Since the election of India’s new right-wing government, there has been a push for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus in the disputed valley region. Displaced by a popular uprising against Indian rule in 1990, many have long waited for a chance to return. The plans proposed by new government however, have raised concerns among members of Kashmir’s population.
Recently, senior Kashmiri resistance leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani revealed he had received information about government plans to build contained satellite cities for those repatriated. According to local and Indian newspapers, the Indian Home Minister has asked the state government to earmark 2100 acres of land for three such cities.
“Each city requires 700 acres of land where 75,000-100,000 people would be accommodated. Each city will have a medical college, two engineering colleges, four police stations and 12 schools,” Geelani, the head of the Tehrik-e-Hurriyat movement, said.
The pro-India local Government has neither confirmed nor refuted the statement and the news has already set off alarm bells in Kashmir.
Though Geelani and other resistance leaders welcome the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Indian-held Kashmir, they are against the creation of confined settlements. They have threatened mass agitation against a move which they believe could lead to a replication of problems in Palestine, with settlers gradually changing Kashmir’s demography.
“We welcome the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their roots since they are sons of the soil, and they should come and live alongside their Muslim brethren,” Geelani told the press, adding that the government should pay them US$50000 towards constructing homes. “But creating separate settlements in the name of Kashmiri Pandits is unacceptable.”
A popular revolt by Kashmir’s Muslim-majority population in 1990 led to 100,000 Hindus migrating from the valley region. A report produced by police in Indian state Jammu & Kashmir says 209 Hindus were killed in violence between 1990 and 2008.
“The first important thing is to make the ground conducive for the return of Kashmiri Pandits and it cannot be done with a top-own approach but has to be done on the ground,” says Sanjay Tickoo, president of the Sangarsh Samiti, an organization of Kashmiri Pandits who remained in the valley after rebellion.
Tickoo says the Indian government lacks an understanding of the reality on the ground and is creating more problems than it is solving by increasing tension with Muslims. He says the return of Kashmiri Pandits should be an organic process, anything else would be detrimental.
His view is not shared by all Kashmiri Pandits however; thousands are cheering for a separate homeland within Indian-held Kashmir, which they believe will be safer for them.
Rakesh Bhat was 10 years old when his family left Kashmir in 1990. They sold their old home a decade ago when they needed money and gave up on the possibility of returning. Bhat however, managed that four years ago, under a government rehabilitation plan for Kashmiri Hindus. He was part of a group of 1446 youth given government jobs in Indian-held Kashmir but, he says, he still does not feel like he is arrived home.
“We will not feel secure in Kashmir till we live separately. It isn’t possible for us to live one Hindu family among a 100 Muslim families, which was true before 1990,” says Bhat. He says he would never returned to Kashmir without the promise of the job, because there is little else for him without the return of the Pandit community to Kashmiri society.
“This is yet another migration for us. I was a boy when I left this place and when I come here now, my son is the same age and it is a migration for him now. And we feel completely nowhere.”
Here, from a poster on Jihad Watch:
I’m Indian, and I’ve had my fill with these Kashmiris.
The entire state is one big black hole. After independece, the state was mostly goat-herders and subsistence farmers. We gave them hydroelectric dams, communications, and roads. We gave them preferential treatment in our parliament, and afirmative action in our national institutions. We even gave them Sharia law, and barred non-Kashmiris from owning land in the state.
What do we get in return? A state that takes our money and kills our soldiers.
There’s virtually no heavy industry or commerce in the state, and it’s devoid of a tax-base. It’s a huge resource-hole that sucks up our wealth and whines about it. If we spent the money on education, we’d have a 100% literacy rate by now.
I’d love to hand the whole mess to Pakistan and laugh as they kill each other over it. You’d have to be incredibly naive to thing that Kashmiris would lay down their arms and sing ‘Kumbaya’ just because they’ll be ruled by ‘fellow muslims’. We’d be handing them a second Waziristan on a silver platter, which shouldn’t be a problem, seeing how well they managed the first.