Kashmiris cannot live peacefully and with dignity outside Kashmir, and history has proved it time and again that Kashmiri Pandits cannot live peacefully and with dignity outside Kashmir. Professor BL Ban writes in his Paradise Lost: Seven Exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits that Pandits had to migrate from the Valley seven times. He accuses Bulbul Shah of scripting their exodus. He has not spared the Chaks, the Sultans and the Afghans.
All of them, according to him, persecuted the community and forced its migration. Not to speak of Aurangzeb, he does not spare Jahangir and Shah-e-Jahan as well. The irony is that he accuses Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, GM Sadiq, Ghulam Muhammad Shah and even Dr Farooq Abdullah of engineering what he calls the exodus of the Pandits during their respective regimes. However, he fails to mention how many Pandits left the Valley from 1947-1989 and where in India they settled. The only place he has mentioned is the one where Nehru’s marriage was solemnized.
Professor Ban has probably written the book in haste and without undertaking any serious research, if not with ulterior motives. In 1947, Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference workers stood guard outside the houses of the Pandits. This has been acknowledged by the Pandits themselves. The people of Kashmir have always been tolerant. The revival of the Muslim Conference in the mid 40s saw Muslims fighting each other. But nobody ever touched any Pandit. The former chief conservator of forests, Noor-ul-Hasan narrates his experiences: “We lived in downtown (Srinagar). One day when I left for college, I was intercepted by a group of hooligans near Bohri Kadal. I was asked whether I was a Sher (supporter of Sher-e-Kashmr) or a Bakra (supporter of Mirwaiz Molvi Yusuf Shah). I said Bakra and the hooligans gave me a sound thrashing. Somehow I managed to escape but was again caught near the Khanqah-e-Mu’alla. I again made a mistake. I was beaten, this time for being a supporter of the Sher-e-Kashmir. Again I gave them a slip but only to be caught again near Narparistaan. This time I told the hooligans that I was a Kashmiri Pandit. On hearing this, I was given safe passage. Someone from the crowd said: `Oh! Leave him. He is our revered Pandit brother.'”
The migrants are perceived as intruders outside, notwithstanding the packages offered by Maharashtra, Gujarat and some other states. Slowly but surely the community is getting diluted. A human-being cannot survive on reservations in technical institutions, jobs in big business houses and hollow slogans alone. Something else is also needed.
This is how the Muslims treated the Pandits during those tumultuous days. When Muslims were not safe, nobody would touch a Pandit. But for paucity of space, hundreds of examples could be cited here to nullify the malicious propaganda unleashed against Kashmiri Muslims by vested interests. And see how Pundits have acknowledged it. Professor Sheikh Showkat, in an article for the Greater Kashmir dated May 27, 1999 writes: “A day before Shivratri, I boarded the Malva Express at the Jammu railway station. After a few minutes, a Kashmiri Pundit along with his sister and two kids boarded the same compartment. The Pandit was having a problem. He had to drop his sister in Delhi and celebrate Shivratri at his home next day in Jammu. For a while he looked around. After noticing me he straightaway came to my seat, and confirming that I was a Kashmiri Muslim, asked two passengers next to me to exchange seats so that his sister and the two kids could share my company. After some persuasion the passengers agreed. The Kashmiri Pandit, his sister and the two kids came and occupied the seats next to me. After sitting for a while, the Pandit stepped out of the train. He told me that since you are here now to accompany my sister, I do not need to travel with her. He did not know me, nor did he know my whereabouts. He trusted me merely because I happened to be a Kashmiri Muslim. He did not trust any other passenger in the compartment although all of them happened to be Hindus.”
The migrants are perceived as intruders, notwithstanding the packages offered by Maharashtra, Gujarat and some other states. Slowly but surely the community is getting diluted. A human being cannot survive on reservations in technical institutions, jobs in big business houses and hollow slogans alone. Something else is also needed. The Pandits have to understand that they are being used in the name of employment, residential plots and economic packages. A migrant is appointed and posted in a remote corner of the Valley. He joins his duties but in a month or so his officer engineers and facilitates his exit from the Valley of `ghosts.’ The migrant gets his pay but the vacancy created by his exit goes to the kith and kin of the officer. The migrants have become a goldmine for bureaucrats. They do not want the honourable and dignified return of the migrants for obvious reasons. It, therefore, is high time that the Pandit leadership, the dissident leadership and the civil society in Kashmir initiate a serious dialogue. Together they can make a difference.
First published in Kashmir Reader.