After three weeks of blogging here I am sure most of you who happen to be a regular to this blog now would have basically understood that our idea of being here is not to promote the jinogism or any hatred against a particular community. We are here because we know Kashmir and Kashmiris have suffered – regardless of his / her faith – we speak about the harsh treatment meted out to some in one way and we talk about suffering of others others in a different context. And while acknowledging that this misfortune has befallen almost every soul, who is connected to the valley in some or the other way, let us come forward and express our thoughts about each other even if at times there are highly dissenting voices from either side. Lets atleast agree to one thing – to disagree.
A friend of mine suggested that I should express my thoughts about how do we feel about the Pandits and the opinions expressed by them. So here we are and in this post of mine I will highlight why I feel the participation of Kashmiri Pandits in any discussion on Kashmir is of paramount importance.
We all know that most of the Kashmiri Pandits (either by coercion or by force or whatever you may like to call that) lost their homes and left for some of the most un-welcome places at the start of the militancy (or tehreek – you may use any word). Strangely enough Kashmiri Muslims were as confused as anyone as to what the reasons for the exodus is… Some presumed it as Jagmohan’s siyaasi-saazish while some were certain in their mind that it was the game plan for the militants to “sanitise” the land. Most of my Kashmiri Pandit friends say that they were clearly threatened with dire consequences lest they convert to the faith of the majority.
As I have mentioned earlier I am too ordinary a soul to claim that I know the whole story – but as far as my knowledge goes there were no particular threats issued from our neighborhood mosque to “convert or else“. May be the scenario in other areas was different. And now when I remember the kind of slogans that were raised at our local mosque, it seems they were not totally “innocuous”. I say that based on my personal choice. Tomorrow if majority demands that the law of the land (where I live in) be suddenly changed to suit the demands of their faith only (of which I am not a part) and this is blared endlessly from loud speakers right into my home, I think I have a reason to be paranoid. So slogans like Yahaan Kya Chalega — Nizaam-e-Mustafa (Only the rule of Prophet (PBUH) will prevail here) or Pakistan se rishta kya.. and countless others being heard time and again at every nook and corner surely would have made Kashmiri Pandits fear the worst.
I still wonder who coined these slogans and whether it was done out of a purpose or was it something which was quite instinctive. Whatever be the case, the supporters (if some one says now he never supported this is either lyeing or he was not there at that time or else he has to be a sooth-sayer) at the same time made no efforts to also highlight the concept of universal brotherhood that is enshrined in the tenets of Islam. In the absence of which Pandits had no choice but to leave. And it was not an easy choice to make. Atleast, I think that way and am open to discussing this with whosoever comes forward. Having said that, what role did the administration or any other central agencies play is something which is open to interpretation. Could they have done anything different to prevent this exodus – I am not sure they bothered, just as no one bothers about how many Kashmiris fall prey to violence on a daily basis.
I am sure that the psyche of the Kashmiri Pandits must have been under tremendous strain not only because of incessant sloganeering but also since lot of Pandits were killed at the hands of militants after being branded as mukhbir (So were countless Muslims after tagging them similarly or a more heinous version). A call by a prominent militant organisation asking gair-muslim (non-Muslims) to vacate the land did not help either though the same militant group later said it was a typo and it should have read gair-kashmiri (non-Kashmiri). To me this is has to categorise as the most costly typo in the world – more costlier than last year’s typo by a Mizuho broker.
Now coming to the main post… For me a Kashmiri Pandit is as important as any other Kashmiri Muslim whom I know or with whom I share no acquaintance. They have as much a right to decide about the future of Kashmir as we have. Even if we want, Pandits cannot simply be wished away. I can hear some murmurs pointing to the fact that when Kashmir needed to present a united face to the outside world they were simply not there; then why such clamour to join at this juncture. My response to such reasoning is that you need to first of all understand the reasons – I repeat threat coercion or whatever – why they left the place which was their own and moved to the climes which at best can be described as inhospitable. No one on the face of earth likes to be displaced from his own home to a land of uncertainities, un-welcome culture and what not.
I have been scouring for blogs by Kashmiri Pandits and I am not surprised to see varying opinions – some very blunt in their thoughts as to how they have been “let-down” by almost everyone while a few (and its not a huge majority – I must contend) do understand the pain everyone in Kashmir is going through. While there are some who are optimistic of visiting their homes in Kashmir and get settled like they used to two decades ago others are not sure they would go back even if the situation is very conducive for their return. The people who fall in the second category are among that group which is well-settled in various parts of the world and returning to Kashmir would be like starting from a scratch. For them, it could mean yet another displacement and I am not sure they would be looking ahead to that. While for others who are living in squalid conditions in refugee camps in Jammu (or elsewhere) nothing less than a return to their homes is required.
The need of the hour now is to first of all recognise Kashmiri Pandits as equal stake holders in the future of the valley. At the same time both the communities must go for self-introspection and try to understand why the things went wrong and how to correct it. Continuing to shift the blame to either side is an exercise in futility. Its not that Kashmiris have lost the guts to raise the voice against evil – For that matter we continue to do this – but either our voice is suppressed through invocation of draconian acts (of laws) or by threats from the other side. Every Kashmiri needs the space (and the freedom) to express his thoughts freely and if some one dissents that he / she may also come to the discussion table rather than resort to coercion or threat of a physical retribution.
I must mention that any discussion on the subject of Kashmir between two nuclear nations will be meaningless if the aspirations of the people who are in Kashmir are not taken into account. And at the same time, if wishes of the Kashmiri Pandits (who have left) are not considered the solution arrived at has the potential to foment more trouble. So it is essential that both India and Pakistan understand that any solution foisted on the hapless Kashmiri people may be counter-productive and so every attempt be made to make the discussions broad based. But before that intelligentsia from both the communities need to shed the communal cloak that they have put on for quite some time and look at the Kashmir as a human issue. Till the time a Kashmiri is viewed as a terrorist and Pandits thought of as Indian agents we will get absolutely nowhere.
May Almighty give each one of us the sense to understand that it is high time to set aside our differences, acknowledge the fact that we need to work together and that we start in earnest before it gets too late.