January 2020 News

Pandits Will Return To Kashmir Valley With Dignity, Says Ram Madhav

20 January 2020
The Hindustan Times
Smriti Kak Ramachandran

New Delhi: Having fulfilled its long-pending promise of negating Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has said that the next objective for the party is to ensure the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley. Large sections of the 400,000-strong Pandit community were forced to leave Kashmir in January 1990 following terror attacks and a secessionist movement spearheaded by extremist groups. Only a handful of Pandits live in the Valley now. BJP's national general secretary and in-charge of Jammu and Kashmir, Ram Madhav, said the transformation of the region after the bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union terrirtories was underway and the process of return of Pandits to the Valley will begin only after consultations with the community leadership. Madhav, who was seen as the architect of an unlikely alliance between the BJP and the Peoples Democratic Party that formed the government in the state in 2015, said his party was committed to the return of Pandits with 'honour and security'. 'What the Kashmiri Pandits had to face in the last three decades is a very unfortunate phase, but the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir also passed through a similar phase for the last seven decades. Now, major transformation is happening and we are sure that this transformation will help all sections, including the Pandits,' he said. The BJP-PDP alliance broke in 2018 and the government fell shortly after. While a section of KPs are demanding a separate homeland within the Valley, other community leaders have expressed apprehension about the plans for their resettlement, citing security concerns. 'When the BJP-PDP government was in power, it had initiated dialogue with the Pandit leadership with a view to explore ways for their return to the Valley. At that time, after two rounds of discussion, it was broadly decided that townships for them will be built in four or five locations across the Valley,' he said. 'No decision was arrived at on whether these would be exclusive or mixed townships, in any case the views of the Pandits would ultimately prevail,' he added. But community organisations had a lukewarm response. 'No consultations have been held with us; and even if they had come to us with the idea of staggered townships, we would have rejected it. We want single-place resettlement,' said Agnishekhar, a member of Panun Kashmir, an organisation of Pandits that demands a separate homeland.