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Peace Watch » Editor's Take, Featured » Natives Have Right To Return, But Big No to Walls of Shame.

Natives Have Right To Return, But Big No to Walls of Shame.




No Walls of Apartheid


Z.G. Muhammad


It is my birthright to live in my land. It is of no consequences; if I am an Aborigine belonging to one of the twelve tribes’- the earliest settlers including the Greeks and the Turks or I belong to later arrivals in this land from Persia or the Central Asia. So far I am a state subject morally and legally I have every right to live in the land of my ancestors’. If due to political situations at various points of time I might have migrated to any other part of the sub-continent I have a right to return.

This column is not to debate the mass migration of people of our land to British India for fear of corvee and discriminatory and brutal tax system under various governors of Ranjeet Singh or after 1846 during the reign of the feudal autocracy. But, talk about the migrations and dislocations after the promulgation of the hereditary State Subject Law on 31st January 1927.

That reads as under:

For the purpose of this order the term Hereditary State Subject” will be held to mean and include all persons born and residing in the State before the commencement of the reign of His the late Maharaja Gulab Singh Sahib Bahadur and also persons who settled there in before the commencement of Samvat 192 and since have been permanently residing therein.”

Those who were coerced to leave their home and hearth after 1819 and migrate to the British India and live in the Western Punjab or other cities by this definition have every right to return to the State. These coerced migrations of the hapless peasantry, artisans and others are painful and agonizing chapters of our history. Their return is no more a subject of discussion in the state.  But is the relocations and migrations that took place after 1947 that persist to torment the political narrative of our land and perisits to be part of the contemporary discourses.

The largest ever migration of people in Jammu and Kashmir under threat, intimidation, terror and coercion was executed by Maharaja Hari Singh last autocratic ruler and his administration. These migrations that followed the killing of hundreds of thousands of Muslims of Jammu have been fully documenting from Ian Stephen to Christopher Snedden scores European and American Journalists and writers.More than five lakh people migrated to the neighboring country of Pakistan leaving behind everything. Their property was subsequently taken over by the government and declared as custodian property to be returned to them as and when they return to the homeland. To facilitate their return in 1982, the State Assembly passed a law, the Jammu and Kashmir Resettlement Act. On September 30, 1982, the President sought the Supreme Court’s opinion on the legality of the Act. “After nearly 20 years, the apex court returned the Presidential reference unanswered, prompting the state government to take a decision in November 2001 to implement the Act. (TNN Nov 11, 2002). The execution of this act was stayed by the Apex Court after a politician from Jammu filled a petition. The legality of their return was not challenged but plea jinni was of terrorism that was invoked to stay the execution of the order. It continues to be so as on the date.

History testifies, that these State Subjects by no stretch of imagination left their homes out of sweet will but were forced to go to another country.  None of them has forfeited his right to return to his homeland. The Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir under Part-III Permanent Residents clause-2 also recognizes their right to return to the homeland.

In the year 1990, a large chunk of our pluralistic society suffered migration. For the majority moving from one province to another let me call it a dislocation. Nonetheless, this dislocation brought as many sufferings, pain and agony to them as was to multitudes during the nineteenth century, more particularly in 1947. No one can deny any member of this section of our pluralistic society to return to their native places and to live with dignity with their neighbors and friends. Scores of the families from this section of our society who had not sold their property walked into their homes to a warm reception of their neighbors and thousands of others who stayed back have lived harmoniously with their neighbors during the most turbulent years.   Had the state government taken the property of this dislocated population into its custody as was done in 1947 their return would not have become as complex as it has been made by the powers that be in New Delhi by over politicization and initiating moves to raises the walls of apartheid in our centuries old pluralistic society. The announcement like constructing of ghettos or talking about carving out so-called homelands within the state are not only bad ideas aimed at creating walls of shame within the society but also fraught with dangers of disturbing peace in the society.

The 2016 ‘Intifada’ that is internationally known as Kashmir’s year of the “dead eyes” if dispassionately analyzed, will reveal that the announcement like separate colonies for dislocated people, Sainik colonies and double speak from New Delhi had immensely contributed to the uprising.

Less than fortnight earlier, New Delhi’s doublespeak about the issue under discussion was brazenly evident. On February 7, Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir informed the Parliament that ‘there was no proposal for setting up separate colonies for Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir’. Seven days later Minister of State in PMO, Jitendra Singh told a group of Kashmiri Pandits community that ‘the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has no objection to setting up of homeland, township or colonies for the rehabilitation of the community in Kashmir.’

The doublespeak does not help in the resolution of the problems. Instead, it makes them intractable. New Delhi needs to come out of its denial mode accept the realities and address the dispute with an open mind.  Let me reiterate, what I said at the start of this piece of writing no one could prevent a native from returning to his home.

Let me also end this column with a few verses from a poem  by some anonymous poet:

“Tear down that wall of apartheid!

Let the streams flow freely,

And the children play and run happily,

No walls ever build will forever ensure one’s safety,

Built bridges of love, honesty and that will be safe all humanity.”

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Published in Greater Kashmir on 20-02-17


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