Kashmiri Pandits well placed outside, only 10-15% will choose to return: Mufti Mohmmad Sayeed

Only 10 to 15 per cent of displaced Kashmiri Pandits will choose to return to the Valley, Chief Minister Mufti Mohmmad Sayeed claimed as differences between PDP and BJP over their resettlement came to the fore on Thursday.

As per reports gathered from interactions with Kashmir Pandits only 10 to 15 per cent of them will choose to return to the Valley, Mufti told the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly as he reiterated his government’s endeavour to create a conducive atmosphere for those who are willing to return.

“They (Kashmiri Pandits) are well placed in various parts of the country and abroad… If we do something on the matter, they will come to the Valley on seasonal pattern,” he said.

“They are good and highly qualified people. Before this (militancy erupted) KPs have also gone out of Kashmir. They included P N Haksar, P N Dhar, Dr U Kaul, Dr Sameer Kaul. They need bigger canvas and move out of Valley,” he said.

“But in 1990 a lot of KPs went out of Kashmir from everywhere but we will try to bring them back,” he said.

Speaking against separate township for displaced Kashmiri Pandits, the chief minister said when there were plans to set up camps for them “they were of the view that their settlement should be in their native places”.

“I am happy that one leader of Kashmiri Samiti opposed the idea of separate clusters for KPs and suggested that they should live at their native places,” he said, adding “they batted strongly that wherever they will live, they will live with Muslims, Sikhs and other together”.

“I want to tell the House… There is no plan (for a separate township for KPs in Kashmir). A hue and cry erupted that a separate Homeland is being made for them. I said that is not possible. Those who are living there have to spend their lives together. We will try our best,” he said.

Differences between Jammu and Kashmir ruling alliance partners — PDP and BJP — came to the fore with Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh earlier in the day making it clear that the Centre was going ahead with its plans for composite townships for KPs.

“Diversity is a composite culture in Jammu and Kashmir which has got fragmented due to turmoil and militancy. Several Pandits have run away while some could not go,” the chief minister said, adding “it is our endeavour to bring back those who have left their homes and hearths in Kashmir Valley”.

“In 2002, when I was Chief Minister I tried my best to bring them back. We initiated measures for face-lifting places like Khir Bhawani, Mattan and set up buildings,” Mufti said.

“But when there were anti-Mufti protests by KP youths who alleged that they were being ignored by the government, I directed the Chief Secretary to provide jobs to their children,” he said.

“When the plan for smart cities was formulated, I advocated for inclusion of KPs in them. I talked to Home Minister of India. I told him they cannot live in separation and if it happens they will live together,” he said.

“Then NC-Congress government also initiated measures and provided jobs to KPs, educated youth in Kashmir valley. Four to five thousand such youth were given jobs as teachers under the condition that they will only serve in Kashmir Valley,” he said.

“We believe in secularism and to strengthen secularism, I want support of all the people… We are not in any hurry…,” he said, adding “we will take on board all the stakeholders and we want all people to live together”.

“It is a challenge for everybody — NC, Congress and all people — to bring KPs back to Valley but very less people will return,” he said, adding “it is not my duty alone as a Chief Minister but that of entire House and also political parties and the people of Kashmir”.

“They should not mix it with human problem. I want to request you that a message should go from this House that there should be no separate clusters for KPs the way Israel has set up… There will no such clusters for them. If we have to live we will live shoulder to shoulder together with their brethren in Kashmir,” Mufti said.

“We will not allow this tradition of Kashmiriyat to get wiped out from the pages of history. Gandhi found ray of light of secularism from Kashmir,” he said, adding that “we always held high flag of secularism in Kashmir if we have taken the steps for their return, then we should give a rebuff to those who are making this issue critical. Who want to create disturbances and stall the move”.

“I want to appeal to those also who are not in the mainstream that this is not an issue and do not play politics with it. I will also request them that J&K has a separate identity and place in the country as J&K has a culture and its tradition and we need to survive it. We should not raise the voices of hate,” he said.

Describing Kashmir as “an epitome of secularism and brotherhood that has withstood the test of time”, the chief minister today said the government is committed to create a favourable environment for return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes so that the void created by their absence in the cultural milieu of Kashmir is removed.

The chief minister said his government is determined to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits as part of the Kashmiri society and not as an isolated community.

Describing as “misconstrued” the impression being created by certain quarters regarding establishment of exclusive habitations, Mufti said the government has not acquired any land for setting up any exclusive enclaves.

He said the government does not favour any clusterisation of Kashmiri Pandits but their complete reintegration as part of the Kashmiri society. “Some Pandit organisations have also stated that a majority of the migrated community will feel vulnerable if they return to the Valley and live in exclusive zones,” he added.

Urging all political parties to cooperate in facilitating return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley, Mufti said they are part and parcel of the multi-religious society of Kashmir and their migration over two decades ago was a huge tragedy.

“Our emphasis will be on taking all confidence-building measures for their dignified return. We are only taking forward a process initiated by previous governments,” he said.