'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Monday, June 27, 2016
Sanjay Tickoo: ‘Given the political backlash in Kashmir, no Pandit can or will return to Valley’
‘With mainstream opposition, separatist
leaders holding seminars, calling hartals and dictating terms for return, there
is very little hope that anyone will or can return’
‘Perceived safety is paramount for returning
KPs perhaps more than real safety’
‘Civil society has ignored plight of Pandits
who stayed back in Kashmir’
‘I wonder if civil society is following
written narrative on return of KPs’
As per KPSS survey, 674 Kashmiri Pandits were
killed in Valley
The return of
Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland has been one of the most debated issues in
the recent past. The Pandit families, which stayed put in Kashmir amid the mass
migration of their community, have been following the developments closely
under the banner of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS). In an interview
with Rising Kashmir Editor-in-Chief, Shujaat Bukhari,
KPSS president, Sanjay Tickoo shares the concerns and
challenges regarding the return of pandits to the valley.
How do you
see the return of Kashmiri Pandits to Valley?
It is a challenge to
begin with, given the security concerns and rise in religious intolerance in
Kashmir, but when mainstream opposition and separatist leaders are holding
seminars and hartals against Pandits and dictating terms for their return,
there is very little hope that anyone will or can return. Perhaps that is the
true intent of these anti-KP demonstrations, but I can tell you that diplomats
from around the world are watching how Kashmiris on one side pride themselves
as being secular and on the other side are scaring off Pandits from returning,
by putting forth pre-conditions.
Do you think the
concept of separate colonies is a good idea?
It is not about good
or bad idea. It is about how to take first step towards final settlement. As
you know, almost 90 percent Kashmiri Pandit property is either encroached or
sold or occupied, if State Government has to bring them back, then they have to
create something new. If separatists and civil society in Kashmir are going to
negate that idea then there should a Plan B from them. Let them take a decision
and get the old houses of Kashmiri Pandits vacated. By the way, the concept as
you are describing it is not a good idea. But that is not what is being
proposed. What is being proposed is a composite township where all displaced
Kashmiris, regardless of their religion, will be accommodated, and the focus
will be on younger people who can demonstrate their talent, their
entrepreneurship and their enthusiasm to development on the basis of which this
township will be proposed as a “smart city” to the Central Government.
Finally, what other
choice do you see? Can KP’s go back to their old homes currently in rubble or
sold to others in distress sales?
I am telling you the
reaction of the civil society is so strange and consistent, one has to wonder
if all are following a “written narrative” prepared by some vested interests.
They are also
giving it the name of composite townships or transit camps?
They are not giving it
a name of Composite Township because it was always a composite township. It
degenerated into Transit Camps because of the charged political environment by
vested interests. But be sure it is just first step towards final settlement.
How do you see the
reaction of separatist organizations or civil society to these colonies?
Sad – very sad, we
should be building bridges not just with displaced Pandits but will all
disfranchised people within Kashmir, and instead what we get are demands,
diktats and threats. As I said before, the world powers are watching and my
information is that their reaction has been very negative to what is happening.
Please do not forget, KP’s are the aboriginal people of Kashmir. In the UN
Charter their status to this land is higher than any of the rest.
Do you think KP's
will be safe on their return?
Given the tense and
alarming political backlash today, I will say that this question is premature
as none can or will return in this environment.
How do you share
experience as the one who did not opt to leave?
My experience is
personal. The decision to leave or stay in the land of your forefathers is not
made trivially. Each person’s experience, emotions, and sense of security are
different. Those who left had a different perception of threats to their
personal safety and well-being. That is why “perceived safety” will be
paramount to returning Pandits, and what is happening in the valley presently
degrades rather than improves that “perceived safety”. Notice perceived safety
is different from real safety. There is no question that real safety situation
has improved since the time these folks left, but perceived safety is more than
What is the
condition of those who decided to stay back?
It is not good. And I
must say that the civil society by ignoring the plight of Pandits, who stayed
back, has not been helpful either. You must recall nearly 20,000 KP’s braved
through the peak periods of militancy and stayed in the valley when the
civilian rule returned to the state in 1996. Today fewer than 4,000 KP’s are
left in the valley. Has anyone examined the reasons why that is so? Has any
political party or separatist group shown concern why KP’s are leaving the
valley even as security situation has improved steadily? You do some research
on this subject and you will find out what is the condition of KP's who stayed
When was KPSS found
Technically KPSS came
into existence the day, Kashmiri Pandits had to flee their homes to save their
lives. It all started with a group of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 and was named as
Hindu Forum. It was run by the then stalwarts of our society, H. N. Wanchoo,
Dr. T. N. Ganjoo, Dr. Brij Mohan Bhan and many more. I was young at that time
and I joined this group as executive member. The aim and objective of this
Forum was to get in touch with the fear-ridden Kashmiri Pandit Community and
try to reach out and to help them in distress. The main objective of this group
was to give respectful last journey to the dead bodies of Kashmiri Pandits and
Hindus who got killed during those days. Later on, when H. N. Wanchoo was
killed, we had to stop all these activities, but after a gap of one year or so,
we renamed the group as “Hindu Welfare Forum”. I was General Secretary of that
The aim and objective was same. As the time passed, we tried to do
surveys to see how Kashmiri Pandits, who stayed back, are living in Kashmir. We
travelled length and breadth of Kashmir to get in touch with all. And as time
passed by, we made first registered NGO of Kashmiri Pandits who stayed back in
Kashmir and renamed our small group as Hindu Welfare Society Kashmir.
is still working at ground zero and is trying its best for development of the
community. As NGO has its own limitation so in the year 2006, we made an
organization, which is more political than just social or religious one. We
named it Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti. KPSS takes all the
situations head on and from the past nine years we have done number of surveys
and have taken bold initiatives like fighting legal battle for preservation,
protection and restoration of Kashmiri Pandit religious places in Kashmir
Valley, fought and won a long legal battle to include the educated left out
youths from Kashmir Valley under the PM’s Return, Relief and Rehabilitation
We initiated an ambitious battle to grant all religious minorities
in the state minority status, grant of OBC status to Financially Backward
families of Kashmiri Pandits who are below poverty line. Besides, KPSS
organizes the celebration of Dusherra in Kashmir Valley and other socio-religious
gatherings in Kashmir for the benefit of community members who are staying the
You have been
giving different figures about the killings of Pandits while the State says it
is 219. What is the basis of that?
All our figures are
based on surveys and collection of data from ground zero. When State government
gives other data, almost every member of majority community rejects, then why
do they accept and acknowledge the figure of Kashmiri Pandits circulated by
government agencies? Till date, as per our own survey we could identify 674
Kashmiri Pandit killings, which is contrary to what government agencies are
circulating. The matter is under active consideration and KPSS is now going to
contest the official figures legally to ensure justice for those who became
victims of violence and vicious bureaucracy of the state.
KP's are already in
camps at Vessue, Hawl and Budgam. How has that experiment gone?
The results have been
mixed. It demonstrates a desire of KP’s to be part of the valley mosaic. But
that housing is dehumanizing both in shared interior spaces and exterior
surroundings, and not conducive to normal family living. The employment terms
specified in their contracts are not fair. The physical protection at these
transit camps is spotty. These camps do not offer human dignity and certainly
will fail the human rights test.
What do you think
is the ideal solution for return of KP's?
A genuine desire by
the majority community, civil society, and the state administration (in that
order) to welcome KP’s back with open arms and with no pre-conditions or
diktats. Let us show that people presently living in the valley are humans and
worthy of the land of Rishis and Sufis.
Do you support
Panun Kashmir as a separate territory?
I don't think it is
feasible on the grounds as per the Constitution of India. It can't afford more
Union Territories that too only for minorities. I am opposed to Panun Kashmir
as much as I do in respect of "Azaadi".
How do you see role
of some prominent KP's such as Anupam Kher and Ashok Pandit?
I don't endorse what
they do but here also some people from majority community are playing the same
role. I do not expect my community putting onus of all what has happened to us
migration, misery etc on the majority community.