A senior leader of India’s ruling party said the party would revive a plan to establish secure Hindu settlements in the mainly Muslim valley of Kashmir, a proposal that is almost certain to fuel tension in this troubled region.
Ram Madhav, secretary-general in charge of Kashmir in the Bharatiya Janata Party, said his Hindu nationalist party was committed to the return of an estimated 300,000 Hindus fleeing Kashmir after an armed uprising that began in 1989.
The picturesque mountainous region is divided between India, which controls the densely populated Kashmir Valley and the Hindu-majority Jammu region, and Pakistan, which controls land in the west. Both countries say they have the right to sovereignty over the entire region.
“We must respect their fundamental rights to return to the valley, and at the same time we must provide them with appropriate security,” Madhav said in an interview, speaking of Hindus from Kashmir.
About seven million people live in the Kashmir Valley, with 97 percent of Muslims surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Indian army and police forces to quell an uprising against the rule of New Delhi. Official figures indicate that some 50,000 Muslims have been killed in the conflict in the last three decades.
Madhav said a former government backed by Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu and Kashmir had studied the creation of pockets of resettlement for Hindus, whether they were limited or combined with others, but had been unable to make progress. “There was no consensus on one opinion“He said.
The establishment of pockets limited to returning Hindus has little support from the local political parties of the region, the Muslim leadership or the representative groups of Hindus who have fled, and the Federal Housing Ministry in the Kashmir valley has not responded to the request for comment.
In 2015, the state government unveiled a proposal for the establishment only for the self-sustaining and heavily guarded Hindus settlements containing schools, shopping centers, hospitals and playgrounds.
Separatist groups in the region have rejected the project, and some have likened it to Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. The plan eventually faltered after the BJP alliance collapsed with a major regional party in June 2018, leading to a direct governorship of New Delhi. New state elections are likely to take place before the end of the year.
Human rights activists recently reported serious violations in occupied Kashmir against Muslims by the Indian Army and the police.