Pandits and Mus­lims of Kash­mir need re­union of hearts more than the phys­i­cal merger

Views from Sri­na­gar

Pakistan Observer - - KASHMIR - [The writer is a post-grad­u­ate in Man­age­ment Stud­ies from the Univer­sity of Kash­mir]

S. S QADRI HE ‘re­turn of Kash­miri Pandits’ is an is­sue that has been in­flated along the wrong con­tours turning it more com­pli­cated than it ought to be. The threads that need to be pulled and sorted out one af­ter the other are be­ing wound up into a con­vo­luted knot. This is­sue is po­si­tioned so in­tri­cately within the com­plex­i­ties of Kash­mir im­broglio that a so­lu­tion in real sense plac­ing the com­mu­nity com­fort­ably and ho­mo­ge­neously, gelling with oth­ers, seem to be not within the priorities en­vi­sioned. Their re­set­tle­ment plans ap­pear to be drawn on paper, ef­fec­tively sketched out to in­car­cer­ate the com­mu­nity. If a small ‘zoo’ is what they fathom would save the en­dan­gered com­mu­nity is all that could be pos­si­bly es­tab­lished for them, then the barbed out pock­ets with sirens and se­cu­rity is enough and ap­pro­pri­ate pro­to­col to be em­barked upon. But Kash­miri Pandits are not the an­i­mals that ought to be caged down in their own home land just be­cause their re­turn would suf­fice cer­tain egos. They are not the guinea pigs to be ex­per­i­mented upon and to prove that the land does be­long to them too.

Kash­miri Pandits demon­strate an im­por­tant frag­ment of Kash­miri so­ci­ety and cul­ture with strong eth­nic streaks to estab­lish their roots back in Kash­mir. They do not need any hand hold­ing and cos­seted re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion in the se­cluded com­part­ments. Kash­mir be­longs to them as equally as it be­longs to Kash­miri Mus­lims and there is no deny­ing that the Mus­lims back in Kash­mir are wait­ing for them with open arms. But if they are pock­eted out and par­ti­tioned off in the cor­ners of the land, there seems to be some­thing sin­is­ter to start with the plan it­self.

With this plan of cre­at­ing dis­crete colonies for them, they can­not be ex­pected to as­sim­i­late with the cul­ture they be­long to, they can­not be ex­pected to in­te­grate with the medium they are re­vert­ing to, they can­not be ex­pected to gel with the peo­ple of Kash­mir the way they would. Then why

Therd­ing them with the hos­tile para­pher­na­lia to the land that ac­tu­ally be­longs to them? Some 25 odd years back, the vi­o­lent flip in the re­la­tions with In­dia, hap­pen­ing to be a secular coun­try, was con­strued by some as a strug­gle to part away from this coun­try on the grounds of re­li­gion. This no­tion led to the ex­o­dus of Pandits in the early years of 90’s, trig­gered by some grue­some killings of both Hin­dus and Mus­lims in Kash­mir. Kash­miri Pandits, on see­ing blood spilling, pre­ferred shift­ing them­selves to safer ar­eas like some Mus­lims did. The wave of mi­gra­tion among Pandits dur­ing those days spread like a wild fire trig­gered es­sen­tially on the plank of ru­mors that Kash­mir is turning into Pak­istan and this com­mu­nity is des­tined to be butchered out in the process. The re­minder of mass killings of 1947, post par­ti­tion, of a par­tic­u­lar com­mu­nity buzzed in the air adding fuel to the mis­giv­ings spread by some fa­natic zealots who wanted to color the Kash­miri ag­i­ta­tion with re­li­gious shade. And in the process Kash­miri Pandits shifted their base down to Jammu or to the plains of In­dia.

There is no recorded ev­i­dence of any threat in writ­ing or an­nounce­ments prop­a­gated by any agency or Mus­lim com­mu­nity against the Kash­mir Pandits. Those who pre­ferred stay­ing back did live and are liv­ing as com­fort­ably in their houses and vil­lages as their Mus­lim neigh­bors. In fact, they are more pam­pered for hav­ing shown their sup­port and their re­silience dur­ing the years of tur­moil when their Mus­lim neigh­bors slogged. Never ever has any attack on the Pandits taken place on their an­nual visit to Kher-Bhawani when they come in hordes. Had there been any threat they would have been easy tar­gets on their mass ar­rival. Even Mus­lims host them, of­fer them lunches and din­ners. Now, why this phe­nom­e­non of caging them in sep­a­rate colonies when their re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion at the level of com­mu­nity in their na­tive vil­lages should be fo­cused upon. This sep­a­rate home­land con­cept is more pre­dis­posed to prove coun­ter­pro­duc­tive and might pos­si­bly boomerang. This would give a sense of sep­a­rate iden­tity to Pandit com­mu­nity and the Mus­lim com­mu­nity would feel that they are not be­ing trusted, Pandits are be­ing cod­dled at the cost of their honor and some­thing or the other taken away from them is the cost of their re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

This trust deficit, be­ing planted in the hearts of both the com­mu­ni­ties, would drive them away from each other. And th­ese small Pandit colonies would be­come more sus­cep­ti­ble to the anger of the other com­mu­nity which might man­i­fest into fre­quent stone pelt­ing at­tacks on them or even would lead to the re­stric­tion of free move­ment of the mem­bers of this com­mu­nity.

Be­sides this, let those Kash­miri Pandits who cry hoarse on the tele­vi­sion chan­nels in fa­vor of th­ese colonies first come and stay in the colonies al­ready ex­ist­ing for a month and then de­cide on be­half of the hap­less com­mu­nity.

It is not easy to live in the pro­jected hos­tile en­vi­ron­ment with the muz­zle of the gun, over their shoul­ders, pro­tect­ing the gates and build­ings, the CCTV’s mon­i­tor­ing their move­ments end­lessly and the threat of be­ing at­tacked con­stantly cloud­ing their minds. Be­fore tak­ing a con­scious de­ci­sion on the is­sue, if at all they are to be placed in sep­a­rate colonies, a proper plan needs to be drawn which should in­clude the reg­is­tra­tion of those Kash­miri Pandits who ac­tu­ally want to come.

The reg­is­tra­tion should not be just for the sake of en­try into the ledgers but ac­tu­ally can­celling all the ben­e­fits they are get­ting out­side so as to force them to come back. Fan­ning the pas­sions by a few and shout­ing out de­mands to come back and then ei­ther not com­ing or com­ing to gath­ers the ben­e­fits in terms of jobs or fi­nan­cial pack­ages and then flee­ing back makes the whole process re­dun­dant and pur­pose­less. —Cour­tesy: GK

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