T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Second Edition

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

June 2002

I N S I D E



In The Groove    B Raman

Editorial

Straight Face Romeet Watt

To The Point Bashir Manzar

And Them           S N Gilani

Fundamentals    Praveen Swami

InsideTrack       Romeet Watt

Firing Line          B Raman

PersonalJournal G N Fai

Special Report   

May Edition



A b o u t  U s

F e e d b a c k

D i s c l a i m er

C o p y r i g h t s

 

 I N S I D E  T R A C K

 

Constituencies-in-exile

Kashmiri Pundits at the Cross roads

Romeet Kaul Watt


Kashmiri Pundits (KP’s), fundamental constituent of glorious heritage and legacy of Kashmir find themselves at cross-roads in their 12th year of exile; more than 8000 families still languish in refugee camps without appropriate facilities for sanitation, medical-care and education – a state that can be aptly described as ‘pitiable.’ In the past one-decade, more than 1000 KP’s have perished due to snakebites, and sunstrokes. The toll due to unnatural deaths has been put at 6000; psychological trauma and morbidity has resulted in incalculable damage to the ‘collective mind’ of the community. The period has also seen unprecedented outbreak of epidemics in these refugee camps. National human rights commission (NHRC) has put the death toll of the KP’s killed in the terrorist-related violence in Jammu and Kashmir at 1,200. 

The political leadership of this ethnic minority has time and again accused the Indian establishment of using KP’s as ‘scape goats’: “Our pathetic existence in the camps is being exploited by New Delhi to substantiate its claim over Kashmir in the eyes of the international community,” says Moti Kaul of Panun Kashmir. He further says that the community will vehemently oppose manipulations by the governments and vested interests of the state to play fraud on the constitution and to draw mileage from human sufferings. “They need us, as long as it can exhibit us before the international community for its own political interests,” says another prominent community leader. 

For a community that has made immense contribution to the growth and development of the country, and has given the country two prime ministers, their present state of political seclusion has done more harm than good for the democratic process in the state of J&K. One of the rare distinctions that this ethnic minority shares with their estranged Muslim-majority brethren of the Valley has been the boycott of the parliamentary and the assembly elections that took place in 1996. However community leaders are quick to dispel the fears that the poll boycott in the past has helped the separatists and secessionist elements, insisting that every Indian has the right to protest and the poll boycott was the civilized way of communicating their concerns to the Nation. 

Right wing Kashmiri pundit parties insist that to ensue the participation of the KP’s in the forthcoming assemble election in September 2002, the State should ensure that the perpetrators of ‘genocide’ be brought to justice and punished; and create a dispensation for the victims of the ethno-religious cleansing in J&K which reverses exodus and ensures rehabilitation.  

Political analysts believe that the right-wing parties have gone into an “idealistic-overdrive” which has resulted in their sidelining within the community. The moderates, who form an overwhelming majority, insist that the Kashmiri Pundits would like to participate in the forthcoming elections, provided a mechanism was evolved which would ensure due representation of the community in proportion to its population, something which has not been forthcoming in the past. According to the report, “Charge sheet on Autonomy,” prepared by Committee to build response on autonomy (CBRA), the assemble segments where Kashmiri Pundits could be politically represented, were restructured ……………”fragmented” to reduce them to an insignificant part of the contiguous assemblies thereby depriving the Pundits to elect their representatives to the state assemble on their own strength. While three KP’s were returned to the state assemble in 1957, 1962 and 1967, the numbers was subsequently restricted to one in the 1972, 1977, 1983, 1987 and 1996. 

A senior Panun Kashmir leader says that there is an urgent need to discuss our response towards the electoral process otherwise we would be dragged into the process without once again being into confidence. “We feel that a sense of genuine participation can arouse only if they were given due share in the state legislature and the parliament,” he further remarks.  

The most important aspect that the exiled community needs to put across to the Election Commission and New Delhi is that they are not migrants but Internally Displaced People (people forced to flee their abode but remaining in their own country are designated by the United Nations). This will give a new dimension to their status in exile, contrary to the “ordinary status” professed by the Election Commission in the past. The designation will also put in proper outline their participation or otherwise in the elections. 

Postal ballot system which has been used in the past has proved to be bogus and fraudulent: no checks and counter checks, hence the vote can be misused by the political bosses. Two prerequisite conditions for the postal ballot: the liberty of the voter to return anytime to his native place of residence and no desertion of his intention to return wherever it may suit his pleasure or convenience so to do, are not fulfilled in the present dispensation. These refugees have not given up their intent to return to their motherland nor are they at the liberty of returning to it as long as terror and violence continue to haunt the valley. Therefore, the Election commission will have to devise ways and means of protecting their fundamental right to vote outside the realm of the present provision. 

By agreeing to participate through postal ballot, they will once again become tools in the hands of the Indian establishment which not only failed to come to their rescue while they were the main targets of fundamentalist forces in the Valley. 

Normally the electoral process can get the stamp of authenticity only when the exiled KP’s go back to their original constituencies in a free and fearless atmosphere, settle back in their homes and then cast their votes without fear of restraints to elect their legitimate legislature. This is far beyond the instant realm of reality. 

The question is whether the Kashmiri Pundits should find an optimum to respond rather than yield their right to vote and remaining un-represented in the legislature and Parliament. 

Prof. Shyam Kaul, an eminent writer says that KP’s are demanding no reservations but constituencies in exile and what they are asking is also recognition by the International law. He further says, “no communal representation but class representation is demanded and they will fight elections as Internally Displaced Persons.” 

Prof. T N Shalla, legal expert has also expressed his fears that the KP’s may again remain un-represented in the legislature under the present dispensation and said that KP’s feel left out of the election process at present. 

Political and constitutional experts say that one way out of this standoff is to demand constituencies-in-exile, which will mean the Internally Displaced People getting a number of constituencies proportionate to their numbers registered as migrants, which has been put officially at over 3 lakhs, so that they will be able to not only to seek candidature but also to elect their genuine representatives. This will provide them an electoral identity, a first step towards a political identity which will in due course enable them to negotiate for their respectable and honorable return to the Valley with full constitutional, economic, religious and other guarantees laid down in the Indian constitution.

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