Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hoping Against Hope: Why is J&K Government Denying Minority Status to Kashmiri Pandits?

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has pleaded on behalf of the Pandit minority since 1999 with little results

Minority panel constitution awaits CM’s nod


Srinagar, Mar 23: There is good news for minorities in Jammu and Kashmir. Now, the minorities are set to reap the benefits available to their counterparts elsewhere in India.

Jammu and Kashmir is only state that does not have a minority commission till now. But the process has begun for constitution of one.

“We have submitted proposal to the chief minister for approval to the setting up of a minority commission in Jammu and Kashmir. The law department has already given consent in this direction”, highly placed sources in the Social Welfare department told Greater Kashmir today. “We hope to get the approval soon. Only after that, we will constitute the commission so that the benefits reaped by the minorities across the country become available here too,” they added.

The Social Welfare Department set into motion the process of constitution of the minority commission after the Union Minority Affairs ministry asked the state government to set up one as per the recommendations of the Sachar Commission on minorities.

Sachar Commission had recommended that all the states should set up minority commissions under which several benefits including pre-and post-matric scholarships, reservation in professional colleges and institutions besides government jobs should be given to minorities.

Jammu and Kashmir is only Muslim majority state of India. While the community is getting benefits under such commissions in other states, only in J&K, Sikhs, Kashmiri Pandits, Jains, Bhuddists and Christians fall under this category.

With a view to addressing the problems of minorities in the state, the proposed minority commission will focus on mitigation of their political grievances and overall development The commission will be set under the Social Welfare department and will also hear the complaints of denial of various rights to minorities. The state minority commission will be headed by a chairman, preferably a retired high court judge, and its members will be nominated by the government.

The Social Welfare department have already taken a consent on its legal aspects from the law department to decide whether the commission will have the power of a civil court to summon people, call for records and receive evidence on affidavits. It will also suggest minority development programmes to the government.

The National Minority Commission (NMC) had in a special report issued in April 1999 recommended to the Union Home Minister to accord State level minority status to the Hindus in Jammu & Kashmir and some other States.

In a meeting held on 9th March, 2006, the Commission considered this matter and resolved that (i) the Kashmiri Pandits should be declared a minority community at the national level and a formal notification for this purpose should be issued by the Central Government and (ii) the territorial jurisdiction of the NCM Act, 1992 should be extended to Jammu and Kashmir. This recommendation was conveyed to the Union Government on 1st May, 2006.

Member, National Commission for Minorities, A M Sethna, visited Chennai (Tamil Nadu) on 16-17th July last and had meetings with the Vice Chairman and Member Secretary of the state Minorities Commission, Regional Census Commissioner. After deliberations, he recommended that the state government of Tamil Nadu should include Parsis in the list of the State Minority Communities. Parsis and Kashmiri Pandits were listed as ‘others’ in the Census Form. These communities should be counted separately, the Commission said which also recommended that the Central / State Government should initiate immediate action for return of Kashmiri Pandits living in camps at Jammu and other places and for their rehabilitation, the government should create ‘Security Zones’ in selected places of Kashmir, both in urban and rural areas.

The Commissioner further said that the general impression amongst the migrants that financial aid given for the purpose was not utilized fully for their benefit needed to be dispelled by ensuring total transparency and involvement of the camp migrants in their management.

It also said the State / Central Government should prepare a directory of all the immovable properties left by Kashmiri pandits in the valley and should constitute a supervisory body to look after these with a view to ensuring that revenue earned from them reached the rightful owners.

Further, the leave salary being paid to Kashmiri Pandits should be gradually discontinued ensuring that they are assigned suitable jobs in the Valley, Jammu or even in the officers of the Central Government. They should be paid full salary instead of remaining without work and getting leave salary.

The Commission said the State / Central Govt. should ensure greater involvement of Sikhs and Kashmiri Pandits in political institutions. The appropriate representation of Sikhs in the state employment and services should be ensured over a period of time.

It said the state/ central governments should evolve a consistent policy of rehabilitation of the families of those who are killed due to militancy and immediate payment of compensation @ Rs 2.5 lakh for those killed and employment to one of the family members of the deceased should be ensured.

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