REITERATING COMMITMENT

The answer to the genocide of a community is not to ignore it or fudge it or trivialize it. The answer to genocide is to reverse it.’ This is a stark reality for which the miniscule community of Kashmiri Pandits has been struggling for the past nearly three decades after being hounded by the militants to be killed and warning the rest to either leave the valley or else face the blood bath. As the KPs observe 14th September as Martyrs’ day every year it is time for them to reiterate their commitment and resolve for the dignified return to their homeland in a peaceful atmosphere where the writ of Indian Constitution runs the roost. On this day in 1989, the Kashmir Hindu leader Pt. Tika Lal Taploo fell martyred to the bullets of terrorists responsible for Hindu genocide and religious cleansing in Kashmir. He was amongst the hundreds of other innocent Kashmiri Pandits who faced ruthless killings at the hands of the terrorists who claim to be Jehadis. It is really an irony that after Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1587 AD, the Hindus enjoyed full security of person and property and pleased with their intelligence he allotted them top government posts and gave them the surname Pandit while in 1989-90 the same community had to accept the forced exile as the civilized society in the Valley stood mute and numb due to the threat of terrorists who had by then gained their stronghold across the valley due to acquiescence of the civil society besides the criminal negligence of the administration. It is pertinent to mention that Kashmiri Pandits had stably constituted approximately 14 to 15 per cent of the population of the valley during Dogra rule (1846-1947). While 20 per cent of them left the valley as a consequence of the 1948 Muslim riots and 1950 land reforms, by 1981 the Pandit population was reduced to a meager 5 per cent of the total population followed by the ultimate ethnic cleansing in 1990. Since then all these years in exile the miniscule community has stood up to the forces of exclusion and persecution and despite odds pursued dignity, honour and excellence in exile. Though the community leaders working relentlessly from different platforms have been able to create a vision to reverse the exile completely and permanently yet the movement in this direction seems to be a herculean task given the political bankruptcy among the politicians ruling the roost not only in the state but even at the centre. In exile the community has built its life not aimlessly but it consciously chose to live in clusters and localities in order to nourish community life besides building temples and shrines of their deities and gurus in addition to celebrating the traditions and festivals with gaiety and religious fervour. This has gone a long way in retaining linkages with their rituals, folk lore and tradition, thus reinforcing their identity. Though it is one of the greatest achievements of the community yet the goal seems to be quite far away especially in view of the type of situation existing in valley even today that speaks volumes about the control of radical communal elements on the civil society in the Valley. Taking Kashmiri Pandits back in this type of environment would only mean handing them over to be placed on the altar of militants or the so called Jihadis who still continue to dictate the civil society there. History bears testimony to the fact that shattered communities in various eras including the much persecuted Jews were able to realize their homeland only after great dedication and perseverance and it is hoped that the degree of dedication to preserve the collective memory of the events leading to exodus and thereafter as the highest value, so as to create a new future with a profound commitment to preserve their identity, this miniscule community will undoubtedly realize its Homeland peaceful and secure as cherished by its members during nearly three decades of exile. While the Kashmiri Pandit community stands steadfast to its commitment to achieve the aim of a dignified return to their homeland, it is expected that it would be a homeland not only for a single community but for people belonging to all faiths and respecting all faiths. After all every religion preaches and teaches to be humane for which the key word is tolerance and this needs to be realized by the civil society across the state especially in the Valley. The sooner it does the better it would be.