How fair are demands and recommendations for grant of Religious Minority Status to Kashmiri Hindu?

30 Jun 2017 11:52:04


Daya Sagar

Gayorul Hasan Rizvi , the  newly appointed ( 26 May 2017) Chairman of National Commission for Minorities, has been quoted as having said while talking a national daily on this 12th June : “If the definition of minorities has to be relooked at, it is my opinion that Kashmiri Pandits should be the first people to be accorded that status,” while talking to  Indian Express. When minorities in the entire country have that status, and privileges and opportunities that come with it, why should Kashmiri Pandits, who are a minority in their home state, be left out? It is something that Parliament will have to decide, but I will definitely raise the matter in the appropriate forum.” It is not out of place to mention here that Mr. Rizvi has remained national general-secretary of the BJP’s minority ‘morcha. Earlier also media   including PTI had widely reported on 21st February 2014 that a  Parliamentary Committee comprising of 21 LS MPs and 10 RS MPs on Action Taken Report on ‘Rehabilitation of Jammu & Kashmir Migrants tabled in Rajya Sabha had asked Jammu & Kashmir  Government to examine a demand for granting minority status to Kashmiri Pundits in view of their “pitiable condition” after they were  forced to leave the Kashmir Valley due to militancy.  It has also been reported that  similar view was also ex pressed by the then Chairman of National Commission for Minorities (NCM) Wajahat Habibullah  who is said to have   also advised  J&K Government  to declare Kashmiri Pandits as minority. No doubt report also mentioned that  that as per the Union Home Ministry  the J&K State Government’s stand was that the migrants belong to Hindu religion and as such do not qualify for grant of religious minority status like 1. Muslims 2. Christians 3. Sikhs 4. Buddhists 5. Zoroastrians (Parsis)  as has been accorded by GOI at national level {Notification on "Minority Communities : 1983 - SO No. 818 (E), F.No. l/ 11 /93-MC (1) dated 23.10.1993 in exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (c) of Section 2 of the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 (19 of 1992)}. No denials on the contents of such reportings have come from the official channels. But the casual manner in what the issue of Kashmiri Pundits has been taken up by even persons like Chairman National Commission for Minorities does speak of the quality of the wisdom that is being exercised even for very sensitive issues. No doubt the individual groups would appreciate any opinion that would be of some material benefit to them even if that inflicts social –communal conflicts on the over all.

Do such like committees and designated authorities mean that Kashmiri Pandits are the only Hindu in J&K? Do such like  Parliamentary Committees ( PCs)  mean to say that it is only the Kashmiri Pandits who have left valley after 1989? Do the PCs mean that Hindu who held and hold stakes in J&K (Particularly Kashmir Valley) are only the Kashmiri Pundits ( Brahmins) ? There are many castes sects of Hindu in J&K and even there are many  Brahmins in J&K other than Kashmiri Pundits. What will such Parliament Committees  do if  tomorrow Khajuria Brahmins  or Mangotra Brahmins  or Brahmins who were displaced from Pakistan Occupied Areas of J&K  amongst the Hindu demand minority status in J&K or at national level pleading that  some of them  are  much less in number than Kashmiri ( Valley ) Brahmins or have held very very less share in J&K  government / public sector jobs in comparison to Kashmiri Pundits ?

There are some Hindu Rajput families also who have almost in a way lost all their estates in Kashmir Valley after 1990, their number is much less than KPs, should not they be granted minority status first in view of their “pitiable condition” after they were  forced to leave the Valley leave their assets unguarded due to militancy? Since Mr. Rizvi has remained national general-secretary of the BJP’s minority ‘morcha, opinion also puts questions on BJP?            

                              

More so in case KPs are to be given a religious Minority Status , do the  people like Gayorul Hasan Rizvi just appointed  Chairman National Commission for Minorities on 25 may 2017- CM NMC Wazahat  Habibullah  then CM NMC Tahir Mehmood  ( CM NMC 1999) and those who are demanding  status of National Level/ State Level  religious minority for  Kashmiri  Hindu ( KPs )  want to opine  that Kashmiri Pundits are a different class of Hindu ? Do they mean to suggest  that religious minorities should be declared at even regional levels in States? In case they are of opinion that Kashmiri Hindu be declared minority only on the basis of Kashmir valley, do they want to suggest that the benefits for minorities should be also declared at regional level and availed of also only with in a region ? In case KPs,  not all the Hindus, are to be given minority status in whole of J&K then do the members of some  Parliamentary committee  and some Chairmen of National Commission for Minorities mean that KPs are not Hindu?

It is also being quoted  pleaded  by some that even in Jan 1999 CM  NMC  had called a meeting 1999 to discuss the demands of some Kashmiri groups including grant of minority status under the provisions like that of THE National Commission for  MINORITIES ACT, 1992 ( 19 of 1992)  and it was on  9 March 2000 that the NCM resolved that (a) “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 Government of India, and (b) the territorial jurisdiction of the NCM Act 1992 should be extended to the State of J&K.

Some Kashmiri Pundit groups  say that recommendation was communicated by CM NMC Tahir Mehmood to Union Government  and Mr. L.K. Advani (the then Union Home Minister stating that  Kashmir Hindu Minority Conference’ has submitted to the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir on 18.12.1998 an important Memorandum containing some significant demands. They have approached me for intervention. I received their letter on 11.1.1999 and immediately took up the matter with Dr. Farooq Abdullah. I am enclosing herewith a copy of the Memorandum of the ‘Hindu Minority Conference’ and of the letter sent by me in this connection to the Chief Minister. On behalf of the National Commission for Minorities, I commend and request that you may kindly issue necessary directions to the Government of Jammu and Kashmir for an early acceptance and implementation of the very reasonable demand made by the ‘Hindu Minority Conference’, which the Commission has fully endorsed in their entirety.

Another organisation by the name J&K Minorities Rights Forum, with  Kashmiri Hindu Minority Conference (KHMC)  as part of it, too has been demanding grant of minority status to Kashmiri Hindu and other ‘religious minorities’ in J&K.

In view of such like presentations it could be said that the references being   made   were   surely for declaring Kashmiri Pundits as a ‘Religious’ minority. Kashmiri Hindu Minority Conference (KHMC) has also suggested that J&K Constitution be amended to incorporate provisions for recognizing regional minorities for giving minority status. And such suggestions are surely with a view to get Kashmiri Pundits declared as religious Minority atleast at regional level in J&K.

Not only that a Parliamentary Committee (Feb 2014) asking Jammu and Kashmir Government for granting religious minority status to Kashmiri Pandits is one such unconcerned and hurriedly made recommendation even when the committee subcommittee had members from parties like BJP. Not only this a 14-member sub-committee  visited   even J&K before the report was submitted , what did they do during their visit to J&K to know about the people of J&K and their religion   could be a question?

 Do such like committees  and commissions mean that Kashmiri Pandits are the only Hindu in J&K? Do they  mean to say that it is only the Kashmiri Pandits who have left valley after 1990? Do they  mean that Hindu who held stakes in J&K (Particularly Kashmir Valley) are only the Kashmiri Pundits ( Brahmins) ?. Even there are many  Brahmins in J&K other than Kashmiri Pundits. What will such Parliament Committee / National Commission for Minorities do if  tomorrow  Brahmin Hindu who were displaced from Pakistan Occupied Areas of J&K  demand religious minority status in J&K or at national level pleading that  they  are  much less in number than Kashmiri ( Valley ) Brahmins and are away from their hearths for last 70 years?      

 

There are some Hindu Rajput families also who have almost in a way lost all their estates in Kashmir Valley after 1990 turmoil, their number is much less than Kashmiri Pundit Hindu, should not they be first granted minority status  in view of their “pitiable condition” after they were  forced to leave the Valley / leave their assets unguarded due to militancy?
Why have they not attracted the attention of  people like Gayorul Hasan Rizvi ( appointed  Chairman National Commission for Minorities  May 2017- CM NMC) ,Wazahat  Habibullah ( then CM NMC )  , Tahir Mehmood  ( CM NMC 1999) who plead for status of National Level/ State Level  religious minority for  Kashmiri  Pundits  ( KPs ) ?

More so, in case KPs are to be Given Minority Status , do the  distinguished persons  like Gayorul Hasan Rizvi Wazahat  Habibullah , Tahir Mehmood and those who are demanding  status of National Level/ State Level  religious minority for  Kashmiri  Hindu ( KPs )  want to opine  that Kashmiri Pundits are a different class of Hindu?

So, keeping in view that the issue being discussed here is for declaring the minority communities on the basis of religion, any considerate mind will go with the J&K State Government's stand that the Kashmiri Pundit migrants belong to Hindu religion and as such do not qualify for grant of minority status separately on the basis of religion, with in J&K or at National Level.

More so, in case one goes by the suggestion of Apex Court in T.M.A Pai case, that “since India has been reorganized on the linguistic basis, therefore, for determining minority the unit has to be the State and not the whole of India. Both religious and linguistic minorities are to be considered state-wise, then also incase religious minorities are declared State wise, such minorities would qualify only for any special benefits that the State Government may sanction for local religious minorities and not for the benefits that may be extended at all India level by Government of India to National level notified religious minorities..

To have a further view of the related issues let us see the GUIDELINES ( 2005 / Oct 2009)  for implementation of Prime Minister’s New 15 Point Programme for the Welfare of Minorities. At para   7 the guidelines say  (b) In States, where one of the minority communities notified under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992 is, in fact, in majority, the earmarking of physical/financial targets under different schemes will be only for the other notified minorities (Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshadweep). Although this guideline has not been implemented over last nearly 12 years by GOI in letter and spirit, still it could be said that it only concerns the national level religious  minorities and as per these guideline the benefit of national level schemes has not to go to Sikhs in Punjab, Muslims in J&K, and Christians in Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland. But it does not mean that the central government scholarships benefits meant for sikh, muslim, Christian in respective states would go to other local minorities including Hindu unless States also notify  their  own minorities and GOI and State Governments sanction benefits like scholarships specifically for national level religious minorities and or local minorities.

All these years since 1947 J&K affairs have been handled with less of commitment to common cause and more to liking/ disliking of those who could push their personal cause more near to the power centers. Some people appear having gone so enthusiastic for laying hands on ‘material benefit programmes’, whatever may be the ‘cost. Even some local leaders from BJP have pleaded for minority status to Kashmiri Pundits well knowing that Kashmiri pundits are not the only Hindu in J&K. It clearly reflects from  such like opinions and unthoughful reports that  lobbying culture and vote bank 'virus' have nearly infected the whole lot of Indian political parties. Commitments to the national cause have taken to back seats.

So, strangely and disappointingly even the a Parliamentary Committee has been reported to have said that J&K State government has a special status in the Indian Constitution  (COI) whereas the COI nowhere mentions special status for J&K ( No doubt on 11th  March 2015 in a written reply to Rajya Sabha starred Q-133- (a) whether it is a fact that through Article 370, the Constitution gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir; the Government of India has made it very clear that in the Constitution of India, there is no mention of ‘Special Status to Jammu and Kashmir’, Article 370 provides for ‘Temporary provisions with respect to the State of Jammu and Kashmir’.                                                          

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