K N Pandita
On February 7, the Lt Governor laid the foundation stone of a synthetic football turf at the Jagti Township. In doing so, he endeared himself not only to the youth of the internally displaced community of Kashmiri Pandits at Jagti but also to all the youth of urban and rural Jammu who have the natural urge to enjoy sports and outdoor games. The facility will groom the budding youth to excel in the field of sports and thus contribute to the health of the nation.
The address of the Lt Governor on the occasion, though made to the inmates of the township, will inspire the youth in the entire nation. It also provides a guideline to the administrators and organisers of sports and youth activities all over the country as to what should be the level of excellence in this walk of life. The concept of a stadium and its extraordinary reach to the aspirations of the national youth, and in moulding their personality, is a remarkable feedback to the planners and organisers of youth potential in the country. Many relevant government and non-government circles are of the view that not providing the venue to the youth through which they would utilise their skills and aspirations, has been one of the major causes of their frustration at a critical juncture of their lives. It forced many of them to seek negative channels for their creative faculty.
The concept of basic infrastructure providing requisite facilities for exposure to physical skills and prowess of the youth has drastically changed. After the disastrous Delhi Commonwealth Games 2010, which generated serious disappointment among the lovers of games, the Union government has been focusing on scientific improvement in sports and athletics. How sad that a country of 135 crore people, with 65 per cent of them being the youth below 35 years has not been able to win even a few golds in the Olympics. The synthetic football turf in Jagti Township will immensely facilitate the youth in intensifying healthy physical practices and social behaviour.
This apart, taking into account the appreciation and warmth with which the LG addressed the Kashmiri Pandits in general and their youth in particular is appreciable because the like of this they have never experienced during their life in exile. This could be called the first-ever empathising address by the head of the state to a beleaguered and careworn community. Avoiding treading the beaten path, the LG touched the crux of the Pandit issue.
Everybody knows what the Pandit issue is; the politicians, bureaucracy, media and civil society, all know what the issue is. But they have not the will to spell it out and have conveniently buried this human issue in the graveyard of regional politics. If the Indian nation felt a deep urge to reclaim the five-hundred-year-old loss of Ram Mandir in Ajodhya, what about the chunk of humanity that has been detached from its socio-religious grid for nearly one millennium?
The one simple, candid and forthright sentence of the LG, viz. “My heart is filled with pride when I consider what great service the Kashmiri Pandit community has done to the nation” speaks volumes. During our thirty-six years in exile, this is the first time that I have heard a head of the state publicly conceding the contribution of (now) a squeezed, castigated and berated minuscule Hindu community of Kashmir. The significance of LG’s animated assertion stands in direct contrast to the scorns, mocks and insinuations hurled on this community by power-hungry politicians and self-serving bigwigs moving around in stealth.
I will not recount any extract from the Kashmiri Pandit saga; nor will I run through the untold story of the silent contribution made by the homeless and exiled community toward the solidarity and integrity of the motherland. They lost their five millennia-old birth place because they had chosen to be part of the national mainstream. By any stretch of imagination, this beleaguered community deserved a fair humanitarian healing touch. Politicising their human issue is tantamount to rubbing salt into their wounds. What a travesty that a humanitarian factor going deep into the very genesis of the Kashmir conundrum has been trivialised for mundane political ends. I can say with confidence that the Lt Gov has tried to assuage the hurt conscience of Kashmiri Pandits.
The issues like pulling the exiled community out of the morass of dilemma over their future and the future of their coming generations, or their right to contribute as conscientious citizens to the solidarity and integrity of the nation or providing them with the opportunity of strengthening the sense of belonging and improving and displaying their intrinsic aptitude for growth and expansion, as of today remain relegated to the backyard of Kashmir politics. We know these are our issues and not the issues of the Government of India. Nevertheless our contribution to national integrity and solidarity maybe an issue for the Government of India.
We understand why the union government is loath to stir the silent embers. We understand the compulsions of union governments and we cannot but reconcile to our fate. We have learnt during the past one thousand years how to light our path with our sweat and blood. In a new phase of our history, we have to learn that the land where we place our feet has to be the motherland of our coming generations.
We are thankful to the LG, who understood that political rhetoric has lost its sheen with the displaced persons from Kashmir, and as such, he rightly kept himself away from such indulgences as are the domain of claptrap politics. We must be thankful to the late Jagmohan who was penalized for understanding our pain and refusing to castigate us. We are thankful to the late Bala Sahib Thackeray, who understood our pain and thought of a remedy. If Narendra Modi did not understand our pain in 2014 or 2019, we hope against hope that at least he may understand it in 2024.
K N Pandita