EVEN though Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi said it at an election rally, one of the hard realities of Kashmir pertains to the utter neglect of the issue of displaced Kashmiri Pandit community by the Congress party. So bad is the condition of Kashmiri Pandit community as such that it has added a very serious and even dangerous dimension to the issue. When hordes of goons were attacking people from the Pandit community, when they were demolishing the Pandit households, when they were raping Pandit women in shocking numbers with a clear intention of driving the members of the community out of Kashmir, the rulers then -- at the Centre and in Jammu and Kashmir -- did not do anything to stop the violence.
Lakhs of people from the Pandit community then sought shelter outside the State even as the rulers then paid empty lip service to the cause whose real dimensions they did not want to take into consideration. The Prime Minister has made a strong reference to all those unholy happenings in J&K. Recalling those days when the Pandit community was under attack, gives a terrible feeling. In those days, the whole State was under heavy influence of goons whose only purpose was to ensure that the people from the Pandit community somehow abandoned their homes and sought shelter in refugee camps that came up at several places. No protection was granted to them when the Pandits were being attacked mercilessly and shamelessly.
A lot of evidence, too, was available to prove that the Police also stayed away when the violence was going on. For this serious failure of basic governance, the Central and State Government did not have any remorse. The Prime Minister has pointed his finger to this dark side of the dirty picture. For the Kashmiri Pandits, the condition has not improved still and many of them continue to languish in refugee camps. Occasionally, some people in Central or State Government would talk of bringing back some refugees, but nothing actually materialised in a concrete manner.
Some Pandit community people did eventually return to the their homes in the past 3-4 years. Yet that did not change much the situation on the ground. The reason was simple: When a situation deteriorates over long decades, it cannot be sorted out in a short time. The worst part of the Kashmir situation was the apathy of the political community led by the Congress party to take concrete steps in Kashmir. So thoughtless was the approach of the political community that when Governor Mr. Jagmohan was trying to restore sanity in the administration, many politicians, including former Prime Minister Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, ganged up to demand his recall. The Kashmir issue has, thus, often suffered at the political hands. When the demand came to have the Article 370 withdrawn from Kashmir, vested interests did not allow to come up for a healthy debate. The supporters of Special Status to Kashmir refused to think correctly about all dimensions of the situation. They did not realise that Special Status was granting separatists certain protection from the law that generally operates in other parts of the country. And the Congress party played a major role in retaining the Special Status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Now, the Bharatiya Janata Party has made withdrawal of the Special Status its election plank and is campaigning accordingly. This task may meet with stiff political opposition. Yet it is the need of Kashmir to be integrated fully with the rest of India, which the Special Status does not allow to happen. Because Special Status separates Kashmir from other parts of the country, separatist vandalism goes on there unhampered, unchallenged. This situation needs to be changed on an urgent basis. All political parties should think about the issues from the nationalist point of view, which will help them take the right stand.