HomeOPEDKashmiri Pandits condemn J&K administration for rejecting request for Navreh Yatra

Kashmiri Pandits condemn J&K administration for rejecting request for Navreh Yatra


By Satish Mahaldar

The Kashmiri Pandit community has expressed shock at the February 5 letter from the Jammu & Kashmir administration ( office of Relief & Rehabilitation commissioner, Jammu) rejecting their request for the sanction of the  free transportation and lodging for the Celebration of  Navreh ( New Year 2021 ) at ‘Sri Mata Sharika Yatra’  & ‘back to village Tour’ by the displaced Kashmiri Pandits (10th to 18th of April 2021).

This is in contravention and contrast to the general essence and stance of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Central Government which wants increased efforts to help in building the trust deficit between the two prominent communities of Kashmiri — the Pandits and the Muslims.

Navreh is a festival of Kashmiri Pandits, the aborigines of  Kashmir, who celebrate the first day of the New Year with all delight and freshness. Kashmiri Pandits dedicate Navreh festival to Goddess Sharika and pray to her during the day.

On this day, special prayers are held at the Mata Chakreshwari temple, known as Hari Parbat in Srinagar. Navreh is also an occasion to celebrate our culture.

This year the Kashmiri Pandit community had proposed to celebrate the day as “Partnership for Peace – Dignity for All” which aims to highlight the importance of all segments of society working together to strive for peace. The community had pledged for “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

The aim is also to relive the memories of our religious-cultural gatherings, which has been affected by the 30-year-exile period.

Kashmiri Pandits have always believed in cohesiveness and togetherness.

This  year the cultural-festival theme honours the spirit of Togetherness, a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes .

Prime Minister Narendra Modi  has always shared his best wishes and love to  the Kashmiri Hindu brethren on  every Navreh with a heartful wish.

”Union Home Minister Amit Shah (while replying  to the debate in the House on extension of president’s rule in J&K on July 1, 2019 ) : “We will be the ones protecting the culture of Kashmir. A time will come when Kashmiri Pandits will be seen offering prayers at Mata Kheer Bhawani temple and Sufis will also be seen alongside them. The Modi government is committed to retaining the culture of Kashmir.”

In March 2020 the Narendra Modi government introduced religious Yatra (tour) in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir for Hindus & Sufi-followers. The announcement was made by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Parliament. The community is unable to understand why some selective elements in the J&K administration are hell bent upon bringing a bad name to the Prime Minister & the Union Home Minister.

There seems to be a vicious conspiracy to prevent the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley in an orchestrated campaign launched by the J&K administration.  Despite having various recommendations by the Home Minister & Prime Minister, the J&K administration is not taking any steps to promote respect, safety and dignity for everyone between various communities.

The Budget Estimates 2019-20 was Rs 737 crores & Budget Estimates revenue expenditure for 2020-21 is Rs 1,053 crores which is an increase of 48 % as compared to previous year under the DMMR heading. The community would like to forecast how much Disaster Management, Relief and Rehabilitation (DMMR) is going to be spent towards the return & rehabilitation of the Kashmir Pandit refugees back to the valley. We have witnessed that the department has been a part of the Rs 2,034 crore scam.

We want to remind the Jammu and Kashmir administration relief & rehabilitation dept is annually dispersing an amount of approximately Rs 78 crore to political workers & non migrants’ people of the state. Ethically, what should have been spent on the relief and rehabilitation of the persecuted has been mischievously and deliberately given to the undeserving. How can justice be expected from those people who were very much part of the scam.

The J&K government has forced the original aborigines in an involuntary process of cultural assimilation due to which the ethnic minority is left with no choice but to adopt the language, identity, norms, customs, traditions, perceptions, way of life  and often religion and ideology of the established and generally larger community belonging to the dominant culture.

Besides the ethnic and cultural genocide, the mainstream political parties, both the national and the regional ones, are equally responsible for the ‘Policide’ (police brutality) on the Kashmiri Pandits. Since 1965 the political empowerment has been intentionally denied to the original aborigines and the ethnic minority of the state. Since 1990 more than four lakh people are unable to exercise their democratic rights. They are unable to cast their votes, which is the basic foundation of democracy.

In the light of all this, it is important for the J&K government and the Union of India to rise up to the responsibility towards the constitution of India. The safeguarding of the rights of the aborigines is enshrined in the Constitution of our country. Hence, the government must protect the Kashmiri Pandit community by allocating a certain budget for them.

Ethnic cleansing of minorities in Kashmiris highlights the efforts of the national community to respond to modern Genocide.  Unfortunately, till date the Government of India has not established the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide

The BJP advocated for ‘the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood’ in its 2014 election manifesto and ‘the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits’ as a part of its 2019 election manifesto. Seven years into its rule at the Centre, the Bharatiya Janata Party has failed to actualize its own promises, not just made to the Pandit community but also to the Hindu majority country. January 19, 2021 marked 31 years since the violence targeting the Kashmiri Pandit community, which led to the mass exodus.

It is the duty of the Central and the state governments to rehabilitate them back in their land of origin. Let this be clear that the Centre and the state failed to secure and protect its own people against the terror violence in the valley. Had the governments acted strongly since the advent of terrorism in the valley in late 1980’s, over five lakhs Kashmiri Pandit families and many others would not have been forced to become refuges in their own country. Kashmiri Pandits and other migrants are the victims of democide which led to genocide”

 Let us remind those in power that it is the obligation of the state govt and the Government of India to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits and other migrants back in the valley. The Kashmiri Pandits were forced out of Kashmir because they whole security apparatus, administration and political will failed the Kashmiri Pandits. Had these important pillars of democracy been intact, the Kashmiri Pandits would have been living in their homeland. It is the government’s responsibility to do justice and rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits back in their homeland.

Being patriotic, is this the reward that an ordinary Kashmiri has been forced to live in exile since the last 31 years?

About the Author – Satish Mahaldar is the Chairman of the Reconciliation Return & rehabilitations of Migrants in Jammu & Kashmir.


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