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Posted at: Aug 11, 2019, 7:19 AM; last updated: Aug 11, 2019, 7:38 AM (IST)

Pandits’ hopes of returning rekindled, anxieties remain

Pandits’ hopes of returning rekindled, anxieties remain
Life has been more than hard for Kashmiri Pandits, and their Valley dreams are not all rosy PTI

Sumit Hakhoo in Jammu

Forced to leave Kashmir in 1990, Kashmiri Pandits say the revocation of special status could clear impediments which slowed down initiatives announced by the Centre since 2004 to resettle them. However, several of them point out that their jubilation should not be taken as a taunt aimed at the people in the Valley.

“We are happy because Article 370 sustained separatist sentiments which led to our exodus. Direct Central rule could restore peace and give voice to pro-Indian voices in the Valley, including the Muslims,” says Sunil Goja, originally from Anantnag.

Unlike West Pakistan refugees and Valmikis, 3.50 lakh Pandits are ‘state subjects’ and enjoy all citizenship rights. However, since 2008, successive governments in New Delhi have failed to implement the resettlement plans in the Valley, mainly construction of housing units. “Our hopes have been rekindled, the time of indecision which delayed land acquisition has gone. Much still depends on how the situation emerges,” feels Ajay Taku, originally from Srinagar.

35A’s demise brings cheer

The scrapping of Article 35A has been particularly welcomed by the Pandit women. It will allow children of women who married or plan to marry a non-state subject the right to property in the state.

“35A was anti-women. Before 1990, inter-community marriages were rare but after the exodus, it has become a norm. The problem arose for families who had just one daughter or more. They were losing their property in the Valley,” says Dr Anu Koul, who resides in New Delhi.

For many, it is a question of identity. “A girl should have the choice of marrying whosoever she wants to, but 35A could result in losing link to my motherland,” says Isha Sahib, an engineer in Bengaluru.

Fear of reprisals

There are also fears, mostly among minority community employees engaged under the Prime Minister Employment package since 2010. For 10 years, nearly 4,000 Pandit employees have developed good relations with majority community members, but now many are worried about how the coming weeks will play out in the Valley.

“We have lived in relative peace despite lack of facilities in transit camps. Things seem quiet but could erupt anytime,” says a female teacher posted in volatile Pulwama.

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