Kolkata, Jan 16 (IANS) Observing that the Narendra Modi government has been hesitant in initiating a rehabilitation process for the Kashmiri Pandits, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy on Saturday called for a dialogue with the Jammu and Kashmir government on the issue.
Roy was speaking at a panel discussion on the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) here.
“We owe to the Kashmiri Pandits, their rehabilitation, to get them back in Kashmir. While a budget of Rs.500 crore has been allotted for their rehabilitation, I feel the central government is hesitant in getting them back to Kashmir,” said Roy.
Roy said unlike the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference leaders, the recently departed Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was sympathetic to separatists which resulted in the Centre becoming hesitant.
“This hesitation perhaps is because the Centre did not get a clear signal from the Mufti government. Mufti is no more, but unlike the Abdullahs who were pro-India, Mufti had been catering to people having some sympathy for militants and sympathy for Pakistan,” he said.
With Sayeed’s daughter Mehbooba Mufti expected to take over as the new chief minister, Roy harped on the need for the Centre to initiate a dialogue on the rehabilitation issue.
“There is a need to initiate some sort of a dialogue process with the state government. While the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has always kept the cards close to their chest on this issue, I feel we must initiate dialogue with Mehbooba on the matter,” he added.
Speaking on the occasion, former Lt. General John Ranjan Mukherjee said India needs to stop being a soft state.
“India is a soft state, you can’t take a decision of moving back the Kashmiri Pandits, because you don’t have the gumption to do so. We need to stop being a soft nation,” said the former General Officer Commanding of the Army’s 15 Corps stationed in Kashmir.
Suggesting ways to tackle the Kashmir issue, Mukherjee said strict enforcement of secularism and outlawing all forms of religious fundamentalism were imperative.
“A major step which needs to be taken in this regard is befriending more of our neighbours including China. If China stops supporting Pakistan, life would be much easier for India,” said Mukherjee.
Scholar and former city head of Kashmir Sabha, – a social organisation – B.K. Moza demanded that Kashmiri Pandits be declared internally displaced refugees and granted reverse minority status.
“Unless and until reverse minority status is granted to us, our rehabilitation is not possible. Kashmir enjoys special status under article 370, because the inhabitants are largely Muslim, which is a minority community in total Indian context.
“In fitness to this constitutional guarantee, Kashmiri Pandits should also be provided a reverse minority status in Kashmir by the constitution,” said Moza.
All the speakers said the central government needed to take immediate steps to ensure the rehabilitation of nearly five lakh Kashmiri Pandits, mostly living in camps in Jammu and Delhi.