The debate over the moves by the Central and the Jammu and Kashmir governments to resettle Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir is one that will only bring pain to any well-wisher of the State. To understand this, one has to go back in time, when the second half of the 1980s saw Kashmir spiral out of control, gripped by violence, suspicion and dread. What had begun as an ethnic conflict was soon imparted a religious colour by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence. The Pandits, a Hindu minority in the Kashmir Valley, were targeted by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, even though the organisation had sought to build on the original secular foundations of the National Conference, and by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a secessionist outfit, which sparked their exodus.
By 2008, their population the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, was reduced to 651 families from 75,343 families. Nearly 70,000 families fled in the turmoil of 1990-92, and even though the violence was brought under control, most of the remaining families left thereafter.I was Special Commissioner, in South Kashmir then the public had ceased to visit government offices. Several hundred people from the Nai Basti neighbourhood went to the Special Commissioners office in Khannabal demanding to see me.
Because of the disturbed circumstances, I had set up office and residence in the rest house in the district headquarters. Mohammad Syed Shah, generally known as Syed Shah, the brother of the separatist leader, Shabbir Shah, and Muslim United Front member of the dissolved State Assembly, demanded to know why Pandits were leaving en masse and in turn why the administration was doing nothing about it. Mr. Shah accused the administration of encouraging the migration so that the Army would be left free to unleash its heavy artillery on all habitations. When I asked the delegation if it believed that I would be party to such a plan, this was their response: ‘I had been kept in the dark, while they were privy to “secret” information’.
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