Experts say Pandit safe zones a counter to ‘freedom movement’

Wasim Khalid

Srinagar: The motive behind creating separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits is to create a counter to the dominant political aspirations of Kashmiri Muslims, experts have said.
Law Professor Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain said the garrisoned townships for Pandits, who are fine with Indian rule, will instill insecurity among Kashmiri Muslims, who have been demanding the right to self determination since ages now.
He said that people in Kashmir perceive the townships as a ploy to create settlements under the garb of rehabilitating Pandits. This perception, he said, has been shaped by statements of Sangh Parviar leaders.
“Senior Sangh leader Subramanian Swamy has repeatedly said that BJP should settle retired soldiers in Kashmir to tackle Kashmir problem. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has spoken on similar lines,” he added.
A political scientist at Jammu university, wishing anonymity, said the RSS plans to undermine the Kashmiri freedom struggle by creating a “somewhat parallel stakeholder in the form of Pandits in these townships”.
“After settling them in townships, they would try to give it a communal colour as envisioned by Panun Kashmir,” he said.
The state government had said that it plans to develop separate composite townships for the migrant Pandits while New Delhi said land had been identified for such a project.
Former vice-chancellor of Islamic University, Siddiq Wahid, said the  manner in which the government of India and the state government have phrased it, the project for return of the Kashmiri Pandits has been framed as a politicized issue, when it is a humanitarian one.
“And the latter is a problem that can only be resolved through a dialogue among citizens, Muslim and Pandit, who could between them work out a way for the project for return. It cannot and should not happen by government diktat, for that is to politicize it, make it contentious when it is in fact not,” he said.
According to Noor Ahmad Baba, former head of political science department at Kashmir University, said the way things are shaping up, the safe zones for Pandits gives an impression that “RSS and its subsidiaries want to reinforce their ideologies in Kashmir”.
“Few Pandit groups, who follow their line of thinking, seem to have colluded with them and are now playing more of politics by advocating separate townships for Pandits rather than working towards rehabilitating them back in the society in true sense,” he said.
He said the creation of new townships would have both social and political implications on Kashmir.
“It will reinforce division and suspicion among communities residing in Kashmir,” Baba said.  “The composite culture, for which Kashmir was known historically, would be weakened and later it would become extinct”.
Referring to Israel and Ireland where such separate settlements were created for one community, he said such “settlements had only ended-up in isolation”, adding, “The intra-community bridging and understanding would never be achieved this way.”
“I wonder how come Pandits will live in isolation when nostalgia beckons them to their homeland,” he said.