Valley and asserted that the government should take strong steps to counter such attempts. The members, while participating in the debate on the resolution 'Immediate Steps for Rehabilitation and Welfare of Displaced Persons from Kashmir', also sent out a message to Pakistan, saying the fate of Jammu and Kashmir is non-negotiable as it is an 'example' of how a Muslim-majority state can be a part of India. A resolution was unanimously adopted later. Congress members were not present as they were boycotting the House in demand for apology from BJP member Virendra Singh for certain remarks against Rahul Gandhi. During the debate, there were demands that the government should withdraw security to separatist leaders while making efforts to identify 'saner' elements in the majority Muslim community of Kashmir for consultations to facilitate return of the displaced people to 'Kashmiriyat'. However, members were divided over Article 370 which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, with those from BJP pushing for scrapping it while some others cautioning against such a step. Participating in the debate, B Mahtab of BJD described as 'criminal' the fact that Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Valley because of terrorism beginning 1990 and only one family has returned despite the successive governments making plans and spending lot of money. Noting that over 62,000 families had been displaced as per the government data, he said their return to 'larger Kashmiriyat' is a 'strategic imperative' for which conditions should be created, like changing the 'Wahabi' mindset among the majority community there. He said the return of Kashmiri Pandits will be opposed by pro-Pakistan elements and therefore the central government should intervene directly to ensure that the displaced people are rehabilitated at places where they lived. Mahtab also favoured increase in relief emoluments and better welfare measures for the displaced Kashmiri Pandits. At present, they get Rs 1650 per head with a cap of four per family and rice. The BJD leader mentioned about the damage and destruction of temples in Kashmir. Citing a Parliamentary Standing Committee report of 2009, he said there were 436 temples in the Valley before the migration and of these 170 were damaged. There is a mention of renovation of 90 temples, but there is no word about the rest 80, he said and wanted to know about their fate. Mahtab also wanted to know as to what happened to the recommendation by that Committee for declaring as null and void the sale of Kashmiri Pandits' properties. The BJD member also questioned why security was given to separatists, 'who speak against the country, day in and day out' and sought to know how much cost the government incurs over it. 'Let a beginning be made by them (separatists)...Let them express regret. Let them say what happened was wrong. It will at least lay the base for a dialogue and return of Kashmiri Pandits,' he said, adding 'Otherwise why should the government provide security to them? He suggested that there should be a multi-community committee for discussing return of Kashmiri Pandits. Mahtab also moved an amendment to the resolution which said that people displaced due to partition in 1947 also should be rehabilitated as it was not clear as to how long the Line of Control will remain 'artificial'. Hukmdev Narayan Yadav (BJP) stressed that Indians need to get rid of the mentality of slavery and replace it with the confidence and spirit of a ruler and embrace nationalism. Then only the nation would be able to solve the problems facing the country including that of Kashmir. He criticised historians like Romila Thapar and R C Mazumdar, intellectuals and human rights activists for speaking sympathetically about separatists and terrorists. Quoting socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia, Yadav said there was a strong case for abolition of the Article 370 and introducing Uniform Civil Code. As in France and the US, he said, the citizens and media should come together and speak in one voice to deal with critical issues concerning safety and security of the nation. Yadav demanded that temples in Kashmir, which were destroyed by terrorists and separatists, should be rebuilt by the Centre as was done in case of the Somnath temple. Recalling the historic developments, Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress) said though many Pakistanis felt that Kashmir was 'core issue' and hampering relationship with the neighbour, it would remain part of India for at least next 1,000 years. Roy described Kashmir as symbol of Indian secularism and said that efforts should not be made to abolish Article 370 as it could aggravate the situation. Satyapal Singh (BJP) suggested that Indian should not refrain from using violence to defend and deal with the problem of militancy in Kashmir. 'Sometimes violence becomes our dharma', he added. He demanded that about 65,000 Gujjars who had settled in Kashmir should be allowed to vote in state assembly. Singh regretted that several temples were destroyed in Kashmir and names of 600 villages were changed as part of the Islamisation drive. Anju Bala (BJP) demanded that the government should take firm measures to rehabilitate Kashmiri pandits and provide adequate financial assistance to displaced persons who were living in pitiable condition in various parts of the country. Jagdambika Pal (BJP) said that fundamental rights of the people to settle in any part of the country including Kashmri were needed to be enforced and demanded that the centre should take steps to provide jobs to displaced Kashmiris. Even after 69 years of independence, Kashmir issue is like cancer, Dubey said. NSA, Prime Minister and External Affairs Minister are all meeting with Pakistan officials but a question arises on what basis are they talking. There cannot be any negotiation on J&K, he noted.