Chandrabhaga Bridge: the Bridge of Confidence

Chandrabhaga Bridge: the Bridge of Confidence

*-K. N. Pandita

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inagurating Chenab bridge at Akhnoor in north Jammu. Picture By RAMAN RAINA

Opening of a cantilever bridge over the celestial but ferocious Chandrabhaga near Akhnoor by the Prime Minister on 25th April 2008 remains a historic moment for our state.

Political, economic and social integration of strategic Rajouri and Poonch districts with other parts of Jammu is bound to deepen and become stronger. It serves national integration very well.

The occasion is historic from one more important aspect. The Prime Minister announced a 1600-crore rupee package for rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons from the valley owing to eruption of militancy in 1990.

For the first time in two decades, a solid and comprehensive plan of rehabilitating the victims has been laid on the table.

A close reading of PM’s announcement reveals that he has done a good deal of homework and come to the grassroots of a phenomenon of internal displacement.

None of his predecessors had either the will or the patience to do that.

Calling the displaced persons as “part of national social fabric” is a statement of remarkable weight: even more is his hint towards the responsibility of all who are in power to facilitate the return of the affected people.

The package takes care of many major aspect of return and rehabilitation, which all Kashmir interlocutors carefully avoided to rake up while engaged in their unsolicited sermonizing over two decades in the past.

The Pandits --- major victims of militancy --- need to read and re-read the prime minister’s pronouncement with a responsible and constructive attitude.

Cynics might not wait to call it election stunt. But let us not forget the announcement comes from the elected Prime Minister of India made in a public rally and extensively disseminate by major world media engines. I heard it from BBC and re-confirmed it from VOA.

What the PM said are the guidelines. Mandarins in New Delhi and in Stringer will work out its modalities. The quantum of package would not be a constraint when implementation of the plan begins in real.

The Pandits will raise security issue, and rightly so. The PM’s announcement does not speak anything of the why of exodus. It does not either speak of how it plans to uproot the causes.

A sensitive issue, as it is, is better handled in camera than in open. But the causes must be identified for future policy planning.

We presume that the recent visit of Congress President to Jagti habitat near Nagrota, and the in - put of the State Chief Minister must have strongly contributed to the formulation of a very realistic approach to the entire issue of return and rehabilitation of the IDPs from Kashmir, and hence the wisely drawn package as announced by the PM.

But all said and done, can we avoid repeating the rhetoric that a minority’s best protection is the goodwill of the majority group? It is the corner stone of any democratic dispensation. This task has to begin first in the minds and then in the actions of Kashmir leadership, dissident and separatist segments and all sections of upright civil society in the valley.

The cantilever bridge over Chandrabhaga should also become the bridge of confidence among the people of the state.

Many intricate issues will crop up when the ramifications of displacement are examined closely. A way out has to be found. With good will on all sides and with a sincere intention of alleviating human misery, the package can yield desired results.

Once conditions of return are met on the ground, and the displaced humanity is resettled in identified localities and habitats, and general goodwill generates spontaneously, the hitherto less meaningful slogan of Kashmir as India’s secular model, will become a reality in letter and in spirit. The country and the State both need to rebuild that image as quickly as possible.

We hope the Pandits will not miss the bus. Their twenty-year long struggle has begun to be accepted for redress. The package closes the path of confrontation but opens the path of negotiations.

However, they will be justified in saying that the Prime Minister’s announcement does not touch on the important question of the Kashmir Hindu minority given constitutional and legal safeguards and space in sharing and contributing to nation building process. Their proportionate and genuine representation in all organs of the State has to be formally authenticated. This will give them a sense of belonging and cooperating with the national mainstream in the huge task of building the nation.

We hope that in his wisdom, the Prime Minster, being in full know of the shortcoming of a miniscule religious minority in a democracy, academically nicknamed “majoritarian tyranny” will propose a reassuring measure for political empowerment of the Kashmir Valley Hindus along the same philosophy that lies behind Article 370 of the Indian Constitution.

(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University)

*K.N. Pandita: Born in Baramulla, Kashmir in 1929 did graduation from St. Joseph’s College in Arts with English literature. The tribal raid of October 1947 destroyed his family like hundreds of other Kashmiri Hindu families in Baramulla.

After doing M.A. from Punjab University, he served as Lecturer in State Degree Colleges and in 1958 earned a scholarship from the Indian Ministry of Education for higher studies at the University of Teheran, Iran. Four years of study and research at the University of Teheran earned him a Ph.D. in Iranian Studies. He joined Kashmir University in 1963 and it’s Centre of Central Asian Studies in 1976. He rose to become Professor and Director of this Centre till his superannuation in 1987. He is not only the first Kashmiri to obtain Ph.D. from Teheran University but is also the first to have worked in close collaboration with a number of Central Asian Academies of Science particularly the Tajik Academy. His travelogue titled My Tajik Friends won him Sovietland Nehru Award 1987.
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