One of the reasons that the Narendra Modi government had cited for the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, was the welfare of Kashmiri Pandits who had been displaced from the Kashmir Valley.
However, even eight months later, many Pandits remain dissatisfied with the government.
Delhi-based Kashmiri Pandit, activist Satish Mahaldar, while speaking to The Quint, said: “The community till date has not seen a concrete policy that talks about our economic upliftment, educational and constitutional guarantees and our return to the Valley. Even this year’s budget – J&K Budget, 2020 – does not have anything for our physical and economic rehabilitation, relief and welfare.”
“We feel that we have been betrayed. Our constitutional and fundamental rights have not been ensured and protected.”Satish Mahaldar, Kashmiri Pandit activist
Mahaldar is chairman of an organisation called Reconciliation, Return & Rehabilitation of Migrants.
List of Demands
Mahaldar’s organisation has written to the prime minister. These are some of the concerns they have raised:
1) The organisation alleges that in the 2020 J&K budget, during the current financial year, Rs 1,705 crore has been disbursed through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) to 45 lakh beneficiaries, while 60,000 new pension cases shall be covered through DBT. But, till date, not a single Kashmiri Pandit has got any benefit under this scheme,
2) According to Mahaldar, Union Minister of State Kishan Reddy had earlier said that Rs 5,000 crore would be spent towards the restoration of temples. In Kashmir, there are more than 1,387 temples and heritage sites, which are more than 3,000 years old.
“There is no mention of any temple being restored.”Satish Mahaldar, Kashmiri Pandit activist
3) The Union Finance Minister has proposed the introduction of the following three religious circuits: Shankaracharya, Mata Khir Bhawani and Martand (Mattan). Why not Hari Parbat? Mata Chakreshwari is the creator of Kashmiri land, which is more than 5,200 years old and has reference in Rajtarangini. Other temples excluded are Shiv temple of Baramulla, Sharda temple of Kupwara and Jawala ji temple in Khrew .
4) The organisation alleges that not a single Kashmiri Pandit has benefitted under the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA scheme.
5). The organisation has demanded 20 percent reservation for Pandits in jobs and educational institutions as well as inclusion in J&K government’s scheme promoting self employment.
Providing the Jammu and Kashmir government’s response, a senior government official said, on the condition of anonymity, “Government is taking several measures for the welfare and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. It is one of our priorities.”
“However, some of these proposals, like inclusion in MGNREGA or in animal husbandry related work, are not feasible as Pandits are mostly in service sector,” the official added.
The Union government has also claimed to have taken a number of steps for Pandits.
According to a written answer given by Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy in the Lok Sabha in March this year, “Under the Prime Minister’s Development Package, 2015 announced by the Prime Minister on 7 November 2015, the Government of India has approved creation of 3,000 additional state government jobs for the Kashmiri migrants at a cost of Rs 1,080 crore.”
In the same month, Reddy gave more details about recruitments in response to a question by Congress MP Digvijaya Singh in the Rajya Sabha.
“Selection process has been concluded in respect of 1,781 posts and 604 candidates have joined in different departments, as on 22 February 2020. These jobs are in addition to the 3,000 state government jobs approved under the prime minister’s package of 2008, against which 2,905 jobs have been filled.”G Kishan Reddy, Union Minister of State for Home
In terms of construction of houses and transit accommodation, Reddy said in the Lok Sabha that the government has approved “construction of 6,000 Transit Accommodations in the Kashmir Valley at a cost of Rs 920 crore. This is in addition to the construction of 725 transit accommodations sanctioned earlier, besides financial assistance for construction of houses for the migrants and 5,242 two-room tenements constructed in Jammu (Purkhoo, Muthi, Nagrota and Jagti) and 200 flats constructed at Sheikhpora in Budgam district for the migrants.”