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PM's statement stirs hornet's nest in J&K

PM's speech at the NDC meet prompts minorities in J&K to ask where they stand, reports Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2006 21:24 IST
Arun Joshi

The prime minister's statement proposing first rights for minorities particularly Muslims on resources has prompted the minorities in Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in the country, to ask: what about the minorities in this state?

Manmohan Singh's speech at the National Development Council in New Delhi on Saturday has stirred a hornet's nest in Jammu and Kashmir — where Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs are in minority.

The minorities in Jammu and Kashmir are not only feeling neglected in matters of political decision making and government services, but are also the target of terrorists.

Panun Kashmir Chairman Ajay Charungoo pointed out that "minorities in Kashmir have been the worst victims of terrorism." He said that through the means of terrorism there has been a systematic annihilation of minorities in the state, and cited, what he called "ethnic cleansing" of Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley as an evidence of that.

About 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus had fled the Valley in 1989. Now less than 10,000 of them are in the Valley which has a population close to 5.5 million people.

"Will the prime minister step in to reverse the trend of genocide," Chrungoo asked.

Although many times more Muslims have died than all the minorities — Hindus and Sikhs and Buddhists, put together in the past 17 years, yet the migration of the minorities is the highest. Hindus and Sikhs have fled the Valley to upper reaches of Doda, Udhampur, Rajouri and Poonch.

Hindus have been at the receiving end of the massacres in the upper reaches in Doda, Poonch and Rajouri.

The living conditions of some of them were so wretched that they were forced to  "sell their children" in Talwara, Reasi in Udhampur district. Their children were forced to work as "bonded labourers". This was brought to the world view by Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party MLA Balwant Singh in March this year.

"Their condition is as bad as it was seven months ago." He said that the state government has not honoured its pledge to treat them on par with Kashmiri Hindu refugees.

Minorities in Jammu and Kashmir are generally concentrated in Jammu and Ladakh regions. They are the worst losers in the matter of political decision making and employment and admission into professional institutions.

At the moment, there is not even a single Kashmiri Pandit minister. Jammu's Hindus have only three cabinet ministers and one minister of state. Buddhists and Sikhs have one each.

There are other grouses too, and one of them is that Jammu and Kashmir has no commission for minorities and no study has been done on their plight as was done in the case of Muslims in the country by Justice Rajindera Sachar.

"We are treated as second class citizens in the state. We are not treated as citizens at all," said Chrungoo half in anger and half in frustration.