Will Jammu go to the Kashmir way?

Some among the Kashmiri pandit who had to migrate from the valley earlier are wondering whether they will be forced to move again


Will history repeat itself and will there be another migration? Some residents of Jammu are seriously pondering these questions.The fear is not entirely baseless. And the reasons are more than one. Recently, the circulation of some anonymous letters to a few Kashmiri Pandit families —living in Trikuta Nagar, a posh locality in Jammu city and Dwega Nagar (Bantalab), situated on the outskirts of city — asking them to vacate their houses, has sent shivers down the spines of Pandits re–located here.The recent threats are reminiscent of similar ones received by Kashmiri Pandits in 1989–1990 when each family had received threatening calls, letters and even notices in the local papers asking them to leave the Valley. (The Hizbul Mujahideen’s open threats asking KPs to leave within 48 hours were published in a local Urdu paper, Al Safa). Fearful of their safety then, they had left. Similarly, the once sleepy town of Reasi in Jammu is agog with activity these days as a number of people from villages like Dharmari, Armas etc. in the upper reaches of Udhampur district are migrating to Reasi to escape the wrath of the militants.

The entire hilly belt, spread over 1,000 square kilometres, was rocked by the massacre of 28 persons on the night of April 17 when militants struck in village Prankote. This incident was the first of its kind in the trouble–torn state. When militants had earlier attacked Sangrampura, Wandhama (January 25, 1998 when 20 KP residents were killed) and Gool Gulabgarh earlier this year, the killings had not been so bestial as in Prankote that fateful night. Not a single bullet was fired but the hapless villagers were killed with sharp-edged weapons and even burnt alive. Since this incident, there has been some migration of the Hindus living in that region. Anywhere from 300-1,000 families have already migrated from this belt in the upper reaches of Jammu after the April 17 massacre.

Many of the influential, better-placed Kashmir Pandits, victims of the forced migration from the Valley earlier, see this as one more step in the well–planned strategy of the ISI and other Islamic forces to wipe out the community ethnically from the valley. J.N. Koul, President of All India Kashmiri Samaj (AIKS) who is also the president of SOS Villages of India, feels that what is happening even in the Jammu region now is also part of the Pan–Islamic movement.
“They are planning to wipe out areas of Hindu–domination and thus make a comfortable place for themselves to live”, he says. The KP leaders who gathered at Chandigarh on May 2 to participate in a two–day zonal conference were aware of the fact that anonymous letters had been received by a few KP houses in Jammu. “We know about it but we do not want to publicise it because then it will create a feeling of insecurity among the Hindu community,” said H.N. Jattu, a KP leader. He added that after their organisation has ascertained all the facts, they will be taking the matter up with the Administration. On the question of the return of the KPs to the Valley, however, Jattu remains sceptical. He feels that whenever any concrete step is taken towards the return of the Pandits, some militant–inspired incident occurs.

Does this mean that the people in the Valley do not want them back or that those now in control of the movement are blatantly communalising the issue? The KP leadership is of the belief that the situation has become sharply communalised, a fact manifest in the recent selective massacres. The government, in their opinion, has been shockingly silent, allowing Hindus to become victims to the nefarious designs of Islamic forces.

The Jammu and Kashmir Human Right Commission, which has recently submitted its report to the state government on the Wandhama massacre, had observed that serious security lapses were responsible for the carnage. The JKHRC has also recommended security cover for the Kashmiri Pandits, who live in the Valley. KP migrants settled in Jammu are also being resented by the local Dogras of Jammu who clearly see them as competing for resources and power.

“Even the people of Jammu do not want Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu though we are contributing to Jammu’s economy,” says Jattu. “How do we know that it is not local Jammuites who are responsible for these anonymous threats to KPs asking them to leave their houses? Only after we ascertain the truth of who is behind them will we explore the steps to be taken.”

Panun Kashmir (PK), a Kashmir Pandit organisation that has been consistently demanding a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits, long before any militancy was evident in the state, categorically rules out any question of a return of KPs to the Valley. Apart from a separate homeland for KPs in Kashmir, there demands includes statehood for Jammu and Union Territory status for Ladhakh. This organisation has allied itself with the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra and the BJP at the Centre, contributing to the further communalisation of the dialogue.

PK leaders, Dr. Agnishekhar and Dr K.L.Chowdhary say that the question of the Pandits’ return must form part of a board–based discussion with Indian political leaders from every spectrum and thereafter with National Conference leaders. “We need to know whether the Indian nation wants us or not? Does the nation think that our survival is paramount for national interests?” asks Dr Ajay Chrangoo, vice-chairman and head of the political affairs wing of Panun Kashmir. He has represented the community and PK at many human rights conferences abroad.

But the more marginalised Pandits and other Hindus living in camps at Nagrota and Muthi in treacherous conditions, however, are quite critical of their own leadership. These ordinary Pandits who are not part of any organisation and do not identify with the more elitist PK feel strongly that leaders belonging to the All Party Hurriyat Conference and the Kashmiri Pandit community residing in the camps should be invited to discuss the issue together if the issue of their return is to be seriously pursued at all.

For them, the clearcut stand taken by various sections of the leadership in the Valley in unequivocally condemning the massacres offers a ray of hope as do the visits of both Mohammed Yasin Mallick and Shabir Ahmed Shah to the sites of the carnage (even attending the funerals) in Jammu.
The Valley even observed an entirely successful hartal to protest the selective killings and prominent Kashmiri nationalist leaders clearly condemned the actions of the militants.

But for PK and Dr.Chrangoo the fact that it took the Indian government about six months to recognise that an exodus of Pandits had taken place in 1990 is still a sore point. For him and the PK, their migration is still perceived as part of an engineered campaign to displace the Pandits out of the valley. Similar designs may be afoot in Jammu,” he feels.

While speaking to this correspondent, Shailendra Aima, member, working committee of PK and editor of Kashmir Sentinal, a fortnightly published by PK Foundation, revealed that representatives of his organisation were invited for discussions with central and state leaders soon after the Wandhama carnage. The PK demand for a separate homeland for KPs, within Kashmir, was discussed at length and an outcome can be expected soon, he said. He refused to go into the details of the meeting for “it may jeopardise the whole exercise”. Aima did say that he hoped it may bring out some results.

The writer is a Jammu–based journalist.



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