Kashmiri Hindus welcome steps to abrogate Article 370, dream of returning to their homeland

One of the biggest things achieved by the government by rendering Article 370 inoperative on Monday is to have brought the focus squarely on one set of people who have been at the receiving end of the decades-long high voltage tension in Jammu and Kashmir — the Kashmiri Hindus

Debobrat Ghose August 06, 2019 13:09:24 IST
Kashmiri Hindus welcome steps to abrogate Article 370, dream of returning to their homeland
  • Kashmiri Hindus, displaced from the state when the tension escalated in 1989-1990, remain one of the most ignored displaced people of any conflict zone in the world

  • Soon after Home Minister Amit Shah announced the abrogation of Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha on Monday morning, scenes of jubilation were reported from the areas in the country where Kashmiri Hindus live

  • The decision has raised several hopes, among them a hope that the Kashmiri Hindus will now be able to return to their homeland

One of the biggest things achieved by the government by rendering Article 370 inoperative on Monday is to have brought the focus squarely on one set of people who have been at the receiving end of the decades-long high voltage tension in Jammu and Kashmir — the Kashmiri Hindus.

Kashmiri Hindus, displaced from the state when the tension escalated in 1989-1990, remain one of the most ignored displaced people of any conflict zone in the world.

Soon after Home Minister Amit Shah announced the abrogation of Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha on Monday morning, scenes of jubilation were reported from the areas in the country where Kashmiri Hindus live. That’s because the decision has raised several hopes, among them a hope that the Kashmiri Hindus will now be able to return to their homeland.

Is it as simple as it seems?

"It’s an announcement of intent, which is yet to be implemented. By abrogating Article 370, we’ve declared war on jihad, but not won. It’s a long tough journey and a painstaking effort," Sushil Pandit, a prominent Kashmiri activist, told Firstpost.

"We shouldn’t lose sight. For the past 70 years, there had been appeasement of jihadis and they were defended. In Jammu and Kashmir every institution — politics, justice, administration, police, press, everything was subverted. This abrogation of Article 370 shows that the government has acknowledged this subversion over decades," he said.

Kashmiri Hindus welcome steps to abrogate Article 370 dream of returning to their homeland

Representational image. AFP

Will this move facilitate Kashmiri Hindus in going back home?

Abrogation of Article 370 by the government has rekindled hopes among Kashmiri Pandits as well as others who got displaced, to go back to their homes in Jammu and Kashmir almost after three decades. The minority population that left their homes and migrated seeing no hope in the state due to the discrimination between minority and majorities, is upbeat.

“This move has rekindled hope. I think this re-enthuses them to go back because now they will feel more confident about the fact that there is a strong government that can take strong decisions. They will be sure that whatever government does, will have an element of security. Psychologically, they will feel safe to go," Raj Nehru, vice-chancellor, Shri Vishwakarma Skill University and a Kashmiri told Firstpost.

Hailing the move as a 'landmark decision', Ashwin Kachroo, a senior finance executive in a media group, and hailing from Rawalpora in Srinagar, said, "There has been a long standing demand of ours for a separate homeland within the state (now Union Territory), where Kashmiri Pandits and all those who fled could peacefully cohabit. In the last 30 years, the social fabric has completely got destroyed and there’s a severe trust deficit. A separate zone will help in rehabilitation."

Will Kashmiri Hindus benefit from the move?

A large number of Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and Hindu Punjabis who were unsettled due to the exodus from the valley in 1989-90, were in a celebratory mood on Monday after the news flashed on TV channels, in the hope that they would benefit significantly.

Many Kashmiri Hindus with whom Firstpost interacted said the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will benefit every community and not just the Kashmiri Pandits.

“Unlike in the past, where the decision-making process was driven by the perspective of majoritarian thinking with separate rules and laws protecting them and discrimination against the minority, now it will be a fully-integrated Union Territory. There is a possibility of more people coming and living with them — not just Kashmiris, but those from other parts of the country too," added Nehru.

Added Pandit, "We were ousted because we didn’t accept the war inflicted on India. It had always been a war against India. Had we accepted and supported it, we would have been allowed to stay."

Besides Kashmiri Hindus, there were Sikhs, Punjabis etc, who were a part of the exodus and bore the brunt. Mahender Kumar Suri (62), a Hindu Punjabi, works in a private establishment at Chawri Bazar in Delhi. In 1990, he was forced to move out of his ancestral home at Kupwara in Kashmir along with his parents and family leaving behind their family business.

“We were a minuscule part of the total population and the situation in 1989-90 forced us to flee our homeland, leaving behind everything we had. The Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government at the Centre virtually did nothing to prevent this menace. This move by the government is a welcome step and time will tell how it succeeds,” said Suri.

"No doubt the abrogation of Article 370 is a welcome step and it will gradually help industries and businesses to come up. Development will take place, but it’s a long-drawn process," he added.

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Handling the reaction

How the abrogation saga unfolds in the Valley, however, is a matter that is bothering the Kashmir watchers. Though the state continues to be under curfew and its leaders under detention, the situation will take a turn once the curfew is lifted and the leaders are freed. The curfew and detention were enforced in anticipation of “breach of peace and tranquillity” in Kashmir by the administration.

Experts feel that a lot of restraint would be required on part of all the stakeholders as a massive change has been effected to a situation that has remained violent for most part of its history.

Raj Nehru added, "Something that has been deep-rooted in the psyche, in the mindset of the people, especially since the time when country became independent, has changed. People have various psychological connections with the word 'Article 370'. This is a moment of change, and such moments of change are painful. So, we have to be a little empathetic towards those who have not been able to understand the benefit of removing Article 370 and who have always been only taught that if this goes, then many of the benefits to which they are accustomed will also go."

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