वादी के कश्मीरी पंडितों में ग़ुस्सा क्यों है ? Teesta Setalvad in Conversation with Sanjay tickoo
11, Aug 2020 | CJP Team
आठ सौ से भी अधिक कश्मीरी पंडित जो अभी भी कश्मीर में रहते है, उनकी हालत बहुत ख़राब है। बार बार सरकार से गुहार लगाने के बाद भी कोई हल नहीं पहुँचा है। अब कश्मीरी पंडित संघर्ष समिति के संजय टिक्कू ने आंदोलन और भूख हरताल की घोषणा की है। आख़िरकार वादी के कश्मीरी पंडितों में ग़ुस्सा क्यों है ? देखिए संजय टिक्कू के साथ तीस्ता सेटलवाड की एक ज़रूरी बातचीत ।
(Disclaimer: the audio quality of Mr. Sanjay Tickoo is poor because of the poor internet connection in the valley)
Watch the entire interview and read an edited transcript of their chat below.
Edited Transcript of the interview :
Teesta Setalvad: We are both glad and pained to have with us Mr. Sanjay Tickoo. He is the president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti. It is an organization which represents non-migrant Kashmiri Pandit community that has bravely stayed on in Kashmir valley despite 1989, 2016 and even after abrogation of Article 370 in 2019. There are a total of 808 families of Kashmiri Pandit that live in the valley and they have and are still going through a lot of pain, their lives are in grave danger, they have suffered a lot in terms of all aspects like economically, politically, security issues and socially. The governments have come and gone and non-migrants Kasmiri Pandits have raised several issues before the governments but their issues were still not solved by the government. To know why there issues are still not solved we have with us Mr. Sanjay Tickoo and his organization Kasmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti which represents 2000 people living in Kashmir valley and these people represents diversity of Kashmir valley and Indian democracy and why there problems are not being projected by Indian governments in power.
Sanjay Tickoo: 1:25 (unclear) The actual problem started in 1998 when they chose to stay in the valley in 1998. The governments in power were not addressing their problems. So they decided to form an organization and that is how Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti was formed in 1998. It was formed to see what all problems non-migrant Kasmiri Pandit were facing socially, financially, political difficulty and physically. In April 2008-2009 KPSS conducted a survey of people living in the valley and found out that the situation was very hectic for the 808 families living there. They interviewed the people living there. After 2003 citizens rights were gone and the people living there were also facing economic problems. After which the organisation drafted a memorandum and sent it to the centre and state. They have literally knocked at the door of everyone. But unfortunately till now no issues are resolved. They also met H.D Deve Gowda, then Prime Minister of India. But everyone just said that they will think about this issue but no one actually said that they will address it. In 2014, I also met Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi when he went to celebrate Diwali with the flood victims. I was also one of the flood victims. I said to the Prime Minister that my community thinks of him as an avatar of Lord Krishna but I don’t think that you are one. It doesn’t matter whichever government it is or from wherever they are because they understand only one language. The Hon’ble Prime Minister asked me for a memorandum to which I replied that we have already given several memorandums and they have literally become dust, and merely have any importance; no action is taken yet on their issues even after giving so many memorandums before. In the meantime, people started telling me that I should have not spoken to the Prime Minister in that way. I also talked with Ex Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and told him about this issue. My only motive is that I want the survival of my community. We also compiled a data of unemployment of youth in the valley to check the financial strength. There are also doctors and engineers who are unemployed. They made a table and divided it into the category of monthly and annual income from all the sources, unfortunately there are around 150 of them who are under Below Poverty Line.
Teesta Setalvad: Oh my God!
Sanjay Tickoo: There were few families which worked in the private sector. I am thankful to you and Citizens for Justice and Peace because when I contacted you during the turmoil which took place in the valley in the month of August-September and everything got stumbled, your organization was the one which provided me and my community with a helping hand. I also contacted many other NGOs but they didn’t come forward, and that is when CJP helped. There were around 54 families which survived in that turmoil. Youth living in the valley are also facing many other issues. One such is that of a marriage. According to a survey conducted between the age group of people of 20 year and above. It was found out that there are around 60 people who are not getting married. The reason being that they are not well settled financially and also because they live in a disputed environment. When the Parliamentary committee came in 2010 to Jammu and Kashmir, at that time KPSS also talked with the concerned authorities of Rajya Sabha about the issues which they face and it is also mentioned in the report of 2010. Then PM Manmohan Singh said that they will make passage for the non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits. But in April 2009 there was no mention of Kashmiri non-migrant Pandits. After which, KPSS started communicating with center and state and finally in December 2013, we filed an application before the Hon’ble Court to consider the issues we face in the Valley. After which in October 2016 the government finally admitted that non-migrant Kashmiri (were indeed suffering).
Teesta Setalvad: Which means that it took 8 years i.e from 2008-2016 for the government to admit that.
Sanjay Tickoo: And after that I told them to implement it but after that also they took a really long time. Everywhere in India bureaucracy plays a very vital role. It doesn’t matter which party is in ruling either Congress or BJP all are same as they constantly keep on changing their colours. So, ultimately when BJP government came in Kasmir and I am really thankful to Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mrs. Mehbooba Mufti ji. We met her several times and she endorsed our problems in a good way. She asked and compelled them (bureaucrats and public servants responsible) to add SRO for non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits in 2017. The SRO is 425 of October 2017.
Teesta Setalvad: I will just inform our viewers that this is about the commitment of the government to give at least 600 unemployed youths jobs within the valley who belonged to the non-migrant Kashmiri Pandit community. A promise that has not been kept. But for the first time under Mrs. Mehbooba Muftiji government in October 2017 Mr. Sanjay Tickoo told us that bureaucracy was actually compelled to actually implement this directive. Am I right sir?
Sanjay Tickoo: Yes yes you are right. So because of that SRO 425 came. But, unfortunately some of the members of Sikh community opposed this decision and went to the High Court and complained that why were the benefits given to Kashmiri non-migrant pandits under SRO 425. It took around 3-4 months to convince the High Court to convince Hon’ble double bench as to why it was important for non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits to get these rights. After that because of the governors rule in 2018 it became more difficult. We tried very hard to meet then governor Satyapal Malik but I don’t know as to why he didn’t give us time to meet him. [16:25 voice unclear]. But unfortunately in the last one year till now around 80 youths got the eligible age bar.
Teesta Setalvad: Simply because of the carelessness of the government.
Sanjay Tickoo: Yes, so then when we saw this we re-started communicating about this with the central government in the month of June. We got 110 representations.
Teesta Setalvad: This year 110 representations to the union territories and the central government after abrogation of Art. 370 last August. And there has been no response.
Sanjay Tickoo: They have already referred to this in the month of June. [18:30 unclear] what you call authority for the job. We also met with the Disaster management rehabilitation and reconciliation department. The PM’s fund account under that department. So we met the present and the previous secretaries of this department. Previous secretary was the one we were more comfortable with. He suggested some points to put before the government. It was virtually done by the previous DMRR secretary. But unfortunately in February we met the new secretary and he also told us that we have decided that 500 posts will be advertised to SRO 425. The fight we have now with Centre and State is with regards to these jobs that we want; these 500 posts to come under SRO 425. Virtually SRO 412 is the parental SRO of SRO 425. What we told them is that they can compete within the valley and not outside it because migrants are in larger numbers and we are in smaller numbers. They actually directed the DMRR to implement the policy for Kashmiri pandits living in the valley. But still nothing has happened and recently I came to know that it is not working and it is divided into two parts. There is virtually no working till now.
Teesta Setalvad: I mean this is shocking. What Mr Tickoo is telling is that there was a formal response from the central government regarding the SRO orders implementation and 500 jobs will be created but there is no government functioning, no representatives of government where they could take their problems to because no government body was actually functioning virtually. So basically they had no one in Kashmir to go to who can address their problems. So, Sanjayji, you have said to us that you are considering going on fast until death. It is a very serious step. I mean have you reached the end of your patience? Why are you taking such a step?
Sanjay Tickoo: Actually now I don’t trust either the centre or the state government anymore. And why I am taking such hard step is because I am going for suicide because I received call from my community members before I decided to go for fast I have actually seen them live they are living in terrible conditions. Some don’t have houses to live, some don’t get food, some don’t get adequate medicines. So the kind of atmosphere they are living in made me and my whole community decide that I am going to go for fast. Whatever it may happen. It is not like I am from a very affluent family it is also going to affect my house as well. I have two kids. My daughter has completed her graduation and my son is in 11th grade. I also work in a private sector and from last 1 year due to lockdown and other such circumstances I am also not that financially sound. Other communities who are also living in the valley like Muslim, sikhs and others they are also under [24:25 unclear]
Mrs Teesta Setalvad: 60-70 % of people apart from Kashmiri Pandits everybody are under [24:29 unclear]
Sanjay Tickoo: Yes, so there’s this one thing over here which I would like to share that Muslims and Sikhs are in good numbers over here i.e around 60-70%. Around 80,000-90,000 and amongst them Muslims are in the majority. [25:05 unclear] So in the turmoil what they do is they help people. It may be from the masjid committee, gurudwara committee or etc. In our case, no doubt some have received help, we received calls from the beneficiary and they said that whatever [25:42 unclear] but we don’t have anyone as such in our community to help us whenever there is turmoil. Because in years like 1998, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2016 and 2019 also no one was there to help. It is just not about Kashmiri pandits but about everyone whoever lives in that valley. Though they have their own wives majority of Sikhs do have but unfortunately few of my Kashmiri pandits friends whatever they do they do by their own.
Teesta Setalvad: So which nothing in an organised way I got you. I just wanted to ask you; it looks like there are 2 major issues: First one being that of course the economic issue i.e economic situation of people living in the valley and it is getting worse day by day and then there is an issue of security. About 2 year back I remember talking to you when there was a terrorist attack on 2-3 families in remote villages. So there is an issue of security as it was also pulled out from Kashmiri Pandits family earlier you had security on different occasions. And third is the issue of religious and culture protection and protection of diversity and all of that. Were I recalled that you corrected the minister of state for home Kishan Reddy when he had said that there are 50,000 temples and you said that there are 5,000-7,000 temples for the valley. 1842 Kashmiri pandits temples in the valley which need to be protected. And you said that don’t exaggerate the figures and come and actually protect that diversity. So, sir do you feel at one level that this is only treated as a political issue and just to try and create an impression that in Muslim majority Kashmir you know there is no respect for diversity. No one is actually protecting your life, your problems etc. So the government is literally not focusing on any such issues.
Sanjay Tickoo: You have raised very important issues. And I will tell you frankly about it. When we talk about migration [28:37 unclear]. There was a huge clash between this till 31st October 1990, and more than 600 people died between 1989 and 1990. So, because of that people started to leave the valley there were many other reasons also [29:18 unclear]. Mr. Jagmohan was the governor at that time and asked Kashmiri Pandits to leave the valley, and I don’t buy that because according to the census 77,124 families were living in the valley in the year 1989. So till 31st May 1990, about 30,000 families left the valley for obvious reasons. So there were around 7,000 families, and in 1992 the government said that 32,000 souls were residing in the valley who never migrated. In 1998, when the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus took place in Kashmir, then [30:35 unclear] to do the census of non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits left in the valley, and found out as per census 19,865 souls were left. But when we did a survey in 2008-2009 at that time we found all the families. I don’t think that BJP [31:28] before the world. If they would have been serious and sincere about this then what they claim about protecting rights and what RSS claims about it they say they are in crores but I actually think they are in lakhs and when they say to protect the country is our motto, they haven’t protected us. Even in the recent elections also they said to send Kashmiri Hindus back but haven’t kept their promises yet. Kasmiri Muslims are the one who are providing reformation to the countries and are getting killed. If they say that they have the upper hand it is because of the local missions for giving them the support. It isn’t me it isn’t pandits who are living outside the Kashmir valley claiming but people who stood with them and provided 24/7 hours [32:59 unclear]. They have destroyed my culture. We don’t celebrate the same festivals on the very day. We are having our Janmashtami today.[33:34]. So I am different as a community of around 3,500 years have given lots of things to the rest of the people. And today we are embarrassed by the central government as to why are you using the word Kashmiri and why not Hindu. When a Bihari can say proudly that he is Bihari a Maharashtrian can say he is from Maharashtra then why can’t I say so. [34:26 unclear]So, when we talked about this 50,000 temples, I researched about this 2-3 days ago.
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