Dear PM, Now Is The Time To Act On Your Promise To Kashmiri Pandits

The tiny community which is already shrinking has been denied its right to practice religion and has been labeled as ecological disaster by the state government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on his second official visit to Jammu and Kashmir today. He will lay the foundation stone of the 330 km Leh-Srinagar transmission line and inaugurate two hydro-power projects in the Ladakh region during his day-long visit.

The prime minister’s visit comes at a time when the assembly polls in the state are just round the corner. He will address two public gatherings which will help boost the the Bhartiya Janata Party and its ally morals in the state.

It should be noted that the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba founder and the alleged mastermind of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack Hafeez Saeed has been holding anti-India rallies in Pakistan’s territory bordering the State. PM Modi’s second visit within a month to the state will help the central government connect more with the people and strengthen the confidence of jawans deployed at the border.

But one issue that PM Modi must address is of Kashmiri Pandits and the politics behind their revered Kaunsar Nag yatra.

The issue which did not see the light of the day due to media’s deliberate ignorance and government’s reservations on the matter, was raised by a TRS MP in the Parliament yesterday.

When Kavitha Kalvakuntla demanded a retrial in the case of terrorist Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate, who is accused of killing at least 20 people, most of them Kashmiri Pandits, she left Home Minister Rajnath SIngha nd other BJp leaders stunned who used to think that they had a monopoly over it.

We all know that Karate has himself admitted to his crimes. His first victim, as per his own admission, was a young businessman, Satish Kumar Tickoo. He was murdered on February 2, 1990, outside his home in Srinagar.

After spending 16 years in jail, Karate was released on bail without conviction. Judge N.D. Wani, while releasing him, remarked that the “allegations levelled against the accused are of serious nature and carry a punishment of death sentence or life imprisonment but the fact is that the prosecution has shown total disinterest in arguing the case.”

The recent issue pertaining to the Kashmiri Pandits and the politicians at the helm of the issue is more grave. The tiny community which is already shrinking has been denied its right to practice religion and has been labeled as ecological disaster by the state government.

Konsar Nag is a glacial lake located at 12,000 feet in the Kulgam district of South Kashmir. Close to Aharbal, a famous waterfall and tourist destination, Konsar Nag is of immense religious significance to Hindus. They believe this lake was formed after Lord Vishnu set his foot here, which is why it is also called Vishnu Paad (foot of Vishnu). According to well known poet and author Agni Shekhar, Konsar Nag is mentioned in the ancient text of Nilmat Puran. It also finds mention in Pandit Kalhan’s famous history of Kashmir, Raj Tarangini.

Before terrorism hit Kashmir in 1989-90, Hindus would regularly go to Konsar Nag. After their mass exodus from the state due to terrorism which rendered them homeless and security became an issue, the pilgrimage stopped. 

However, for the last few years, Konsar Nag was accessed through Reasi in Jammu. This year, the Pandits wanted to revive the yatra via its traditional route through Kulgam. The All Parties Migrants Co-ordination Committee (APMCC) visited the district administration for the same given the precarious security conditions and managed to get permission for yatra through traditional route.

It would have been their first yatra through tradition route after terrorism troubled them for 24 years until the separatist Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani stalled it.

It was said that Kasmri Pandits and their “new yatra destination will destroy the fragile environment and water resources of Kashmir”.

But he also let the real agenda slip. It turned out that the environment was just a ploy to stall the yatra which would “threaten the Muslim identity of the state”. “It is a political decision made under the pressure of the communal minded people and its only purpose is the cultural aggression on Kashmir,” he added.

He even accused chief minister Omer Abdullah of “being only concerned with his chair and not caring about the negative effects of this decision in haste” and finally forced him cancel the permission.

Well, this is not the first time that the J&K government has used the environment bogey to deny Kashmiri Pandits their rights. Sunanda Vashisht writes in her article in DNA: “This is not the first time the environment bogey has been raised by separatists. They know that for their intellectual supporters in the media and academia, they must provide an excuse that can be then embellished and presented in a palatable manner in opeds, seminars and general chit-chat over tea and scones in living rooms from New Delhi to New York. 

Back in the Kashmir valley however, they needn’t be subtle. It was clearly communicated that the yatra was being ‘originated’ to destroy the Muslim identity of Kashmir. This was a ‘Markaz ki chaal’ (a ploy of the central government) to destroy the Islamic fibre of the valley. India is playing Israel to destroy Kashmir. 

This last excuse of Israel and Jews never fails to arouse passion. Even a stray mention of Israel and Jews is enough to get young men on the streets to protest. Geelani is an old veteran at this game. During the Zubin Mehta concert as well, the same excuses were used. India wants to vandalise the beautiful garden of Shalimar, they said, and therefore the concert must not be held. When I researched, I found that the J&K chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and cultural Heritage (INTACH) had said some renovation work was overdue and the Shalimar garden was restored according to internationally accepted methods. “

There has been an increase in the frequency with which the Hindu temples and pilgrimage sights are being vandalized and destroyed in the valley. With every blow, the farce that the state government propagates that the Muslims of the valley want the Hindus to return and live with them is exposed. But, at the same time, the chances of Kashmiri Pandits returning home eventually, diminishes.

It was a promise made by PM Modi and BJP while campaigning for Lok Sabha elections that they will work out a plan for the rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits in the state. We know that the resettlement of Hindus in the valley won’t happen overnight. But now is the time to act on it.

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