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Hindus displaced from Kashmir eye return to home and fond memories

Aiming to integrate the Jammu and Kashmir fully into India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has scrapped rules restricting property purchases, state jobs and college places to residents only.

Hindus displaced from Kashmir eye return to home and fond memories
File photo used only for representational purpose.

New Delhi: Hindus forced out of Kashmir decades ago are jubilant at the government's decision to allow all citizens the right to settle there, with many considering an eventual return home if conditions are secure.

Aiming to integrate the Jammu and Kashmir fully into India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has scrapped rules restricting property purchases, state jobs and college places to residents only.
 
"It is a welcome first step," said Surinder Koul, international coordinator of the Global Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora, which represents displaced Hindus from the region.

Hundreds of thousands were forced out of Kashmir, losing homes and many lives, back in 1989. Many of them were Hindu minorities - known as Kashmiri Pandits - who later lived in camps across India.

Most have not gone back. Now they want the government to propose a concrete plan for their resettlement.

A 2015 blueprint by Kashmir's local government to resettle Pandits proposed guarded colonies with schools, malls, hospitals and playgrounds, people with knowledge of the plan said.

Many from the community rejected that, saying it was insufficient to ensure their security.

Ashok Hak, a Kashmiri Hindu and a retired Brigadier in the Indian Army, said any return would depend on how Kashmiris react.

The Pandit community says nearly 400,000 of them had to flee Kashmir. Many want accountability for violence back then.

"Finally Kashmiri minorities, particularly the Kashmiri Pandits, will receive justice," Vijay K Sazawal, representing the Indo-American Kashmir Forum, said in a statement.

The Global Kashmiri Pandits Diaspora praised PM Modi's move as a vindication of their members' aspirations. "It brightens the prospect of a return to their homeland with honour and dignity and restitution according to their free will," it said.