Kashmiri Pandits have an existential stake in the Valley - Business Guardian
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Kashmiri Pandits have an existential stake in the Valley

Kashmir is an integral part of India, is not a statement but an impassioned avowal.After Article 370 was made inoperable in August last year, the expectations of the native population from Kashmir skyrocketed for the return to their roots by the reversal of their thirty year old exile status from the homeland. They are living as refugees in their own Country, the independent India.

PM Modi urged people of the country and Jammu and Kashmir -come, let us all together, build a “new Jammu and Kashmir and new Ladakh” with the new India’: he said, I have complete faith, under this new system, we all will be able to free Jammu and Kashmir of terrorism and separatism and integrate the state fully with rest of the country. He called it a Naya Kashmir vision. Those from Jammu and Kashmir who live elsewhere and want to return to their homes will be helped in by us, PM Modi declared.

After almost ten months of 5th.August 2019 decision of abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, a sense is gathering around that their plight as native exiled Kashmiri is being slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their suffering, but nothing by way of action is seemingly visible by the Modi-2.0 and JK Union Territory Government. The future of Pandits, as an important stakeholder and a relevant component to the resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio, is less and less talked about.

Kashmiri Pandits have an existential stake in the Valley. They have to be physically present on the soil of the Valley as living component and stake holders and day to day participants in the socio-economic, political, cultural and spiritual ethos of Kashmir valley, otherwise how will the present as well as future generations realise that Kashmir is the keystone of their heritage through millennia, finding mention even in the Indian oldest scriptures?

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?

Mahayana Buddhism was spread across mid Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks. Patanjali gifted his yog sutra to humanity and his. Sarangadeva is considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music. Acharya Abhinav Gupta, one of the greatest scholars of all times, wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of RAS are being taught in 80 universities around the world. Why educationists and policymakers are deliberately withholding such vital slices of history from our textbooks?

Kashmiri Pandits have rich heritage and their roots are engraved in the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years. That can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power more so by unleashing terror and vicious campaign.

Realities are, at times harsh and strange. The harsh ground reality in today’s age of enlightenment is — Kashmir today is without Kashmiri Pandits. The aborigine community of Kashmir, are out in exile, in this modern age of reason and enlightenment. The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, designed to effect the motivated ethnic cleansing, will go down in the history of these native Kashmiris -The aborigines, as a continuation of the persecution and genocide facing for hundreds of years. The atrocities were peaked during despotic rule of tyrant kings.

The irony is that they did not get any respite even in the bright days of the enlightened times, especially in the post-independent days of India. Whatever be the vicissitudes of their history all pale into insignificance when we look at their present plight. The colossal crisis through which the exiled community or for that matter the entire Kashmiri society is passing through is in reality the crisis in the country’s great values — the perversion in practise of its constitutional jurisprudence, the socio-political and moral norms. Acute fear and scare had been created which gripped the Kashmiri Pandits from September 1989 onwards after killings of prominent members of the community. The Pandits started feeling what they had felt when hounded by Afgans in the second half of the 18th century — “there is fear and dread in the city. Prepare for journey, disorder is dominant in this city, we are the targets and victims.”

The choice of exile was forced on the Kashmiri Pandit community by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists who imposed their writ on Kashmir by unleashing death and destruction. Killing one and scaring a thousand was a concerted plan neatly executed by local terror groups.The state government at that time abdicated its constitutional duties, created a socio-political vacuum and left people’s life and liberty at the mercy of looters, marauders and terror groups. The terrorist violence is unabated till this day. The terrorists maimed, killed, lynched and looted a large number of Kashmiri Pandits and other natives. The terror-stricken Pandits ran for life, leaving their homes and hearths behind them.

In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began an armed and separatist insurgency for independence of Kashmir from India. The group targeted and mercilessly killed many prominent mainstream political personalities. At the same time Kashmiri Pandits were killed and the first target they chose for on 14 September 1989, when they killed Tika Lal Taploo, an advocate and a prominent leader of Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu & Kashmir in front of several eyewitnesses. This instilled fear in the Kashmiri Hindus especially as Taploo’s killers were never caught which also emboldened the terrorists. The Pandits felt threatened that they were not safe in the valley and could be targeted any time. The killings of Kashmiri Pandits continued that included many of the prominent ones.

In order to undermine his political rival Farooq Abdullah who at that time was the Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the Minister of Home Affairs Mufti Mohammad Sayeed convinced Prime Minister V.P. Singh to appoint Jagmohan as the governor of the state. Abdullah resented Jagmohan who had been appointed as the governor. Abdullah had earlier declared that he would resign if Jagmohan was made the Governor. However, the Central government appointed Jagmohan as Governor on 19 January 1990. In response, Abdullah resigned on the same day and Jagmohan suggested the dissolution of the State Assembly.Most of the Kashmiri Pandits left Kashmir valley and moved to other parts of India, particularly to the refugee camps in Jammu region of the state.

KILLING ONE AND SCARING A THOUSAND STRATEGY EXECUTED BY TERRORISTS

September 1989, Tika Lal Taploo, who was a lawyer and a BJP member, was murdered by the JKLF in his home in Srinagar. Soon after Taploo’s death, in November Nilkanth Ganjoo, a retired sessions judge of Srinagar High court who had sentenced Maqbul Bhat to death, was shot dead. In December 1989, members of JKLF kidnapped Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the-then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed demanding release of five militants, which was subsequently fulfilled.

On 4 January 1990, Srinagar-based newspaper Aftab released a message, threatening all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to the militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen.On 14 April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-safa republished the same warning. The newspaper did not claim ownership of the statement and subsequently issued a clarification. Walls were pasted with posters with threatening messages to all Kashmiris to harshly follow the Islamic rules which included abiding by the Islamic dress code, a prohibition on alcohol, cinemas, and video parlours and strict restrictions on Kashmiri women. Unknown masked men with Kalashnikovs used to force people to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time. Offices buildings, shops, and establishments were colored green as a sign of Islamist rule. Shops, factories, temples and homes of Kashmiri Pandits were burned or destroyed. Threatening posters were posted on doors of Pandits asking them to leave Kashmir immediately. During the middle of the night of 18 and 19 January, a blackout took place in the Kashmir Valley where electricity was cut except in mosques which broadcast divisive and inflammatory messages, asking for a purge of Kashmiri Pandits.On 21 January 1990, two days after Jagmohan took over as governor, the Gawkadal massacre took place in Srinagar, in which the Indian security forces had opened fire on protesters, leading to the death of at least thirty people, and likely injured over 100. These events led to chaos. Lawlessness took over the valley and the crowd with slogans and guns started roaming around the streets. News kept coming of violent incidents and those Pandits who survived the night saved their lives by traveling out of the valley.

In April 1990, Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a veteran Kashmiri poet was gruesomely murdered. Several intelligence operatives were assassinated, over the course of January.On 2 February 1990, Satish Tikoo, a young Hindu social-worker was murdered near his own house in Habba Kadal, Srinagar.

On 13 February 1990, Lassa Kaul, Station Director of Srinagar Doordarshan, was shot dead.In December 1992, Hriday Nath Wanchoo, a trade union leader and human rights activist, was murdered by the Kashmir terrorists. Many Kashmiri Pandit women were kidnapped, raped and murdered, around the time of exodus.

Exiled Kashmiri Pandits sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in the country. The ethnic cleansing process was completed and now the Kashmir Valley has a very small number of Kashmiri Pandits. The native Kashmiris have entered in the 30th year of exile. Pandits crave for return to their roots. They say bidding farewell to the soil they have sprung from is too traumatic as experience to be conveyed in words. They always say — we love our homeland and every inch of its bounteous soil has nourished us all. The everyday resolve of these hapless Kashmiris is — strive, struggle and stop not till the exile is reversed and they return back to their homeland on their own terms.

The successive Central as well as state governments have failed them and done precious little for the rehabilitation of this community, which has contributed in a big way to the freedom struggle of India against the British imperialism, and also to the national reconstruction in the post-Independent era. It is a community whose history generates envy at their achievements as well as sorrow at their plight today. The long history of these exiled Kashmiris has been of triumphs and tragedies. The antiquity of the Kashmiri natives and its Aryan origin are well established. Human memory is short and so is, unfortunately, the memory of our leaders, especially of the current dispensation.

It was I.K. Gujral as Prime Minister who said: “If the nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return and rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley, still it would be a lesser price for their contribution towards modern nation building.”

The forced migration of 1990 left the Kashmiri Pandit community shattered physically and psychologically. Scores of social organisations worked day and night on voluntary basis to bring succour to the exiled. In a permissive, soft and caste-ridden Indian state and in many ways cruel, the exiled illustrious Kashmiri Pandit community have been created as refugees from its own flesh and blood and have been cast aside to fend for themselves. To survive as a distinct community is next to impossible in present-day world until the exile is reversed and rehabilitated physically back in the Valley. They are working relentlessly for the protection of their distinct socio-cultural entity. Their struggle is still going on.

Exiled Pandits petitioned before NHRC from 1994-1996 for enforcement of their Human rights and right to life, the NHRC way in 1998-99,in its historical full commission judgment, headed by Justice Venkatchaliah an eminent Jurist & former Chief Justice of India- held the systematic/planned ethnic cleansing inflicted on Kashmiri Pandits by terrorists that forced them to exit their homeland as -Acts of akin to GENOCIDE.

The exiled Kashmiri Pandits for several years are demanding high level judicial commission of inquiry. There are very strong grounds legally and otherwise to set up a Commission of inquiry headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge to be assisted by DGP, director intelligence bureau, director of Central Bureau of Investigation and Director General of National Intelligence Agency to probe into the heinous crimes of murders, loot, rapes, forcible land & properties, grabbing of religious endowments properties across the Valley.

Sometime back, on the recommendation of State administration the MHA while banning the separatist’s outfits described ethnic cleansing & purging of Kashmiri Pandit community, as the principal ground to seal & Ban the separatists/terror outfits operating in Kashmir. The admission by State administration & MHA through Union Home Secretary Is in public domain, These recommendations further fortify the pleas for the probe by the victim Kashmiri Pandit community

Politically, the Kashmiri Pandit’s view, post inoperable Article 370 and conversion of JK State to a bifurcated Union Territory, the subject of Jammu & Kashmir has become enveloped in a dense opacity with layer upon layer of distortions of history, self-serving myths and competing political interests. Peeling off these layers by revisiting history, without prejudice on the real issues involved, can only help in our collective search for a brighter tomorrow for Jammu & Kashmir.

The Jammu & Kashmir policy shall coordinate between, what the country peruses as domestic policy qua the JK Union Territory as GOI, on one hand and the treatment of Jammu & Kashmir, as an issue in Indo-Pak relations and in India»s foreign policy in general .A coherent and effective policy on JK affairs must bring all these components together in an internally consistent manner.

One of the most profound and important component of the fresh policy outlook for better tomorrow in Jammu & Kashmir is -the Return, restitution & retention of exiled Kashmiri Pandit Community as a concentrated religious Minority Community In their homeland Kashmir Valley. This community by the acts of terrorist violence was ethnically cleansed and exited from their homeland where their roots are engraved for more than 5000 years.

The return of Pandits to their homeland cannot be achieved unless the nation and the people of Kashmir are in unison and create consensus. The Government of India and that of the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory have to be on same page to plan out a common and comprehensive return module and enforce the same in time-bound framework.

Successive Governments have promised time and again, the return and settlement of Kashmiri Pandits back in the Valley but so far remained hollow promise.Modi 2.0 must take the exiled Pandits on board for resolution of all the issues concerning Kashmir affairs,as stakeholders. The Pandits must be returned in a time bound manner back to the Valley, to fully enjoy with dignity and political empowerment the right to life and liberty in their homeland. The peace will always elude until the exiled natives of the Valley return physically to their roots and homeland.

New Delhi -the current Modi -2.0 Government has a constitutional and political responsibility for working towards such a consensus and demonstrate a strong political will. It has to create infrastructure, housing colonies etc, provide adequate jobs to the educated youth and rescind the distress sales of immovable properties and secure all the religious places, cultural centres and endowments. The greater obligation on the Central and the UT governments is to create a conducive economic and socio-political environment for reversing their exile, plan and facilitate their early safe and dignified return to their homeland. Otherwise Modi”s tall leadership and moral authority would be seen wanting on this issue. Thirty (30) years is too long an exile for this illustrious community to have sufferend. It is now or never situation for them. Native Kashmiri Pandits are longing to return to the Valley — their roots are calling to return to homeland.

Sr. Adv. Ashok Bhan practices in the Supreme Court and is the Chairman of Kashmir – Policy & Strategy group.

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?

One of the most profound and important components of the fresh policy outlook for a better tomorrow in Jammu & Kashmir is the return, restitution and retention of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits as a concentrated religious minority community in their homeland Kashmir Valley. This community, by the acts of terrorist violence, was ethnically cleansed and exited from their homeland where their roots are engraved for more than 5,000 years.

Published

on

After Article 370 was made inoperable in August last year, the expectations of the native population from Kashmir skyrocketed for the return to their roots by the reversal of their thirty year old exile status from the homeland. They are living as refugees in their own Country, the independent India.

PM Modi urged people of the country and Jammu and Kashmir -come, let us all together, build a “new Jammu and Kashmir and new Ladakh” with the new India’: he said, I have complete faith, under this new system, we all will be able to free Jammu and Kashmir of terrorism and separatism and integrate the state fully with rest of the country. He called it a Naya Kashmir vision. Those from Jammu and Kashmir who live elsewhere and want to return to their homes will be helped in by us, PM Modi declared.

After almost ten months of 5th.August 2019 decision of abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, a sense is gathering around that their plight as native exiled Kashmiri is being slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their suffering, but nothing by way of action is seemingly visible by the Modi-2.0 and JK Union Territory Government. The future of Pandits, as an important stakeholder and a relevant component to the resolution of the Kashmir imbroglio, is less and less talked about.

Kashmiri Pandits have an existential stake in the Valley. They have to be physically present on the soil of the Valley as living component and stake holders and day to day participants in the socio-economic, political, cultural and spiritual ethos of Kashmir valley, otherwise how will the present as well as future generations realise that Kashmir is the keystone of their heritage through millennia, finding mention even in the Indian oldest scriptures?

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?

Mahayana Buddhism was spread across mid Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks. Patanjali gifted his yog sutra to humanity and his. Sarangadeva is considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music. Acharya Abhinav Gupta, one of the greatest scholars of all times, wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of RAS are being taught in 80 universities around the world. Why educationists and policymakers are deliberately withholding such vital slices of history from our textbooks?

Kashmiri Pandits have rich heritage and their roots are engraved in the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years. That can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power more so by unleashing terror and vicious campaign.

Realities are, at times harsh and strange. The harsh ground reality in today’s age of enlightenment is — Kashmir today is without Kashmiri Pandits. The aborigine community of Kashmir, are out in exile, in this modern age of reason and enlightenment. The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, designed to effect the motivated ethnic cleansing, will go down in the history of these native Kashmiris -The aborigines, as a continuation of the persecution and genocide facing for hundreds of years. The atrocities were peaked during despotic rule of tyrant kings.

The irony is that they did not get any respite even in the bright days of the enlightened times, especially in the post-independent days of India. Whatever be the vicissitudes of their history all pale into insignificance when we look at their present plight. The colossal crisis through which the exiled community or for that matter the entire Kashmiri society is passing through is in reality the crisis in the country’s great values — the perversion in practise of its constitutional jurisprudence, the socio-political and moral norms. Acute fear and scare had been created which gripped the Kashmiri Pandits from September 1989 onwards after killings of prominent members of the community. The Pandits started feeling what they had felt when hounded by Afgans in the second half of the 18th century — “there is fear and dread in the city. Prepare for journey, disorder is dominant in this city, we are the targets and victims.”

The choice of exile was forced on the Kashmiri Pandit community by Pakistan-sponsored terrorists who imposed their writ on Kashmir by unleashing death and destruction. Killing one and scaring a thousand was a concerted plan neatly executed by local terror groups.The state government at that time abdicated its constitutional duties, created a socio-political vacuum and left people’s life and liberty at the mercy of looters, marauders and terror groups. The terrorist violence is unabated till this day. The terrorists maimed, killed, lynched and looted a large number of Kashmiri Pandits and other natives. The terror-stricken Pandits ran for life, leaving their homes and hearths behind them.

In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began an armed and separatist insurgency for independence of Kashmir from India. The group targeted and mercilessly killed many prominent mainstream political personalities. At the same time Kashmiri Pandits were killed and the first target they chose for on 14 September 1989, when they killed Tika Lal Taploo, an advocate and a prominent leader of Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu & Kashmir in front of several eyewitnesses. This instilled fear in the Kashmiri Hindus especially as Taploo’s killers were never caught which also emboldened the terrorists. The Pandits felt threatened that they were not safe in the valley and could be targeted any time. The killings of Kashmiri Pandits continued that included many of the prominent ones.

In order to undermine his political rival Farooq Abdullah who at that time was the Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the Minister of Home Affairs Mufti Mohammad Sayeed convinced Prime Minister V.P. Singh to appoint Jagmohan as the governor of the state. Abdullah resented Jagmohan who had been appointed as the governor. Abdullah had earlier declared that he would resign if Jagmohan was made the Governor. However, the Central government appointed Jagmohan as Governor on 19 January 1990. In response, Abdullah resigned on the same day and Jagmohan suggested the dissolution of the State Assembly.Most of the Kashmiri Pandits left Kashmir valley and moved to other parts of India, particularly to the refugee camps in Jammu region of the state.

KILLING ONE AND SCARING A THOUSAND STRATEGY EXECUTED BY TERRORISTS

September 1989, Tika Lal Taploo, who was a lawyer and a BJP member, was murdered by the JKLF in his home in Srinagar. Soon after Taploo’s death, in November Nilkanth Ganjoo, a retired sessions judge of Srinagar High court who had sentenced Maqbul Bhat to death, was shot dead. In December 1989, members of JKLF kidnapped Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the-then Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed demanding release of five militants, which was subsequently fulfilled.

On 4 January 1990, Srinagar-based newspaper Aftab released a message, threatening all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to the militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen.On 14 April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-safa republished the same warning. The newspaper did not claim ownership of the statement and subsequently issued a clarification. Walls were pasted with posters with threatening messages to all Kashmiris to harshly follow the Islamic rules which included abiding by the Islamic dress code, a prohibition on alcohol, cinemas, and video parlours and strict restrictions on Kashmiri women. Unknown masked men with Kalashnikovs used to force people to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time. Offices buildings, shops, and establishments were colored green as a sign of Islamist rule. Shops, factories, temples and homes of Kashmiri Pandits were burned or destroyed. Threatening posters were posted on doors of Pandits asking them to leave Kashmir immediately. During the middle of the night of 18 and 19 January, a blackout took place in the Kashmir Valley where electricity was cut except in mosques which broadcast divisive and inflammatory messages, asking for a purge of Kashmiri Pandits.On 21 January 1990, two days after Jagmohan took over as governor, the Gawkadal massacre took place in Srinagar, in which the Indian security forces had opened fire on protesters, leading to the death of at least thirty people, and likely injured over 100. These events led to chaos. Lawlessness took over the valley and the crowd with slogans and guns started roaming around the streets. News kept coming of violent incidents and those Pandits who survived the night saved their lives by traveling out of the valley.

In April 1990, Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a veteran Kashmiri poet was gruesomely murdered. Several intelligence operatives were assassinated, over the course of January.On 2 February 1990, Satish Tikoo, a young Hindu social-worker was murdered near his own house in Habba Kadal, Srinagar.

On 13 February 1990, Lassa Kaul, Station Director of Srinagar Doordarshan, was shot dead.In December 1992, Hriday Nath Wanchoo, a trade union leader and human rights activist, was murdered by the Kashmir terrorists. Many Kashmiri Pandit women were kidnapped, raped and murdered, around the time of exodus.

Exiled Kashmiri Pandits sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in the country. The ethnic cleansing process was completed and now the Kashmir Valley has a very small number of Kashmiri Pandits. The native Kashmiris have entered in the 30th year of exile. Pandits crave for return to their roots. They say bidding farewell to the soil they have sprung from is too traumatic as experience to be conveyed in words. They always say — we love our homeland and every inch of its bounteous soil has nourished us all. The everyday resolve of these hapless Kashmiris is — strive, struggle and stop not till the exile is reversed and they return back to their homeland on their own terms.

The successive Central as well as state governments have failed them and done precious little for the rehabilitation of this community, which has contributed in a big way to the freedom struggle of India against the British imperialism, and also to the national reconstruction in the post-Independent era. It is a community whose history generates envy at their achievements as well as sorrow at their plight today. The long history of these exiled Kashmiris has been of triumphs and tragedies. The antiquity of the Kashmiri natives and its Aryan origin are well established. Human memory is short and so is, unfortunately, the memory of our leaders, especially of the current dispensation.

It was I.K. Gujral as Prime Minister who said: “If the nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return and rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley, still it would be a lesser price for their contribution towards modern nation building.”

The forced migration of 1990 left the Kashmiri Pandit community shattered physically and psychologically. Scores of social organisations worked day and night on voluntary basis to bring succour to the exiled. In a permissive, soft and caste-ridden Indian state and in many ways cruel, the exiled illustrious Kashmiri Pandit community have been created as refugees from its own flesh and blood and have been cast aside to fend for themselves. To survive as a distinct community is next to impossible in present-day world until the exile is reversed and rehabilitated physically back in the Valley. They are working relentlessly for the protection of their distinct socio-cultural entity. Their struggle is still going on.

Exiled Pandits petitioned before NHRC from 1994-1996 for enforcement of their Human rights and right to life, the NHRC way in 1998-99,in its historical full commission judgment, headed by Justice Venkatchaliah an eminent Jurist & former Chief Justice of India- held the systematic/planned ethnic cleansing inflicted on Kashmiri Pandits by terrorists that forced them to exit their homeland as -Acts of akin to GENOCIDE.

The exiled Kashmiri Pandits for several years are demanding high level judicial commission of inquiry. There are very strong grounds legally and otherwise to set up a Commission of inquiry headed by a retired Supreme Court Judge to be assisted by DGP, director intelligence bureau, director of Central Bureau of Investigation and Director General of National Intelligence Agency to probe into the heinous crimes of murders, loot, rapes, forcible land & properties, grabbing of religious endowments properties across the Valley.

Sometime back, on the recommendation of State administration the MHA while banning the separatist’s outfits described ethnic cleansing & purging of Kashmiri Pandit community, as the principal ground to seal & Ban the separatists/terror outfits operating in Kashmir. The admission by State administration & MHA through Union Home Secretary Is in public domain, These recommendations further fortify the pleas for the probe by the victim Kashmiri Pandit community

Politically, the Kashmiri Pandit’s view, post inoperable Article 370 and conversion of JK State to a bifurcated Union Territory, the subject of Jammu & Kashmir has become enveloped in a dense opacity with layer upon layer of distortions of history, self-serving myths and competing political interests. Peeling off these layers by revisiting history, without prejudice on the real issues involved, can only help in our collective search for a brighter tomorrow for Jammu & Kashmir.

The Jammu & Kashmir policy shall coordinate between, what the country peruses as domestic policy qua the JK Union Territory as GOI, on one hand and the treatment of Jammu & Kashmir, as an issue in Indo-Pak relations and in India»s foreign policy in general .A coherent and effective policy on JK affairs must bring all these components together in an internally consistent manner.

One of the most profound and important component of the fresh policy outlook for better tomorrow in Jammu & Kashmir is -the Return, restitution & retention of exiled Kashmiri Pandit Community as a concentrated religious Minority Community In their homeland Kashmir Valley. This community by the acts of terrorist violence was ethnically cleansed and exited from their homeland where their roots are engraved for more than 5000 years.

The return of Pandits to their homeland cannot be achieved unless the nation and the people of Kashmir are in unison and create consensus. The Government of India and that of the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory have to be on same page to plan out a common and comprehensive return module and enforce the same in time-bound framework.

Successive Governments have promised time and again, the return and settlement of Kashmiri Pandits back in the Valley but so far remained hollow promise.Modi 2.0 must take the exiled Pandits on board for resolution of all the issues concerning Kashmir affairs,as stakeholders. The Pandits must be returned in a time bound manner back to the Valley, to fully enjoy with dignity and political empowerment the right to life and liberty in their homeland. The peace will always elude until the exiled natives of the Valley return physically to their roots and homeland.

New Delhi -the current Modi -2.0 Government has a constitutional and political responsibility for working towards such a consensus and demonstrate a strong political will. It has to create infrastructure, housing colonies etc, provide adequate jobs to the educated youth and rescind the distress sales of immovable properties and secure all the religious places, cultural centres and endowments. The greater obligation on the Central and the UT governments is to create a conducive economic and socio-political environment for reversing their exile, plan and facilitate their early safe and dignified return to their homeland. Otherwise Modi”s tall leadership and moral authority would be seen wanting on this issue. Thirty (30) years is too long an exile for this illustrious community to have sufferend. It is now or never situation for them. Native Kashmiri Pandits are longing to return to the Valley — their roots are calling to return to homeland.

Sr. Adv. Ashok Bhan practices in the Supreme Court and is the Chairman of Kashmir – Policy & Strategy group.

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?

One of the most profound and important components of the fresh policy outlook for a better tomorrow in Jammu & Kashmir is the return, restitution and retention of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits as a concentrated religious minority community in their homeland Kashmir Valley. This community, by the acts of terrorist violence, was ethnically cleansed and exited from their homeland where their roots are engraved for more than 5,000 years.

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Policy&Politics

Govt extends date for submission of R&D proposals

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The Government has extended the deadline for submission of proposals related to R&D scheme under the National Green Hydrogen Mission. The R&D scheme seeks to make the production, storage, transportation and utilisation of green hydrogen more affordable. It also aims to improve the efficiency, safety and reliability of the relevant processes and technologies involved in the green hydrogen value chain. Subsequent to the issue of the guidelines, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy issued a call for proposals on 16 March, 2024.

While the Call for Proposals is receiving encouraging response, some stakeholders have requested more time for submission of R&D proposals. In view of such requests and to allow sufficient time to the institutions for submitting good-quality proposals, the Ministry has extended the deadline for submission of proposals to 27th April, 2024.

The scheme also aims to foster partnerships among industry, academia and government in order to establish an innovation ecosystem for green hydrogen technologies. The scheme will also help the scaling up and commercialisation of green hydrogen technologies by providing the necessary policy and regulatory support.

The R&D scheme will be implemented with a total budgetary outlay of Rs 400 crore till the financial year 2025-26. The support under the R&D programme includes all components of the green hydrogen value chain, namely, production, storage, compression, transportation, and utilisation.

The R&D projects supported under the mission will be goal-oriented, time bound, and suitable to be scaled up. In addition to industrial and institutional research, innovative MSMEs and start-ups working on indigenous technology development will also be encouraged under the Scheme.

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Policy&Politics

India, Brazil, South Africa to press for labour & social issues, sustainability

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The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment.

India, on Thursday, joined the G20’s two-day 2nd Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting under the Brazilian Presidency which is all set to address labour, employment and social issues for strong, sustainable, balanced and job-rich growth for all. India is co-chairing the 2nd EWG meeting, along with Brazil and South Africa, and is represented by Sumita Dawra, Secretary, Labour & Employment.

The Indian delegation also comprises Rupesh Kumar Thakur, Joint Secretary, and Rakesh Gaur, Deputy Director from the Ministry of Labour & Employment. India has pointed out that the priority areas of the 2nd EWG at Brasilia align with the priority areas and outcomes of previous G20 presidencies including Indian presidency, and commended the continuity in the multi-year agenda to create lasting positive change in the world of work. This not only sustains but also elevates the work initiated by the EWG during the Indian Presidency.

The focus areas for the 2nd EWG meeting are — creating quality employment and promoting decent labour, addressing a just transition amidst digital and energy transformations, leveraging technologies to enhance the quality of life for al and the emphasis on gender equity and promoting diversity in the world of employment for inclusivity, driving innovation and growth. On the first day of the meeting, deliberations were held on the over-arching theme of promotion of gender equality and promoting diversity in the workplace.

The Indian delegation emphasized the need for creating inclusive environments by ensuring equal representation and empowerment for all, irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, or socio-economic background. To increase female labour force participation, India has enacted occupational safety health and working conditions code, 2020 which entitles women to be employed in all establishments for all types of work with their consent at night time. This provision has already been implemented in underground mines.

In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers. This is expected to reduce the motherhood pay gap among the working mothers. To aid migrant workers, India’s innovative policy ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ allows migrants to access their entitled food grains from anywhere in the Public Distribution System network in the country.

A landmark step in fostering inclusion in the workforce is the e-Shram portal, launched to create a national database of unorganized workers, especially migrant and construction workers. This initiative, providing the e-Shram card, enables access to benefits under various social security schemes.

The portal allows an unorganized worker to register himself or herself on the portal on self-declaration basis, under 400 occupations in 30 broad occupation sectors. More than 290 million unorganized workers have been registered on this portal so far.

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Policy&Politics

India to spend USD 3.7 billion to fence Myanmar border

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India plans to spend nearly $3.7 billion to fence its 1,610-km (1,000-mile) porous border with Myanmar within about a decade, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter, to prevent smuggling and other illegal activities. New Delhi said earlier this year it would fence the border and end a decades-old visa-free movement policy with coup-hit Myanmar for border citizens for reasons of national security and to maintain the demographic structure of its northeastern region.

A government committee earlier this month approved the cost for the fencing, which needs to be approved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet, said the source who declined to be named as they were not authorised to talk to the media. The prime minister’s office and the ministries of home, finance, foreign affairs and information and broadcasting did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Myanmar has so far not commented on India’s fencing plans. Since a military coup in Myanmar in 2021, thousands of civilians and hundreds of troops have fled from there to Indian states where people on both sides share ethnic and familial ties. This has worried New Delhi because of risk of communal tensions spreading to India. Some members of the Indian government have also blamed the porous border for abetting the tense situation in the restive north-eastern Indian state of Manipur, abutting Myanmar.

For nearly a year, Manipur has been engulfed by a civil war-like situation between two ethnic groups, one of which shares lineage with Myanmar’s Chin tribe. The committee of senior Indian officials also agreed to build parallel roads along the fence and 1,700 km (1,050 miles) of feeder roads connecting military bases to the border, the source said.

The fence and the adjoining road will cost nearly 125 million rupees per km, more than double that of the 55 million per km cost for the border fence with Bangladesh built in 2020, the source said, because of the difficult hilly terrain and the use of technology to prevent intrusion and corrosion.

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Policy&Politics

ONLY 2-3% RECOVERED FROM $2-3 TN ANNUAL ILLEGAL TRADE THROUGH BANKING: INTERPOL

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However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity.

In a press briefing held on Wednesday, Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stock unveiled alarming statistics regarding the extent of undetected money laundering and illegal trade transactions plaguing the global banking network. Stock revealed that over 96% of the money transacted through this network remains undetected, with only 2-3% of the estimated USD 2-3 trillion from illegal trade being tracked and returned to victims.

Interpol, working in conjunction with law enforcement agencies and private financial sectors across its 196 member countries, is committed to combating the rising tide of fraud perpetrated by illicit traders. These criminal activities encompass a wide spectrum, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms dealing, and the illicit movement of financial assets.

Stock emphasized the urgent need to establish mechanisms for monitoring transactions within the global banking network. Currently, efforts are underway to engage banking associations worldwide in setting up such a framework. However, Stock highlighted the enormity of the challenge, noting that between 40% and 70% of criminal profits are reinvested, perpetuating the cycle of illicit financial activity. The lack of real-time information sharing poses a significant obstacle to law enforcement agencies in their efforts to combat money laundering and illegal trade.

Stock underscored the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in exacerbating this problem, citing its use in voice cloning and other fraudulent activities. Criminal organizations are leveraging AI technologies to expand their operations and evade detection on a global scale. Stock emphasized the importance of enhanced cooperation between law enforcement agencies and private sector banking groups. Realtime information sharing is crucial in the fight against illegal wealth accumulation.

Drawing inspiration from initiatives such as the “Singapore Anti-Scam Centre,” Stock called for the adoption of similar models in other countries to strengthen the collective response to financial crimes. In conclusion, Stock’s revelations underscore the pressing need for concerted action to combat global financial crimes. Enhanced cooperation between public and private sectors, coupled with innovative strategies for monitoring and combating illicit transactions, is essential to safeguarding the integrity of the global financial system.

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Policy&Politics

FM defends Atal Pension Scheme, highlights guaranteed returns

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Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman defended the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism, asserting its design based on choice architecture and a guaranteed minimum 8% return. She emphasized the scheme’s opt-out feature, facilitating automatic premium continuation unless subscribers choose otherwise, promoting retirement savings. Sitharaman countered Congress allegations of coercion, stating the APY’s guaranteed returns irrespective of market conditions, supplemented by government subsidies.

Responding to Congress’s claim of scheme misuse, Sitharaman highlighted its intended beneficiaries – the lower-income groups. She criticized Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and emphasized the scheme’s success in targeting the needy. Sitharaman accused Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the APY’s transparent framework. The exchange underscores the political debate surrounding social welfare schemes, with the government defending its approach while opposition parties raise concerns about implementation and efficacy.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s robust defense of the Atal Pension Yojana (APY) against Congress criticism highlights the ongoing debate over social welfare schemes in India. Sitharaman’s assertion of the APY’s design principles, including its opt-out feature and guaranteed minimum return, underscores the government’s commitment to promoting retirement savings among lower-income groups. The Atal Pension Yojana, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was launched in 2015 to provide pension benefits to workers in the unorganized sector. It aims to address the significant gap in pension coverage among India’s workforce, particularly those employed in informal and low-income sectors. The scheme offers subscribers fixed pension amounts ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000 per month, depending on their contribution and age at entry, after attaining the age of 60. Sitharaman’s response comes after Congress criticism alleging the APY’s inefficacy and coercive tactics in enrolment.

Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh described the scheme as poorly designed, citing instances of subscribers dropping out due to unauthorized account openings. However, Sitharaman refuted these claims, emphasizing the APY’s transparent and beneficiary-oriented approach. The finance minister’s defense focuses on three key aspects of the APY: Choice Architecture: Sitharaman highlights the opt-out feature of the APY, which automatically continues premium payments unless subscribers choose to discontinue.

This design element aims to encourage long-term participation and ensure consistent retirement savings among subscribers. By simplifying the decision-making process, the scheme seeks to overcome inertia and promote financial discipline among participants. Guaranteed Minimum Return: Sitharaman underscores the APY’s guarantee of a minimum 8% return, irrespective of prevailing interest rates. This assurance provides subscribers with confidence in the scheme’s financial viability and incentivizes long-term savings.

The government’s commitment to subsidizing any shortfall in actual returns further strengthens the attractiveness of the APY as a retirement planning tool. Targeting the Needy: Sitharaman defends the predominance of pension accounts in lower income slabs, arguing that it reflects the scheme’s successful targeting of its intended beneficiaries – the poor and lower-middle class. She criticizes Congress for its alleged elitist mindset and suggests that the party’s opposition to welfare schemes like the APY stems from a disconnect with the needs of marginalized communities. Sitharaman’s rebuttal also addresses broader political narratives surrounding social welfare policies in India.

She accuses Congress of exploiting vote bank politics and coercive tactics, contrasting it with the transparent and inclusive framework of the APY. The exchange underscores the ideological differences between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress, with each side advocating for their vision of social welfare and economic development. In addition to defending the APY, Sitharaman’s remarks shed light on the broader challenges and opportunities facing India’s pension sector.

Despite significant progress in expanding pension coverage through schemes like the APY, the country still grapples with issues such as financial literacy, informal employment, and pension portability. Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach involving government intervention, private sector participation, and civil society engagement.

As India strives to achieve its vision of inclusive and sustainable development, initiatives like the APY play a crucial role in promoting economic security and social equity. Sitharaman’s defense of the scheme underscores the government’s commitment to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations and ensuring their financial well-being in the long run.

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Economic

Regulatory steps will make financial sector strong, but raise cost of capital

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India’s financial system regulator, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), is demonstrating a serious commitment to improving governance and transparency at finance companies and banks, with the RBI’s recent measures aimed at curtailing lenders’ overexuberance, enhancing compliance culture and safeguarding customers.

While the global ratings firm has appreciated the RBI’s “diminishing tolerance for non-compliance, customer complaints, data privacy, governance, know-your-customer (KYC), and anti-money laundering issues”, it has cautioned that increased regulatory risk could impede growth and raise the cost of capital for financial institutions. “Governance and transparency are key weaknesses for the Indian financial sector and weigh on our analysis. The RBI’s new measures are creating a more robust and transparent financial system,” says S&P Global Credit Analyst, Geeta Chugh. “India’s regulator has underscored its commitment to strengthening the financial sector. The drawback will be higher capital costs for institutions,” Chugh cautions.

The RBI measures include restraining IIFL Finance and JM Financial Products from disbursing gold loan and loans against shares respectively and asking Paytm Payments Bank (PPBL) to stop onboarding of new customers. Earlier in December 2020, the RBI suspended HDFC Bank from sourcing new credit card customers after repeated technological outages. These actions are a departure from the historically nominal financial penalties imposed for breaches, S&P Global notes.

Besides, as the global agency points out, the RBI has decided to publicly disclose the key issues that lead to suspensions or other strict actions against concerned entities and become more vocal in calling out conduct that it deems detrimental to the interests of customers and investors. “We believe that increased transparency will create additional pressure on the entire financial sector to enhance compliance and governance practices,” adds Chugh. The global agency has also lauded the RBI’s recent actions demonstrating scant tolerance for any potential window-dressing of accounts.

These actions include the provisioning requirement on alternative investment funds that lend to the same borrower as the bank finance company. Amidst the possibility of some retail loans, such as personal loans, loans against property, and gold loans getting diverted to invest in stock markets and difficulty of ascertaining the end-use of money in these products, S&P Global underlines the faith of market participants that the RBI and market regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India, want to protect small investors by scrutinizing these activities more cautiously.

On the flip side, at a time of tight liquidity, the RBI’s new measures are likely to limit credit growth in fiscal 2025 (year ending March 2025). “We expect loan growth to decline to 14 per cent in fiscal 2025 from 16 per cent in fiscal 2024, reflecting the cumulative impact of all these actions,” says Chugh. The other side of the story is that stricter rules may disrupt affected entities and increase caution among fintechs and other regulated entities and the RBI’s decision to raise risk weights on unsecured personal loans and credit cards may constrain growth. Household debt to GDP in India (excluding agriculture and small and midsize enterprises) increased to an estimated 24 per cent in March 2024 from 19 per cent in March 2019. Growth in unsecured loans has also been excessive and now forms close to 10 per cent of total banking sector loans.

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