Slamming those opposed to setting up of transit accommodation for Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti today questioned how the return of “our people” could bring about a demographic change. “They (separatists and others opposed) are saying that if the Kashmiri Pandits comes back it will be demographic change. How is it a demographic change? “Those who have taught us, lived and grown up with us and in whose homes we used to eat food and those who are an inseparable part of our culture, what demographic change will there be if they return back to Kashmir? I fail to understand this logic,” Mehbooba said while winding up the discussion on Motion of Thanks to the Governor’s Address in Legislative Council here.
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Though she did not name any party or group, Mehbooba was clearly referring to the separatists and some mainstream political parties which are opposing setting up of transit accommodation for Kashmiri pandits as part of their return to the Valley from which they were forced out in 1990. “Our people want to come back and we say this is demographic change. They want to live in transit accommodation and we say that this is demographic change. This is absolutely wrong. It is not Kashmiriyat. And the true spirits of the real Kashmiriyat need to be revived again in the Valley. “We need to work unitedly and together for this cause and without it there is no alternative,” Mehbooba said.
She said during the past 25-30 years, “we have suffered huge loss of lives and property in the turmoil. The composite culture has received a setback. The composite culture of the tolling of bells of temple (on Hari Parbat hills) and prayers at Makhdoom Sahib’s Ziarat and the ‘path’ (Sikh prayers) from the Gurudwara — I don’t know what has happened to this culture. An unpredictable atmosphere has been created.”
The Chief Minister said Jammu has become an example of Kashmiriyat as it has provided a home to all the people of Kashmir, including Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmir Muslims and Kashmiri Sikhs. “I feel that Jammu has become Kashmir today (with regard to composite culture) and Kashmir has reached somewhere else. In Kashmir, Kashmiris do not have any sign of happiness on their faces, but when they reach Jammu, I feel they are alive. The people of Jammu have adopted the true culture of Kashmir (Kashmiriyat),” she said.
“But when the government talks about taking back Kashmiri Pandits to Valley and honourably rehabilitating them there, then an issue has been created,” she said. “Forget about others even the mainstream people talk about demographic change. We should stop raking up the issue of demographic changes repeatedly. It is not Kashmiriyat,” the Chief Minister said.
She said such things may be happening in Afghanistan, Syria and in Iraq, where guns rule the roost “but this is not the culture of our Kashmir”. “We need to find out solution to this issue from this House only,” the Chief Minister said about the Kashmiri Pandit rehabilitation issue.
On the issue of Article 370, which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir, she said there is a need to understand its “depth”. “We should not think it is a word written on the piece of paper but go into the depth to understand its ascents. Article 370 is not only about securing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir but it is more about securing our culture, brotherhood and heritage,” Mehbooba. “Article 370 is close to our chest but the soul of Article 370 is safeguarding the individuality cultural heritage, brotherhood in the state,” she said. She said Mahatma Gandhi had seen a ray of hope in Kashmir when the entire sub-continent was in flames in 1947 “but that ray is now seen rarely.
The soul of Kashmiriyat which is being protected by Article 370 has been lost somewhere in Kashmir and this Kashmiriyat is seen in the streets of Jammu.” When militancy erupted in Kashmir, Kashmiri Pandits migrated to Jammu and lived in camps and later in colonies “and today we see that Kashmiriyat — Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims walking together on the roads of Jammu”, she said. “This is Article 370 and this is the Article 370 to safeguard this composite culture and we have lost this in Kashmir. We have forgotten this,” she said.