B L Saraf
After Sarpanch Ajay Pandita comes the turn of Councillor Rakesh Pandita to walk down the lane of martyrdom, bearing cross of nationalism around the neck. In between a jeweller and a Daba owner belonging to the minority community, also, fell as the martyrs. All fell to the bigoted terrorist’s gun, only for the fault of being the “other person.” In Kashmir a nationalist is euphemistically called the “other person .” The second ‘unpardonable fault ‘ of Ajay Pandita and Rakesh Pandita was that they, both, were sincerely serving people of Lokbhawan, Anantnag and Tral, respectively, as elected members of the local bodies. Jeweller and the Daba owner provided employment to the locals.
The brutal killing of Rakesh Pandita by the terrorist has once again sent terrible shock waves among the entire KP community. With this despicable act it has now become clear that nothing has changed for the Pandits in Kashmir, since 1990. This unfortunate episode and that of martyrdom of Ajay Bharti, last year, have shown , even after more than three decades of their expulsion from the Valley there seems to be no respite for the Pandits plight and sufferings.
What has added to the community’s woes is the fact that no one among the powers that be is really interested to come forward and help in restoration of its dignity. The Indian State as represented by various Governments of different political hues, in the past 30 years, has engaged only in whataboutery, watching over the sufferings of the community almost helplessly, if not indifferently. The hope that BJP Government at the Centre will pay attention to these problems has sadly been belied . This Government has remained as much confused and inactive on the issue as previous administration has been. This is the tragedy that Pandits are gradually getting disillusioned about returning to their homeland. They have all reasons to be so. No package has worked for them . The educated youth have no jobs: community’s religious and spiritual places stand vandalized and their properties encroached upon.
In the martyrdom of the young Municipal Councillor we see the ritualistic pattern unfolding. Two types of people spring up , as if from nowhere . One, who resort to an attempt to ‘intellectualize’ the dastardly act and in a loud whisper claim ” No it was not a KP but a public functionary working in the town who has been killed by the militants. And that it is political killing which has nothing to do with the return of Pandits .” The martyrdom of a brave community person is trivialized as “a security lapse .” Next, as it was last year a useless debate about political affiliations of the martyr is set in motion. Some are so callous as to question the very judgment of the deceased of having joined BJP and taken part in the local body elections. Their political inclinations and affiliations apart, martyrs Ajay and Rakesh were amongst us and our face in Kashmir .
One would like to ask how is the killing of a K P in 2021 different from his killing in 1990. If we have to comfort ourselves on the skewed belief that the present killings are just political -or matter of security lapse which have no bearing on KP return plan, then in which grammar killings of 1990 would be described, which resulted in mass expulsion of the KP Community from Kashmir. After all politics was also involved in those killings, as well -politics of hate, sectarianism and belief in ethnic cleansing. This kind of political spin and intellectualization of a plain matter will impress none – least the person who has yet to come to the terms with the 1990s nightmare.
Yes , there should be no contestation on KP’s return to their homeland and living in a composite habitat. But on what terms and conditions and to which political and security scenario their return must be? Surely, the selective killings of unarmed persons (political or ethnic) can’t produce a conducive atmosphere for a displaced person to embark upon the return journey .
Young Rakesh Pandita, we are told, was popular in Tral area for the work he was doing as Chairman of the local Municipal Committee. He lived among his voters unmindful of the threat to his life which, many felt, was real. The gruesome tragedy has, quite naturally, caused an outrage among various sections of Jammu civil society, as well. Most of them called on the bereaved family to share grief. Professional mourners ready to bake political cakes were also spotted . BJP bigwigs made their presence felt and declared that Pakistan was behind the tragedy and would be taught a lesson soon. This is the boast we have been hearing since 2014 but so far nothing has deterred that country from playing the bloody game in J&K. So, nobody is going to take this boastful rhetoric seriously.
People ask question ? Will the incumbent government in New Delhi reflect on the matter a bit coolly and reassess the situation . The displaced community, too, will have to do a rethinking in a dispassionate manner. After all Shaheed Rakesh Pandita did take a plunge – for a nationalistic cause – at a time when mainstream political players in the Valley played safe.
Braving physical threats, he honored the call of nation and actively participated in a democratic exercise undertaken at the grass root level. The displaced community came forward and voluntarily offered itself as “Ahuti ” in the ‘ Yagya of Nationalism’. But how long should KP continue to be a sacrificial lamb at the altar of ‘nationalism’ in Kashmir? Being directly in charge of the matters in J&K, Delhi has to provide an answer.
The displaced Pandits are going through the agonizing phase of their lives. Terrorism and now COVID have badly mauled them. Tears in their eyes have dried up : vocabulary to express grief on the death of a dear one and space to file obituaries, both, are falling short. Still they look up to PM Narendra Modi with hope that he will be their messiah.
(The author is former Principal District & Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf