Kashmiri Pandits – Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs

Minority Status for Pandits Irks Sikhs, PoK Refugees
By Fayaz Wani
March 24, 2015
SRI NAGAR: The recommendation by a Parliamentary Panel to grant minority status to migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) in Jammu and Kashmir has led to strong resentment from Sikhs and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) refugees, who have warned of a strong agitation.
“The recommendation by Parliamentary Panel is in contravention to the guidelines set by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as far as classification of minorities is concerned,” All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC) chairman Jagmohan Singh Raina told reporters here on Monday.
He said the NCM had made it clear that there were six minority communities in the country — Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains. “Recommending minority status to the Pandits is against the procedure laid down by the NCM. Granting minority status to Pandits would upset the whole equilibrium in the society,” said Raina.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs in its report on rehabilitation of migrant KPs had urged the J&K government to look into the demand for granting minority status to the Pandits, who migrated from the Valley after the eruption of militancy in 1989.

“J&K has a special status in the Indian Constitution so the state government should look into the demand of the Pandits for conferring on them minority status keeping in mind their pitiable condition,” the panel has stated.
The J&K government has recently revealed that 37,128 Kashmiri Pandit families had migrated from Kashmir following the outbreak of militancy in 1989.
Raina warned that if the Central government went ahead with granting minority status to Kashmiri Pandits then the Sikhs would have no option but to come out on to the streets and stage strong protests in support of their demands.
“We have suffered a lot in the past and we cannot live with it forever. Justice has to be done and there cannot be any compromise in this regard. We will launch an agitation so that justice is done and injustice is rooted out,” he said.
The APSCC chairman said the National Minority Act needed to be implemented in letter and spirit in Jammu and Kashmir so that the Sikh community gets the privileges that they were entitled to.
Rajiv Chuni, chairman of SOS International, an organisation for PoK refugees, said the Centre’s move to grant minority status to KPs was unacceptable.
“The Parliamentary Committee recommended minority status to Kashmiri Pandits by looking at their pitiable condition but the panel has not been moved by the miserable plight of PoK refugees, who are living in gloom since 1947,” he said.
The PoK refugees migrated to the state from Pok after 1947. Chuni said Kashmiri Pandits had their safe homes in the state while PoK refugees and Chammb refugees had lost their homes, land, everything and were forced to live in despondent conditions. “We will oppose tooth and nail granting of minority status to Pandits. We will mobilise people and launch an agitation if the Pandits are granted the status,” Chuni said, adding they would also approach the courts if the Centre went against the people’s aspirations and provided minority status to Pandits.

Syrian Refugees in Turkey- Exploratory post

Exploring policy framework for the Syrian refugees in Turkey.
What has the Turkish government done, so far to respond to the refugee crisis, which policies are in the making?
How are the policies different than policies for other refugees in Turkey?
What are the social dynamics between Syrian refugees and Turkish local communities<?

Please feel free to share your insights.

Sri Lankan Refugees in India – Durable Solutions

Durable Solutions for Sri Lankan Refugees in India

A Group representing 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamil refugees put forward a document explaining durable solutions for their settlement and concerns of challenges likely to be faced during the repatriation.
Recognising repatriation is one of their solutions, the document prepared by Chennai-based Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation, one of the major agencies in India for Sri Lankan refugees, said rebuilding their homeland is the most durable solution for most of the refugees other than options such as staying in Tamil Nadu and emigrating to a third country.
The document comes in the wake of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena’s tour, who arrived Sunday in New Delhi — his maiden foreign trip after assuming charge last month.
The document titled “Asserting the Right to Seek Durable Solutions, the Voice of the Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees in the Camps of India”, was prepared after several rounds of consultations among refugees, who live in 110 camps in Tamil Nadu, over the last nine months. It suggests three durable solutions: A safe voluntary repatriation to Sri Lanka with an assurance of securing a livelihood, local integration of refugee community through an appropriate agreement allowing refugees to enjoy all basic rights available to Indian citizens, and a third country settlement for those who find no other guarantee, safety and security in Sri Lanka or India.
A set of four documents, already submitted before Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sri Lankan president Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe, warned that any delay in political action to facilitate refugees to choose voluntarily the option of returning to Sri Lanka will aggravate the ordeal of being a refugee in Indian camps.
While discussions between India and Sri Lanka are already underway on how to handle the refugee issue, the document suggests the signing of an MoU to ensure a smooth and safe repatriation. The document also suggests a dozen recommendations to the Sri Lankan government, including the implementation of constitutional amendments to ensure the civil and political rights, and resettling the remaining Internally Displaced People , among others.
The document also says that India should take some decisions immediately such as the announcement of a generous package of assistance for refugees to return to Sri Lanka, granting work permit enabling Lankan refugees to be employed in private sector, providing educational loan for children and granting Indian citizenship to Lankan refugees married to Indian citizens.

Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/document-on-tamil-refugees-asks-india-lanka-to-assist-repatriation/
Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai

Retrieved Feb 16, 2015

Sudan Conflict derails kids’ education

Analysis by Sudha Rajput
Due to the ongoing conflict in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas of Sudan, school-aged children have lost the opportunity to complete their basic education (similar to many situations of protracted displacement). Schools have been closed, and those that have remained open, transporting kids to the schools has been a challenge.

Consequently children’s educational years have been diverted to tending to domestic duties of collecting firewood and fetching water for the family. Some of the students that fled their villages during the conflict have been able to return, but many face an unknown future.

Those wanting to return are finding that the school capacity cannot accommodate them and those who can be accommodated find themselves either too young or too old to fit in with the given class curriculum.
In addition, there are issues of integrating the kids back into the classroom, who suffer from trauma of having escaped the violence to seek refuge in bushes and mountains. The experience of shelling and the conflict in general continues to haunt them. The returning IDP students need special support to address their psychological trauma and to catch up with what they had missed.

UNICEF, has built new classrooms at the school to accommodate the new arrivals and to provide a friendly environment for all the students. Challenge remains to have all those displaced children return to school.
Full story at:
By Eman Eltigani
Feb 10, 2015

Taking care of Ukraine’s IDPs:

Violence and armed conflict has forced thousands of people to seek safety in neighboring countries and within Ukraine, thousands have been killed and wounded. people in Ukraine continue to be forced from their homes by violence after seven months of fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine. Many organizations have partnered with local churches, such as the Aid Center in Zaporizhzhia, in an effort to support those in desperate needs. Such centers are helping people deal with the trauma of displacement and in establishing stable living conditions. Since the opening of the center, seven months ago, about 200 people a day are using the services. The center plans to expand into medical and legal services. About 40,000 had fled to seek safety in Zaporizhzhia, some from Donetsk, more than 100 miles away. The challenge remains helping those who were not able to leave their places and continue to struggle midst violence and destruction. These people are living in poverty and some with disabilities.

See full story at:
January 6, 2015

Settlement of Displaced Kashmiri Pandits – plan with trouble

Settlement of Displaced Kashmiri Pandits – the plan spells trouble already.
Dec 1, 2014
In India, the longstanding mission of Bharatiya Janata Party regarding the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits is becoming a national priority. Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mr. Omar Abdullah, has apparently detailed the plan that calls for allocating 840 hectares (approximately 2075 Acres ) of land in various parts of the State, for the construction of securitized “satellite colonies” for those forcibly displaced in 1989, due to the rise of militancy in Kashmir Valley.
The noble goal of resettling those displaced, two decades ago, seems good in theory, but what is wrong is the following:
Any plan to bring back members of any ethnic community, especially those forced out by members of another ethnic group, should focus on reconciliation and co-existence of both communities in the new setting.
The plan to house the returning families into the newly built securitized colonies, defeats the purpose of reconciliation and overcoming of hostilities. Such a plan is not a solution, but rather it will make the returning families a target of renewed attacks. Separate settlement exclusively meant to house this community is encouraging communalism, a form of structural violence.
In addition, those returning will never enjoy the feeling of having ‘come home’ to their ancestral lands. The unintended consequences of such a plan are enormous, just like the consequences of having kept them in the Mini Township in Jagti camps. The narratives of my research participants suggests that having been isolated from the mainstream Jammu had deprived the displaced community from socio-economic opportunities, enjoyed by the Jammu residents.
Sudha Rajput
Dec 1, 2014

Kashmiri Pandit’s Cultural Demands for Return to the Valley

Return of Kashmiri Pandits and the importance of the ‘Shrine Bill’.

A former separatist leader, in the struggle to make the Kashmir Valley, an Islamic place, shows change of heart.
He tells, the Kashmiri Pandits, forced out of the Valley in 1989, that they form an “essential part of Kashmir’ and that their return “will fill the vacuum in the Kashmiriyat”. He admits that KPs have lost their ‘identity and culture’ and recognizes that “apathy of successive governments had multiplied their problems”.

“Kashmiri Pandits have been demanding Shrine Bill for a long time, but no heed is given to this important demand and only hollow promises of their return is made every time by political parties,” he said and added that shrine bill is the fundamental right of KPs.

November 24, 2014

IDPs in Ukraine – estimated 970,000 displaced

In Donetsk, homeless Ukrainians loathe Kiev government
By AFP | 15 Nov, 2014, 06.37PM IST
DONETSK: Despite living in a tiny cellar in Donetsk for more than three months, Sergei is not complaining about the frequent shelling or lack of running water. Instead, he saves his fury for his own country – Ukraine.

“It’s the Ukrainian army that has done all this damage,” the 56-year-old former miner rages, standing in front of the dusty mattress he sleeps on as his wife watches with pursed lips.

“The government doesn’t pay our pensions,” he adds, his voice rising. “I am Ukrainian but Ukraine has done me so much wrong.”

Along with dozens of others, Sergei and three members of his family are living beneath what used to be a cultural centre in Donetsk, the eastern Ukrainian stronghold of pro-Moscow separatists pitched against Ukrainian forces.

They are among some 970,000 people who the UN estimates have been displaced – most over the border into Russia – by seven months of fighting in Ukraine’s east.

As the conflict enters its first, harsh winter, aid agencies are stepping up efforts to help the roughly 460,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) to cope amid a nominal ceasefire which is frequently violated.

Many of those living in the cellars with Sergei share his disgust at their home country and rely on pro-Russian rebels to help them.

Lyubov Domianova recalls an outbreak of shelling on Wednesday from which she sheltered in the room where she lives with her two daughters, grandson and some 20 other people.

“It was terrifying,” she says simply. The 62-year-old is grateful to the separatists of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic who she says have brought her food and aid.

As for the Ukrainian army, she fears that they will “come and kill us.”

Elsewhere in the city, Tatiana Samarina has found shelter with two others in a student room after leaving her home near Donetsk airport, scene of fierce exchanges between Ukrainian forces and rebels.
“They (Ukraine) can forget Donbass. We were never with them. In Donetsk, we support the separatists,” she says.

Their space is sparsely furnished — three beds, three chairs, a table and a wardrobe — but the rebels provide free food and clothes.

Around 50 rooms in the pink eight-storey building are reserved for displaced people.

Marina Shirishilova, 26, has lived there with her husband and children since being evacuated from their home in July.

She says she spends her days keeping the children occupied. The family survives on 50 hryvnias (2.5 euros, $3) per day. But Marina is hopeful of receiving a grant promised to her by the rebels following the birth of her third child, a tiny newborn who sleeps peacefully in a crib in the corner of the room.

“Do you know when we will get the money for the baby?” she asks, clutching the child’s identity papers.

Nov 16, 2014

Nation-Building lessons from Kosovo Experience


South Sudan – the Forgotten Crisis in Jonglei State

South Sudan: the Forgotten Crisis in Jonglei State

Thursday, 16 October 2014, 12:17 pm
Press Release: HelpAge International
South Sudan: the Forgotten Crisis in Jonglei State

Nairobi, 15 October 2014 – Jonglei State has the highest number of internally displaced people and the highest level of food insecurity and malnutrition in famine-threatened South Sudan, according to a joint assessment by HelpAge International and Islamic Relief Worldwide.

1.3 million people remain internally displaced across South Sudan. According to UNOCHA, there are about 790,000[1] Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), as of August 2014, in Jonglei State alone. Of those, it is estimated that at least 63,000 are older men and women.

Over 450,000 South Sudanese have been forced to seek refuge in neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and Uganda.

The joint assessment shows that most vulnerable people including people with special needs such as older people, children, and pregnant and lactating mothers have been hit the hardest by the first major crisis since South Sudan became the world’s newest independent nation. Older people have found it difficult to flee due to mobility problems and many have been killed as a result.

Food is becoming scarce as stocks have been exhausted, looted or shared amongst vulnerable communities. Many people are still afraid to cultivate their land because they were uncertain about the future, forcing even those that have returned home into dependency on government rations.

Waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid, from contaminated water are an increasing risk, particularly as 80% of the population depend on water from boreholes, according to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation in Jonglei State. Anestimated 35% ofboreholes have been destroyed.

Crowded conditions, shared facilities, open defecation and poor waste management remain major problems within the refugee site at Bor.Lack, and the land around the refugee camps has made it difficult to dig adequate pit latrines. People have been forced to share beyond the capacity allowed (over 60 people per pit latrine)[2]. The pit latrines have been dug close to shelters (radius of 20metres[3]). However, men and women do have access to separate toilets. Existing pit latrines were also reported not to be age-appropriate. Both older people and people living with disabilities are finding them difficult to access.

“I just want to go back home,” says Peter*, an older man at the UNMISS Bor Protection of Civilians (PoC) camp. “At least when at home, I am able to cultivate some crops or even look after my livestock.”

Acute respiratory infections, communicable diseases, diabetes, and high blood pressure, are the most common ailments affecting both older men and women. Many health facilities have been destroyed, while those remaining do not have enough medical stocks– forcing people to use traditional herbs instead.

The lack of psychosocial and counselling services has been identified asa significant issue, as rape has been reported among both young and older women – in some cases, used as a tool for survival to access passage or safety.

“We just want peace to come so that we can go back to our ways, like the cultivation we used to do,” says Akur, an older woman living at Luedir Village in Bor.

“At the moment, we are afraid to cultivate because we are not certain about the future. If there is peace, we would cultivate our farms.”

Islamic Relief’s East Africa Regional Director, Yusuf Ahmed, says: “The situation in South Sudan is amongst the most grave in the world today. Millions face starvation, and many have been driven from their homes. Jonglei is one of the worst affected areas.

“Despite the scale and depth of the crisis, humanitarian programmes remain hugely underfunded. Much more is needed to enable organisations like Islamic Relief and HelpAge to get vital aid to those that need it the most.”

“Older people are often forgotten in emergencies. There is need for interventions that cater for older people in such situations,” says Prafulla Mishra, HelpAge International East, West and Central Africa Regional Director.

HelpAge International is providing non-food items (NFIs) such as blankets, mosquito nets, mattresses, plastic mats and washing soap to older people who have been displaced by the conflict in Juba. HelpAge is also offering Helping Older People in Emergencies (HOPE) training for humanitarian agencies in Juba, aimed at assisting them in ensuring that their programmes include older people; and that they develop an understanding of how to put age-sensitive programming into practice.

Islamic Relief is delivering urgent aid in South Sudan, with emergency teams responding since the outbreak of fighting in December 2013. Its relief effort includes distributing food and essential medical supplies and mosquito nets – as well as hygiene kits and shelter supplies. Islamic Relief has also constructed wells, latrines and bathrooms.