Press Trust of india

Polarisation by representative bodies could sow seeds of disharmony in Kashmir: KPs living in Valley

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“Conflict merchants on prime-time debates put our lives at risk”

Srinagar: With Kashmir still recovering from the shock of last week’s minority killings, Kashmiri Pandits living in the Valley fear that representative organisations blaming the majority community for being a silent spectator and indulging in polarisation on social media could sow the seeds of communal disharmony.

They said there is bonhomie between the two communities and the representatives of Kashmiri Pandit organisations are not aware of the ground realities.

After Makhan Lal Bindroo, a Kashmiri Pandit who owned a popular chemist chain, school principal Supinder Kaur and schoolteacher Deepak Chand were killed last week, social media was flooded with posts by several Kashmiri Pandit organisations accusing the majority community of not doing anything to protect the minorities.

“Yes, definitely yes. The polarisation done by these organisations definitely has an impact on us. Because they don’t have any stakes, whereas we do,” says Sanjay Tiku, who heads the Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS).

“It is not just now, they have been indulging in polarisation for the last 32 years. They use us for their vested interests and use the flag of nationalism before the masses for their petty gains and not for the community,” says Tiku, who stayed back in Kashmir even as a large number of members of his community chose to leave after militancy peaked in the 1990s.

He warned that “bedroom jehadis” on both sides are pushing Jammu and Kashmir towards communal tension.

“Any tech-savvy person, from either the Muslim community or the Pandit community, sitting in his bedroom has the potential to trigger communal tension in the union territory,” he said.

Tiku said that there are 3,545 Kashmiri Pandits and around 4,000 families of government employees who have been staying in the Valley and have faced every turmoil together with their Muslim neighbours.

“The government is on the job, the civil society is on the job, we are on the job and I have appealed to the majority community to use their mosques to assuage the fears of minorities so that no one moves out of the Valley,” he said.

Like Tiku, there are around 10,000 other Kashmiri Pandits who chose to stay back in the Valley during the 1990 exodus. Many of these families, who chose to remain anonymous, feel that none of the Kashmir Pandit organisations have ever held any discussions with them nor spoken in one voice.

“One’s misfortune becomes their political fortune and they are seen on the roads protesting. That is what they have been doing for the last 30 years. I believe that thousands of Muslims have cried on the killing of Bindroo saheb, who was a forgotten entity for Kashmiri Pandits,” says a Kashmir Pandit who runs a business on the outskirts of the city.

President of Vessu employee’s association Sunny Raina, who was provided a job under the Prime Minister’s employment package in 2010, feels that polarisation makes their life more difficult.

“This has been happening with us all the time. Those sitting in Delhi or Mumbai and those who sit in studios of news channels, who will never come to Kashmir, when these people talk about the ground reality, it has an effect on us.

“No one asks us and these people pontificating on news channels are unaware about the ground realities. This way our relations (with majority community) will turn bad again,” said Raina.

Vinod Raina, president of the PM Package employees’ association at Mattan in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district, feels that the atmosphere should not be vitiated by anyone for their political gains.

“When the news of the killing of teachers in Srinagar broke, our Muslim colleagues escorted us back to the camp. The bonhomie between the two communities is strong and I hope it stays like that,” said Raina, who is a teacher himself and was employed in 2010, said.

Leaders of mainstream political parties like the National Conference concurred, saying that “conflict merchants on prime-time” news have always put the lives of minorities at risk.

“No doubt it is a difficult time for the minority community but it is equally challenging for the majority community in Kashmir. Conflict merchants on prime-time debates have always put the lives of minority community (members) at risk,” says Umesh Talashi, NC senior vice-president and media head for Anantnag district.

He referred to a statement made by KPSS chief Sanjay Tiku wherein he warned that such a disastrous step will lead to a second migration of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley and make them soft targets of militant groups.

“I request all prime-time debate anchors to invite leaders from the KP community who are currently living in Kashmir and understand their point of view because they are facing the music on the ground rather than the ones who are sitting in air-conditioned rooms,” he said.

However, PDP spokesperson Mohit Bhan differs.

“I will not say that Pandit organisations are polarising the situation. But certainly, they must remain extra cautious about falling into the trap of those who are trying to polarise the situation.

“The tempers are high amongst the community and vested interests are on the prowl to make Kashmir Pandits a tool to vilify Muslims, which may eventually put those Pandits residing in the Valley at risk. So, I urge Kashmir Pandit community members to stay vigilant and remember how we have been used as a tool, particularly in the past seven years,” he said.

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