Anupam Kher Asks: How Can Kashmiri Muslims Not Share Blame For Pandit Exodus?

15 April 2015

New Delhi: In a democratic debate, everyone has a right to express an opinion; subjective as it may be. In that spirit, I welcome Wajahat Qazi's views on what I have said about the issue of Kashmiri Hindus. But I join issue with him when he is ignorant of facts and is economical with the truth. Firstly, I object to Qazi's assertion that I am 'discovering' myself through the recent imbroglio. That is arrant nonsense; for decades I have always been asserting my Kashmiri heritage. In fact in my autobiographical play, Kucch Bhi Ho Sakta Hai - of which over 350 performances have been staged in over a dozen countries - I begin by saying that I was born into a Kashmiri family! So I do not need to smoke out the Kashmir Pandit issue to proclaim my identity. But even if I was born in Shimla, the issue does not get diminished at a personal level. My ancestral house too has been abandoned and the lives of several of my cousins and other relatives have been uprooted savagely. PTI image PTI image Secondly, Qazi admits that the statement made by an MLA - that Kashmiri Pandits must apologise to their Muslim brethren for leaving them - is rather ludicrous. But he goes to grave lengths to criticise my critique of that same comment! In his anxiety to knock down my criticism, he insinuates that by me finding the situation analogous to Jews being asked to apologise to the Nazis, I am implying that the Kashmiri Muslims are 'barbaric' Nazis and the Kashmiri Pandits are victims of genocide! All this implication is in Qazi's imagination; I have never stated anything akin to a genocide. I was merely responding to a question on the MLA's statement which Qazi himself finds ludicrous. Qazi might find my assertions, which I have not made in the first place, 'insulting, damaging and unacceptable.' But he cannot offer any reason for the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, beyond giving the Kashmiri Muslims a clean chit and saying that 'it was not the majority community that drove them out.' He also says that it was 'neither genocide, nor ethnocide nor a forced exile.' Pray, tell us then, what made over 350,000 Kashmiri Hindus walk out of their homes on the days following 19 January 1990 and abandon the land they have lived in for thousands of years? Are you saying that there was no complicity on the part of the Muslims at all? And how come many of the properties of the Kashmiri Hindus are currently occupied by the majority community? Yes, many of them were purchased at rock-bottom prices on the very days preceding or following 19 January 1990 when the anti-Hindu stance of the majority community became amply clear. Come, come Mr Qazi, you cannot be so naïve after all! Yet, even if you do not see the hand of Muslims in the tragic exodus of the Hindus, I am gratified that you have agreed to term the flight of Kashmiri Pandits as an exodus at least; and not a mass walk out! It is ironic that after exculpating the majority religion, you make a grand statement: Why dwell on the past when the future awaits us? Because, if you have read the great Spanish philosopher-novelist George Santayana, you will realise the import of his saying: Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it! I too want a reconciliation. I too do not wish to flame the embers of hatred or communalism. But let us not kid ourselves with semantics. You ask, how can people be refugees in their own country? Let me tell you, neither I nor the Pandits have termed themselves refugees. Even the BBC has been referring to displaced Kashmiri Hindus as refugees. You, and the others of your mindset just need to visit the 'refugee' camps of the Pandits in Jammu to realise the plight of over two lakh people who have been driven out of their homeland. In the end, Mr Qazi, remember that the borders of a country can be drawn and re-drawn, as has happened with India. But you can never redraw the map of your homeland