T h e

K a s h m i r

T  e  l  e  g  r  a  p  h

Vol I Issue IX

A Kashmir Bachao Andolan Publication

January 2003

I N S I D E


 

Spotlight 

Romeet K WATT

 

Editorial     

TKT Says......

 

GuestColumn     Krishnamoorty       

 

Big Fight      

Romeet K WATT

 

On Track     

Romeet K WATT

 

Opinion

T R Jawahar

 

Analysis

Sawraj Singh

 

State Craft

Romeet K WATT

 

Report

SAT Feature

 

Last Word

Romeet K WATT

 

 


 

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O N   T R A C K

Kashmir Pundits & the 'healing touch'

Romeet K WATT


New Delhi went ecstatic with the successful culmination of October 2002 elections in the trouble-torn state of J&K, and rightly so, because, for once, their stand on Kashmir was vindicated by the International community, something, that had not been forthcoming in the past. The wide spread appreciation and accolades that were received, from one and all, for rejuvenating the democratic norms and principles in the Valley was a tremendous set-back for Islamabad, and since then she has been reeling under pressure to change tactics on its Kashmir policy. So, to say that the position of New Delhi vis-à-vis Kashmir has been strengthened would be to state the obvious.

 

However, having said that, it is imperative that New Delhi, which has been incessantly shying away from the initiating a meaningful policy to ameliorate the suffering of 3.5 lac internally displaced Kashmiri Pundits, does take the onus of responsibility to provide just treatment, as has been mutually agreed upon by member nations in various conventions held under the aegis of United Nations, and its affiliate organisations (like UNHCR). It is pertinent to recall that India is a signatory to the UN convention on Internally Displaced People, but when it come to implementing the same very ‘UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement’ to Kashmiri Pundits, they have not shown much interest.

 

And why should they? KP’s, unlike their counterparts from Gujarat do not have a sizable vote-bank to offer, and thus continue to be at the receiving end for all practical purpose. Whole Nation will create hullabaloo over the plight of riot-victims in Gujarat, but they will shy away from any debate on the issue of KP’s, something which continues to be inconsequential for them. The whole political system has become so polarised with the Majority (Hindu) - Minority (Muslim) concept that the Indian intellectual community has been unable to come to terms with the gross reality that ethnic Pundits of Kashmir be acknowledged as a minority (at least in the Muslim-majority state of J&K) in the Hindu-majority state like India.

 

There are currently 25 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide. ‘Conflict-induced displacement’ in India affects more than half a million people, mainly concentrated to two regions: Kashmir and the Northeast. “Armed conflict, internal strife, and systematic violations of human rights,” are cited as key reasons responsible for the tens of millions of people to be forced from their abodes but continue to remain within the borders of their own countries, unlike those who seek refuge in the neighbouring country, and consequently benefit from the established norms laid down from time to time, and much in use.

 

On the contrary, the people who are uprooted within the confines of their own country often find themselves at the receiving end for “their own countries lack predictable structures of support.” Internal displacement, is widely believed world-wide as having assumed dimensions, which need immediate attention, least one may end up being held responsible for paying scanty attention to humanitarian principles, human rights and security aspects, of a section of its own populace.

 

Systematic violation of human rights in the context of KP’s have been brought to light, from time to time before various national as well as international organisations. However, apart from passing references in their reports, the human rights organisations have not taken a pro-active stance (as in case of Gujarat riot victims) to impress upon the policy makers of the country to evolve a mechanism to put to end their inhuman existence, that too in their very own country. Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo, a human rights activist, who has been championing the cause of Pundits has done a yeoman of a service in the aspect of human rights violations that have taken place against the Pundits. However, despite his best efforts, he has not been able to make much head way, which has more to do with the continuous apathy from our own organisations like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and its “tendency to apply human rights with selectivity.”

 

Describing the crimes committed against KP’s as “stark and tragic,” deserving “the strongest condemnation,” NHRC in response to the submissions made to the Commission’s court by Chrungoo, did as a matter of fact, make a some observations, which were encouraging but it stopped short of passing any strictures whatsoever against the politico-administrative set-up, which was at the helm of affairs, when the maximum damage was done against Pundits, nor did it fix any responsibility for the human rights violations against Pundits.

 

NHRC in its observations also stopped short of terming the selective killing of Pundits as “genocide”, and instead chose phraseology, “acts akin to genocide” to describe the predicament, and carefully coined the term, ''genocide type design'' to describe the actions (mindsets) of the Islamic fundamentalists who were responsible for the ethnic cleansing of KP’s from the Valley. The Commission in its observation also fails to take into account the denial of the fundamental rights to Pundits guaranteed by Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

 

NHRC, played a very pro-active role in safeguarding the rights of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of riots in Gujarat, and passed several hard hitting strictures, both against the state administration, as well as the central government for what the commission described as the inability of the state to protect and safeguard lives of the minorities in the riot affected areas. Now, one often wonders, had the Commission played a similar role in the context of KP’s, things might just have been different, and the plight and miseries, which seem to be endless could have been provided the much needed “healing touch”!

 

What next? The future course of action should be dictated by the earnest need to evolve a meaningful policy for the rehabilitation of Pundits, something which does not appear to take shape, with our own politico-administrative set-up not too keen, and continuing to forestall the whole process. New Delhi has, time and again, instead of according priority in formulating policy and programmes for the internally displaced, chosen to maintain a criminal silence on the issue, resulting in continued sufferings for the exiled ethnic community.

 

UNHCR is not directly working with IDPs in India because the necessary conditions for its involvement with displaced persons, among other things, requires consent by the concerned government, something, which New Delhi despite requests, has not given a go-ahead. New Delhi has, despite willingness by the UNHCR to assist her on the issue of development and implementation of ‘national legislation on refugees’ shown little interest for reasons best known to them.

 

The stand taken by India over the period, concerning the issue of IDP’s reflects a lack of consensus at the decision making level, something, which has had an adverse effect on the condition of IDP’s in India, with each passing day further pushing them against the wall. The contention of New Delhi that rights restated in the Guiding Principles are also covered by the Indian Constitution, and that there are Courts and procedures in place to address the rights of the displaced, are statements which are not entirely true. Should the mechanism of ‘courts’ and ‘procedures’ have been so strong, justice would certainly have been done to the plight of KP’s, whose condition, according these contentions should have shown signs of improvement, have actually worsened.

 

‘India is no Somalia or Rwanda,’ one of the underlying logic, which New Delhi has been putting forth to explain her reluctance to seek and accept international assistance for the IDP’s. Fair enough, but then it has to devise and formulate a mechanism, which would provide justice to people who have been victims of Conflict-induced displacement. In the absence of any concrete policy measures, victims of this predicament will continue to suffer because of this false sense of pride. In the context of KP’s, it is imperative that New Delhi formulate policy, to begin with, on different aspects of protection -- non-discrimination, movement related rights, physical protection and special needs of IDPs.

 

It will be pertinent to recall the observations of the reputed Amnesty International, which in its report, dated as back as August 1997 observed: “Today, we also need to remind the persons learned in law, politicians mindful of the consequences, and the human rights activists not ignorant of what has happened in Kashmir to focus their due attention on the long pending issue of the human rights violations of the Pundit minority community in Kashmir and, instead of maintaining a 'strategic' silence, suggest dispassionately how their issues of genocide, ethnic cleansing and exile can be addressed to their satisfaction by this colossal nation- that is India!”

 

A lot of ground-work has already been done on the issue, especially by KP’s settled in other parts of the world including United States, and United Kingdom. Frank Pallone, Democratic Congressman in US, has been on the fore front in highlighting the plight of Kashmir Pundits. Indo-American Kashmir Forum, and Kashmir News Network have also been advocating the need to address the grievances of Pundits within the purview of the charter of UN for internally displaced persons.

 

With this demeaning and belittling background, the likely option for Pundits would be -- in the opinion of the author -- to approach International Court of Justice. New Delhi, with its policy of continued apathy towards Pundits (despite a right-wing Hindu government at the centre) has left Pundits with very little option but to battle against its own country (it will be painful, believe me) in an international tribunal. And, to say that India is not responsible for the plight of Pundits, would be to over look the obvious.

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