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Don’t paint personal opinions as ‘voice of persecuted Kashmiri Pandit community’, it is an insult to our martyrs, sacrifice and struggle

Today, the government is in command of the situation in the valley, treading cautiously to establish peace in the terrorism infested region, let us pledge our support, keep national interests ahead and not derail the process. This is the gateway to the new world awaiting to embrace Kashmir in its arms!

Ever since Home Minister Amit Shah threw a massive surprise by introducing the “J&K Reorganisation Bill,” taking away the ‘special status’ of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), bifurcating it into two Union Territories and abrogating Article 370, suddenly the curiosity meter of the world seems to be on high alert.

People who, until now, were clueless, unattached and least bothered about this draconian article, suddenly seem to have woken up from their deep slumber to issue sermons about how the government is wrong in snatching away the rights of the Kashmiri people. Mind it, their definition of J&K and Kashmiri people confines to the people of the valley. In a bid to express solidarity with the Kashmiris, all such people conveniently chose to ignore the fact that J&K comprises multiple ethnic groups including Kashmiri Pandits, who have been at the receiving end of the philosophies of ‘Kashmiriyat’ and ‘Jamuriyat.’

Article 370, the hot political topic is a perfect opportunity for such people to score brownie points. Now, India being the world’s democracy allows everyone to voice their thoughts. Alas! The freedom of speech and expression is often taken for granted and used as a tool to thwart the sincere efforts of the Government of India (GoI). Abrogation of Article 370 has been one bold move wherein the GoI unexpectedly checkmated its detractors. This move is a clear interpretation of the government’s intention and priority to infuse a new ray of peace, hope, and development in J&K, which finds a prominent place in the party manifesto.

The Kashmiri Pandit (KP) community is in a celebratory mood ever since the announcement was made. Not just the KPs, every other community including Sikhs, Bakerwals, Dogras, Gujjars et al, who have faced discrimination due to its viciousness, is, in fact, jubilant today. This move has, however not gone down well with the political clout of the state for obvious reasons. There is no denying the fact that for years the politicians in the state devoured on Article 370 and used it as a weapon to misguide the people into believing its removal would wreak havoc on them. On the contrary, the people have given this decision thumps up!

The valley is calm like its glorious past and the general mood is certainly swaying in favour of GoI. The strife-torn state has witnessed turbulent times, especially when the aboriginals Kashmiri Pandits were hounded out from their homes in the 1990s amid the roaring hate slogans such as “Yahan kya Chalega Nizam-e-Mustafa,” (The rule of the Prophet will reign here), and “Ae Zalimo Ae Kafiro, Kashmir Hamara Chod Do” (Oh Cruel people, you the Kafirs, Leave our Kashmir). The situation in the valley took a downward spiral since.

KPs in their traditional attire
Kashmiri Pandits in traditional dress

The appalling rise of Islamic fundamentalism traumatised the peace-loving Kashmiri Pandits of the valley, who were then left with no choice but to flee Kashmir, the paradise, which they called home! The history books don’t mention our genocide and that is why perhaps, some people choose to brush our ethnic cleansing under the carpet. Everyone who has mocked our sacrifices must watch the documentary called “And The World Remained Silent,” which explores the plight of the displaced community and delves deep into the wounds inflicted by the world that watched it perish with stoic silence.

While the government is stepping up its efforts to revive J&K from the mayhem, some people are hell-bent on derailing these efforts. A total of 64-signatories including Kashmiri Pandits, Dogras and Sikhs have signed a petition calling out the government. It worries me because the media is projecting the ‘personal opinions’ of people like Air Vice Marshal (Retd) Kapil Kak, and cardiologist Dr Upendra Kaul as the voice of the community, which is not true. These people may have their own reasoning but the media should play a fair game and not misrepresent the facts to deceive the public.

As soon as this news surfaced, Kashmiri Pandits across the globe expressed their anguish and ire. The community is unhappy with such unwarranted and unforeseen response from its members.

Soon, India 4 Kashmir, a civil society pan-India movement that works to reclaim the lost ground and aims to rehabilitate India in Kashmir with dignity, condemned these 64 signatories.

“Kashmiri Hindus reject and condemn efforts of some self-styled individuals who have wrongly portrayed a picture that we oppose the Abrogation of Art 370/35A, and bifurcation of J&K and Ladakh. All prominent personalities of J&K will soon burst their bubble with a counter-petition assuring full support and assistance in this transition. We welcome this positive change and request the government to work on the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus with full honour and dignity,” asserted Rohit Kachroo, National Coordinator, India 4 Kashmir. He is amongst scores of Kashmiri Pandits awaiting justice that seems elusive to most of them. Placing his faith in the government he hopes to return home to his birthplace, which was snatched away by the cruel hands of destiny.

In response to the petition filed, Global KP Diaspora (GKPD), a body representing Kashmiri Pandits across the globe has issued a press release to welcome the Government of India’s significant decision of abrogating Article 370. GKPD unequivocally rejected the petition by 64 ‘stateless subjects’ who had condemned the historic move.

We can’t brush aside the supreme sacrifices of our community members like Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, lawyer and BJP member who was killed at his Srinagar home by JKLF on 14 September 1989. Next Justice Nilkanth Ganjoo of Srinagar High Court fell prey to the bullets of the extremists for sentencing Maqbool Bhat to death. How can we forget the veteran Kashmiri poet Sarwanand Kaul Premi, who was ghastly killed on 29 April 1990? Satish Tikoo, a young Hindu Pandit social-worker was murdered in Habba Kadal, close to his home on 2 February 1990. Lassa Kaul, Station Director of Srinagar Doordarshan on 13 February 1990, Hriday Nath Wanchoo, trade union leader and human rights activist in December 1992. The list is endless.

The families of these and countless other Kashmiri Pandits await justice! If at all you should think of taking an honest opinion, the family members of these heroes should be the ones to answer! They have been at the epicentre of the terror-turmoil in Kashmir valley. They carry the baggage of the brutal wounds close to their hearts. They live the agony of the physical, emotional, and mental bruises inflicted on them. They seek answers for the tears they’ve shed for no fault! The government, the judiciary, and society owe them an answer!

Justice delayed is justice denied and who other than this persecuted community that was let down by its own judiciary knows better!

At this crucial juncture, the community, which has been fighting a long battle to bring the perpetrators to books, needs to stand united. The ones who made a conscious decision to pick up pens instead of guns feel dejected today. We have to continue this tiring battle as we have miles to go before our killers will all be sent to the gallows. Hear the chilling confession of one of our butcher, Bitta Karate. How can we be at peace when murderers like him roam free?

The history of Kashmiri Pandits is an amalgamation of sufferings, sacrifices and innocent blood. It is due to the fierce resistance of our ancestors’ and their iron will, we continue to wear our identities on our sleeves today. Had they succumbed to the tyrants through the centuries, we would have lost our identities a long time ago.

Kashmir that has been simmering since religious extremism hegemonised the alluring tourist destination of the world! The sacred land of Rishi Kashyap, the mirror of a thriving civilisation, turned into a battleground over the years. The tranquil air, enchanting landscapes, religious harmony, the spectacle all vanished in thin air when violence subdued the serene environment in the valley.

Kashmiri Pandits in a gathering
Kashmiri Pandit gathering

Today, the government is in command of the situation in the valley, treading cautiously to establish peace in the terrorism infested region, let us pledge our support, keep national interests ahead and not derail the process. This is the gateway to the new world awaiting to embrace Kashmir in its arms!

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