Edfitorial: If Sharma wants to make a difference


Srinagar: Union Government, according to an RTI reply, has no plans to set up composite townships for displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. And as for the measures being taken for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, the director in the home ministry Ram Krishna Swarnakar has asked the RTI applicant ìto  seek the information directly from the state government of J&K”.  Incidentally, the RTI reply has come to light on the day the Centre’s new interlocutor on Kashmir Dineshwar Sharma began his second visit  to the state. The news has certainly been a source of some comfort in Valley, even though there is nothing new about the reply. Earlier this year also the Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir had told Lok Sabha in reply to question by Congress leader Ashwin Kumar that there was no proposal to set up separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits and the Sainiks. And thankfully, the RTI reply now has vindicated him and reassured the Valley. This will certainly go some way to address the deep anxieties in about the apprehended plans for such settlements.  And it will also make the people relate, albeit tentatively, to Sharmaís ongong initiative.

Already, on his urging, the home ministry has recommended to the state to grant amnesty to the first time stone pelters. On Thursday, a day  before Sharmaís arrival, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti ordered review of the  cases lodged against the youth in the past three years. An already constituted committee would review the cases and furnish its recommendations within 10 days. According to an estimate more than 11,500 cases have been registered against stone pelters since last year, 4500 cases of them against youth who were found indulging in stone pelting for the first time.

Measures and assurances like these are welcome and address the deep-seated paranoia among the people of the Valley about the alleged efforts by New Delhi to change the stateís demography. Such fears have been deepened by the petitions challenging the Article 35A in the Supreme Court. Though the court has deferred the hearing of the case by some months, it has been no consolation to the people. Incidentally, the Advocate General K K Venugopal cryptically told the court to defer the hearing in view of the appointment of the interlocutor on the state.

Earlier, on this score also, the home minister Rajnath Singh had assured the Valley that the union government would do nothing that goes against the sentiments of the people of J&K. But while Singh held out assurance he had nothing to say on union governmentís plans to defend the law in the court. Nor  has it so far done it. So the air of uncertainty lingers. If the interlocutor wants to make some redeeming difference in the state short of a resolution, it is to address the Valleyís fears about an impending plans to change the demography of Kashmir.

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