Author: Saadut
•9:06 PM

The state government recently announced proposals for enhancing incentives for Kashmiri Migrants in addition to the already existing ones made available by the state and the central government. The new incentives propose increase in return package to 20 lacs from the earlier 7.5 lac for each Migrant family, enhancement of monthly cash assistance from present 5000 to 10,000 in addition to the other existing sops and quotas. Not long ago 6000 jobs were exclusively offered to Kashmiri migrants under the Prime Minister’s rehabilitation program (announced in 2008), including 3000 state reserved jobs, out of which almost 2000 have already been availed by them. Most of these sops have been provided under ‘Migrant rehabilitation’ exclusively targeted at Kashmiri Pandit ‘Migrants’. But where Pandits the only community who migrated from Kashmir during the turmoil?

As per the data available with J&K government Relief Organisation, out of a total of 38,119  families registered with them as migrants, 34202 are Hindu, 2168 Muslim and 1749 are Sikh families. The total number of families migrating from Kashmir across India, following the 90’s turmoil has been recorded as 58,697. Clearly it was not only Kashmiri Pandits who migrated from Kashmir during the turmoil of 90’s. During the start of conflict in Kashmir, many families fled for their safety within and out of Kashmir; some with covert state support while some inspite of the state indifference towards them. It is a well known fact that majority of Kashmir Pandit families fled Kashmir in the intervening night of January 19th 1990, most of them escorted in state provided transport, when the whole valley had been put under unprecedented curfew. It was no coincidence that Governor Jagmohan took over reigns of the state at exactly the same time and just a couple of days after the exodus, the Gawkadal massacre took place where security forces killed 52 innocents and maimed hundreds. For migrations by the majority community within Kashmir there has been no state support (and official recording), even though these migrations also happened due to the same conflict and in their thousands. Many of these migrating families within Kashmir were also deprived of land holdings, homes and support jobs while fleeing but there was no recognition from the government about their plight, just because they did not fit into a religious / community bracket.

Decades of silence by media and the state towards the migration of other communities was seen as a bias, an attempt to portray the conflict in Kashmir as a religious war. All along this ‘conflict migration’ has been portrayed by India as exclusivity of Pandits and more often than not this migration has been used by India for its psycho ops, to demean the Kashmir conflict. Although there is no denying the fact that innocent Pandits were killed by some insurgents, but its also a fact that a much higher number of other innocents were killed by same ‘non uniformed’ insurgents or renegades (renegades had state support). An overwhelming majority of innocents killed in Kashmir belonged to the majority community (government figures of ‘219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by militants since 1989’ while number of killed for the majority community has been put between 47,000 to 70,000). Any innocent killed in Kashmir is too many killed, condemned and deplorable, but if 219 killed has been termed as ‘genocide’ what do you term the killing of 70,000 people (a crime which still continues)? Ironically the same people who termed the exodus an ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the 219 Pandits killed in two decades of turmoil as ‘genocide’ have also been advocating denial of justice for the innocent Kashmiri Muslims killed by the state.  Portraying the migration from conflict ridden Kashmir as exodus due to ‘religious persecution’ helped India camouflage the reality of Kashmir conflict. Presenting the conflict as ‘religious extremism’ was used by India in containing world opinion about Kashmir and in denying any political solution to it. This portrayal also helped India in pointing fingers of ‘flaring religious extremism’ towards neighboring Pakistan. 

The mayhem of 90’s also forced thousands of Kashmiri families to flee in desperation whichever way they could to save their lives, across the border towards places in Pak Administered Kashmir (Indian media accepts that 35,000 Kashmiri’s migrated to Pakistan during turmoil, although the number may be much higher). Such families were forced to let go everything they had in Kashmir, often leading lives of penury and helplessness in places of migration. India refused to acknowledge their rights and existence; this migration also as a result of the Kashmir conflict. In Pak Administered Kashmir they were no better, living in crammed camps and in ignored existences, conditions worse than you had seen in Jammu migrant clusters. Such migrants were children of lesser God for both India and Pakistan; one denying their existence and the other ignoring them. While the Indian government offers huge sops for Pandit migrants in India, Kashmiri migrants on the other side of the divide are reported to limited to subsistence of 8 dollars aid a month per person. Not long back India (via J&K government) announced a return rehabilitation policy for Kashmiris who had crossed the LoC for insurgency, there is no recognition by the same government for the families who migrated there during Kashmir turmoil. Calling for return of youth who crossed over for militancy, perhaps generates a lot of PR for India (and against Pakistan); recognizing these Kashmiri migrants does not. Such citizens of Indian Administered Kashmir who migrated across the LoC due to the conflict stand disowned by India since they are no political card unlike the Kashmiri Pandit migrants.

In India even though Sikhs and Muslims have been recorded as Kashmiri migrants by the government, most of the sops offered by India have been exclusively meant for Kashmir Pandits. Every scheme, initiative is announced and offered based on religion and not on the basis of conflict sufferings, even the official notification of Government of India makes the distinction of ‘Pandit Migrant’ very clear. Package jobs, quota in professional / educational institutes, aid for reconstruction of property, waiver of interest on old loans; everything has been put in the exclusive domain of a religious community by the ‘secular state’.  A cursory look at the educational quota made available for Kashmir Migrants in professional colleges across India makes it clear how this sop (like others) has been limited to a particular religious group only, rather than all those who migrated during the turmoil of Kashmir.
There is no denying that majority of those who migrated from Kashmir to mainland India during the turmoil were Kashmir Pandits, but a ‘unbiased secular state’ should have worked for the collective good of all migrants who fled the turmoil of Kashmir.
The Indian media also has played its part as the psycho ops arm of the Indian state when it comes to portraying the Kashmir migration story; its focus stopping at a religious group only. Of the thousands of discussions that may have happened on Indian channels have they even once mentioned about the ‘other migrants’ other than belonging to a particular religious group? The ‘migrant’ issue has been reduced to political studio speak where the same ‘hate speech rehearsed’ ‘migrant representatives’ take to the studios. Clearly the ‘representative speakers’ (who ironically don’t even live in the migrant camps, some of them having migrated pre 90’s turmoil) do not seem interested in the return of migrants which will render their ‘studio crusade without a cause’ and decimate their ‘political careers’; nor do they recognize the ‘other ignored’ migrants of Kashmir. (Also read ‘Why Kashmir Pandits may never return to Kashmir) With the government also paying no more than lip service and ‘half hearted efforts’, the ‘migrant showcase’ is left intact to highlight the ‘intolerant Kashmir’. The big question, do the ‘self elevated representatives’ and government really want their return? Will the migrant return not rob them of the ‘showcase’ against ‘extremist Kashmir’? 

Now the government has announced an employment package for the Pandits who chose not to migrate from the Valley. This means a) the government accepts that all Pandits did not migrate from Kashmir (hence ethnic cleansing theory fails) b) the government here also differentiates, based on religion, the sufferings of local people in Kashmir during the conflict. Should there not be equal and just opportunities for all subjects who confronted the same circumstances, irrespective of religion? Did the majority community also not suffer immensely during the conflict (in fact more than others)? In an already opportunity starved state where tens of thousands professionals & post graduates apply for a few class IV posts, where ‘community based’ quota eats away merit; this is what a ‘democratic and secular state’ can do most! 

While the conflict flames consumed all in Kashmir irrespective of community or religion, India has since long clearly drawn lines between their ‘own people’ and ‘others’ in Kashmir. India not only used the ‘migration card’ to the benefit of its own Kashmir policy, it ensured that sufferings were segregated into religious classes, highlighting one over another. With India itself having drawn distinctions between ‘its own people’ and the ‘other Kashmiri’s’, making it clear that it seeks Kashmir ‘real estate’ not its ‘other community people’, does it still have to blame somebody else for the growing alienation and disconnect in Kashmir?

23rd June, 2012 

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On October 7, 2012 at 10:56 AM , El Shaheed said...

A very well versed and very inquisitive post. Great Job Saadut.