Why Should Pandits Return To Kashmir ?
4 May 2015
: I cannot understand why the Government of India is so much interested in taking some Pandits back to Kashmir valley. What will India gain by incurring a huge expenditure in trying to rehabilitate the Pandits once again in the Kashmir valley? Do our leaders in Delhi really believe that India's case will be strengthened in Kashmir if around 50,000 Kashmiri Hindus could be kept in specially created safe zones or smart cities, just as endangered animals are kept in sanctuaries or zoological parks? This is a ridiculous idea and I am shocked that the Government could mislead itself into an 'Alice in Wonderland' type dream. The Pandits are human beings and they cannot be kept in safe sanctuaries. Even if a small smart village is created for them, some where near Qazigund or Dooru or Avantipura, how will they survive under the protection of Indian forces? They have to go out for work and business, they have to visit hospitals, schools and colleges without fear, they have to have social gatherings and festivities jointly with Muslims. For any minority community anywhere in the world, the best protection is the love and trust of the majority community. In Kashmir this love was available in abundance till the year 1988. A strange change in the atmosphere took place in Kashmir at that time when Pakistan decided to wage a war against India by sending armed infiltrators called Mujahids, for annexing Kashmir by force. The Kashmiri Muslims were swayed by the Pak propaganda and they also started believing that Pundits were their enemies who would try to thwart the urge of the Kashmiri Muslims to carve out an independent Islamic Kashmir or merge Kashmir with Pakistan. Rumours spread in the whole of Kashmir that Pandits who lived in every corner of Kashmir could act as Indian agents and give information to Indian security forces about the movement of Mujahids, fighting for Kashmir's independence. A decision was, therefore, taken in Pakistan that the Pandits would have to be thrown out of Kashmir, untying the bonds of friendship and Kashmiriat. Although the actual exodus came in 1990-91, Pakistan had already taken the decision in 1988 and I could sense it while interacting with my Muslim friends and colleagues. On many occasions I advised my Pandit friends not to acquire new property in Kashmir, or renovate their old property. I advised them to settle down in Hindu dominated areas of Jammu or in Delhi. Many of my friends laughed in disbelief. Some said, 'Where shall we go? Akhir yeh hamari bhoomi hai.' They were also misled by the sweet talk of some Kashmiri Muslim friends. The Kashmiri Muslims have some very outstanding human qualities, but some of them are capable of being hypocritical. They misled many Pundits into believing that they were safe in Kashmir. The exodus of Hindus was bound to happen, it was only delayed by 44 years because by a strange twist of fate the valley of Kashmir, although 95% Muslim in 1947, continued to be an administrative part of India and did not become a part of Pakistan. While Hindus were thrown out from neighbouring West Punjab, Sindh and Pakhtoonistan, the Hindus of Kashmir did not face any immediate expulsion.Sending pandits back to Kashmir is as difficult as sending back Hindus to Lahore,Karachi,Peshawar and Dhaka-as difficult as pumping the Ganga waters from Allahabad right up to Gangotri.It is an absurd proposition indeed. The Pandits are a very intelligent and hard working race. They have made a very good name for themselves every where in India and abroad. Why should they be persuaded to again go back to the small well like Kashmir valley? If they really yearn to see their ancient mother land they can always visit Kashmir and enjoy the excellent Kashmiri cuisine and the superb weather. In any case their bonds have become weaker in the last 25 years. They speak to their children in Hindi and to a large extent the colour of Kashmiriat is fading for them day by day. Since they are living in a warmer climate, they have forgotten the use of Kangri, Samovar and Phiran. Many Pandits don't even remember the famous winter breakfast of harisa and parathas. They have forgotten the taste of haak and nadroo that are grown in Kashmir. These vegetables grown in Jammu and Punjab are not of the same taste. If Pandits have to be taken back to Kashmir, who can assure them that they will not be hounded out again? The government of India could not protect them in 1990 - what is the guarantee that they will be protected in future? What is the guarantee that in future Kashmir will never become an Islamic state? Since 95% of the Kashmir valley is Muslim( now it is 99% after the Pandit exodus) this danger will always lurk in the background. In my view no sensible Pandit will take the risk of going back to Kashmir permanently, in spite of all the sweet assurances given by the Kashmiri Muslim leaders belonging to mainstream political parties. (Amit Kushari (IAS, Retd.) is former Financial Commissioner, J&K.