Will the minority Pundits return home?

Ever since New Delhi lost parts of Kashmir to Pakistan, India has suffered at the hands of jihadists.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he gives a speech in front of students at the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo. (photo credit: REUTERS)
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he gives a speech in front of students at the University of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It is high time the Modi government did something substantial to restore basic rights to the displaced Kashmiri minorities.
I must thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for placing the rehabilitation of displaced Kashmiri Pandits back into the Valley as one of the key priorities of his government’s agenda. This has been long overdue. India’s post-Independence rulers, highly paid bureaucrats and commissioned intellectuals, including media commentators and columnists may not like it, but the successive dispensations in New Delhi have not done really well in performing their first and foremost state function in this regard: defending the life and liberties of its own citizens—minority in the present case-- in the Valley.
Immediately after India’s Independence, Islamabad sent its armed forces in the guise of tribals (October 26, 1947) to capture Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir's Maharaja, Hari Singh, signed instruments of accession to India (October 27, 1947). Henceforth, it was the duty of the Indian state to protect this province and its people. The Indian Army was in a position to take care of India's integrity. Yet New Delhi lost 2/5ths of Kashmir to Pakistan. Ever since then India has suffered a lot at the hands of the jihadists. Since 1980, the jihadists have claimed 1.5 lakh lives in different parts of India.
The life of the minorities in the Valley has never been good in the post-Independence landscape. It has turned from bad to worse after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination. According to a study conducted by former Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Shanta Kumar, the population of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley in 1989 was four lakh. Today it is less than four thousand. By 2000 the Islamist terrorists killed more than 34252 innocent citizens, wounded and decapitated 17484, set on fire 10,000 Hindu houses and destroyed state and individual properties worth 2000 crore rupees. This has compelled over half a million of its minorities to leave their homes and live in miserable conditions elsewhere in the country.
American Congressman Frank Pallone's letter of August 23, 2004 to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh contains the best description of the Kashmir scenario today: "The Pandits have suffered more than any group as a result of the conflict in Kashmir...violence continues to threaten their existence. Kashmiri Pandits are on the verge of losing their identity, culture and homeland in Kashmir.  The ethnic cleansing of Pandits from Kashmir started as a result of targeted assassinations leading to forced exile of the entire minority community in the early stages of insurgency. Horrible events have been repeated in recent years when Islamic insurgents committed mass massacres of Pandits in villages and hamlets throughout Kashmir".
I hope Prime Minister Modi and his Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Defense Minister Arun Jetley, Foreign Minister Sushama Swaraj and other cabinet colleagues, who have all promised good governance and zero tolerance to terrorism, would mean it in action as well and see to it that the minorities of the Valley return to their own homes as early as possible .
It is high time the Modi government did something substantial to restore to the displaced Kashmiri minorities their basic rights. In the post-9/11 landscape there has emerged a plethora of literature on the socio-economic political ideologies, goals, strategies and tactics of the phenomenon called Islamist terrorism. This has led to a near consensus across the enlightened international community that this phenomenon constitutes a great threat to the contemporary enlightened humanity’s shared fundamental rights and values. In order to combat this threat, the world’s leading liberal democracies have come to adopt many new diplomatic, legislative and security measures too.
But the successive governments in India have done little to address this threat. New Delhi seems to have been content with its conventional, stereotype explanation that the terrorism it is confronted with has been conceived, conspired and sponsored by certain elements in the Pakistan establishment and is being perpetrated by them in coalescence with a handful of local elements within India. The Modi government must realize such an approach will not do any longer.
In the past, I have heard enough of dialogues --- first /second/third track, whatever you call it-- with secessionists and terrorists based in the Valley to solve the Kashmir problem. I hope Modi and his colleagues would make a difference herein for something positive and meaningful . The nation cannot afford the luxury of dialogue for such a long time leaving generation after generation of the Pundits to perish on!
The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi.