The Supreme Court recently gave the Centre six weeks to come to a final settlement on the Kashmiri Pandits' issue, and with Narendra Modi to become prime minister in a matter of days, Kashmir Pandits are in a 'Ache Din Aane Waale Hain' mood.
Bureaucrats are tight-lipped, but sources in the government told dna that Modi has asked key officials in the home ministry to draw up a feasible plan to rehabilitate displaced Kashmir Pandits. The plan should ensure them security, shelter and means of livelihood.
"We are very fortunate that Modi will be PM. He's honest and is seen to be positive and straight. He will not play politics. We hope to see a comfortable settlement of the problem," said Sanjay Saraaf, social and political activist, one of hundreds of Kashmiri pandits who are keen to return to Kashmir.
"The government should take a decision now," Saraaf said.
Sentiments that were echoed by other Kashmir Pandits. "East or West, Home is Best. Who doesn't want to go home?" said Subodh Mukoo, a Kashmiri Pandit and coordinator-spokesman of the National Peace Movement, who too had to flee the Valley.
"If we're provided shelter at all district headquarters, in the vicinity of where people of the majority community live, we'll return. We don't want to be settled at isolated places where security will be a problem, and we'll be vulnerable. Given shelters close to majority community settlements, a realignment of both communities will happen, slowly and gradually," Mukoo told dna.
The "Return Kashmiri Pandit to the Valley' cry has been a recurring theme in the Kashmir narrative for the last 15 years. It picked up momentum in the last seven years and became the "core issue", with the Kashmir Pandits taking the matter to court.
"Besides, the matter was also taken up by the All India Kashmiri Samaj with the government. Sushma Chaudhary, an IAS officer who later joined the Planning Commission, formulated an 18-point policy, which the Manmohan Singh government took cognizance of and allocated Rs1680 crore for the first phase of the return package," said Mukhoo.
As part of the first phase, employment to one member of a family returning to the Valley was to be guaranteed. Around 3,000 girls and boys were to be settled in three transit camps at Wachi, Wattan and Kheer Bhavani Temple. The plan never could take off as expected as the Rs4,000 per month that was promised was too meagre a sum to live on. Of the 3,000 boys and girls, only 1500 could get employment. "There was no provision for medical assistance," said Mukhoo.
Saraaf and Mukhoo said that their problem is not with the Kashmir Muslims who have always been sympathetic to the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits. "They (Kashmiri Muslims) were embarrassed when politicians forcibly demolished shops in Habba Kadal, shops that were once owned by Kashmir pandits," said Saraaf.
With 'Modi as PM' the "wrong" will be corrected, said the Kashmiri Pandits. Modi addressed over 450 rallies all over India during his election campaign, the first of which was held in Jammu. In that rally Modi raised the Kashmir Pandit issue and said that it was priority with him to facilitate the return of the Kashmir pandit to the Valley. Now, that he's in power, the Kashmiri Pandit wants him to walk the talk.
The feeling among Kashmir Pandits is that he will, and very soon.