Heaven is not safe


Shehjar e-magazine Shehjar Online
he valley of Kashmir is called the Paradise on Earth due to its natural invincible scenic beauty. In the seventeenth century the Mughal emperor Jahangir set his eyes on the valley of Kashmir and he said,"Gar firdaus bar ruhe zamin ast, hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast." It means that if there is ever a heaven anywhere on the Earth, it is here, it is here, it is here. Kashmir because of its natural beauty has always been a place of interest for every invader to India be it the Kings from central Asia, the Mughals or the British.

Centuries after Jahangir, one may think before reiterating the same lines. In the late 1980’s Pakistan sponsored terrorism in Kashmir, which not only destroyed the beauty of this place but also led to the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus – the Kashmiri Pandits (KP’s) who are the aboriginals of Kashmir. Twenty two years after the forced mass exodus from Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandit community is still uprooted and the dirty politics that surrounds India has been unable to justify this. Where on earth can one find this chilling example that in a Hindu dominated country, almost half a million Hindus were uprooted from their homeland? In these twenty two years government has failed to provide justice to Kashmiri Pandits (KP’s) who had left the valley at the gun point. They have been scattered all over India and most of them are still living in Jammu as refugees. These people are the citizens of India, but the irony is that they were forced to leave their homeland and live in an exile in their own country. Government has used the term ‘displaced migrants’ for them as this is the best way to identify this sect of population. Some of the older generation died in these past two decades just waiting long enough to go back to their homeland and those who were born after 1990 have never known their place of origin.

Kashmir has always been an integral part of India but the poison of militancy in Kashmir was supported by the neighbouring country Pakistan by equipping the militants with training in arms and terror strategies. This has been confirmed by Indian and US governments on numerous occasions and what more to confirm on the Pakistani involvement in terrorism when the most wanted terrorist in the World got caught in Pakistan within the vicinity of 5km from the Pakistani military academy.

There was a well planned strategy to start with the selective killings of Hindus to create fear and followed by the brutal mass killings. The growing number of brutal and barbaric killings of Kashmiri Pandits started since 1989. Their bodies bearing the marks of torture, burn injuries and mutilated. There was rise in kidnappings and later killing them mercilessly. The women were stripped and molested. Many were strangulated to death, with steel wires.

Threatening letters, asking KP’s to leave Kashmir were pasted on their doors. Full page advertisements were published in the local newspapers which asked KP’s to leave Kashmir.

Pain, agony and misery are what came with this mass exodus. It affected everyone who left the valley to save their lives. There was an extreme frustration in the young, depression and trauma in the old and small children were untold about the sufferings and hardships. This migration has affected the physical, mental and psychological health in a larger population of the Kashmiri Pandits. The horrendous events leading to their mass exodus from their native land has left them shaken. Abandoned by the political parties their plight is still unheard.

Throughout the turmoil the houses of Kashmiri Pandits were set ablaze, vandalised or looted in a broad day light. The temples – the Hindu place of worship which testified their ancient history were vandalised, destructed, demolished and set on fire.

Leaving behind their immobile property in Kashmir and deprived of their assets, this Hindu population became virtually homeless and suffered for none of their faults. The tents served as their shelter after the exodus and it had poor sanitation and unhygienic conditions which raised numerous health concerns. Due to the lack of unaffordable medical facility and want of medicines lives were lost prematurely.

There has been no rehabilitation done for this population. More and more health concerns like diabetes, depression and anxiety have emerged. Poverty and lack of education facility has hit them hard. Kids living in these conditions have a huge psychological impact and they don’t know that there can be a better way of living as they have been exposed to the same conditions since their childhood. It is a heavy price that Kashmiri Pandits have paid for their patriotism and the nation still doesn’t recognise their pain and sufferings, their voices have been unheard over two decades and they still bear the same label ‘displaced migrants’ that was given to them in 1990 during the mass exodus. Living in exile in their country for more than twenty years in itself shows how Indian democracy is a failure. The right to equality is just listed in Indian constitution but never brought into practice so far the KP’s are concerned. The militancy in Kashmir has faded out but not completely eradicated.

Over the years life has moved on for everyone but still there is a question mark that is a safe return to valley possible? How long are the Kashmiri Pandits going to suffer? And there seems to be no definite answer to it. This uprooted population is a part of Indian civilization and needs to be preserved. The Kashmiri Pandits have no means to get connected to their roots and their ancestral heritage which is over 5000 years old. Heaven is still not safe for their rehabilitation even after twenty two years.
Meenakshi Raina lives in Toronto, Canada. Passed her B.Sc Electronics from GGM Science college Jammu and Masters in Management Studies from MMS University, Mumbai in1997. She did her 10th standard from CASET Karan-Nagar and later migrated to Jammu after 12th.

Currently is in the process of writing a book - a historical fiction based on the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. She has been encouraged from the articles in Shehjar for providing in depth knowledge and understanding of Kashmiri culture and heritage.