xodus has taken its toll on our community. We are disarrayed, bereft of rational thought process and unable to act as one to counter the peril of the forced displacement that has also set in motion precursors which could lead us to extinction as a community of Kashmiri Pandits.
With the tragic events of the late 80s and early 90s, displacement forced upon the unsuspecting and benign community has resulted in two distinct classes of victims.
First, there are the ones who moved far beyond the state boundaries to reconstruct their lives elsewhere. They took the initiative to explore the unknown, faced hurdles in the process, but didn’t waver from their singular focus on rebuilding their lives. This class of migrants - a term used loosely to describe the internally displaced persons - has done well in their new environment. For the most part they, like their predecessors who left the Valley for broader opportunities long before them, hold no aspirations of permanent resettlement in the Valley.
Then, there is this other class of migrants that, for reasons beyond their control - old age, infirmity, lost vocation and abject poverty - couldn’t venture past the camps at Jammu. This class of Kashmiri Pandits, living marginally on the fringes of human survival for over two decades, along with a part of the generation that followed, has been captivated by the lure of an elusive independent homeland. They remain mired in an illusion that one day they shall all return to an independent piece of land they would call, ‘Panun’, their own.
The lot has borne numerous physical and emotional scars from the treacherous assault by Islamic militancy and insurgency that pushed them to the brink of a genocidal consequence. If that wasn’t enough of a trauma, the suffering has been further exacerbated by the vagaries of the leadership that, committed to a non-negotiable road map, is still busy constructing an unrealistic hope for a separate homeland; a concept which, in the present day context, has lost all relevance. Regrettably, we have mortgaged our ability to differentiate between practical solutions and impractical goals.
For a minuscule community that is already in dire straits and struggling to overcome adversity with no vote bank to speak of, what has stood between hope and realization of its ultimate dream is the need for a Constitutional Amendment. It may be easy to comprehend why abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is imperative, but its execution is exceptionally difficult, particularly when odds are all stacked against us.
With total indifference to the voices of reason that plead for its re-examination for a possible compromise, and to the exclusion of all viable options, the road map that would lead us to an independent homeland is, in fact, leading us on to a course that is headed for oblivion. If we have to survive as a community, we must first recognize the contributing factors that have underwritten our unsettling destiny thus far.
An independent homeland is a myth: Let’s not keep chasing an illusion that held some promise during the initial days of the strife, but has since run its lifecycle. A constitutional amendment backed by a strong political will, is the pre-requisite for its achievement. An exercise in futility that has been playing out for the past 23 years can hardly be dubbed as an assurance that a positive outcome is attainable in the foreseeable future.
Our fractured community must unify: Disagreements are common. They are an integral part of a healthy discussion, but when each disagreement turns contentious, the community loses its ability to move forward with one voice. While forced to part with our homes several decades ago, we have still not parted with the scourge of conceit that holds us back from the rewards of a unified front. We gloat in the glory of belonging to one of the most intelligent communities on this planet, yet we fail to differentiate between pride and ego.
Our vulnerable community seems to have surrendered its will to rebuild itself. Time is fleeting, and so are the opportunities for the community to reconstitute. With each passing day, we are narrowing our options already constrained to a trickling few.
We don’t have to accept all ideas that come before us but, as an obligation owed to the community at large; we must deliberate each proposition seriously and offer convincing reasons for its rejection. It should be no more acceptable for the community leaders to reject an initiative out rightly, simply because it doesn’t allow an unfettered control of self-governance.
‘Nov Srinagar’ is the term coined by the Interlocutors to recommend a twin city adjoining Srinagar. This novel proposition offers a glimmer of hope - not to be mistaken as a promise - to lessen, if not eradicate the community suffering. As expected, the initiative has met outright rejection from those espousing an independent homeland, a decision reminiscent of Jinnah’s obsession with a separate homeland for the Muslims.
Recommendations for an autonomous ‘twin-city’ would have certainly made a striking advancement in alleviating the contentious issue of an independent homeland. But, we live in a world that doesn’t always suit our needs perfectly, and in majority cases we have to strive, often in small steps, to make them suitable.
We are at a crossroads with a difficult decision to make which may have monumental implications for our long term survival. We can either sit back conceited and wait for the perfect conditions to evolve when an independent homeland is delivered to us on a platter, or shun our inhibitions; support the initiative wholeheartedly and get on to the task of building a new beginning. There will be many opportunities ahead when we can tip the government’s hand in favor of autonomy in the coming years.
Exodus was different. In that, the Islamic insurgency and militancy took us by surprise, while the police force, otherwise sworn to protect us, watched our devastation in total silence. But this time around it’s different. With the army and reserve police ready to respond at moment’s notice, ‘Nov Srinagar’ takes on a new meaning. It also gives our community one last fighting chance to revive and flourish in our native land.
Rejection of the ‘twin-city’ concept, solely on the basis that it doesn’t ‘yet’ offer independent governance and a Union Territory status, could finally put us on a painful journey from exodus to extinction.