The way forward as I see it

The way forward

as I see it

S.N Dhar

The amount of literature in the form of poetry, essays and historical write-ups that have come up after the exodus of kashmiri Pandits remarkable considering the terribly bad circumstances the community had to pass through. Much has been written about the causes and circumstances of this mass migration. I would not go into that at present though I believe a proper scientific study by any one of us is mandatory. To be authentic the study should be done soon as there will be enough eyewitnesses. This would put all other theories and hearsay to rest. Otherwise those theories like “Jagmohan did it!” will be put forward at sometime in future by the vested interests. In any case this would be important even from our own point of view for future reference and lessons we might derive from the study.

I think one of the foremost things that have to be borne in our minds is that our KP identity must be kept alive as long as it is possible. This basic identity is required and is something that most human beings require for social and psychological well-being. Fortunately there is only a small minority of our people who have doubts about the desirability of clinging too much to this identity. World is changing fast and the social effects of globalization are such that every persons identity is under threat. The mind-boggling socioeconomic changes in India and the meltdown of cultures in America are examples with which we are familiar with. With such upheavals occurring mainly due to fast changes in technology it is impossible to predict what the world will be like ten years from now. So the doubts too have a basis. But retaining our identity has advantages. Apart from giving us a sense of security and strength it also gives a feeling of belonging—some thing important for ones evolution in all spheres. If we agree with this then we can proceed.

Foremost is the realization that we can take genuine pride in belonging to a community with great achievements in the past. Every body knows that we are the only people in the subcontinent who had the tradition of writing history right from 10th century onwards [even much earlier perhaps]. Kalhans Rajtarangni is fairly authentic from 6th century onwards. Many scholars have acknowledged the vast contribution of Kashmiri scholars to the Sanskrit literature that has a pride of place in the great Indian heritage of culture and religion. But something happened after the 13th century that our contribution dwindled and diminished. We were involved in a heroic struggle for existence and we all know how and why—but even after this some priceless gems of poetry and prose did surface. I am not going into the details of all this wonderful past but would emphasize that we have a genuine case of feeling proud of our heritage for us to build on this edifice a great future!

There is a strong feeling in the community for “unity”. I appreciate it and I too was a strong votary for it. But I am no more obsessed by it. It is not in our blood to follow. We all have creativity and ideas and that nullifies all herd mentality. After the exodus there were 18 thousand people still living in the valley but slowly over the years [which includes three ghastly massacres in-between] only 6 to 7 thousand are left who are the diehards. Nothing worse could have happened and yet unity was all along elusive. Seeing this I was quite sad and disheartened but did not give up.

There was however a ray of hope. I saw there was a consensus for doing certain things. Every group and leader wanted to do the same thing – only they did it differently. It is this ‘consensus’ that has to be stressed not unity. In this way every body could contribute individually under a loose framework. The leader can be called a coordinator! After all the great exodus in our history could not have happened without a consensus—most people had their individual assessment of the situation and took the plunge individually sometimes not informing even one’s brother! I would now call unity, as connectivity -this is important for a sense of belonging and brotherhood. If we remain connected the effects of our dispersal could be almost nullified. Our connectivity is a boon of modern era and we must thank God for this great favor. Think of exodus at the time of Sikander Butshikanan et al, people would not know anything about each other or even what is happening back home for months or perhaps even years. The news of Bolshevik revolution reached Srinagar after eight months! And that was 1917! In the present case we can remain ‘united’ yet operate from any part of the world!!

There is a lot of talk of our return. “Return “ where? I feel much of this is rhetoric’ nostalgia and politically motivated. Todays Kashmir is different - the environment is gone, rivers are dry, jungles have been finished, the greenery and the meadows are dwindling, there is construction everywhere and the monsters are jarring. Still there is time to salvage things but where is the will .The society has changed and cross materialism has taken over and in this free for all atmosphere where can there be opportunity for our youngsters. Yes there will be people who will still come who find some interest or an opportunity. Some individuals have already come. Nobody notices them and they get absorbed. Having come back their experience is great – a sense of belonging! It is possible - infact likely that in future some entrepreneur KPs will come and set up shop there and generate employment ! It will happen sooner than we think but not at political behest but as an individual effort. And that will ensure the presence of a centrality of ours in the place of our origin. Right now the number of KPs living in Kashmir is statistically insignificant but extremely important to represent our centrality. I do however regret that not a single KP forum talks about us anywhere let alone recognize us as an important presence.

Please do not misunderstand me – we KPs are quite happy there though we have our share of problems peculiar to us. This presence gives us connectivity with our past heritage and also our spiritual selves. Wherever I have gone I have seen a yearning in most KPs for our sacred shrines, our local Gods, symbols and whatever connects us spiritually with that place. This is how it ought to be notwithstanding however the presence of various Parbats, Tulmuls and the likes that have come up at various places. All of us have been told in our childhood that every inch of our land is sacred. I may not vouch for that but who amongst us can deny that feeling of a spiritual presence – that ecstasy of a spring breeze, the awe inspiring sight of Harmukh and mahadev , the abode of Gods – the shining and shimmering Gangabal - all this and more in our Kashmir. This physical / spiritual presence cannot be washed away from our conscience. There is some amount of truism in the fact that our Kashmir was called as Resh- vaer and the number of saints Faqeers and sadhus at any time was legend. Many of them not only preached but also lived the teachings of Upanishads!! My own faith in the presence of divinity [‘divath’] in Kashmir was strengthened by observing the ordinary man on the street in the hey days of violence and mayhem. He had become insensitive but the soul though bruised was intact. This is not to suggest even for a minute that the ghory tales that emanated Top 3 Brands on eBay from there were incorrect. There was much truth in all of them .

Most of the time for any possibility of our return to our homeland we look up to Govt of India or the Govt of Jand k. None of them is interested in us because we don’t have the requisite votes and the clout. For the latter we are just expendable. They work that way – apathy and indifference to anything that does not affect them directly. So having a coherent policy for the return of Kashmiri Pandits would be asking for moon. For GOI our total absence should have been a great concern of security but, no, they don’t care. They work on adhoc basis for short-term effects only. They have given some sops and the matter has ended there. Now anything we ask from them them is ‘unreasonable’!! We should have known it long ago but it is never too late. In our future actions we have to factor in such realizations.

In short what have we to do to achieve our past glory and contribute to the welfare of our society and the world that is our primary dharma as Brahmins!

Be proud of being a KP. This identity while being important for our inner strength should not be worn on ones sleeve. We now belong to world at large.

Stay connected wherever you are. Excel in your work whatever it is. That is our dharma. It is personally important to you but you are also helping the community by this. If you are following the Bhagvat Geeta and doing’nishkam karma’ then you are already an evolved person and the community feels proud of you. Your rise and excellence is the greatest asset of the biradari and it is this and this alone which will give the community the requisite clout to be effective and counted. This has to be our answer to’ their’ indifference.

Do not hate. It is a negative force, which saps energy. We have to be objective in our judgments and conclusions. There was and still is an element of population inimical to us in the valley and that has dwindled considerably and hopefully continues to shrink as time passes. But the other side of the coin is also true—a significant number think the same way as you and me think, their hearts beating the same way for a better peaceful Kashmir as ours. Whatever be the future equation we have to live with them and they in turn have to learn to live with us with dignity and honour.I see no alternative considering the present and the future social, political and economic scenarios in the subcontinent and the world .

We have to stop criticizing each and every other person.This was our habit and also came from a necessity in the valley! With limited opportunities and avenues there, people who were left behind in the race inadvertently and in a “nishkam” manner criticized and denigrated all and sundry--- to satisfy their ego! But that became a habit latter. It takes a couple of generations for such a habit to go but we could make a conscious attempt to do away with this bad habit. Difficult but possible. I am convinced if we do this much only, 50% of our problems will get solved.

Praise wherever it is deserved. It has to be genuine and coming from the heart. The boost that it will give to all of us is unimaginable. It is heartening to see that this habit has caught on!

Is it possible to keep alive our language with such a thin dispersal of the community? Yes and no. ‘ No’, because in India it will be Hindi and outside it will be English whose weight our language can hardly bear. ‘Yes’, if we have the will. It takes almost no effort. I am pleasantly surprised that my grand daughter who has entered into teens refuses to talk to me in any other language but Kashmiri! She is born and brought up in America. The big question is can we do it. If we can do it, all what I have said above becomes relevant and implementable.

We have to develop the habit of charity. There are hundreds of causes and I believe people are ready to contribute. If only it could become universal, think of the magnitude of collection. What can we not do with that corpus? This however is a tricky problem as it has been so with us always. For flimsy reasons and very small amounts many a reputations have fallen by wayside in the past and that is the reason people shirk any monetary responsibility. We have to devise a way of contributing only to a single corpus which of necessity has to be professionally managed. There are lots of ways this could be achieved and younger generation has to come up with suggestions. This effort can easily be institutionalized so that its effects are lasting and enduring.

The value of the contribution will enhance manifold if itis given as “gupt”—but that will require sacrifice of ego. Can that happen!!

I represent the proverbial “eleven families” and I can assure you that among’ them’ are brave people who waged a heroic struggle of defiance and endurance and steadfastness in the midst of danger and mayhem—all for an ideal ! The ideal of asserting a right and a sacred right at that. Their only problem is the absence of large numbers of their relatives and cohorts who otherwise would make a dynamic , vibrant and a happy society. The important thing now is to accept our positions as they are and move on.

* Dr. S.N.Dhar is a renowned physician and has been practicing medicine in Srinagar for nearly five decades now. He retired as a Professor of Medicine at Medical College Srinagar where he was instrumental in setting up the department of chest diseases. Dr. Dhar is a well known academician and has published in national and international journals besides various book chapters on chest diseases. As a World Health Organization fellow, he has lectured at various medical institutions in USA .

These days he is actively involved in Human Resource development and is the spirit behind the establishment of Pundit Parmanand Research Institute involved in research in Kashmiri heritage. He has set up the love Kashmir society .

He has been a avid sportsman, a trekking enthusiast, and has traveled widely. He is the author of 83 days and resides in RajBagh, Srinagar, Kashmir.

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