All Kashmiris are Kashmiri, even Kashmiri Pandits. Yes, it is important to state this. Should be obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said, in very clear terms.
The Kashmiri Pandits have as much rights and claims to Kashmir, as any other community / religion.
Religion should really have nothing to do with this, but sadly, this is what it has come to.
Why am I saying all of this? Because there is an elephant in the room. And I intend to address it here.
The Kashmiri Pandit exodus is one of the blackest chapters in Kashmir’s recent history. ( champions of Whataboutery will jump in here to cite many other incidents, of course there are, and they are no less gruesome, but let’s not compare one with another, frankly, that’s cheap)
If there is one thing that gives Kashmir a bad name, it is this exodus.
How I wish it had not happened.
How I wish that Kashmiri Muslims had come out on large numbers to protest against their leaving.
It is important for Kashmiri Muslims to talk about this injustice, for if we don’t talk about this, and talk about other atrocities, we are hypocrites.
Now the question that is often asked is, why did this exodus happen?
And here, things get bizarre. Two versions, selected according to what suits one best.
One, which suits the Kashmiri Muslim conscience, is the “Jag mohan conspiracy theory”
The state facilitated the exodus.
Even if true, wouldn’t you want to leave, if you were a minority, and had different views about being Indian and Azaadi?
Of course you would want to leave. Even if for a short while, more so if the state machinery implies that it cannot protect you, and you are better off somewhere else.
Maybe the state facilitated the exodus, maybe. But does that make it less horrendous?
No. Not at all.
They left because they were afraid, for their lives.
They left because the home they had lived in for centuries was turning upside down, and they feared that they had no say in what was happening.
They left because they were a minority.
Plain and simple. With or without the state’s help, it doesn’t matter at all.
Point is, the Kashmiri Pandits lost their homes, overnight almost.
Which is a terrible terrible thing to happen.
I can’t even imagine having to give up my home of centuries, and forced to live somewhere else, as mere refugees.
Imagine having to live in a “refugee camp”, leaving behind sprawling houses.
Imagine all this and more.
Now imagine this, you go through this indignity, and your own people, the Kashmiri Muslims, deny you this acknowledgement of loss.
They claim it is all your doing, you are somehow responsible. That’s where it hurts.
Denial. ( imagine someone telling you that the GawKadal massacre didn’t happen, tells you that it is an exaggeration. Makes you boil doesn’t it ?)
Denial doesn’t help. Never. We have to confront our demons. Unless we confront and slay them, they will always have control.
Again, what’s the point of all this?
Because I am Kashmiri Muslim, I have to say this, othewise, I have no right to speak about other things happening in Kashmir.
This is an elephant in the room. And I will address it.
Why must we address this?
Because the Pandits must return, without the Pandits, there is no Kashmir. And no peace in Kashmir.
It will be a “desolation ” as Agha Shahid Ali called it.
How can they return?
Well first, the Kashmiri Muslim population needs to come out in their support. Very strongly.
We must go all out.
We must apologise. Unreservedly.
We must reconcile.
See, we can’t leave this to the politicians, they have done nothing these so many years, except play games.
And yes, we can’t have the Pandits living in Ghettos protected by “security forces ”
That would be a shame, and not a practical solution at all.
They must live as before.
Side by side with the Muslims.
As one.
Religion shouldn’t matter, once again.
Kashmiri first, then anything else.
With every right to voice their opinion about their homeland.
With dignity.
Of course. It is not a one way street, there must be reciprocation, but we must remember, they lost their home, there can be no greater sorrow than that.
Some leeway is due.
Win them over.
Is it possible? I think it is, but maybe I am an idealist.
I certainly hope to see it happening one day.
Every time I think of this.
I remember something when I was a child, my elder sister, playing with her best friend, ( a pandit) , in the garden, enacting a scene from Sholay.
Perfect times, those.
All Kashmiris are Kashmiris.