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The Step Children of Kashmir

[The original Hindi article published in Tehelka Hindi Issue]

This information may be of shocking revelation to ordinary Indians that, today the Jammu region of Jammu & Kashmir has the highest population density of displaced or call the refugees, in whole Asia. The Jammu region known for its temples and holy shrines could be given the status of refugee capital of India. Close to 17 lakh displaced people live here under manifold difficult circumstances. During last two decades whenever lives of people living in refuge in Jammu & Kashmir was referred, first of all and only the name of Kashmiri Pandits came front. This population of Nearly 3 Lakh people of Kashmir Valley had become the target of the terrorists during 1989-90. A big crowd of this community living in Jammu region, which has lost their land, property and heritage, are waiting to return to the valley. Kashmiri Pandits are the well-educated community and they became the victims of terrorism also, hence they are frequently discussed in National and International forums. Whereas no voice is heard on problems of the remaining 14 Lakh people either in rest of India or elsewhere. A big section of these people (nearly 2 lakh) migrated from West Pakistan during the partition, to whom Jammu was geographically and culturally nearer and they settled here as displaced. They were hoping that like other migrants in rest of India they will also become part of the mainstream of Jammu & Kashmir. Now after 65 years, forget about joining the mainstream society, they even could not become the permanent residents of Jammu & Kashmir. Today the third generation of these people is still deprived of their voting right, to the fundamental right of education. Similar condition prevails on those 10 lakh refugees displaced and migrated to Jammu during independence, due to aggression on Pakistan occupied Kashmir region by Pakistani army and tribes. These people are also waiting for their rehabilitation to happen since last six decades.

Other than this, the people displaced from frontier areas during 1947-48, 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak war are also living in Jammu region. It is true that India emerged victorious in these wars, but the 2 lakh population displaced from the border areas had to pay the biggest price for it. These people, our countryman, once prosperous farmers in their area, now deprived of appropriate rehabilitation, are making their livelihood by wage labor or driving riksha. The terrible tragedy happening with this millions of people is that this is occurring in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, where the strong uproars are frequently heard on human rights, but there is no hearing of the human rights of these people. Government or political parties or even common man are not even ready to hear and to accept their legitimate demands. Recent statement by Mr. Raman Bhalla, Minister of Relief and Rehabilitation in Omar Abdulla government exposes the official attitude against these people, carried out for years. Assuring the members of Jammu & Kashmir legislative assembly Mr Bhall had said recently The Government has not given any assistance to the refugees came from West Pakistan and State citizenship cannot be awarded to these people. These refugees are mostly Hindus or Sikhs; means minorities according to population of Jammu & Kashmir. But nonexistence of Minority Commission in the State amplifies their difficulties. Certainly there is a Human Rights Commission in the State, but when Tehelka tried to know about problems of displaced by a member of the Commission Ahmed Kawos, his answer was Till now we have not received any complaint on this issue, if complaint comes the issue will be looked upon. No need explain the challenges of a State where 17 lakh refugees live with an uncertain future. Then what could be the reason that the Government is not ready to understand the pain of refugees living since many past decades? From stories narrated below it comes to our knowledge that in a country entrapped in varied political and controversy nets, we dont have any helping hand for those helpless and left behind.

From where: West Pakistan Since when: 1947 How many: Nearly 2, 00,000 The third generation of the refugees migrated from West Pakistan still lives in same inhuman conditions as that of their first generation. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Prime Minister Late Indra Kumar Gujral, former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani and Ayodhya Das, these four men have one thing in common; during the partition of 1947 all of them fled to India from the other part of undivided India, which is called Pakistan today. This similarity for Ayodhya Das just ends here. Except Ayodhya Das other three men who came to India as refugees not only got all civil and political rights but also could reach the highest positions. But nearly 2 lakh Hindus and Sikhs, the likes of Ayodhya Das (of which 95% come under Scheduled Castes) didnt had the similar fate. These people living in refuge in Jammu & Kashmir are the victims of gross inhuman apathy shown by the State and Central Governments, which pushed their lived into utter slavery. The frightful tragedy with these people living without any civilian and political rights since past 65 years is that whenever they raise their voice for their basic rights, the system not only ignored it but also many a times obstructed their way forward.

Narrating the riots and affray of the time of independence 82 year old Ayodhya Das explains, During the riots we were told to leave our village (Jindayala village of Sialkot district Pakistan) and come to India. When my grandmother and brother opposed this idea, they were killed by burning in riots. After that we had no option but to flee from there. Jammu was nearer to West Pakistan. So, most people of the region came to this part of Jammu & Kashmir. Some people reached other States where they were rehabilitated and Indian citizenship was also given to them. Slowly all of them joined the mainstream society. But those who came to Jammu & Kashmir during that time were not even aware that more terrible situations were awaiting them here than the tragedy, to escape from which they had fled. The third generations of these migrants are still facing such same awful circumstances as their first generation after they started to live as refugees. Amaranath, a refugee living in Kathuva tells If we had little knowledge that this kind of treatment would be given to us, we would have laid our lives in Pakistan itself and would not have stepped in the land of Jammu & Kashmir. When the pain of suffering these people migrated from West Pakistan crossed the threshold, and then in 1981 they tried to cross the border and return to Pakistan. They assembled in big numbers near the border; then the army of both the countries stationed there came into action. Shake Muhammad Abdulla had then sent a message to these people assuring them of justice, to be done soon. Advocate B L Kalagotara who was involved in the whole movement says we had directly in strong words warned the State government and the Central government of the day that either they deliver the justice to us or send us to Pakistan. These people hoped that now like other refugees they will also be rehabilitated. They will also be given all civilian and political rights. The time was getting rolled out, but neither State government nor the Central government paid any attention towards them. After all, people of the community started raising their voices. They got the reason from the State government, they never would have imagined in dreams too. The government stated that, these people are not the subjects of Jammu & Kashmir; hence they cannot be given the rights the people of the state enjoy. The most important of them is the political rights, i.e. right to vote in the election held in the State. These people can vote neither in the State legislative elections, nor in local body elections. Even they dont have right to vote in Panchayat elections. Since Indian Constitution grants special status to Jammu & Kashmir the people of the State get a certificate of residence along with the Indian citizenship. This certificate of residence is given to only those whom the Schedule 6 of Jammu & Kashmir recognizes as the State Subjects. Only those can become

State Subjects whose ancestors lived in Jammu & Kashmir for a minimum period of 10 years till 14 May 1954. These refugees can vote in Lok Sabha elections, but they dont have the right to vote in any election conducted in the State. Kalagotara says since we cannot vote in regional elections, we are not heard. Being State Subject, serves as having the citizenship of the State. Deprived of this a long line of difficulties come in front of them. They cannot buy any land-property in the state, they cannot get appointed in government jobs. Ayodhya Das tells I knew only Urdu, while in Jammu people read and write in Hindi English. So I could not get any job, but my son is born here. He knows everything needed, even though he is not getting a meager job. The children of these people not even have the right to get admitted in medical or any other professional colleges of the State. Till 1989 they had the right to vote in Panchayat elections, but same year the National Conference-Congress government brought the Jammu & Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act and took away this right too. Experts say that the Constitution of Jammu & Kashmir came into force on 26 January 1957 whereas the refugees entered the state in 1947 itself. In that case if government wished, these refugees could have been given the status of State Subjects. B L Kalagotara says the period from 1947 to 1950 was highly disturbed, millions became homeless; people migrated in large number. In such situation humanity and special circumstances should have been considered. Most of these refugees live in huts built on vacant government land along Indo-Pak border. Since they dont get government employments, nearly 90% of them somehow make the living for their family out of small wage jobs. Now the third generation these refugees has grown up. No one has the answer to the questions on their future in the State. Twenty three year old Harikesh expresses his pain like this, We are living in temporary huts built in Government land. Grandfather has passed awaiting the justice. I belong to the third generation; still living in same temporary hut. I cannot vote, cannot be employed. I dont know why I am here? What is my future?

After bearing the injustice, slavery and thuggery for a long period, when these people congregated along the Indo-Pak border in 1981, demanding to be sent back to Pakistan, that time the issue was raised in both the houses of Parliament. In Lok Sabha then Union Minister of Rehabilitation Bhagavan Jha Azad on 24 March 1981 had assured the members of the house that the refugees will be rehabilitated at the earliest and all matters including the State Subject issue will be resolved by holding dialogue with the Jammu & Kashmir government. Today 31 years after the assurance was given their difficulties not even reduced by a minute scale. Contrarily the State government closed all those ways which could have provided little relief. B L Kalagotara tells As soon as the Jammu & Kashmir government came to know that Union government is intending to take a solid stand on the matter, they passed the Bill No. 9 in the J & K legislative assembly. The bill had such provisions to enable the returning of those citizens of J&K who had migrated to Pakistan during partition, they are made eligible to get the status of State Subjects. The government will protect their house and property which they can get back on return. The migrants from West Pakistan who were living in the houses deserted by the Muslims of the region migrated to Pakistan during partition became the biggest victims of this bill. They had hope that the J&K government will also award rights of such houses to the refugees like Indian government did in other part of India. In Pakistan also the immigrants were allotted the rights on such houses vacated and left behind by Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India. But, Bill No 9 more deepened the darkness on future of the refugees dwelling in such houses vacated by people migrated to Pakistan. In a winking time refugees living in such houses were declared tenants. Now every month they have to deposit the monthly rent to the custodian. The government deposits rent money in the name of the person

who owned the property before migrating. Kashinath, who is living in such a house, says, The governments worry is for them who had migrated 60 years back to Pakistan and settled there. They got the citizenship of Pakistan also; whereas no concern for life and death situation of people residing here for more than 65 years. Many times these refugees have presented their matter in front of Union government in past six decades. Labbha Ram Gandhi, member of West Pakistan Refugee Action Committee says During the time of BJP government in centre, we met then Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani and told our agony. He wrote a letter to state government and asked to take immediate action on our problems and to give the status of State Subject to us. But the state government dumped the letter in the dustbin. Later he also sent a reminder letter, which also suffered the same fate. Radheshyam says referring to recently held discussion with Prime Minister Manamohan Singh, We told him, see Sir, you also came from there and became the Prime Minister here, whereas we are not allowed to become ordinary peon, he told that he himself a refugee so he understands our pain. Though this time too there hope for any change remained just a hope. The people of community tell that Gulam Nabi Azad had shown some sympathy on this matter. When Azad was the Chief Minister he had convened an all-party meeting on this issue. But in the meeting PDP and National Conference has strongly objected on awarding certification of permanent residence. The result, the matter stopped then and there. Moving forward the CM had constituted Vadhva committee to study and recommend the solutions on all categories of refugees in the state. After studying the matter of refugees from West Pakistan, the committee had recommended to give the permanent resident certificate to these people and also seriously consider the matter of their rehabilitation. And even the committee had set their demands for getting benefits of central government schemes and rights to restore the houses they dwell in, which are present in custodian property, as legitimate. Azad government lasted immediately after the report came and after that none of the governments has shown interest in it. The unfortunate situation of affairs could be sensed by the fact that whenever some legislators tried to raise the issue in the assembly, the government kept denying discussion on the matter. State President of Panther Party and MLA Balavant Singh Manakotiya tell, Probably no other example exists in whole world, where the government has enslaved people like this. In each session of the Vidhanasabha, we try to call attention of the government on matter

of awarding permanent resident certificate and the inhuman living conditions and their rehabilitation, but the government is not ready to discuss these issues. Team of interlocutors appointed by the current Union government has also sympathized with these people. Ram Gandhi showing a newspaper cutting says, Radha Kumar was surprised to know about this group. She had told, immediately citizenship related matters should be settled. If not possible in J&K then these people should be rehabilitated in any other state with all civilian and political rights. Are these people ready to settle in any other state? To this question Singaram of Rakhakrouni village unhesitatingly answers, Not even second takes for us to leave this place. The deeply rooted division among the political parties has greater role in matters of the refugees not getting the status of state subject or denial of other rights. Senior journalist and human rights activist Balaraj Puri writes in an article, On the issues of refugees, Kashmir based almost all political party or leaders, be they belong to mainstream or separatist and Jammu based party or leader are in two splits. This is a matter of serious concern for the political health of the state. The refugees also give same reason for their pitiable state. Labbha Ram says, The political parties of Kashmir are creating hurdles against giving citizenship to us. They have a baseless fear that because of this the Jammu region will upper hand in state politics. Another thing about which the refugees draw attention is that all the governments of the state paid a special attention to ensure that none of the refugees infiltrates into Kashmir valley. Radheshyam tells, Leave the refugees from West Pakistan and look at the other displaced; none of them is in Kashmir. All will be driven out to Jammu. Refugees are always stopped from entering Kashmir. The fact that comes out our discussion with these refugees is that, the dominance of Kashmir on the politics of Jammu & Kashmir never allowed the issue to be solved. The victims allege that they are not heard because they are Hindus and also belong to scheduled caste; and the Kashmir centered and Muslims dominate politics of the region. A refugee Jeevanprasad alleges, The government has rehabilitation package for all, he can be a killer terrorist. Government has considerations to give to those stone pelters of the valley, promoting terrorism. Whereas, no attempt to think has happened, on those dying slow deaths since past 65 years. Many times the matter of giving certificate of residence to these people till citizenship (permanent resident certificate) is awarded, has come up. But government doesnt show interest in awarding residence certificate also; even though Vadhva committee has also talked about awarding residence certificate at

the earliest. Labbha Ram says, There has been little start in this regard, but still 90% refugees couldnt get this. After roaming around villages of refugees in Jammu we again met Ayodhya Das of Rakhakharouni village. The first generation refuge, beyond all legality net and politics told only this much, I spent my life in ignorance after coming from Pakistan; I dont feel sorry for it. My sons are doing wage labor. I accept that also. But the grandchildren playing in the yard are born here, in this soil and air. Whether their future will also become like mine?

From: Mirpur-Muzzafarabad area (now under illegal occupation of Pakistan) Since when: 1947 How many: About 12 lakhs The government reasons that when POK is merged with the state of Jammu & Kashmir, then these people will be rehabilitated back there. The first war between India and Pakistan started when the Kaibalis raided Muzzaffarabad in Jammu & Kashmir on 22nd October, 1947. Later Mirpur and Poonch were targeted by the raiders. It was clear from these attacks that Pakistan wanted to capture Jammu & Kashmir. Apart from these attacks they had one more plan that was to drive out the Hindus and Sikhs from the entire region. They were even successful in this. Sources say that around 10,000 Hindus and Sikhs were killed in one single night. Owing to the atmosphere of terror that was prevalent in the region, large number of people moved towards Jammu to seek asylum. For many days these people spent days and nights under open sky

without any shelter. It was after sometime, that the government of India settled them in camps. The refugees were under the impression that this was temporary and they would go back to their homes once the invaders had been ejected from the occupied areas. But that day has not arrived yet. Today the entire area of Mirpur, Muzzafarrabad and Poonch from where these refugees had come, is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Pakistan calls this occupied region as Azad Kashmir and India calls it Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). It has been 65 years since these people lost their homes and became refugees in their own state of Jammu & Kashmir. There are around 12 lakh such refugees out of whom about 10 lakh stay in Jammu and the rest 2 lakh have settled in other parts of the country. The fact that they are staying in camps even today after 65 years, shows the indifferent attitude of the government towards them. Balbir, who stays in one such camp near Jammu, expresses his distress saying, We were under the impression that we will return home sooner or later. When this hope was shattered, we trusted the government to rehabilitate us out of these refugee camps. But now, our third generation too is still living in these camps. The attitude of the governments towards these refugees from POK from the beginning can be understood through one more example. The Government in a response to a question in the Lok Sabha in the May 14, 2002, reported that in 1947 almost 32 thousand families came to this part of Jammu - Kashmir from POK owing to the attacks by Pakistan. Of these, 31 thousand 619 families have been registered. In addition, 9,500 families have never been registered by the government. The reasons which the government gave to not have registered these families are enough to show the insensitivity of the government

Those families which had not stayed in refugee camps. This means that if some family had sought asylum at the homes of their relatives after moving from POK, they would not be eligible for rehabilitation. Those families whose head did not travel with the family. This would mean that if the head of the family was killed or was lost during those macabre days, such families would not be eligible for any help from the government. Those families whose monthly income was more than Rs.300. This means that if the monthly income of the family was more than Rs.300 while they were in the POK region, such families cannot get any support from the government. Those families who did not travel during that turbulent period i.e. between September 1947 and December 1950.

As far as the monetary support from the government is concerned, Ramlal who stays in the Bohr camp informs that, In 1960 the central government granted Rs.3600 for each family. But the state government cut Rs.2250 from it. The state government said that this amount was being cut in lieu of the land that was given for the camps of these people. The remaining Rs.1250 was given to the families in two installments. But there are few families which have not even got the first installment till date while a few families are waiting for the second one. He further points out that the state government had then granted loans of Rs.50 and Rs.100 for many of the families of the refugees. It was evident that since this was a loan, the state government would charge interest on it. They did extract the interest. Due to this many families did not get any amount from the Rs.3500 granted to them. Another refugee Balbir Cahuhan Wali informs that, The state government not only charges a rent for whatever little land it has given for cultivation, but we also need to give away 40% of the yield generated on these lands. The biggest issue with the POK refugees is that the government does not consider them as refugees at all. In fact the Indian parliament passed a resolution on 22nd February, 1994 which said that the state of Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and that Pakistan has to vacate from all the areas which it has occupied illegally. Rajeev Chunni, who works for the rights of the POK refugees says, As per the central government we have moved from one corner of the state to another corner. The government says that they will free the area from Pakistans illegal occupation and resettle them back in the region. But we dont know as to when this wonder will happen. There are 24 Jammu-Kashmir Vidhan Sabha seats that have been reserved for POK. A few seats from those reserved could have been given to these refugees but that has not happened. An interesting fact is that the Jammu-Kashmir assembly has a total of 111 seat but the elections are conducted for 87 seats only. The remaining 24 seats have remained vacant. These 24 seats are the ones the government of India has reserved for the 1/3rd area of Kashmir which is under the illegal occupation of Pakistan today. Rajeev says, We have told the government several times that 1/3rd of the population of POK for whom the 24 seats are reserved, are living as refugees in Jammu today. So why not reserve 8 seats from among these seats to them. But the government does not seem to be interested in the proposal. Many experts also believe that if the 1/3rd of the reserved seats is given to the POK refugees, the claim of the Indian government over POK will only be strengthened. This would also send a message to the world.

Another demand of the POK refugees is also that their rehabilitation should be made based on the The Displaced Persons Compensation and Rehabilitation Act, 1954, based on which permanent rehabilitation of people who came from Western Punjab and East Bengal was done. The problems of those POK refugees who relocated to others states in India for work and other reasons, is more serious. Rajesh, a POK refugee who returned from Delhi a few years ago, says, I am a resident of Mirpur but I dont have the state subject certificate. My family came to Jammu due to the 1947 massacres. We did not get any help from the government then. How many days could we have remained hungry? Hence I went to Delhi in search of employment. But when we wish to apply for an employment in the state government, there is a demand for the state subject certificate. Ration cards and other documents are demanded from us. You only tell us as to where shall we get these documents after all these years. We have Form A given to all the POK refugees by the government. We are the citizens of this land but the state subject certificate is being demanded of us. The POK refugees, who are approximately 12 lakh in number, have not got any compensation till date for their homes, land and properties which are under the occupation of Pakistan today. Some experts believe that the refugees are not being compensated for their homes and lands as doing so might indicate to Pakistan that India has stopped claiming its right over those lands. These refugees are also angry because of the fact that the government not only did not provide them any compensation for their homes and lands which was occupied by Pakistan but on the other hand it installed custodians to look after the properties of those Muslims who left for Pakistan. One among these refugees, Vijayshankar points out to another fact, A large number of the people among those who migrated during 1947 had their savings in the Mirpur branch of the Jammu-Kashmir bank. After they migrated here they requested the bank for their money but the bank rejected their request. The reason the bank gave was that their Mirpur branch was under Pakistans occupation and all the records are with Pakistan and hence nothing could be done about it. Rajeev says, This is a type of fraud. The head office of any bank will have the details of its branches and the account holders and their deposits. The head office of the Jammu-Kashmir bank was in Srinagar earlier too and is now present in the same location. Given this fact it is beyond comprehension as how does the bank not know who all had accounts in its Mirpur branch. One among these refugees, Vijayshankar points out to another fact, A large number of the people among those who migrated during 1947 had their savings in the Mirpur branch of the Jammu-Kashmir bank.

The refugees staying in these camps tell that initially there were tents made of cloth, but overtime they tore and people had to build and stay in huts. Ramlal, who stays in one such hut says, All three of my sons were born here. This hut is the only place we can call as our home, where we have been living for decades now. Even this land is not in our name. The government can drive us out whenever it wants to. The people are very less hopeful of the possibility of the government granting them the refugee status. Rajeev says, The fact that whenever there is a dialogue on Jammu-Kashmir the government does not even talk to any of the 12 lakh POK refugees shows how serious it is about its claim over POK. It is as if we do not even exist. These assertions of Rajeev are strengthened by the fact that, for all the round-table conferences that have happened over Jammu-Kashmir, everyone from the separatists to the Gurdwara Prabhandak committee have been included but not one from the POK refugees has been extended the invitation till date. Apart from this the state government constituted five working groups for the development of the state but even here the POK refugees were not given any representation. Considering the fact that the problems of these refugees who came from POK is due to the deep chasm between the original Kashmiris and people from other parts of the state, Rajeev says, We too are the citizens of this state but are not Kashmiris, hence our condition. Here 23% Kashmiris have captured entire power and they are not willing to partner with other people in the state.

From: India-Pakistan Border Since when: 1947-48, 1965 and 1971

How many: About 2, 00,000 India defeated Pakistan three times but the people living at border had to pay a big price by sacrificing their houses and lives. Suchetgarh Border: 24 Kms from Jammu - Suchetgarh is the last village of RS Pura tehsil of Jammu district after which the border of Pakistan starts. As you go from village towards border you will notice a large number of bunkers arranged in a line. Bullet marks on BSF borders wall, the current which is given to the barbed wire fence around the border tells about the life of people living there. Here we meet Ramdhan who is 80 years and has witnessed all the three wars between India and Pakistan says that the people of this country are very happy about the victory over Pakistan but they are unaware of where it all happened and who is paying the price. Ramdhan migrated after war & lives in near a village close to Suchetgarh. Ramdhan used to live in a village 41 years earlier called Chamb (Occupied by Pakistan after the 1971 war) which is 100 Kms from the present place. Ramdhan was a very prosperous farmer with many acres of fertile land. After 1971 war he was forced to come here leaving his house and land and now his whole family is doing labor work for sustenance. There are more than 2 lakhs war migrants in the areas near Jammu and Suchetgarh border who share the same agony. Chamb sector which is at India-Pak border has seen several wars between India and Pakistan. This sector of most strategic importance had about 65 villages around 1947.In 1947 when Pakistan's army declared a war, then the people of Chamb had to migrate. These people went to other places of Jammu and Kashmir. The war ended and Indian army freed Chamb sector from Pakistan's army. People were very keen on returning back to their home but they were destined to come back only after three years. By the time they returned their houses were shattered to mere debris. The reared cattle were either dead or absconding. People somehow started their life again. In 1965 Pakistan's army again declared a war on this region. People had to leave their house once again. One among these was a 70 year old Harkishen who told us that they again became refugees. People had to again move for shelter to different areas. War was up till 14-15 days and after the Tashkent agreement Pakistan freed Chamb sector. For a long time people had to take shelter at various other places. After 2 years they were told to go back to their own villages. The state govt. has not even given ownership to that property which was left behind by people who migrated to Pakistan during partition.

Captain Navyal who is fighting for the rights of the war migrants says, This time it was 20 villages which were just on the border who refused to go back to their own village. These people were fed up of the repeated firing by Pakistan. The government then rehabilitated these people on the border of Suchetgarh. The rest of the people of 40 villages went back to their own place. After going back, this time also the same thing happened to their houses and lives as in 1947. Just as earlier they were trying to build everything from scratch, Pakistan again attacked in 1971. People were expecting the same things to happen but the scenario this time altogether changed forever. Shimla agreement took place after the war. There was literally a line of control between the two countries and Chamb sector went into Pakistan's hand forever. With this, the land, house, cattles, farm and the identity of the people living in those 40 villages also went away. The people of Chamb were displaced from their roots forever. Govt. arranged for their accommodation in camps till 1975. After that they were settled in a township in the frontline of three different districts of Jammu area. Since all of them were farmers, the government allotted lands and monetary help to all of them. At the same time the central Govt. formed CDPRA for the rehabilitation of the Chamb migrants. But the authorities closed the office in 1991 before the rehabilitation of migrants .The migrants are still hoping for their wellbeing. The government had proposed to give 32 irrigated or 48 unirrigated lands to every family. But there were only a few handful people who got the land according to the standards laid by the government. The fortunate ones got the land but some of them had lands that were totally infertile for farming. A farmer named Bachanlal says that they did not get any help from the government. I was with the army for some time but got retired and came back because of my father's illness. Somehow i managed to get some treatment for him with the little money I had which resulted in further lack of funds. The Govt. had given infertile land and we were forced to do labor work as there was no option left for us. Somehow i managed to sustain my family. I have two sons and i wanted to give good education to them but could not do so .They could study only up to 8th class and now they are hawkers having fruit and vegetable cart. The ownership of the land which was given by the government for farming was given in 2000 after long trials and tribulations. Inspite of Wadhwa Committees report where it was recommended that the 1965 war migrants be given the ownership of the land, people still are yet to get the ownership. According to the war migrants the government had proposed compensation to those who were not allotted lands but till now only a handful of them have got only a part of compensation.

A big problem with the war migrants is that of evacuee land (the land which was left by the people after partition before moving to Pakistan). These lands were given to some of them for farming but without any ownership. But the Wadhwa committee recommended that the ownership of the land be given to the war migrants. It was further recommended that no rent should be taken from the war migrants with evacuee land but both the things did not turn fruitful. Navyal says that the government was not ready to give the ownership to the land on which the war migrants were rehabilitated .When people raised their voice against this then in 2012 some of the people got ownership of the land. War migrants are very hurt and angry as the team formed by the central government had come to Jammu and Kashmir but they spoke to everyone else leaving them. Apart from people who migrated due to the 1965 and the 1971 wars, a great number of people in the state are still having their farmlands and houses border and LOC, which is a punishment for them. There are a large number of people who have moved to secure places as they were fed up of the firing every now and then. Although after the cease-fire was declared in 2003, the number of people leaving the border area has reduced but according to knowledgeable sources, large number of people had already left before 2003 in search of secure places and settled there. Many of these people were suggested to leave the place by the Army itself so that it could build its bunkers or lay mines. The divisional commissioner had in his statement said that there are approximately 1.5 lakh such people who have been displaced by war. Several sources believe that even if people wish to return to their homes they wont be able to do so as their lands might be laid with mines. The other fact is that the Army will not allow them to enter in the 16,000 acres of land which is under their occupation. The Wadhwa committee had recommended to the state government that these people be adequately compensated for the lands they have lost but nothing seems to have happened in this regard till this day.

Where: Kashmir Valley Since when: 1989 How many: About 300,000 The state government is asking the Kashmiri Pandits to return to the valley. But is the majority community there willing to accept them? It has been more than 23 years since the Kashmiri Pandits were displaced from the valley. Today we are faced with the new generation of Pandits and we are also faced with the question whether these people will be able to go back to their homes in Kashmir. The reign of terror that started on 14th September, 1989 with the killing of the then regional BJP Vice President Tika Laal Taploo, has only got ghastly with the passage of time. Just a few months after the assassination of Tika Laal Taploo, Retired session judge Justice Nilakant Ganjoo who had pronounced death sentence for JKLF leader Maqbool Bhatt, was murdered. With the assassination of Lassa Kaul, then director of the Television Centre in Srinagar, on February 13th terror had reached its peak. This reign of terror that had begun in the valley had made religion its weapon and the target were the Kashmiri Pandits. A displaced Kashmiri Pandit Ramakant recalls, "The only target of the terrorists were the Kashmiri Pandits. At any rate they wanted to kill all the Pandits or wanted to throw them out of the valley. In this they succeeded. " As per Ramakant, though the process of terrorizing the Hindus had started long ago, the final nail in the coffin was what happened on January 19th. He says, The Pandits used to receive phone calls at home that threatened them to leave the valley as soon as possible or face death. It was a common phenomenon to see posters pasted on walls that threatened the Pandits with dire consequences if

they did not leave the valley soon. People in the valley were ordered to set their clocks to the Pakistan standard time. Applying sindhur on the forehead was prohibited. There were talks of stopping the use of Indian currency and start using the Pakistani currency. Ever those loudspeakers of mosques which used to give a call to prayer started spewing venom on the Kashmiri Pandits. Another Kashmiri Pandit recalls that, for 3 days continuously the loudspeakers were blaring slogans like what will work here Nizam-e-Mustafa, what is the meaning of freedom; La Illaha Illallah, If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar and slogans that meant we will establish Pakistan here, along with the Pandit women but without their men. Ashwani Changru of Panun Kashmir, an organization of Kashmiri Pandits says, There was a curfew during those days yet the radicals were out on the streets defying the curfew. The process of executing the Kashmiri Pandits, raping their sisters and daughters and driving them out of the valley had already begun. " Finally on January 19, 1990, nearly three lakh Kashmiri Pandits were forced to move out of the valley indefinitely leaving behind everything. Sivakumar, who was among these people says, "Kashmiri Pandits knew only two things. One was to study and the other was to teach. So to combat those who were thirsty for our blood, was not at all possible. "

We welcome the return of Pandits in the Kashmir Valley. There is no resistance from us - Syed Ali Shah Geelani, separatist leader 23 years have passed since these events. For the past 23 years, the Kashmiri Pandits are away from their home and living the life of refugees. During this period around three lakh Kashmiri Pandits left the valley to save their lives and moved to Jammu and other parts of the country including Delhi in search of shelter. Once they arrived in Jammu, they were there in camps for the next 20 consecutive years. For the first five years they stayed in tented refugee camps. We can only imagine how whole families stayed in small tents withstanding cold, heat, rain and for five consecutive years! Though, after a long time, they were shifted from these tents to "homes". In the name of a home, the Pandits were forced to stay in single room apartments that had to house a family of five members. Another major issue they faced was the difference in climate between the valley and Jammu. The effect of staying in Jammu for long years has resulted in many of the Kashmiri Pandits suffering from health issues.

Various reports even stated that in the last 23 years the population of Kashmiri Pandits has declined sharply. 60-year-old Hari Om explains the reason, "The whole family lived in one room. Parents, brother and sister all lived in a single room. In the last 23 years there was no such thing as personal space. This is the reason as to why our population declined. In addition to this, the economic problems from which our community suffered, it would have been an injustice to the new member of the family who would come into this world. " Today, owing to the large population of the Kashmiri Pandits they have been removed from the single-room homes where they stayed for 20 years continuously and rehabilitated in colonies made for them. Regarding such rehabilitation Changru Ajay says, "The problem of rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits would be resolved only by living in Kashmir. If the government thinks that the issue will be solved by arranging some place outside the Kashmir valley for the Pandits to stay, that is no solution." Various organizations of the Kashmiri Pandits demand that a separate homeland be built for them in Kashmir that is administered by the union government. Spokesman of the Panun Kashmir organization Virendra says, "We are not concerned about who wants to go where but we want to live in Kashmir and that too under the ambit of the Indian constitution only." There are a large number of Kashmiri Pandits in whose homes in Kashmir were either burned or otherwise destroyed. Their lands were either illegally occupied by the locals or they had to sell them at low rates to arrange for two square meals a day for them and their families. One such victim Ajay Kumar Bhatt says, "After the incident of the massacre, I with my family stayed here in the Jammu refugee camp. We had to leave behind everything we ever had. We had no money or jobs. So we had no choice other than to sell our land. We had to sell our land for a song so that we have enough to run our family. The buyer knew that we were desperate to sell the land; hence instead of offering a good price consoled us abundantly. " The statements made by various sections of the valley regarding the return of the Kashmiri Pandits, generate anger in them rather than any excitement. Displaced Kashmiri Pandit Ashwini says, "These separatists who act as if they are desperate to see us back in the valley, were those who massacred our people, outraged the modesty of our sister and daughters. These people should be in jail because everything that happened was under their watch. The level of trust has fallen to such levels that when Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister recently tweeted that the valley is incomplete without the Kashmiri Pandit, there was not one Pandit who believed him.

Why is it so? Pandit Chaman Lal says, "It's just lip service. He wants to show the world that they have rolled the red carpet for their welcome into the valley but it is the Pandits who do not want to come. The real question is whether the government is willing to take responsibility for the safety of pundits. And then it's also important to know as to how excited are the Muslims of the valley about the return of the Pundits. This is because we have to ultimately stay with them. The Kashmiri Pandits also have in their mind the fact that the Muslims in the valley did not support them when they are being chased out of the valley and massacred. Ashwini says, If at all the Muslims of the valley had stood with us then, the militants would not have the courage to even think of hurting any Kashmir Pandit. But at that time, instead of supporting us they succumbed to the fundamentalists. The chairman of the minority commission, Wajahat Habibullah at another occasion had suggested that the Kashmiri Pandits should be granted the minority status. But the J&K state government did not show any interest in the matter. Several Kashmiri Pandit associations are of the opinion that given the fact that they went through genocide and the condition they were in due to they being the minorities, they should be given the status of a minority. But this did not happen and till date a minority commission has never been constituted in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Ajay says, "Even to this day, the government is not willing to consider this issue. In fact, it does not want to offend the majority population by creating a commission for Minorities. " Whatever happened during 1990, the Kashmiri Pandits call it genocide and ethnic cleansing. Virendra says, What happened was not just a terror incident but a well-planned strategy by the fundamentalists to eliminate each and every symbol in the valley that was in the way of creating an Islamic state. First they massacred the Pandits and created an atmosphere of fear due to which all the Hindus in the valley fled. Next they burnt down their houses, broke down temples and other places of worship and burnt them too. They wanted to forever eliminate each and every identity of the Pandits in the valley. Those who want to call us back in the valley, let them answer as to how many symbols associated with the Kashmiri Pandits are safe and secure today. A Special report by Brijesh Singh Translated to English by Prashanth Vaidyaraj and Satyanarayana Shanbhag