Kashmiris cannot live peacefully and with dignity outside Kashmir. History has proved it time and again. Professor BL Ban writes in his Paradise Lost: Seven Exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits that the community had to migrate from the Valley seven times, and accuses Bulbul Shah of having scripted one such episode. He has not spared the Chaks, the Sultans and the Afghans either. All of them, according to him, persecuted the community and forced its migration.
The irony is that he also accuses Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, GM Sadiq, Ghulam Muhammad Shah and even Dr Farooq Abdullah of engineering what he calls the exodus of the Pandits during their respective regimes. But he fails to mention how many Pandits left the Valley from 1947 to 1989 and where in India they had settled. The only place he has cited is the one where Nehru’s marriage was solemnized.
Bhan has molested history. But even if, for the sake of argument, his contentions are taken as correct, they lead to a historical fact – that the Pandits have returned after every exodus!
The migrants are perceived as intruders in Jammu and elsewhere, notwithstanding the packages offered by Maharastra, Gujarat and some other states. Slowly but surely the community is getting diluted. A human being cannot survive on reservations in technical institutions, jobs in big business houses and hollow slogans alone. Something else is also needed. And what is needed was clearly stated by the President of the Kashmiri Pandit Community (KPC), Kundan Kashmiri, while addressing a meeting in Jammu on September 22, 2012.
He said that the urgent need of the hour for every member of the community was to pledge concerted action on the following points, which he termed as the community’s burning issues:
1. Avoid inter-caste marriages. This dilutes the community’s ethos, rituals and other ways of life, and has an adverse impact on its population growth.
2. Increase and enhance the community’s population by avoiding the one or two children norm. Don’t allow the community to perish within a decade.
3. Preserve and promote the community’s own language. Make it a habit to talk to children in the Kashmiri language which is the community’s mother tongue.
So, it has finally dawned on the Pandits that they are slowly but surely getting drowned in the huge human ocean called India. The Sarasvat Brahmins are on the verge of extinction. Therefore, they have no option but to return to their roots, although the people who claim to represent them have made it clear in private meetings that they would never do so, for obvious reasons.
But reports from the ground reflect the desperation of the hapless migrants. They want to return.
Sensing the mood of the community, these self-styled leaders issue statements from time to time to politicize its homecoming, or to put it plainly, make it difficult.
A newly-launched organization claiming to speak on behalf of Kashmiri Pandits has demanded a single township within the Valley to rehabilitate the migrant community. The chairman of the organization, Mr Pajnoo, addressed a press conference in the summer capital on Saturday, saying that the township was the only viable solution for resettling displaced Pandits.
According to him, Pandits are living a life of exile outside the Valley and their rehabilitation is not possible in isolated places or ancestral villages or areas in view of the prevailing situation In Kashmir. He urged the government to take immediate measures in this direction.
Several such organizations have been demanding a state within Kashmir for quite some time now. They have been issuing statements to enforce the demand, much to the disquiet of the people of Kashmir. Economic packages by New Delhi and the state government notwithstanding, the people of Kashmir have a major role to play in the Pandits’ homecoming. People here have never opposed their return. On the contrary, they have been speaking about their honourable and dignified rehabilitation in their native places in the Valley.
But some self styled leaders of the migrants seem to ignore this reality. They have to bear in mind that, with all its military might, the Government of India has failed to send the migrants back to Kashmir for the past twenty-three years. It is the people of Kashmir who can facilitate their return. But when unscrupulous people, claiming to represent the migrants, issue foolish statements to cause psychological injury to the people of Kashmir, the consequences can only be imagined.
Such self styled leaders make a living out of exploiting the hapless migrants. The saner elements among the community need to wake up and take appropriate measures. They should take the people of Kashmir on board if they are genuinely interested in rehabilitation of the community. Whatever the plan is, it has to be endorsed by the people of Kashmir who are averse to the very idea of a “separate homeland,” for it negates the traditions of harmony and amity Kashmir stands for.
A realistic plan with emphasis on resettling Pandits in their native places, particularly practicable in large measure in rural Kashmir, would be a sane and rational path to rehabilitation. Ghettoising a community, with centuries of shared history and living, is a thoroughly bad idea, unjust, and a slur on all Kashmiris.