On early Friday morning, a Clubhouse conversation featuring Congress leader Digvijaya Singh and a few Pakistani journalists went viral on the internet. During the conversation, the veteran Congress leader stirred the hornet’s nest by hinting at the re-introduction of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, a special provision for the former state that was revoked by the Modi government in 2019.
In the Clubhouse conversation, Digvijaya Singh openly said that if and when the Congress party returns to power at the centre, they would revoke the decision taken by the Modi government to revoke the controversial Article 370. Essentially, Digvijaya Singh admitted that the Congress government would treat Jammu and Kashmir as a separate entity from the rest of India.
Attacking the Modi government in the Clubhouse chatroom, Digvijaya Singh claimed, “Democracy was not there in Kashmir when they revoked Article 370. Insaniyat (humanity) was not there because they put everyone behind bars. And Kashmiriyat is something that is fundamental to secularism. Because in a Muslim-majority State, there was a Hindu Raja (king).”
In addition to promising the re-introduction of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress leader also peddled misinformation against Kashmiri Pandits by saying that the community enjoyed reservation benefits in the valley. During his chat, Digvijaya Singh said that Kashmiri Pandits were granted reservations in jobs prior to the scrapping of Article 370.
“In fact, the reservation in Kashmir was given to Kashmiri Pandits in government services. Therefore, revoking Article 370 and reducing the Statehood of J&K is an extremely sad decision. We (Congress party) will certainly have to relook at this issue,” Digvijaya Singh said in the Clubhouse chatroom.
As per Digvijaya Singh, Kashmiri Pandits lived a life of harmony with fellow Muslims as they were given reservations in the government services. However, by scrapping Article 370, the Modi government did injustice to the Kashmiri Pandit community, the Congress leader insinuated. He also promised that they would have a relook at the issue once they return to power at the centre.
Did Kashmiri Pandits enjoy benefits of reservation in the valley as claimed by Digvijaya Singh?
Contrary to the claims out by the Congress leader, the Kashmiri Pandits as a community never enjoyed any special community-based reservation in Jammu and Kashmir since independence.
Prior to the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A of The Constitution of India, 1949, the reservations policies in the erstwhile state were implemented under the acts passed by the centre and concurred by the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly. One such act was the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004. This Act was in force to provide job reservation in Jammu and Kashmir to the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Socially and Educationally Backward Classes residing in regions adjoining the Actual Line of Control.
As per the 2004 act, any person claiming reservation must have resided in the area designated as backward for the last 15 years. The migrant Pandits belonging originally to areas declared backwards by the government were deprived of reservation benefits as they could not fulfil the necessary condition of having lived continuously in backward areas for the last 15 years before claiming benefits.
In fact, Kashmiri Pandits as a community never enjoyed any specific reservations under the law. However, any individual from the community could have benefited from the policy if he/she had lived in the area designated as backwardness for at least 15 years. As thousands of migrant Kashmiri Pandits fled from their native places due to the genocide that ensued post-1990s, the community members were not eligible under reservation policy.
In May 2019, just a few days before the revocation of Article 370, in a major relief to thousands of migrant Kashmiri Pandits, the then Jammu and Kashmir government had announced an amendment to the existing rules governing the issuance of reservation certificates to various categories of the state’s residents.
Under the new rules, the benefits of reservation, which was available to the residents along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), was also extended to residents living along the International Border (IB). This new rule benefited the residents, especially the Kashmiri Pandits living in Jammu, Samba and Kathua.
Most importantly, it was only after the Modi government scrapped Article 370, the Jammu and Kashmir Reservation Act, 2004 was made applicable with certain amendments to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh, as mentioned in the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
The Act provides reservation for appointments and promotions in the state government jobs, admission for certain reserved categories to the professional institutions. The people eligible under the category will get an additional 3% reservation in educational institutions as well as in jobs.
Further, the Modi government also applied the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 2019 to Jammu and Kashmir, giving 10% reservation to Economically Weaker Sections among people in the general category. Communities like Kashmiri Pandits, who were deprived of reservation policies in the state before the 2019 amendment, could now apply for reservation in education and jobs under both the Jammu & Kashmir Reservation Act and the 103rd Constitutional Amendment Act in the state.
From above, one can discern that the Kashmiri Pandits never really enjoyed any special benefits before 2019, as claimed by the Congress leader Digvijaya Singh. It was only after the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, doors have opened for the Hindu community to seek reservations in education and public employment.
Kashmiri Pandit activists slam Digvijaya Singh for propagating lies about the community
Meanwhile, the Kashmiri Pandit activists have categorically rejected the claims made by Digvijaya Singh on Clubhouse and reiterated that the community never received any benefits of reservation policy in the erstwhile state as claimed by the Congress leader.
Journalist and Kashmiri Pandit activist Aditya Raj Kaul slammed the Congress leader, saying Kashmiri Pandits never had any government job reservation in Kashmir or any part of the rest of India. Kaul said Indira Gandhi trusted Kashmiri Pandits as her closest aides, who were known as ‘Kashmir Mafia’, which included people like PN Dhar, RN Kao, PN Haksar.
Rebutting the claims made by Digvijaya Singh, Kaul said that they were not hired on the reservation but were picked as they were educated, trustworthy and strategic thinkers.
Kashmiri Pandits never had Govt job reservation in Kashmir or rest of India. Indira Gandhi had trusted KPs as closest aides known as Kashmir Mafia. Including PN Dhar, RN Kao, PN Haksar. Were they hired on reservation? No they were educated, trustworthy and strategic thinkers.— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) June 12, 2021
Slamming Digvijaya Singh for his remarks on Kashmiri Pandits, Kaul said that Digvijaya Singh claimed ‘Kashmiriyat’ is the ‘fundamentals of secularism’, but where was this Kashmiriyat when ethnic cleansing of Pandits took place in 1990 by Islamists? he asked.
“Where is this Kashmiriyat when innocent KPs – Ajay Pandita and Rakesh Pandita are butchered in South Kashmir?” the Kashmiri journalist asked.
Noted scholar and Kashmiri Pandits activist Ashish Dhar too rejected the claims put out by Digvijaya Singh, saying that such statements from Congress leaders were nothing but lies.
Speaking to OpIndia, Dhar pointed out how Kashmiri Pandits had to suffer persecution at the hands of the Jammu and Kashmir state as they were deprived of benefits just because they were Hindus.
“Contrary to what Digvijay Singh has shamelessly stated, there were actually de-facto reservations for Muslims in professional colleges in Kashmir. For example, my own parents were denied admission to the Kashmir medical college as their names were quietly removed from the merit list just because they were Hindus. They had to waste an entire academic year and file a writ petition in the High court to get their seat allotted next year eventually,” Ashish Dhar revealed.
Attempts to gaslight Kashmiri Pandits and whitewash crimes of Islamists in the valley
The claims by Digvijaya Singh that KPs enjoyed the benefits of the reservation is just another attempt to gaslight the victims of genocide and portray them as the community which enjoyed all benefits in the valley. By claiming that Kashmiri Pandits of the valley were treated well by the state, Digvijaya Singh is completely glossing over the genocide of KPs, who was raped, murdered and driven away from Kashmir by Muslim fundamentalists and Jihadis.
By peddling such misinformation about the reservation policies in Jammu and Kashmir, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh was perhaps trying to portray that Kashmiri Pandits enjoyed a good deal of benefits in the valley before they were thrown out of the valley. In an attempt to whitewash the crimes of Islamists in the valley, Singh seems to have tried pushing a narrative that the KP community did not face any persecutions at the hands of Islamists in Kashmir.
The false propaganda against Kashmiri Pandits by Digvijaya Singh is strangely similar to the contextualisation of the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits by the likes of Barkha Dutt in the past. It is worth mentioning that Barkha Dutt was once seen defending the attacks on Kashmiri Pandits by saying that they were “wealthy in the valley with good jobs’, which according to her, created a rift and resentment among the Muslims who felt that they were ‘deprived’.
By the looks of it, Digvijaya Singh seems to be continuing the act of Barkha Dutt’s earlier attempts to whitewash the genocide carried out by Islamists against the Kashmir Pandit community by depicting the latter as some sort of ‘oppressors’ who enjoyed all the benefits granted by the state.