Kashmir ‘packages”: when will they ever learn?(Commentary)

May 7th, 2008 - 11:19 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Ashok Jaitly
Nothing epitomises the quiescence of the powers that be in New Delhi towards the sensibilities of people of Jammu and Kashmir better than the cynical ‘packages’ handed out during every prime ministerial visit. Despite the hype created by the state’s Congress-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week turned out to be yet another damp squib. It has not only exacerbated the general disillusionment with the ruling coalition but also drawn severe flak from those very sections that clearly were being wooed with an eye to the forthcoming assembly elections.

In yet another attempt to assuage the bitter memories of the Kashmiri Pandit community and persuade them to return to the valley, Manmohan Singh announced a house building grant of Rs.750,000 for each family, continued relief for two years till they resettle and grants for the restoration of agricultural holdings and orchards which had been abandoned in the wake of militancy and migration. However, he neglected to add that ‘conditions apply’.

First, they will have to form a ‘group housing society.’ Somewhat like Alice, one is driven to ask, who is ‘they.’ It is common knowledge that the community is divided into several antagonistic factions and no one body can be called fully representative.

The second caveat is that the state government has to identify and acquire land for society. Apart from the fact that this is a very scarce commodity and several past efforts to locate a secure haven in south Kashmir have come to naught, there is also no commitment to meeting the cost of the land in the valley, which is as high as in many parts of Delhi! If the hugely deficit state budget is to meet this burden the scheme is clearly a non-starter.

The fine print underscoring the offer of grants for restoration of agricultural holdings and orchards is that this was ‘under consideration.’ Not even the most na

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