The Big Picture – Re-settling Kashmiri Pandits: Enclaves or assimilate?
The exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the Kashmiri valley in the early 1990s and the question
of their home coming ever since has been both a political and emotional issue. With the
formation of PDP and BJP alliance government in J&K, the question of resettling 62000 Kashmiri
Pandit families, who had been forced to migrate, has once again gained attraction. The BJP’s
proposal to resettle the Pandits in exclusive enclaves has caused tensions in the Valley. Protests
have started against any kind of segregated townships. However, the CM has clarified that
there is no such plan and settlement will be done in an assimilated manner.
The involuntary exile of virtually the entire Pandit community from the Kashmir valley in the
wake of the separatist insurgency that broke out in the state in 1988 is one of the great
tragedies of independent India. It is also an integral part of the story of human suffering writ
large across Jammu and Kashmir, a story of murder and displacement, terrorism, torture and
custodial killings that had left virtually no family unaffected. About three lakh Pandits had left
the Valley in the 1990s. Many of those who did return in 2007 under a government job scheme
say they are not happy. They live in migrant colonies and do not have basic amenities like a
ration card or even a voter ID card. The reasons for this are complex.
Some Pandit families in exile remain fearful about continuing threats, and wonder about the
wisdom of relocating themselves for a second time when the outcome is uncertain, and their
children have developed roots elsewhere in India. The indecisiveness of the Central and State
governments in adopting a proper resettlement policy has added to the confusion, as have
community organisations like Panun Kashmir which have built their career around the demand
for the creation of a Pandit ‘homeland’ within the Valley.
There are many security reasons involved in this. It is possible that a Pandit township may seem
like a more attractive, high-profile target for terrorist groups than dispersed dwellings, and this
threat perception is likely to turn these settlements into not just ghettos but heavily militarized
compounds, further compromising the prospect for normal life as far its resettled residents are
concerned. There are also many hurdles including job creation for those who return.