19th January 1990, it has been 25 years now that thousands of them escaped what could have been their brutal assassination in the name of Jihad and supremacy. If you want to feel the endless pain of this cluster, allow someone to displace you from your house, take over your possessions that you collected with immense labor, and then make you struggle to get started from the scratch. Promises of the government and condolences of politicians and social activists are not even a trivial support for someone who faces the challenge of re-establishing the family from the very basics. We have been assuring the population of better education and health services, but what about the ones who are clearly the sufferers of displacement in the name of faith and terrorism? Right to property, right to dignified and safe life, all become baseless for people who become victims of forced migration and harassment. What on earth have our governments been doing when it is evident that Kashmiri Pandits, who constituted almost 15 percent of the valley population until 1947 and 5 percent until the year 1981, are now a mere part of the valley with some 800 families, which live in a physical, mental and social trauma, without even a moment of what we call ‘dignified life’. Live a day with that fear, that harassment and that denouncement, and then will we realize the agony of those who are being consoled since decades but real measures for their advancement remain far than achieved.
Kashmir valley has been a place of conflicts since long and past governments have cared about a community that form the majority, yet even their ruin is known to all. Subsidies and perks have moved to the valley from New Delhi, but have we been able to deliver peace and economic expansion so far? And greater is the distress of this small cluster which remains beside the point for both the state government of J&K and the central government. What we call as the ‘worst massacre in Kashmir history’, the 19th day of January 1990 saw thousands of Kashmiri Pandits flee from their homes to escape death. While the nation was preparing for an economic recovery in 1991, many of the families, displaced from the valley, were on roads with no hopes of recovery. The past governments could not realize that the state which has always been referred to as ‘Heaven on Earth’has turned into a graveyard of innocents and hell for the inhabitants. Though misfortune has seen no difference between a Hindu and a Muslim in the valley, the sorrow of Pandits has remained concealed and unheeded, owing to political and vote-bank equations. The faith that has been the occupant of the valley since ages and even prior to when the Muslim rulers motivated heavy influx of Muslims is today weak and vulnerable to severe troubles, even in the presence of heavymilitary shield.
Time has seen coerced conversion of Kashmiri Hindus, and literature is flooded with all kinds of brutalities on this group only because the state has abundance of Muslims and also of people who in the name of Jihad want the valley free from Hindus and even from the dominance of the Indian government. The resolution passed by the United States Congress recognizes that since 1989 more than four lakh Kashmiri Pandits were either murdered or forced to move from their ancestral homes. Extremely worried over the cases of mishaps by the Indian army in Kashmir that sees Muslims being harmed for no valid reason, why aren’t the governments equally concerned about the rapes, murders, and other violent activities to which Hindu civilians are subject to in the name ethnic cleansing of the valley by terror outfits like JKLF, Hezb-ul-Mujahidin and others? And the irony is that even the Muslim populace, who are not in consensus with this so-called cleansing, face similar cruelty from terror groups. While talking of the notion of all-inclusive development and work prospects for all, the governments often overlook apparent victims; however they deserve the courtesy of rulers prior to all other benefit-seekers. When we talk of reformed way of living for Indians, add Kashmiri Pandits to the top of the list of wounded and deprived.
It is crystal clear. If you are honest rulers, have the guts of executing the promises you make to the general public, give them their homes back, return them peace and their very right to dignified and safe life. The position of the J& K government formation is unclear but the verdict of voters is not the same this time, and the center is being managed with a new energy and a much greater devotion. In this light, the Kashmiri Pandits are hoping a change of circumstances in the valley and the return of their right of living in their ancestral houses. In the past six decades, Kashmiris, Hindus as well as Muslims, have seen mass killings, with lakhs of them losing lives, becoming widowed and orphans, and thousands missing from homes and while in custody. Sh. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the most capable rulers India have seen, had promised peace and safe homes to Kashmiri Pandits in 2003, and also reassured them of a rehabilitation policy. The dream of this veteran leader remains unattained due to political troubles, and is a challenge for the new wing of the BJP. The manifesto of the BJP for 2014 general elections talked about ‘return of Kashmiri Pandits to the land of their ancestors with full dignity, security and assured livelihood’. It also promised good governance, infrastructure, education, healthcare, job opportunities and better quality of life to the people of the valley. It is time to deliver, fulfill the promises made.
To bring peace, giving away the right over Kashmir, which has been India’s jewel since centuries, is like paving way for invaders to ask for more provinces; Kashmir is the part and also a responsibility of India, making it a safe and developed place is an undeniable liability. Kashmiri Pandits have been overlooked for a long time now; their rehabilitation is much-urgent, anobligation to be pursued sooner than later.