Kashmir's dispossessed Pandits are all set to launch a political party of their own. The aim is to pick up a stake in the three-way dialogue on Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, the Union Government and the Kashmiri groups and, if possible, the interaction between Islamabad and certain Kashmiri leaders.
The new outfit is likely to be announced by January end. The decision to float a party was taken at the three-day conference of the All India Kashmiri Pandit Samaj at Kolkata on December 24-26. It was attended by leaders of various other Pandit organisations.
Significantly, Panun Kashmir, a front ranking socio-political organisation of the community which stands for a separate homeland for the community within Kashmir, has been left out of the AIKPS backed initiative.
The AIKPS has claimed support of various other organisations of the community including those owing allegiance to the Sangh Parivar.
However, Kashmiri Samiti, Delhi, has opposed the AIKPS's Kolkata declaration. Challenging the move, Samiti president LN Dhar said his organisation was not opposed to forming a political party. But converting AIKPS into a political outfit was not acceptable.
Panun Kashmir (PK) was guarded in its reacting to the new development. But an intense ideological battle seems imminent between AIKPS and PK. The AIKPS is vehemently opposed to any change in the present status of J&K including its reorganisation whereas the very basis of PK’s existence has been a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits in the south of Kashmir.
" We will wait and watch," PK chairman Ajay Charangoo told the Hindustan Times. He said it would be interesting to see as to what constituency would the proposed political party represent and what would be their political agenda.
For their part, Kashmiri Pandit organisations under the AIKPS umbrella are giving final touches to the charter of the new political party.
"We will soon approach the Election Commission to register the party," said AIKPS General Secretary Shiben Duda. The new outfit will be launched at Jammu by January end.
Backing the AIKPS initiative, former president of Kashmiri Samiti, CL Gadoo said Kashmiri Pandits needed a political voice as all the mainline political parties including the Congress and the BJP had failed to meet their expectations. Incidently, Gadoo is a former chief of the Delhi BJP's Kashmiri Pandit cell.
On the contentious leadership issue, Duda said a 16-member steering committee has been set up to thrash out the party's nomenclature and its leadership. He did not rule out the possibility of the party putting up candidates in the Assembly elections in Punjab, Uttarakhand and UP in alliance with like minded groups.
Claiming that Pandits have been " let down" by all parties, Gadoo said effort would be made to consolidate the displaced KPs' voice and convert them into a " formidable" vote bank to ensure that nobody neglected their cause.