Owais Ahmad Shah
Pandit exodus is a major tragedy that Kashmir has ever witnessed.Pandits were true Kashmiris,proud of their identity.Before armed insurgency in 1990s,pandits offered there sevices in Kashmir with unswerving loyalty,unfaltering commitment and steely determination.Just the arrival of militancy,the Chinar tree had started shedding off its leaves,a loud bang jolted Kashmir.Peaceful days were going to enter into tumultuous volatility.People’s happy lives were going to enter into blood and gore.Militancy started to flourish in Kashmir and pandits left their humble abode forever.Kashmir was their home and the chaos and confusion all around forced them to leave.Pandits bore brunt of tension,got killed in numbers and houses burnt to ashes.
Kashmiri Muslims lost their pandits,Shaam Lal,Makhan Lal,Prem Nath and others.Some lost their school friends,some lost neighbours and others their fellow employees.Kashmir
peace and brotherhood vanished into the thin air.People in a helter-skelter manner carried dead bodies of their loved ones and the unending bloodshed started.Kashmir started to burn.
Pandits participated in Muslim festivals and in return,Muslims would wholeheartedly take part in their festivals.The arrival of 90’s took away pandits but the memories they left with people in Kashmir are alive.The young generation of Kashmir,who are unknown to Kashmiri pandits always keep on urging elders for pandit stories.I am also one among them.I have heard about pandits,their lives.They would hold their heads high for their Kashmiri identity.Muslims would love them and they would share it back.I haven’t had any gossiping with Kashmiri pandits or its very rare I see them,but it makes me emotional when I see their houses in shambles presenting a ghastly look which not only haunts me but tugs me at the heartstrings.I always pray for their safety and rehabilitation.They should be sent back to their places.Kashmir is their home and Kashmiris are waiting to receive them with a liberal heart.
It’s very unfortunate that our pandit community is betrayed and subjected to vicious,retrogade policies by ruling dispensations at many turns.Politicians play a card of Tokenism for pandits to earn brownie points but in reality they never want their re-settlement in Kashmir.Pandits declaim their agony but that is also politicised and used as a political fodder to raise TRP’s of TV channels.Politicians leave no stone unturned to drive a wedge between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri pandits.Kashmiri Muslims are presented in such a way if they have played a major role behind the exodus.But it is a gospel truth that Kashmiri Muslims have always stood up for the resettlement of Pandits.It’s not good in a growing, healthy democracy that communal harmony is attacked for political benefits but it sends a wrong message across and vitiates the communal atmosphere.
Kashmiri pandits have not only been fobbed off with threadbare excuses by state govt of different times but central govt has also been good at false promises.
A grand overarching approach has to be put in place at the top level for their rehabilitation and resettlement.These Pandits want to live a life of dignity but they worry about safety.I hope their safety lies within confidence building.Let that hope be instilled in them and let they embrace Kashmir again.The people are waiting,The Chinar is waiting and it’s time for home return.May the joy and bliss spread all across Kashmir.May peace come and may Pandits come.
The writer is student at GDC Handwara.