By Arun Joshi
For Kashmiri Pandits, the miniscule Hindu minority in the overwhelmingly Muslim majority Kashmir Valley, time is frozen even after 31 years of their migration from their homeland.
Their hope to return to the land of their ancestors hangs by a thread because they themselves are unsure, and the government has no serious plan, worse still gaps between them and the Kashmiri Muslims have further widened following the abrogation of Article 370 emblematic of the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
They were virtually chased out of their homes by Pakistan sponsored terrorism to which the local youth offered their faces and voices. The community members were killed, subjected to the anti-national noises and communal slurs by mobs which supplemented the terror and spawned an atmosphere of fear for the community.
The stillness of the time haunts them as they observe January 19 as “Holocaust day” in their attempt to redraw the international attention toward their plight to which they were subjected to by the Islamic militants in the run up to 1990, the calendar year of eruption of militancy in Kashmir. They have equated their migration to the prosecution of Jews at the hands of Nazis in Germany. This term has been used to draw parallels and to make the world community to believe that Kashmiri Hindus, better known as Kashmiri Pandits.
“ How else should we describe it , there was darkness all around, the shrieks of those who were killed , and the huddle of fear and the only escape route was to leave our homes for safety elsewhere,” said Rajinder Koul, who lived in Habba Kadal – a Kashmiri Pandit locality in Srinagar. Those were terrible times for the community , as it fled from different parts of the Valley and landed in Jammu. They had no idea where their neighbours, friends and relatives found shelter . The community was disintegrated. They started a search for survival and also a search for the community members in the places which were unknown to them.
where they had no idea where their friends and relatives found the shelter . The best thing that the government could offer to them was tents on the outskirts of Jammu – the privacy and dignity were put to shame there as family of seven to eight people had to spend nights under one tent each.
Today, the frozen time doesn’t suggest that the community that fled its homes and hearths has not moved on in their lives . They have . Many of them have made a mark at the national level, and several of them are well-settled in foreign countries as well- where they have played their victim card and also joined the forces perpetuating Islamophobia . They are victims and they have taken leaves out of their experiences to tell the world that how Islamic fundamentalism manifests in the brutal ways . Even the younger generation , whose only connect with the Valley is through map or the tales they heard from their parents and grandparents are unwilling to forget and forgive .
The Kashmiri Pandit community was the cheer leader in calling for the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir , that, they argued was the source of the expansion of Islamic radicalism .
Kashmiri Pandits are Indians by their conviction . They had become an eyesore for those who were aspiring for “ independence of Kashmir” . Though though it is a fact that Kashmiri Muslims not long ago were in a mood to accommodate Kashmiri Pandits amidst them , but the way they find that the community has been maligned as a whole , they have developed second thoughts.
Over the years since they migrated from the Valley, the governments at the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir kept on rolling out promises and schemes but made no serious effort to open the communication between them and the Kashmiri Muslims. The communication gap widened further with the rise in militancy in Kashmir and more and more Kashmiri Muslims started seeing Kashmiri Pandits weaponing their pain against the Muslims .
Things are improving in Kashmir , but not to the extent where they can go back and settle in the Valley . The government intervention has made the matters worse. While it constructed special housing for them in Jammu improved their living conditions, enhanced the relief amount. But the Government could not construct a path for their return journey. The Kashmiri Pandit migrants are gradually getting reconciled to their destiny , and seek solace in reliving their pain on January 19, which they have listed as “ Holocaust Day” in their calendar.
About the Author:
Arun Joshi is a senior journalist based in J&K. He has worked with Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express and The Tribune.
He has authored “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War” and three other books.
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