Promise: To make a declaration assuring that something will or will not be done.
Political Promise: To make a promise while knowing very well that it is not to be kept.
Are you wondering why I am starting my column with these two definitions? I just wanted to set the ground for the rest of the column.
Two years ago in October 2002, I had written a column on rediff that was an open letter to our President A P J Abdul Kalam. In that column, I had urged the President to visit Kashmiri Hindu refugee camps in Mishriwala, Jammu. At that time, President Kalam had already made a visit to Gujarat riot victims and provided them the healing touch. And I wanted him to provide the same healing touch to Kashmiri Hindu refugees as well.
Last year in June 2003, President Kalam finally did make a visit to Jammu and visited a Kashmiri Hindu refugee camp in Muthi, Jammu. He was accorded a warm welcome by the Kashmiri Hindu refugees in the camps. While he was there at the camp, he was made aware of the pathetic conditions these refugees have been living in. As is ritual on such occasions, Kashmiri Hindu refugees also presented a memorandum listing their demands to the President.
The President at that time was greatly touched by the plight of the displaced Kashmiri Hindu refugees from the valley. 'You have been uprooted from your homes and hearths,' he said. While he was there with the refugees, he also made a promise that Kashmiri Hindu refugees will be accorded Internally Displaced Status.
It has been more than a year now and nothing has happened to that promise. Sorry. I should not say nothing has happened to that promise. Something did happen -- it was very easily forgotten the very moment he stepped out of that refugee camp.
Kashmiri Hindu refugees honestly thought it was a promise, made by a President who we all revere for his honesty and integrity. But they did not know that the President was not making a promise. That day, Mr President had made a Political Promise.
I had immense hope when I heard that President Kalam has finally decided to visit a Kashmiri Hindu refugee camp to get a first-hand look at the conditions of these refugees. But sadly, he came, he sat, he listened, he promised, he left and he forgot. Like everyone else before him, he too very conveniently forgot the forsaken ones. His visit, which most of the refugees thought was a humanitarian visit, turned out to be a political one, full of political promises, for the consumption of the political media. President Kalam too did not make any difference.
Now, the prime minister is visiting the Kashmir valley. And this time I am not going to request him to visit a Kashmiri Hindu refugee camp. I am not going to urge him to reach out to Kashmiri Hindu refugees because he too is going to make a political promise and thus play with the sentiments of Kashmiri Hindu refugees. What is the point of visiting these refugee souls if these politicians have no intention of doing anything about their situation? Why add insult to injury? Why bother?
After all, there are only 700,000 plus Kashmiri Hindus. And that too dispersed all over the India. They don't have any concentrated vote-bank that could affect any election result. They don't have any nuisance value that could affect the functioning of the government. So why bother? Yes, they have been uprooted from their homes and hearths. Yes, they have been subjected to the worst ethnic cleansing in the recent history. Yes, they have been living as refugees in their OWN country, without proper governmental support. So what? As long as they do not have any political clout, why bother?
While I am not requesting Manmohan Singh to see Kashmiri Hindu refugees in Jammu, I would like to request him to spare few minutes and try to see and meet the Kashmiri Hindus who are still living in the valley. There are about 8,000 Kashmiri Hindu souls who are staying put in the valley. They are represented by the Hindu Welfare Society Kashmir.
While the prime minister is going to dole out another economic package for Kashmiri Muslims, he should also see to it that Kashmiri Hindus, the original aborigines of the valley, are also looked after. Their security and interests are of utmost importance to them as well as to India. He needs to send a strong signal to everyone that the Kashmir issue is not an issue just for Kashmiri Muslims but for all Kashmiris, including Kashmiri Hindus.
Kashmiri Hindus, who are the real victims of global and cross-border Islamic terrorism, can not and should not be forgotten.
I urge the prime minister to not to forget Wandhama, Sangrampura, Nadimarg and other massacres that have been undertaken by Islamic terrorists in the valley. It is an absolute must that proper and adequate military forces are kept in the valley to provide security for all innocents, including these 8,000 Kashmiri Hindus.
Manmohan Singh's latest offer to reduce troop levels in the valley is not a wise move at this time. The situation has not improved to a level that would require such reduction in troops. Even today, a day before Singh is visiting Kashmir, 6 innocent people, who were celebrating the Id festival, were gunned down in Budgam district of Kashmir valley. That is the reality on the ground and the Government of India needs to take note of that.
Lastly, while the prime minister is in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, I hope he does not engage in making any more political promises. Wishful thinking?