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When Pandits left!

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By: Azhar Aalam Mir

World is full of religious people- people believing in one or the other religious ideology- which is clear from numerous studies indicating that nearly 84% of the world’s population is religious. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir, majority of the people follow Islam as their religion. I believe that every religion teaches us to live a peaceful and respectable life full of love and compassion not just for people belonging to the same religion but also for those whose beliefs may be different. While religions are all but guiding factors for life, there are however flaws in every community that brings a bad name to a religion.

In this part of the world the politics of communalism has created a binary between different religions or communities and religion is used to manipulate people for political gains.

The same happened in Kashmir in 1990’s.

January 2019, which marks the 29th year of Pandit migration from Kashmir valley must be an occasion for us to look into the facts that led to such a tragedy that drove thousands and thousands of Kashmiri Pandits out of their homes and left them no other option but to stay in migrant camps in Jammu. One of the most inhuman and diabolical incident in the history of Kashmir which many believe was orchestrated by people with political and administrative control at that point in time. Most of the Kashmiris believe that Jagmohan, the then Governor, was responsible for the migration and many also believe that some sections of Kashmiri Muslims were responsible for this barbaric incident.

During 1987 state elections, Muslim United Front was seen emerging as a potent force with its manifesto to work for Islamic unity and against political interference from the New Delhi. Massive rigging was reported later on that led to a result which was unacceptable to the masses who thought that the losing candidates of parties including NC and INC were declared winners. It shook the ordinary people’s faith in the process of elections here.

Subsequently Farooq Abdullah was elected as CM leading a coalition govt formed with INC. But the anger of the masses soon disrupted everything and the events led to the rise of militant insurgency in the valley. The Centre then appointed Jagmohan as governor, Farooq Abdullah resigned, and the state came under governor rule as per Section 92 of J&K constitution on 19 January 1990.

On 19 January 1990 when Jagmohan took over the state, the situation got out of control and the night became the worst nightmare to Kashmiri Pandits as well as Muslims. While one cannot deny the fact that some section of people went on to shouting anti-hindu slogans from the mosque loudspeakers, many derogatory and sexist as well as anti-hindu slogans were drafted on walls that created psychological fear among Pandits, there is however another side of the story that starts and ends with Jagmohan.

Well, there is lot of evidence that the migration was an orchestrated event and somebody in authority had put in a sizeable effort in executing it. There is evidence that the transport was provided in a planned manner to Pandits in particular localities. A kashmiri pandit leader, KL Kaul had held the communal elements, particularly Jagmohan, responsible for the entire episode.

It is believed that Jagmohan’s efforts to organize things was meant to safe passage of pandits to Jammu or elsewhere and he would be able to deal with the situation better where stringent laws to curb militancy were already in force and these laws couldn’t be freely applied on a mixed population i.e. Hindus and Muslims. But when the situation got out of his hand, he was removed on 26 May 1990 as the governor of the state and within two weeks, on 6 July 1990, the valley was slapped with the barbaric and inhumane law called AFSPA (Armed forces special powers act) which continues till date.

While the various aspects of Pandit migration are open to discussions for all, one thing that has become clear is that every Kashmiri wants their Pandit brethren to return home.  But unfortunately there isn’t any strong political will, either at the state level or in New Delhi for taking serious measures to ensure the same.

In 2007 a survey conducted by the ‘Centre for the Study of Developing Societies’ New Delhi, 84% of people in Srinagar want to see the return of Kashmiri Pandits. A MORI survey in J&K found 92% respondents opposed to the state being divided on the basis of religion or ethnicity. But Government of India doesn’t seem interested in the rehabilitation of Pandits, probably because Pandits do not constitute a vote bank.

Since 90s govt hasn’t taken any recognizable initiative to bring Pandits back to the valley. Govts have come and gone but none has been able to find a unique solution and if they did something, they would come up with some controversial ideas like the proposal of separate colonies. There is much more to life than just finding a house to stay and Kashmiri Pandits don’t have a house to live in, they want homes. The proposal of separate colonies was a totally flawed policy and a very detrimental one intended by New Delhi to create a huge division among Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims. It is obvious that Kashmiri Muslims want Pandits to return, but not in separate colonies.

Initiatives like PM packages, cash relief and some govt jobs aren’t going to solve their problems permanently. The government must come up with an innovative policy to settle the issue once for all.

Though I wasn’t born at the time when migration happened, but I have always felt guilty for the same- probably because of the heightened narratives and also lack of information and facts- But I am eagerly waiting for Kashmir to be what it was in the stories that we have heard from our parents and grandparents. Kashmir that was represented by Lala-Ded and Nund Reshi was the real heavn on earth!

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