Amongst the various religions that prevail in the biggest democracy in the world, there have been disputes, struggles and a history that are not just sad but horrifying at times.
Amongst them, there are Kashmiri Pandits who have faced huge suffering from time to time. ‘It is ironic that a Kashmiri Pandit is an Indian and yet he is a refugee in his own land.’ A minority of Kashmiris are still struggling to come to terms with their displacement!
Though, it is not the same thing, at least the majority have thrown themselves back into the hurly-burly of a daily regimen. Survival after all is essential and since nature abhors a vacuum, life has to go on.
There is, however, a minority, which is still struggling to come to terms with this displacement. These are the economically weaker sections of the community which are making do just to subsist.
Homeless as they have been denied by heartless politicos a place to settle in the Valley of Kashmir.
The community meanwhile, as a whole, deprived of their madre-vatan continues to make its presence felt. I must confess that I am not a refugee, though I was born in the land of my ancestors, very much in the Valley of Kashmir.
Against that, I would like to believe that I am an Indian first. But at another level, I am also a Kashmiri, my roots call out to me constantly.
They ask me searching questions, they probe, they irritate my subconscious wanting to know what I have done about my heritage, legacy, call it what you will.
But the tale of Kashmiri Pandits is even worse. The Kashmiri Pandits are a lost community and perhaps at one level a lost generation.
They have lost all connectivity with their motherland, they probably fear going back despite protestations from the radicals who ‘openly and publicly’ welcome them back. To avail what?
They are the second-rate citizens in their own country, there is no quota for them, there is no freebie given, there is nothing that makes them allowance for their unique predicament. It is said that the Kashmiri Pandits were stampeded from the Valley in those trying years between 1989-90.
The reality is that the fear psychosis triggered by the rule of the gun and several cases of ethnic cleansing propelled them into taking this decision.
It didn’t happen overnight, Kashmiri Pandits had lived through other such attempts in the past. What changed? The systematic pogrom to target all those who symbolised India in the Valley worked like clockwork.
The terror network thrives on creating a fear factor. If that meant going after co-religionists, then so be it.
That was phase one, create a fear psychosis amongst the majority community.
With a silenced majority reduced to mute onlookers, the terror network now got to phase two, leading advocate and political activist Tika Lal Taploo was first threatened and then gunned down.
Just as Justice Neel Kanth Ganjoo – the man who had delivered the verdict against Maqbool Bhatt – was shot dead. Director General Doordarshan Lassa Kaul was the next victim followed by leading Sanskrit and Persian scholar Saravanan Kaul Premi.
In Anantnag, another advocate and activist Prem Nath Bhat met the same fate.
But break point came when a nurse Sarla Bhat in the Sher-e-Kashmir Medical Institute in Sohra was abducted, gang raped and then her mutilated and decapitated body was thrown at the Habakadal thoroughfare. In yet another sensational ethnic cleansing killing, Bal Kishen Ganjoo was done to death in his own house.
The message for the minority community was loud and clear, in fact, it was a neon sign being held in their faces. Get out is what it said. Many of my very close relatives, including my mother’s sisters, had to flee the Valley in the darkness of the night.
Fear had transcended the Valley. Twenty years later, all of them in our their own small ways grapple with this reality of being taken out of the Valley. I cannot imagine how those who have migrated out of the Valley cope with this harsh reality, how they deal with the demons in their heads, how they adjust to their new locations and environment.
I know that several of my family friends and acquaintances have rebuilt their lives, the process has been difficult, but they were economically better off than a whole host of families.
Not knowing when their lives will be extinguished. It is better to live across the Banihal Pass amongst people who are not looking to kill them. Yes, as refugees in their own country.
That is the distortion of being a Kashmiri Pandit, can’t live in his own land, and yet living in his own country as a refugee. This would be the greatest human misery of modern times, ever times.
(The views and opinions expressed here are that of Author, not the website).