In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind initiative, the separatist Hurriyat Conference (HC), led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, and a four-member team of Kashmiri Pandits have come together to facilitate the return of Pandits who fled the Kashmir Valley by the thousands after militancy erupted in the state in 1989.
A committee, comprising members from the separatist Hurriyat and Kashmiri civil society as well as migrant Pandits and those still living in the Valley, is being set up to coordinate the process, Mirwaiz said, “The return of Kashmiri Pandits is a humanitarian problem and the concept is to involve all. In principle, we have decided to work with Kashmiri Pandits and civil society to build trust. Intercommunity interaction is very important,” said Mirwaiz.
Jammu and Kashmir officials have declined to comment on the non-government initiative.
According to state government figures, at least 154,080 people moved out of the Valley in 1990, choosing to settle in safer parts of the country or in Jammu after violence escalated between militants and security forces. The decision to form a committee to coordinate the comeback was taken after a delegation of migrant Pandits led by Satish Mahaldar called on Mirwaiz at the HC’s Rajbagh office Thursdayand held talks for two hours. Local Kashmiri Pandit, Sampat Prakash, was also present at the talks. Mirwaiz said the committee would include ulemas, traders and civil society members. “We want Kashmiri Pandits to be part of our voice,” he said.
Mahaldar, the leader of the Pandit delegation, said, “Yes, we will be part of the committee. Mirwaiz is a leader of Kashmir and we are the body and soul of Kashmir. Together, we will fight for peace and the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits… Mirwaiz regretted whatever happened in the 1990s and told us everybody here wants us to return…”
Noor Ahmad Baba, political commentator, said, “This is a first-of-its-kind and a well-meaning initiative… The need now is that both parties exhibit a certain maturity and try to create conditions for the return of Pandits to their homeland… if, at all, there has to be a future for them and for us, we have to live in peace.”