Exodus of Kashmiri pandits

In 1990, scores of Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the Valley due to rising militancy and calls for violence against the community. According to a response to a Right to Information query received by RTI activist Prafful Sarda in February 2020 (FactChecker has access to it), 64,827 Kashmiris left the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. Of the 64,827 registered migrant families – 60,489 are Hindu families, 2,609 Muslim and 1,729 Sikh, showed a 2020-’21 Parliamentary Standing Committee report of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Among the migrated families, 67% (43,494) are registered in Jammu, nearly 30% (19,338) in Delhi and 3% (1,995) are registered in other parts of the country. Of the 43,494 migrant families in Jammu, 12.6% or 5,248 families still live in migrant camps.

However, FactChecker found a gap in figures reported by the central government as another March 2021 statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs report, mentions a total of 44,167 registered Kashmiri migrants and of these it reports 39,782 to be Hindu families. 

Both the United Progressive Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance governments have devised policies for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants in 2008 and 2015, respectively. 

Rehabilitation in progress

Under the Prime Minister’s Package in 2004, 5,242 two-room tenements were constructed in Jammu at four locations [Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagti] for those migrants living in various one room tenements, government buildings and temples, according to a 2014 press release by the Ministry of Home Affairs. “It has been the government’s stated policy to provide various rehabilitation facilities to the Kashmiri migrants and to create an environment conducive enough to make them return to the Valley,” read the Press Information Bureau report.

United Progressive Alliance government

In 2008, the United Progressive Alliance government had announced a comprehensive package of Rs 1,618.40 crore for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri migrants which included financial assistance for purchase and construction of houses (Rs 7.5 lakh per house), repair/renovation of damaged houses and dilapidated or unused houses (Rs 2 lakh per house), construction of transit accommodation, continuations of cash relief, student scholarships, employment, assistance to agriculturists and horticulturists and waiver of interest on unpaid loan.

However, up until 2014, just one family had returned to the Valley availing the benefit of Rs 7.5 lakh for construction of house under the PM’s package. Moreover, 1,474 state government jobs were provided to migrant youths and 505 transit accommodations were built in Kashmir and allotted to newly appointed migrant employees.

 

National Democratic Alliance government

n 2015, the National Democratic Alliance government, under the Prime Minister’s Development Package, approved the creation of 3,000 additional state government jobs for the Kashmiri migrants at a cost of Rs 1,080 crore and the construction of 6,000 transit accommodations in the Valley at a cost of Rs 920 crore. This is in addition to 3,000 state government jobs, the construction of 725 transit accommodations sanctioned earlier. In all, 6,000 transit accommodations and jobs were approved.

However, till recently, 14% (848 units) of transit accommodations had been constructed and 176 units were near completion, showed a December 2021 Parliamentary panel report. When it comes to jobs, the government has completed recruitment of the first tranche of 3,000 posts. More than 1,700 migrants have been appointed and 1,098 others selected for jobs.

As per Centre’s reply in Lok Sabha in 2020 and RTI application, a number of schemes are being implemented by the central government for rehabilitation and support to the Kashmiri migrants. All these schemes have given budget allocation under the Prime Minister’s Development Package, 2015.

A total of 6000 jobs have been approved by the state government of Jammu and Kashmir by the Centre. In the first tranche, 3000 jobs were approved in 2008 out of which 2905 posts have been filled already by 2019. Meanwhile, an outlay of Rs.1080 crores has been given for additional 3000 such jobs. The government claimed in a Lok Sabha answer that the selection process of 1781 of these posts has already been concluded while 604 candidates have joined the jobs. This data refers to February 2020, according to the reply.

Further the government has also given an outlay of Rs.920 crores for the transit accommodation of these migrants. Of these 849 flats have been constructed by the end of February 2020, shows the official data. Apart from these efforts the centre also said that it is giving a monthly cash and dry ration relief to each of these registered families. The cash support of Rs 3250 per head with the capping of Rs 13000 per family is being given to these families. The ration includes rice (9kg per person), atta (2kg per person) and sugar (1kg per person) per month. 

Recent Action Taken

Amid discussions regarding the reopening of FIRs filed during the Kashmiri pandits exodus escalates, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has now said that the administration was committed to bringing back the displaced Kashmiri Pandits. Sinha informed that over 6000 homes were to be built for the return of the displaced persons of the community. Furthermore, he informed that the government will take further actions to ensure the well being of the community.

Speaking to Republic TV about the reopening of FIRs filed during the Kashmiri Pandits’ exodus, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said, “We are committed to returning of Kashmiri pandits.” He went on to add that the accommodation for the displaced community members was being built. “Over 6000 homes and transit accommodation were approved but couldn’t go through. We are now working on it. Flats will be built for the people,” Sinha said.

Furthermore, he stated that the flats were not enough for the transition but claimed that the action was a start. “I don’t believe that this is

 

Pvt Bill in RS over Kashmiri Pandits’ rehabilitation: Vivek Tankha tables bill

The Kashmiri Pandit (Recourse, Restitution, Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Act, to be introduced by Congress MP Vivek Tankha in the Rajya Sabha, may test the BJP government, as it seeks expert committees to issue a white paper on the atrocities and plight of Kashmiri Pandits till now, and an enquiry commission to look into the “genocide” and “mass exodus”.

The Kashmiri Pandits (Recourse, Restitution, Rehabilitation and Resettlement) Bill, 2022, also seeks for Kashmiri Pandits protection of their property, restoration of their cultural heritage, ensuring their safety and security, provision of rehabilitation and resettlement package.

According to the Statements of Objects and Reasons of the Bill, it seeks to bridge the gap between the expectations of the Kashmiri Pandits and the offerings of the government by creating an ecosystem of government support along with empowering the community with regards to their rehabilitation and resettlement in the region.

‘Systemic neglect’

“The Bill ventures to offset any social, economic and political disadvantages, which are a result of decades of systemic neglect and injustice. The Bill also seeks to give power in the hands of the Kashmiri Pandits themselves, as their opinion of what is best for them matters the most. It further attempts to bring the perpetrators of violence and genocide to justice,’’ added the Statements of Objects and Reasons of the Bill.

The Bill noted that 32 years ago, what took place in Kashmir on the night of January 19, 1990, lives fresh in the minds of Kashmiri Pandits as a night of barbarism, terror and mass killings. Kashmiri Pandits suffered the horrors of genocide and exodus at the hands of militants, thousands were brutally killed, women were raped, houses and temples burnt and lives disrupted. Over six lakh Kashmiri Pandits still live in exodus and yearn to return to their motherland.