Kashmir is not a piece of land. “Kashmir is an integral part of India” It is not a statement, but an impassioned avowal.
Kashmir is the abode of the soul of India. It’s civilisational linkages with India are many centuries old.
Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that when students graduated from Kashi, they took four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning.Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.
Rajtarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhan in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian Emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name???
How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashok?
That Mahayana Buddhism was spread across Mid Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks?
Patanjali, who gifted to humanity his Yog Sutra.
Sharangdev, considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music.
Acharya Abhinav Gupt, one of the greatest scholars of all times, who wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of ras are being taught in 80 universities around the world.
Why the educationists and the policy makers are deliberately withholding such vital slices of history from our text books?
How will the present as well as future generations realize that Kashmir is the keystone of our heritage through millenia, finding mention even in our oldest scriptures?
Kashmiri Pandits have rich heritage and their roots are engraved on the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years.That can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power more so by unleashing terror and vicious campaign.But the ground reality in today’s Age of Enlightenment is—
Kashmir today is without Kashmiri Pandits.Realities are, at times harsh and strange. Kashmiri Pandits, the aborigines of Kashmir are out in exile, in this modern age of reason and enlightenment.,The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, designed to effect the motivated ethnic cleansing, will go down, in the history of these aborigines of Kashmir,as a continuation of the persecution and genocide facing for hundreds of years.. The atrocities peaked during despotic rule of Muslim tyrant kings.
But the tragic irony is KPs they did not get any respite even in the bright days of the enlightened times, especially in the post-independence days of their country, India.Today they are in exile and living as refugees in their own country for nearly three decades.
Whatever be the vicissitudes of their history all pale into insignificance when we look at their present plight.The colossal crisis through which this exiled community or for that matter the entire Kashmiri society is passing through is in reality the crisis in Country”s great values-the perversion in practice of its Constitutional jurisprudence,the socio-Political and moral norms. Acute fear and scare had been created which gripped the Kashmiri Pandits from Sept.1989 onwards after killing of prominent members of the community.The Pandits started feeling what they had felt when hounded by Afgans in the second half of eighteenth centuary – “O heart,there is fear and dread in the city. Prepare for journey, Disorder is dominant in this city”.
Killing one and scaring a thousand was the concerted Plan neatly executed by the local terror groups. The choice of exile was forced on the Kashmiri Pandit community by the Pakistan sponsored terrorists who imposed their writ on Kashmir by unleashing death and destruction.The State Government at that time abdicated its Constitutional duties and left the people’s life and liberty at the mercy of the, looters and terror groups. The terrorist violence remains unabated till this day.The terrorists maimed , killed, lynched and looted a large number of Kashmiri Pandits. The terror stricken Pandits ran for life, leaving their homes and hearths behind them.
They sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in the country. The cleansing process was completed and now Kashmir Valley is without Kashmiri Pandits.The native Kashmiris have entered in 29th year of exile. Pandits crave for return to their roots.They say bidding farewell to the soil they have sprung from is too traumatic an experience to be conveyed in words. They always say -We love our homeland. Every inch of its bounteous soil which has nourished us all; Every day resolve of these hapless Kashmiris is —strive, struggle and stop not till the exile is reversed and they return back to their homeland on there own terms. The successive Central as well as the State Government has done precious little for the rehabilitation of this Community, who have contributed, in a big way, to the freedom struggle of India against the British imperialism, and also to the national reconstruction in the post Independent era. It is a community whose history generates envy at their achievements as well as sorrow at their plight today. The long history of these exiled Kashmiris has been of triumphs and tragedies.The antiquity of the Kashmiri natives and its Aryan origin are well established. Human memory is short and so is, unfortunately, the memory of our leaders especially of the current dispensation.It was I K Gujral as Prime Minister who said-‘If the Nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return & rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley,still it would be a lesser price for their contributions towards modern nation building”.
The forced migration of 1990 left the Kashmiri Pandit Community shattered physically and psychologically. Scores of social organizations worked, day and night, on voluntary basis to bring succor to the exiled. In a permissive,soft and caste ridden Indian State and in many ways cruel, the exiled illustrious KP community have been created as refugees from its own flesh and blood and have been cast aside to fend for themselves. To survive as a distinct community is next to impossible in present day world until the exile is reversed and rehabilitated physically back in the Valley.They are working relentlessly for the protection of their distinct socio-cultural entity.. Their struggle is still going on. It is taking lot of time for the leadership of the community to put across its considered views on the ultimate resettlement of the entire Kashmiri Pandit Community in Kashmir on its own terms.
From 1989 till date Kashmiri Pandit groups are devoting a lot of time to their mission in one form or the other towards the task of restoring the honour and dignity of the Pandits.. There is no one at the political level not even the PM and the HM or at bureaucratic level prepared to stick their neck out and demand action to restore the dignity and honour of the Pandits. And come out with an actionable time bound plan for the return of the exiled community back to Valley.
Hopes that with huge mandate the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government would pay serious attention to the plight and future of the Pandits were sadly belied.The community says the Party leadership only exploits the victim hood of Kashmiri Pandits in every electoral campaign and; The BJP-led Government is as confused,dithering and as inactive as any of the other Governments that had held office since 1989.The Government of the day has not for nearly four years ever consulted the representatives of the exiled natives nor is there any return module plan in place. BJP has failed this community.
The exiled Pandits have been waiting for 29 years, hoping that the day of their return with honour,dignity and security to their homeland will come. It has not so far, despite claims of the considerable improvement in the ground situation.
In the meanwhile, the plight of the Pandits has been slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their suffering, but there is nothing by way of action. The future of the Pandits, as an important stakeholder and component of the Kashmir imbroglio, is less and less talked about.
The return of the Pandits to their homeland cannot be achieved unless the nation and the people of Kashmir are in unison and create consensus.The Governments of India and the state have to plan out a common and comprehensive return module and enforce the same in time bound frame work.The Government of India has a constitutional and political responsibility for working towards such a consensus and demonstrate a strong political will.
(The author is Senior Advocate Supreme Court of India and Chairman (Kashmir Strategy & Policy group)