Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, locally known as Pandits, fled their ancestral homes in droves 20 years ago after a bloody rebellion broke out against New Delhi’s rule in India’s only Muslim-majority state.
Now encouraged by the sharp decline in rebel violence across the Himalayan region, authorities have formally launched plans to help Pandits return home.
Will Pandits, who say they “live in exile in different parts of their own country” return to their homeland in Kashmir where two decades of violence has left nothing untouched and brought misery to the scenic region, its people and its once easy-going society?
Earlier this month, the government constituted a high level committee led by Kashmir’s Revenue Minister, Raman Bhalla, which will monitor the return of displaced Hindus and effective implementation of New Delhi’s rehabilitation package which includes financial assistance of 750,000 rupees for house construction.
The initiative is driven by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s package of 16,000 million rupees last year for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus living as migrants in several parts of the country, mostly in Jammu, the Hindu-dominated winter capital of the state.