June 2016 News

Is There One Genuine Soul Which Wants Kashmiri Pandits To Return?

1 June 2016
Sahara Samay
Deepika Bhan

New Delhi: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehboba Mufti said in assembly, 'Kashmiri Pandits ko baizzat layyenge, yahan saath milkar rahenge ( Kashmir Pandits will be brought back respectfully and we will live together). Pro-Pakistan hardcore separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, former JKLF terrorist turned activist Yasin Malik too have been saying that Kashmiri Pandits should come back. Omar Addullah, Farooq Abdullah and almost every known Kashmiri Muslim leader mulls the idea of the return of the beleaguered minority community. One wonders if the political class as well as the separatists have a common sentiment towards Kashmiri Pandits, then why are not they returning to the valley. Home Minister Rajnath Singh said in Parliament that in the last 25 years only one Kashmiri Pandit family has returned to Kashmir. Over five lakh Kashmiri Hindus were forced to leave valley by separatist Islamic terror forces in 1990 and out of this huge number just one family returns! It may be assumed that the minority community which left the valley en mass is now most unwilling to go back. Even Mehbooba, before becoming the CM is said to have remarked that the Pandits are better off settled outside the valley. This may be a view of those who are not conversant with the valley politics. Kashmiri Hindus were targeted in valley because of their religious ethnicity and for being Indians. And at the forefront of this campaign were likes of Geelani, Yasin Malik and many others. In fact, Yasin Malik was the one who is being accused of killings of several prominent Kashmiri Hindus in late eighties and early nineties. 25 years may be period long enough for tumultuous changes but these decades have failed to diminish pain of loss and torture among the Kashmiri Hindus. The common view among the community is that there has not been a single meaningful step by anyone in this direction. Apart from statements made here and there and sometimes announcement of some insignificant packages, no confidence building measure has been initiated by the valley forces which includes the political class or the separatist lobbies. 25 years after the forced exodus not a single person stands accused. No one has ever been arrested for killings, attacks, rape incidents, abductions and kidnappings, torture and harassment meted out to the minority. Temples and other places of worship have been desecrated, lands usurped, houses either taken over or forced selling done, no one has been even been held. Major tragedies that have occurred in the country have been investigated followed by judicial procedures but 1990 genocide which led to forced exodus has never been investigated. No civil society on intellectual has taken up the issue. No government ever thought of making a judicial commission or any investigating body to go into the issue and hold people accountable. If guilty are not identified and held accountable, how can anyone feel confident of a change which seems to be only in words and not in actuality. It is being estimated that around 2000 Kashmiri Pandits are still living in the valley. A survey done by a local Kashmiri Pandit leader has found that most of them are living in misery, constant fear, unwanted and socially and culturally cut off. Those Kashmiri Pandits who did take the offer of reserved jobs under the government scheme face everyday discrimination. Their children are forced to recite Islamic prayers in schools, they are castigated for being pro-India, their residences often stone pelted. Such tales of horror cannot be kept hidden in this age of strong social networking. These stories further create element of insecurity among the displaced Kashmiri Pandits. In these 25 years, a complete new generation is there in the valley which does not know what living with other religious community is like. Same goes with the Kashmiri Hindu community. The older generation yearns for the homeland but the newer generation which has adapted to cross cultural ties has no major affinity for strife torn valley in comparison. A return of the original inhabitants to their homeland could be possible if there is sensitivity developed on the ground level. The separatist leaders and Muslim groups have a major responsibility in this. But this does not seem to be happening. Any attempt by the government to even initiate the process of return is stubbornly thwarted by them. One of the views of creating separate Hindu majority colonies in the valley is vehemently opposed by them on the pretext that center wants to create Israel like areas. This is too hilarious a thought but the propaganda unleashed by the pro-Pakistan elements in the valley is too strong. The truth is that return of the valley's original inhabitants to their homeland is not happening very soon.