Say no to ghettos in Kashmir

Say no to ghettos in Kashmir

In the unquiet atmosphere in Kashmir, two controversial proposals, which are not new but are being pushed with some vigour now, are creating more disquiet and meeting widespread opposition. The proposals relate to setting up exclusive enclaves in the Valley for resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits and creating residential colonies for ex-servicemen belonging to the state. The proposals are supported by the BJP, which is a partner in the state’s government. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has tried to explain and make a weak defence of the proposals. She has said that the proposed separate clusters for Pandits will be transit camps where they can live before they are settled in their original homes. Her statement that Pandits should not be thrown ‘like pigeons before the cat’ created controversy, but she said that it was distorted by the opposition and the media. She also said that the proposal for a Sainik colony was not new because Jammu already had one. 

The proposals are opposed not only by militant bodies and organisations like the Hurriyat Conference and the JKLF but also by political parties and large sections of civil society. They are taken as moves to change the demographic character of the state. Though only Kashmiris will be settled in the colonies, the fear is that in due course others might be allowed in. The fear is supported by the notion that changing the demography of Kashmir is part of the Hindutva agenda. While the fear may be exaggerated, the merit of setting up separate colonies is questionable. Pandits were an integral part of Kashmir and they lived as a part of its composite society. To set up separate colonies will tantamount to making ghettos for them. They should be rehabilitated among the majority community and there should be trust and harmony between them. Separate enclaves will create suspicion and distrust and may be unsafe for the residents, however well protected they are. Kashmiriyat, the basis of the state’s social life, is a pluralistic and inclusive idea which will be ill served by the creation of separate clusters for Pandits.

The same is the case with the proposal for a Sainik village. In Jammu, it was set up by a cooperative society of ex-soldiers. What is proposed in Kashmir is a government plan for settlement. It should be noted that even moderate Kashmiri Pandits have opposed these proposals. There is no point in pursuing proposals which are opposed by most Kashmiris. Mehbooba and her party would be opposing them if they were not in government.
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