NDTV retrospectively reports (January 25, 2014) mass migration of three hundred thousand Kashmiri Pandits twenty five years ago. A protest outside Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal´s residence ( January 19, 2014) against party leader Prashant Bhushan´s Kashmir statement was led by elite Kashmiri Pandit group backed by Hindu fundamentalist political parties of India. Prashant Bhushan is widely known for his pro-Kashmir stance favouring a referendum in Kashmir to decide its future. Bhushan has been targeted before and manhandled in his office chambers to issue such statements with threats to his life.
The reason of Pandit exodus can be explained in two different versions analysed to arrive at some factuality. Due to renewed political upheaval Kashmir in 1989 came out on the roads in millions marching to the office of United Nation Observers Group at Gupkar road, Srinagar Kashmir handing over tons of material to remind UN of its bounden duty to enforce a plebiscite promised in nearly two dozen Resolutions of UN Security Council. The daily continuous processions creating choc a block situation became embarrassing for occupational forces as questions raised on international level gained momentum.
The occupying army, more than a million, backed by its intelligence agencies thought of a strategy to organise an environment of indiscriminate killings creating fear psychosis and at the same time discredit the popular uprising to portray Muslim majority character of Kashmir as fundamentalism and terrorism as it became easy to exploit the situation on international level in post 9/11 scenario.
Youth of Kashmir, in the meantime, sought to crossover to Kashmir held by Pakistan and seek help to reply to the language of violence used by the army. Thousands perished, many more disappeared and rapes, destruction of property were used as weapons to break the will of people. The day soon arrived when Pandits were asked to leave under army escort during the darkness of that fateful night when Muslim majority avoiding wrath of army were busy hiding in their mosques indulging in high pitch sloganeering expecting cries to reach beyond the borders of Kashmir State.
Kashmiri Pandits, appropriate sons of the soil, true nationalists known for upholding culture, ethos, music and tradition; literate minority community embarked on a mission to help illiterate Muslim majority attain literacy to take their nation forward to join other nations in the region to contribute their bit. Many centuries old harmonious relationships made it easy to live side by side and enjoy simple living in an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence.
Pandits, unfortunately, were trapped into believing that it was the usual dressing down exercise to tame Muslim majority and their temporary exodus would make the job easy for army. Slogans raised in mosques for achieving independence had already left an indelible mark on the minds of Pandit population and had created an atmosphere of fear strengthened by selective killing of 219 Pandits (numbers revealed by government of India sources, August 16, 2011) together with hundreds of their Muslim compatriots for different reasons. The killings of mostly known people of both communities had nothing to do with religion and were simple and plain political killings but for sure all such killings cannot be condoned and need condemnation.
Pandit Anil Saproo recalls leaving Kashmir and says "Virtually overnight, some 400,000 Pandits fled, mainly to the Hindu-dominated town of Jammu, a precarious seven-hour drive away. In most cases they simply locked their houses and left, imagining they’d return in a few weeks or months". The harsh conditions the migrant Pandit community, away from home, braves makes things worse when a Kashmiri Pandit gets killed saving his son from abduction in Jammu and the demonstration asking for punishing perpetrators turns into a financial compensation demand and the matter is conveniently brushed under the carpet.
Disinformation campaign debilitated and dead in water now required new strategy to continue occupation and US exit from Afghanistan provides another pretext of Afghan fighting force to escalate militancy against Indian army in Kashmir. A miniscule minority of elite Kashmiri Pandits settled in various Indian capitals enjoying power and financial security played an active role in jeopardising the cordial relation between Pandits with compatriot Muslim Kashmiris.
The white-collar elite group made further gains at the cost of their own poor community claiming benefits, concessions, perks in the form of lucrative jobs, top bureaucratic positions, Pamposh housing colonies, benefits made through representations, schemes of monthly cash reliefs, medical and health insurance, entitlements for employments, provision for merit-cum-means scholarship, grant of minority status and protection of religious places in Kashmir.
Pandit Ramesh Chander Ganjoo in an article published (cms.boloji.com) records that "a sane voice has seldom been registered at the high echelons of power for unknown reasons" and further he says "the first Kashmiri Pandit Ram Chand Kak who became a controversial prime minister of Maharaja Hari Singh´s regime gave the concept of an independent Kashmir keeping in view of the changing political scenario at that time. After feeling the pulse of people of Kashmir he came to the conclusion that the majority Muslim State of Kashmir will never join India while the minority would not like to be part of Pakistan. The only option left was to keep Kashmir an independent state having friendly relations with India and Pakistan".
Instead of encouraging people to find ways to go back to their respective ancestral homes, the elite comfortable Khema Kaul, a spokesperson for women´s organization Kashmira Vahini instigates her innocent Pandit community and says "Our social structure has been badly hit by migration, young men and women, in particular, have lost privacy since most families live in one-room houses. Our birthrate has fallen and death rate gone up. As a result, our numbers are dwindling". In her message, voicing concern, Ms Kaul says "Our genes are the purest, therefore, we urge members to encourage marriages within the community. We apprehend that if we do not take steps, our community will become extinct".
The affluent Pandit elite group has been busy sowing the seeds of hatred and animosity at the behest of religious fundamentalist political parties of India and allow to be exploited to the benefit of these parties at the cost of Kashmir and their community´s own future. In the context a senior leader Pandit RK Raina said "It was the height of populist politics that the Kashmir-centric (Pandit) leaders were adopting threatening postures with regard to Kashmir´s relation with India".
Kashmiri Pandits living in miserable conditions must return to live a peaceful life as ever before. In spite of persecution faced by Muslim majority, the leadership and people of Kashmir welcome their Pandit fellow citizens with open arms as it is known that the Pandit community was duped and in most of the cases forced to leave by agencies to fulfil the agenda required for the international consumption. Kashmiris, irrespective of faith or ethnicity a sickness of the soul, are attached to the motherland sensitively, emotionally and spiritually.
Professor MN Tickoo in an interview reveals "The fact remains that not a single Muslim forced us to leave. I and my neighbours never wanted my family to leave Kashmir but there was definitely a massive psychological fear created by unknown agencies against the Kashmiri Pandits which forced us to leave. I believe that Kashmiri Pandits should have remained in the Valley and fought the freedom struggle with their fellow Muslim citizens". (Full interview can be perused at Kashmir-issue.com/kashmiripandits.php)