The exiled community of Kashmiri Pandits has demanded political representation for the community in the J&K Assembly. Pandits, who have been in exile ever since a brutal exodus due to sudden rise in terrorism and targeted assassination against community leaders since 1990, have sought an audience from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to demand reservation of seats for the community after delimitation process in the newly constituted J&K Assembly.
“As original inhabitants of Kashmir with a 5,000-year-old history, we consider ourselves as one of the key stakeholders in the valley. Our genocide and ethnic cleansing has yet to be redressed, as PM Modi is well aware. As proud citizens of India and residents of Kashmir, GKPD would like our community to exercise their fundamental right to be part of any new political initiative planned for our homeland,” Dr. Surender Kaul, International Coordinator of the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora, told CNN-News18 from United States.
Government sources have told CNN-News18 that it is in favour of giving at least 2-3 reserved seats in the newly constituted J&K Assembly to the Kashmiri Pandits. Sources have indicated that a rehabilitation policy has also been under works and will be streamlined and presented before the community leaders by the end of the year.
Pandit groups however have expressed their disappointment at not being invited for the all-party meeting with the Prime Minister for the fresh political process in J&K.
Prominent Kashmiri Pandit group Panun Kashmir in an open letter to PM Modi has sought answers to why the community has been ignored by the government.
“The previous UPA government had taken our opinion by inviting us to three round table conferences, no matter what the result was. Not only this, as the convener of Panun Kashmir, I have taken a delegation to meet former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee five times when he was in office,” Panun Kashmir Convener Dr. Agnishekhar writes in the open letter accessed by CNN-News18.
“By not inviting us to this all-party meeting in New Delhi, what message has the present central government given to the forces doing separatist politics of Islamist communalism in Kashmir?”, he further writes.
Kashmiri Pandits who still live in the valley have sought their share as well in the political process initiated by the Modi Government.
“On their own no Kashmiri Pandit can win an election. KP representatives can make it to the assembly either through reserved constituencies or on nomination. At least two seats must be fulfilled through nomination- one from Non-Migrant Kashmiri Pandits and one from migrant Kashmiri Pandits,” Sanjay Tickoo, President of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS) tells CNN-News18 from Srinagar.
“Such nomination should be made after holding elections exclusively among the Kashmiri Pandits - be it in Kashmir or outside of the valley. Such nomination would have a representative sanctity instead of a mere political party sponsorship”, he says.
Former BJP MLC Surender Ambardar while speaking to CNN-News18 indicated that the “all party meeting was a welcome initiative of the Prime Minister” as it was the first ever meeting after constitutional reform and reorganisation of Jammu & Kashmir.
“The meeting is objectively aimed at strengthening the democratic institution taking all shades of political spectrum on board to speed up the delimitation process and equally explore future directions about Assembly elections and other challenges”, he says.
“Kashmir Pandits are an important political factor so the demand of reservation of seats in fresh delimitation process synergies as one of the core Confidence Building Measures”, Ambardar says.
Meanwhile, Kashmiri Pandit umbrella organisation Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora (GKPD) has written to PM Modi, inviting his attention to the plight of exiled Kashmiri Pandits and seeking a personal audience.
“We commend the Government of India under your strong leadership for this initiative and look forward to the outcome of this meeting and the way forward to a peaceful and prosperous Kashmir”, the letter from GKPD says about the all-party meeting in New Delhi on Thursday.
“We humbly request you to invite our designated representatives as well to a meeting soon with you. This will ensure that we will also get the opportunity to discuss our political and civilizational aspirations regarding our dignified return to our homeland”, the letter requests the Prime Minister.
Aditya Raj Kaul is Contributing Editor, News18 group with more than a decade long experience in covering Conflict, Foreign Policy, and Internal Security. He can be reached at Aditya.Kaul@nw18.com