ANOTHER HERATH IN EXILE…?

Mahashivratri popularly called as ‘Herath’ was yet again celebrated by the Kashmiri Pandits in exile in the hope of being able to celebrate the festival again in their homes left behind in the valley. For them ‘Herath’ being their most significant festival once represented the composite ethos and rich cultural heritage of Kashmiri society in the Valley which presently is virtually sans this miniscule community. It is really most unfortunate that ‘Diversity’ that is the hallmark of Kashmiri society has been the worst victim of turmoil in the valley during the past about three decades so much so that for the Kashmiri Pandits in exile the celebration of the festival of Mahashivratri again during their lifetime in the valley seems to be a distant dream. Despite the fact that the return of the miniscule displaced Kashmiri Pandit community back to their homes after being in exile for about three decades has a huge bearing not only on the J&K government but the whole nation because if the nation fails to make the return a reality then undoubtedly India will be treated as a failed democracy at least viz-a-viz this miniscule displaced community; there seem to be umpteen hurdles in making it a reality especially being created by a particular constituency in the valley on one pretext or the other. Since their displacement in helpless situation the question of the KPs’ return has been raised innumerable times but without any significant progress or achievement. Despite the successive governments coming out with doles by linking jobs with return, the efforts have not yielded any commendable results. The main hurdle in the way seems to be the security concerns as the embers of militancy refuse to die down on account of multiple state and non state factors with the incidents of terror attacks on the increase especially during the past few days besides youth in valley coming out to support the terrorists during encounters by stone pelting the army personnel fighting them and then some people glorifying the terrorists eliminated by the Army. Every time when the return initiative was taken up, the same was scuttled with voices of dissent mainly from the separatist camps who play smart by saying that KPs should return to their original residences and not to separate townships, knowing very well that over ninety percent properties of this community have been either sold in distress or illegally occupied by certain disgruntled neighbours. The return which presently seems to be impossibility could definitely become a reality in the time to come but for that it is the Majority community in the Valley that needs to lead from the front instead of the state or central government. The separatists play smart by welcoming the return of the Kashmiri Pandits on one hand and on the other hand setting a pre-condition that they should settle only at their original places which is quite impracticable. By doing so the right to live at a place of choice is being denied to the displaced persons, besides creating suspicion about the dubious intentions of the separatist camp that had been responsible for creating a situation in 1989-90 with 2 to 2.5 million Muslims stomping the streets of Kashmir regularly and the air ringing with anti-India slogans. In such a scenario with already a substantial number of prominent KPs killed by the terrorists, 700,000 Pandits came out of the Valley at the point of the gun with the hope that situation would soon return to normal, but unfortunately that never happened till date. Everyone has suffered, not just Pandits but even the Muslims as violence spares no one and does not discriminate between Muslims and Hindus. These days whenever the Muslims meet their Kashmiri Pandit brethren both especially the Muslims reiterate that Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits while KPs also acknowledge that Kashmiriyat is incomplete without the two communities being in perfect synergy. The question here then arises that despite all this longing coupled with the efforts by the government why the return of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits still seems to be a distant dream. This is a million dollar question that needs to be pondered over by every Kashmiri irrespective of religious affiliation to transform the Valley once again into an abode as maintained by the seers like Nund Reshi and Lal Ded so that once again, Kashmir will show the way to those floundering in chaos and confusion ultimately leading to safe and dignified return of the miniscule Kashmiri Pandit community to the valley and restoring Kashmiriyat to its pristine glory where festivals representing the composite ethos and rich cultural heritage of Kashmiri society will be celebrated with same spirit be it the festival of Eid or the Mahashivratri popularly known as Herath.