NC MLA and Farooq Abdullah’s brother Mustafa Kamal tells Baba Umar the Pandits are unwilling to return to Kashmir
On what grounds do you say that the Pandits were forced to flee Kashmir by none other than New Delhi, the army and the then home minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed?
It was a conspiracy hatched in New Delhi involving Sayeed and governor Jagmohan. The popular NC government was illegally brought down in 1984 by Jagmohan at the behest of New Delhi. In 1990, going against the state Cabinet’s recommendation, Jagmohan was reappointed governor. We couldn’t do anything but resign in protest. The mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits began that day. They were ferried in government buses to Jammu so that Jagmohan could have a free hand in dealing with Muslims. Within days of his reappointment, hundreds were killed in Kashmir. New Delhi has never trusted us. It didn’t trust even Sheikh Abdullah.
Why didn’t the NC try to stop the Pandits’ migration?
We were helpless. The intelligence agencies and Sayeed created 35 militant outfits, which pointed guns at us. Many NC workers were killed while the migration continued. Militancy was just an excuse to frighten the Pandits, malign Muslims and create tension between the two communities. A top police officer recently confirmed that militant outfits were created by New Delhi. He told me how the border was deliberately made porous to allow the passage of militants. Pakistan only took advantage of the insurgency. That’s why we want a truth and reconciliation committee to be formed.
If Sayeed, the army and New Delhi were responsible for the Pandits’ migration, then why did Farooq Abdullah call it an ‘ethnic cleansing’ and apologise to them a few days ago?
He couldn’t take their suffering any more. Even I apologise to the Pandits for what they have suffered. But it should be New Delhi, the PDP, Sayeed and Jagmohan who should be apologising. Even in 1947, the Pandits were in a minority and Muslims could have killed them. But Kashmiris are secular and never thought along those lines. It’s only a small percentage of Pandits who sold off their properties. Most of them still own properties here. So they can always come back. On this count, there is no disagreement among the separatists and NC.
What has the government done to reverse the migration?
The state has done everything to facilitate their return. We have a scheme offering Rs 7 lakh for every family that wants to come back. They can rebuild or renovate their houses or start a business. But only a few have availed it. There is a ban on buying or selling Pandits’ properties in Kashmir. Right now, they are holding 22,000 Central government posts in Jammu. They are being offered free ration and monthly allowance till they reestablish themselves. Even after this if the Pandits don’t want to return, how is the government responsible?
Some Pandit groups are demanding a separate homeland.
Along with 200-250 Pandits, 1 lakh Muslims, including 35 NC legislators and three NC ministers, were also gunned down. The groups demanding a separate homeland are fooling their poor community members.
You are being seen as someone who has toed the separatist line by rejecting the delegation of interlocutors.
New Delhi is trying to buy time and wants to see the Kashmir issue die a quiet death. The interlocutors are part of the plan. We have seen Indian leaders meet with their Pakistani counterparts several times in the past — in Tashkent, Shimla and Agra — to discuss the Kashmir issue. Were they playing gulli-danda at these meetings?