ny debate on such a vital issue like ‘our return to our Kashmir’ is expected to evoke some thoughtful inputs from the community. But unfortunately it is just the rhetoric that keeps coming forth.
There are accusations against Panun Kashmir interestingly more against its leaders than the concept or the agenda itself.
Then we also lament that we are 'leaderless' that is in spite of there being so many claimants for leadership on every forum; that we don't have 'one voice '- as if it was expected to evolve overnight that too without any serious effort & that we lack intra community trust- a self inflicted charge that is largely exaggerated. Self retrospection could go a long way in rebuilding our self confidence that has got bruised more since we were rendered refugees in our own country two decades ago than during centuries of persecution back home.
One voice’; ‘one leader; ‘one agenda’ & ‘mutual trust’ will continue to elude us till we learn to come to terms with our own selves first.
There also appears to be an attempt to scorn at those members of the community who are living in Delhi NCR or abroad, as if they are somewhat better off & less serious about our issues- this is akin to Kashmiri Islamists' similar insinuations intended to draw a wedge within the exiled community. Each member of the community in exile whether presently living in Jammu, or anywhere else in India or abroad is always contributing in whatever possible modest manner in the interest of the community & the nation.
There is a constant exchange of views going on with the outside world within the country & abroad through discussions, seminars, internet, print media & television at group levels as well as individual levels. In absence of any attempt at Govt. level it is due to the community effort that the separatist movement in Kashmir is now being widely recognised as being pan Islamism inspired. The community members continue to counter Kashmiri Islamists’ propaganda & misinformation campaign.
Massive mobilisation by the community against the Kashmiri Islamists’ brazen attempt to deprive the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits for ever, of their right to exercise their authority in the land of their ancestors during the recent ‘Amaranth land restoration’ agitation across India & abroad has helped us reach out to even those opinion makers who were hitherto indifferent towards our cause & plight. And all this while, through out the agitation period there was no acrimony; there were no accusations counteraccusations or any contradictions in approach; no insinuations about self interests were made. All this harmony was achieved without any intended effort. Let us trust ourselves - there is so much of energy - we only need to channelise it properly.
As for our ‘vote bank’ or lack of it, we cannot be lamenting perpetually about our insignificant electoral worthiness. We have a just cause .It is just that we have not succeeded enough in communicating with the rest of the world. We have to continue to present our plight in the face of the menace of jihadi terror that the world has begun to recognise now as a threat to humanity & we are amongst its early victims. But while doing so it is imperative that we learn to differentiate between the common Kashmiri Muslims & the proponents of ‘azadi- bara- e- Islam’ (freedom through Islam).We can not afford to be seen as followers or stooges of any radical ideology.
If the ‘lack of nuisance value’ suggests that we are incapable of creating ‘nuisance’ for the nation then let it be so. When we talk of Kashmir, we talk of India which is sacrosanct to us all & we should even avoid contemplating any action that could in any way be inimical to our national interests.
No body can deny the Muslim majority character of the valley & the reality that we will have to live with the Muslims in Kashmir when we return back, be it in our pre exile habitations or in a separate home land - Panun Kashmir. There can be no denying either that Kashmiri Muslims as a community can not be accused of being the perpetrator of crimes against us. We have a genuine grouse against Kashmiri Muslims-- our erstwhile neighbours; colleagues; classmates; even friends who failed to protect us from the zealots’ onslaught. We deserve an explanation over their silence when we were being hounded out. But all that is reconciliation & that certainly will follow once we have arrived at a political settlement.
It goes to the credit of the secular credentials of the community that there has not been a single case of retaliation from the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits against the Kashmiri Muslims in general. Infact, if at all that much talked about Kashmiriyat, exists today, it is not in the valley where it has been publicly denounced by the Kashmiri Islamists, it exists only south of Pir Panjal ranges far away in our homes & hearts in & outside the refugee camps. Bonhomie at individual level continues to survive. We have not forgotten the courtesy & humanitarian support, even if too little, that we received at individual levels during the horrors of 1989-90.
We empathise with the hundreds of Kashmiri Muslim mothers, widows & orphans whose loved ones fell prey to religious indoctrination & lost their lives whether in internecine skirmishes or while fighting Indian security forces.
Individual opinions or activities may not matter much but any attempt to present our case on behalf of the whole community could have far reaching consequences.
However, any attempt at promoting proper understanding of our plight amongst the common Kashmiri Muslim masses at any level should be welcome. But it must be remembered that common Kashmiri Muslims, for what ever reasons, were unable to ensure our security then & they can not be expected to guarantee it in future. And we as equal stake holders of Indian secular democracy should not be expected to live in our own country at the mercy of the whims of the majority community.
Issue of our ‘return’ back to the valley must be seen in the backdrop of the circumstances that forced us to flee our hearths & homes. We were selectively targeted one because we were Hindus & second that we symbolised Indian presence in the valley.The casualty figure could be a thousand or so only, which is not so low in any case in view of the miniscule minority that the Pandits represented. But it is the brutal manner in which the killings were executed killing in the broad day light at point blank range in busy streets & asking the passers by to spit on the corpse; branding terror group 'acronyms' on the victims' bodies with cigarette butts before killing them; cutting the victims in to halves on the saw machines; raping before killing; gouging out eyes etc. etc……the horror stories are many .…… but these have not been chronicled… …. wailing wife & children of the telecommunication engineer who was killed in hiding in a closed rice drum when begged to be killed too were spared sadistically asking them to ‘cry over the dead’… ……then there is the story of this lady who they say was so beautiful that no human not even a sadist could have killed her,…….. her husband's body was recovered from the river but she could never be found……..
And that non stop heart rending ranting from the loudspeakers of the mosques…. ‘we want Pakistan along with the Pandit womenfolk, without Pandit men’ ……. ‘azadi…..’…. etc.etc.etc………
They killed one & scared a hundred & this is how it was planned…….simply put up the list of the probable victims in the streets or deliver threatening notices & then kill a few & kill in the most inhuman manner. It happened all in a place where homicide wasn't heard of……..where there was almost none day to day crime…….not to talk of AK 47s & grenades & rocket launchers…….
It was enough to create a fear psychosis within the beleaguered community. Then mass massacres like Wandhhama carnage etc……….
And this is how the process of ethnic cleansing was executed.
The purpose to recall these gory situations is not to arouse passions but to help us help each one of us to remember & ‘vow’ that we will not let ourselves undergo brutality any more.
We are indebted to our great ancestors who kept our race alive under those terrible conditions & persecution in the medieval times. But we will be betraying our very ancestors if we fail to ensure our continued existence in our home land - in our own Kashmir. Our future generations will curse us if we render them clueless about their place of origin…about their heritage….about their ancestry for it is possible for a ‘culture’ to survive & evolve only within the geographical parameters of its origin.
Therefore, return we must & return we will.
There can be only two ways about it.
One is to pack up & go back & resume our lives at the mercy of the unpredictable ‘others’. And emotions aside there will not be many takers. Just because the terrorists have remained tactically dormant for a while now, does not suggest an open invitation to us.
The huge turn out in the recent elections & the fact that the incarceration of the jihadi goons was by & large ignored by electorate is an encouraging sign. But as far as we are concerned it does not matter much. It will be interesting to know the number of votes cast by the Kashmiri Muslims in favour of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandit candidates in the recent elections….????..............it is not to belittle in any way the effort of those of us who volunteered to test the waters………
One of us commented almost a decade ago that the ‘cup was full’ .A lot of water (& blood) has flown down the Veth in the past two decades. It is a hard fact that we will have to recreate our existence & our space in Kashmir now & this will not happen by simply expressing a desire to return.
The second & the most plausible option is to seek a political settlement that ensures security of life & dignity ; guarantees our social ,religious , political & economic rights in Kashmir valley as enshrined in the constitution of India . There can not be any dispute about it generally.
But it is crucial to decide whether we are going back to our homes & areas that we were forced to abandon or we seek out a separate territory for ourselves which has a separate politico- administrative set up.
Who would deny the desirability of returning back to our old neighbourhoods? But is it possible to reverse all that has happened in the past two decades? Can it be ensured that Govt. of India will not alter the present status of J& K? Will there be a change of hearts & the perpetrators will surrender themselves to be tried for crimes against humanity? Will the majority community come forward & apologies for its past inability to react & extend the support when it was needed the most? In this context let it not be forgotten that the NC scion almost retracted from his statement in his blog where in he had admitted the majority community’s failure to protect Kashmiri Pandits in 1989-90.
Separatists have been openly saying it in media that Kashmiri Pandits are welcome back only if they join the ‘movement’? Who will guarantee that we will not be blackmailed or coerced in to joining them? How can it be ensured that we will not be used as human shields?
Indifference by the Indian Civil Society in general towards our plight in the past two decades gives no hopes.
It is pertinent to remember that Kashmiri separatist movement is also identified with the jihadi terror now because non Muslims in the state & Muslims of the state outside the valley have time & again expressed their resolve for abrogation of article 370 & even closer integration with secular India. Separate Jammu state & union territory of Ladakh are long pending demands that may gain momentum in near future. And reorganisation of the state could as well envisage a separate union territory for Kashmiri Pandits.
And for God’s sake let the issue of menial labour not bother us. It is insulting. No labour is cheap. It smacks of discrimination & hypocrisy. Let us own up the responsibility of our own needs at least. With so much of social engineering happening around it is also time for us to change & change for better.
But how do we arrive at unanimity? Casting aspersions, acrimony & mudslinging will only ensure our perpetual exile & our ethnicity that we are so proud of will get lost in the dustbins of history.
Let there be serious exchange of views on this.
There is no dearth of visionaries in the community. There are no less worthy leaders.
Caveat - we have to resist this temptation to promote ‘self’ or a ‘proxy’ as all of us can not be ‘leaders’- we must recognise our individual limitations.
There is a vast pool of activism that can come forward & take the initiative.
To begin with, one idea could be to form a ‘supreme council’ with representatives from all the existing political & politico- social groups & initiate a discussion on the viability of various options for our return to the valley. Our individual political & ideological affiliations should not come in the way of such a move since it is an effort to restore our existence which in turn can only strengthen Indian values in the valley. In the meanwhile, if possible like minded groups could come together & merge to bring down the number of existing groups.
*Lalit Ambardar: A Building Design Consultant, presently based in Delhi. Has been a ‘programme coordinator’ for foreign TV & Radio bureaus. Regularly writes on 'Kashmir' in response columns of national dailies. Interests include acting & modelling.
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A pathatic but pragmatic approach to the mirage of going back of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley wherefrom they were hunted out by Islamic terrorists.But unfortunately we refuse to see and understand our own role in this process because we have inflated egos.I hope we could overcome someday and shape our destiny as Dear Lalit feels.
Added By pushkar ganjoo
It is a very well written peace of advice to community members. Many a times I thought of putting my similar thoughts before the community but I hesitate because I feel our community has been reduced to a state of mind wherefrom it is hard to take them out. Therefore the efforts of a few thinkers who are breaking their necks to awaken the community do not succeed.Perhaps destiny has to play its role.
Added By Piyaray Raina