Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Return of Pandits is a Political Issue

Khayal thinks some sections of Pandits are communal while conveniently ignoring that Ali Shah Geelani, the architect of Muslim hegemony in Kashmir, is gaining supporters day by day

(Mr. Ghulam Nabi Khayal, 70, was born in Srinagar. He received his schooling and college education in Srinagar, and completed his Masters degree in English. Mr. Khayal is considered a doyen among Kashmiiri journalists, having worked for both Indian and international newspapers like the Statesman, India Today, the Guardian, Voice of America, and others. He is also a topnotch Kashmiri writer having bagged numerous awards at local, national and international levels, including the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975. Mr. Khayal has published 24 books in Kashmiri, Urdu and English languages. He is the owner of a journal, Voice of Kashmir, published weekly from Srinagar.)

Return of KPs!

Without groping in the dark of the near past as to who initiated, instigated and masterminded a mass exodus of tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland in Kashmir Valley in early nineties, one should talk of today without any bias and ill will towards others.

There have been debates and heated discussions on this tricky issue but, as is obvious, none of the concerned parties are seen mentally prepared to accept the version of the other side. Whatever has happened was a gory but a gone by phase of the bad time of contemporary political history of Kashmir.

Nothing can be done to heal up deep wounds inflicted on the psyche of KPs when hundreds of them were gunned down and others were compelled to leave their home and hearth and migrate to places they had never dreamt of spending their lives in exile in that alien and unfavourable and indifferent atmosphere. The bleeding wounds of scores of those Kashmiri Muslims who fell to the bullets of one side or the other for no fault of theirs may also not heal up for a much longer time.

It is quite unfortunate that during the last 20 years, the Pandit community couldn’t evolve its realistic and effective leadership to address their pressing problems. Instead, they rather fell in the lap of some Hindu extremist forces who exploited most of them to serve their own political interests. It was probably in this context that a known intellectual of Jammu told this writer last year that KPs in Jammu acted more violently and in a frenzy of anti-Kashmir tirade during the Amarnath row. This wild allegation however could not be ascertained nor does it merit any investigation which would result in nothing except waste of time and energy and creation of more confusion.

Kashmiri Pandits have been part and parcel of Kashmiri ethos and culture and their contribution to various fields of life cannot be ignored or washed off. At the same time, it was not an act of wisdom that majority of these migrants chose to eolugise Jagmohan as their mentor and saviour. One of the Pandit historians went to the extent of calling upon his community members that they should read only three books in reverence namely, Bhagwad Gita, Kalhana’s Rajataringini and Jagmohan’s My Turbulence in Kashmir. No doubt, Jagmohan did a commendable work for the betterment of this State when he was made the State governor in 1986 but after his unceremonious exit from Kashmir in 1990, he immediately landed in the lap of fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party exposing his prejudiced political ideology.

Some of the small forums floated by KPs and lavishly funded by Indian secret agencies have been pleading for a separate homeland for KPs to be carved out of the Kashmir Valley. This sounds ridiculous. In this way, Kashmiri Muslims have every right also to claim an independent Kashmir for themselves which would then be obviously identified as a Muslim Kashmir. No sane person can support this communalised approach to a social problem.

The uncomfortable lot of KPs particularly who were in the middle of their lives or were on the threshold of an old age, are still eager to return back to their homes but they are not in any case prepared to live in flats or apartments in a world of isolation. Those who are willing to occupy flats across Kashmir, to which the State government has already made some headway without giving proper thought to its pros and cons,, shall under all circumstances not prove that they are having the wisdom of farsightedness. This shall make turn into a suspicious lot for their segregating themselves from the rest of the Muslim majority community with whom they had spent most of their years amicably and in a cordial atmosphere of brotherhood and affection.

A glance at the present scenario of KPs reveals that all their youngsters have been nicely accommodated against various jobs all over India and they are not bothered to settle in a “militancy-ridden” Kashmir where they were not even born and they do not know the basics of their mother tongue, Kashmiri. By all means, they are Indian citizens and we wish them good luck.

As far as the elderly migrants are concerned they shall have to take some risk in returning back without asking for any flats or so called homeland and shall have to merge with the majority community whose fate they shall have to share as real sons of Kashmir. Reportedly about 5,000 such migrant families have already applied for return and their rehabilitation in Kashmir. They know it well that the militancy has considerably come down because the suffering and most humiliated people of the Valley now want peace and economic uplift with a desire of achieving this goal along with their Pandit brethren. It is only Allah who brings us to life and takes us back to an immortal world.

At times, the Muslims of Kashmir, the sensible ones only, feel that they have lost a loving segment of their social life when they find that there is no educated and well mannered noble Pandit now living in their neighbourhood. The Pandits might also be recalling their beautiful days and pleasant past they enjoyed immensely in the company of Muslims even in remote Kashmiri villages where they would be not more than one or two percent of the total population. They never feared anyone but shared all joys and sorrows with the Muslim community.

It was however a stunning turn of events that armed militancy got off to its start 20 years ago taking a toll of every thing the people of Kashmir had never known in their politicking in that unprecedented manner.

Let’s welcome KPs with our open minds and hearts back to their original place of birth, their own Kashmir. But an honest and sincere effort shall have to be made by the authorities that they spend rest of their lives not in security zones but freely in peace and without any threat to their lives and those properties which have not been disposed off by them till date. It may not be out of place to mention here that not a single KP was killed over the last many years despite the militancy still raising its head time and again. On the other hand, those elderly Pandits who had chosen to stay back in the Valley, when they passed away, their last rites were performed by none other than the Muslims in their localities.

Before conclusion, I might humbly advise some angry KPs to stop forthwith disseminating venomous propaganda against Kashmiri Muslims branding all of them as terrorists through their numerous web sites they have launched within the country and outside India. This is not going to help any one in any way.

Also, they must fight out the State for their honourable and safe return to Kashmir after a conducive atmosphere is created in their respective areas where they could live again in peace of mind and safety of their families. Those of them who do not want to be back are welcome to go their own way, of course with our blessings.

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