…… time to introspect ………
Activists burn tyres to block the road during Jammu-bandh to mourn the death of Kuldep Kumar Dogra who committed suicide while protesting against the revocation of Amarnath land transfer to Shrine Board, in Jammu. on July 24th. Photo By RAMAN RAINA
| lmost nineteen years have passed by since the community under threat from the Kashmiri pan Islamists, was forced to flee the valley- the land of their ancestors, leaving their homes & hearths behind. Most, relieved after having managed to survive the onslaught, did actually right off all that was left behind, yet all hoped to return back to the valley in not so distant future then. ‘Displacement under duress was only transient’, was the common belief.
But now almost two long decades down, the 'existence' continues to be that of the "the refugees in their own country". There is the hope, the yearning, yet no light visible from 'across the tunnel'.
While the successive Govts. at the centre & in the state have periodically made fleeting references that could at best be described as 'tokenism' with regards rehabilitation of the Hindu Pandits back in Kashmir, the fact remains that no tangible attempts have ever been made to see the return of the exiled community. Symbolic calls to return sound hollow when most properties left by the Pandits today stand vandalised or usurped through encroachments & distress sales. Instead there appears to be a sinister design to keep them away from the valley permanently.
A closer scrutiny of the events preceding & following the SASB land transfer gives rise to suspicion that the vested interests while mischievously attributing total Muslim character to the valley are bent upon depriving the aboriginal Hindus of their legitimate right to exercise their authority over the use of their own land for religious or other purposes in Kashmir. It is not a question of a mere 100 acres of land at those hazardous & uninhabitable heights but a larger & serious issue of the shocking trend being followed to erase the historical presence of Pandits in the valley. The process is on- history is being rewritten & towns & other places are being renamed. Venerated 'Anantnag' has become 'Islamabad' while the ancient 'Hari Parvat' believed to be the centre of Cosmic Energy is being called now as 'Kohe Maran'.
Today, even the long cherished Kashmiriyat is being targeted as an 'imposition' on the faith itself. Wild allegations of cultural invasion & demographic manipulations are only ominous of the proclivity to thwart any move that could lead to the return of the natives.
General political apathy towards the plight of the displaced community is evident in the absence of any significant political initiative to engage the community in a purposeful dialogue. Most political parties are disinterested since it is assumed that the whole community by virtue of being 'Hindu' was automatically affiliated to a particular ideology, therefore deserves to be condemned. It is preposterous. It is also well known that like any other social group in the country, Kashmiri Hindu Pandits continue to owe allegiance to various political ideologies. The state assembly elections are approaching soon & it will not be surprising to see Hindu Pandit candidates representing various parties fighting elections for the lone seat of Habbakada constituency in Srinagar…. They might be disappointed with the respective political parties for their indifference towards their cause but affiliations still remain there. In any case, today, it is the number game & the vote value that only appeal the politicians & we as a minuscule minority fail on these accounts.
Indian media is generally commended for upholding the freedom of speech, secular values & democracy. But it has failed to intervene & project the pathetic treatment meted out to the Kashmiri Hindus. Indian Media could actually take credit for having accorded political legitimacy to the perpetrators- the self appointed communal leaders whose sole aim continues to be the secession of Muslim dominated Kashmir valley. During the recent uproar over SASB land transfer issue, one leading national TV channel described the protests in Jammu as ‘anti Kashmiriyat’ & ‘divisive’ while attributing sub nationalism & secularism to the brazen intolerance exhibited by Muslim fundamentalists in the valley. In any case it is so well known that ‘Media is where action is’ and since Hindu Pandits in exile protest only peacefully, they usually do not attract media attention.
It was a conscious decision on the part of the community to resist the temptation to resort to violence or armed resistance to fight back following the mass exodus in 1990. Community was subjected to ethnic cleansing only because it symbolised Indian presence in the valley, therefore recourse to any kind of violence went against their own belief in the very nationalism. It goes to the credit of the community that in spite of the acute provocations Hindu Pandits did not retaliate even once in exile. As a matter of fact what all is left of Kashmiriyat now, it only exists outside Kashmir today in the hearts of grieving Hindu refugee Pandits what with the stifled voice of the vast Muslim majority masses going unheard in the backdrop of gun & roar of zealots in the valley.
But from the day one Hindu Pandits have been energetically campaigning. There has been mobilisation to reach out to the civil society in order to highlight the ordeal….. .there is a political agenda which includes a demand for a ‘separate homeland’ under the direct rule of the central government….. there is also visible vibrant activism to preserve the cultural & ethnic identity……
Yet we don’t seem to have reached anywhere …. certainly nowhere closer to the mother dale.
Therefore, pause & time for introspection…………….
PS: Recent events in the state prompted me to compose the following sms-
Aboriginal Kashmiri in exile responds….
Mujhe beghar karne wale, Bedakhal karne ki koshish na kar ;
Chape chape par nishan hai mere vadi main, Mitane ki koshish na kar!
Geron ka parcham, geron ka khanjar, Sadiyon se azma chukka hai tu ;
Dekh ab to main akela bhi nahin , Mere karwan main mera hamdard bhi hai!
Lot aoonga main, phir se basaonga basti , Yeh vada raha…
*Lalit Ambardar: A Building Design Consultant, presently based in Delhi. Has been a ‘programme coordinator’ for foreign TV & Radio bureaus. Regularly writes on 'Kashmir' in response columns of national dailies. Interests include acting & modelling.
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