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Kashmiri Pandits Long for Home

There was a time when the fruits of harmony, in its entirety, were savoured in the Valley. Muslims did not consider their Hindu brothers as minorities. Rather they were revered as educated and intelligent members of society, members of the Brahmin community residing in the Kashmir Valley. Despite being in the minority, they have enjoyed an elevated status in the valley.

The gruesome period in Kashmir from the late 1980s and 90s had a lasting effect on its Hindu community too. Freshly trained men-with-ammunition from Pakistan-administered Kashmir thought the Hindus won’t like their ‘Jehad’, as they do not want freedom from India. The situation worsened with the target killings of innocent Kashmiri Pandits, creating panic in the community. The fighters believed that members of the Hindu community would report to Indian authorities their location, enabling soldiers to trace them and kill them. In the midst of curfews Jagmohan, then the Governor of Kashmir, instead of offering them security within Kashmir, arranged for their safe passage to Jammu region and Muslims became suspicious and thought of it as a conspiracy of government. Rumours started flying among Muslims that Jagmohan had assured Hindus that Kashmir will be only for them. The displaced Hindus, their migration was first meant for a few months until the situation would be fine, sadly could not return. Kashmiri Pandits regarded their migration as ‘exodus’ and a well arranged plan of ‘Pakistan-backed militants to throw them out from Kashmir’. Many families did not migrate at all and they are still living in that brotherhood known as ‘Kashmiriyat’ with their Muslim neighbours. There are versions of narratives and counter narratives about the incidents that lead to their migration.

Kashmiri migrants that qualified under the relief category are provided monthly cash aid of Rs 2500 per person subject to maximum of Rs 10000 per family per month. The fact is that Pandits of Kashmir are well settled and are spread over the globe. Their identity crisis resonates, and they are living in internal-diasporas. They, mostly older people who lived most of their lives here, are carrying the agony and nostalgia of their lost homes, their life in Kashmir, their ancestral heritages and values which they had to leave behind in order to save their lives. Their experience is similar to the Hindus all of whom have a burning desire to return to Kashmir. Most of the new generation, who are born and brought up in the cultures outside Kashmir, would balk at the idea of swapping the security of their lives to live in a worn-torn place.

There have been many debates surrounding the return of this 'exiled' community. The Government’s latest proposal of providing composite colonies for these returnees to Kashmir is as toxic an idea as was their migration. This idea is not only opposed by local Kashmiris but also the Hindu families who live here. Separatists are in favour of their return to their ‘original homes’, although they would not allow the construction of separate townships. Kashmir is equally theirs too and they have to bear in mind that Kashmir is a war-ravaged region and separate townships will prove a disaster, creating tension and disharmony. The composite colonies may be a welcome step for those migrants who sold their properties long ago and are now hoping the Government will help them to obtain some land in Kashmir where they can while away their summers. Kashmiri Pandits have suffered immensely and should now see beyond the play of politics and political systems that construct a reality which serves its own agenda. Politics is mad, bad and dangerous to know. Every Kashmiri wishes for a return of the Hindu community to their roots so they may live as they were living before, in peace alongside the majority population.    

Muddasir Ramzan studied English Literature. He was born in 1990 in Kashmir, India, where he resides. He can be reached at muddasirramzan[at]gmail[dot]com