Migrant Kashmiri Pandits have suddenly become important for the pro-India camp after the Election Commission of India announced polls for the state legislative assembly. Leaders in this section have been rushing to migrant camps in Jammu and elsewhere to woo the Pandit vote.
Riding an anti-incumbency wave against the state’s ruling collation, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be leaving no stone unturned in “reaching out” to the migrant community. Party chief Mehbooba Mufti and senior leaders Sartaj Madani, Abdul Rahman Veeri and Nizam-ud-Din Bhat have visited various Jammu localities and some migrant camps. They have been followed by sitting MLAs and party candidates from Pahalgam and Shangus constituencies respectively, Rafiq Mir and Peerzada Mansoor, who have also set up migrant cells in their segments assigned with the task of campaigning in Jammu.
The BJP has already started campaigning among the migrants. Its electioneering and public meetings across the region are particularly targeted at this community whose postal ballot it hopes can swing a few seats, in a low-turnout Srinagar poll, for example. Besides, the newly constituted J and K Peoples Republic Party (PRP), too has embarked on a similar path.
Nothing wrong in reaching out to the Pandits who live in extremely difficult conditions in their camps, but why have pro-India leaders woken up only now? The government has been using the community to create an impression of normalcy and present a rosy picture of Kashmir, but actually the Pandits have never been a priority for the pro-India camp which today finds itself in desperate need for their votes. And once elections are over, its sympathies too will vanish. The migrant community, on the other hand, cannot have forgotten the consistent and earnest calls by the Hurriyat leadership for their return, and its sustained heart-to-heart interactions with its members, despite attacks, in Jammu and Delhi particularly, by self-appointed groups driven by ulterior motives. Instead of falling prey to electoral machinations, migrant Pandits must reject plans aimed at polarizing the state, particularly their homeland Kashmir.