It is the 27th year for these hapless people living as refugees in their own state and the rest of the country , and the nation have failed them in restoring Kashmiri Pandit migrants to their homes in the Valley. Worse still, they don’t see any hope on horizon that can take them back to Kashmir which they left in dark cold nights as frightened pigeons .
As they observe the 27th anniversary of their exodus from the Valley today they are staring at strikingly more uncomfortable scenario than what they had feared at the time of their leaving their homes and hearths. The atmospherics in Kashmir are choking for them, and the moment there is even a whisper of their return , a campaign of hatred laced with communalism and extremism starts . In their own land , they are seen as aliens .
Irony is that there are “ welcome noises for them”, but that welcome banner is dotted with unacceptable conditions in bold . That’s scary. They cannot return to the places , they want to live or feel safe . The choice of their future homes is subject to the approval of the forces that were responsible for their exodus.
Intriguingly , the proposals of their return is seen as a “ conspiracy “ by the separatists and the mainstream parties like Congress, National Conference and also some from the ruling PDP ,” to undermine the Muslim –majority character of the Valley.” The inverted logic is that “ once the Kashmiri Pandits return to the Valley via transit camps, it will also open ways for the outsiders to settle in the Valley.”
Separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, tallest of the separatist leaders, said it “ repeatedly that they ( Kashmiri Pandits) are welcome to their homes in the Muslim neighborhood.” It seems to be a noble thought after all the two communities living side by side can regain their mutual trust and live happily thereafter. The guarantee of safety that comes from the neighbours is more than 100 soldiers guarding the community.
But the question is, where are the homes? They have either been encroached or sold in distress sale . It is true in a majority of cases . If they return, they will have to look for alternatives , and those alternatives are not acceptable to the local leadership there.
Kashmiri Pandit migrants believe that they have the reason to doubt such pronouncements . They feel that they have become voiceless people and no one is listening to them. “ We are sick of hearing that we can go back to the Valley , and still worse that most of us don’t want to go back to our homeland. Both these statements are highly incorrect,” said Shadi Lal Bhat of Kulgam now living in a rented accommodation here . “ Our past is being erased and the future is uncertain , our present is a dilemma where are we , and who are we ,” Kuldeep Dhar, a retired employee said in complete frustration .
The Centre has let them down in all respects. All the governments promised them their homes in the Valley, and when it came to implementing the project, developed cold feet. Former Home Minister L K Advani had declared “ I will not think that Kashmir is normal unless Kashmiri pandits are restored to the Valley with dignity and honour.” Former Prime Ministers Inder Kumar Gujral and Manmohan Singh , who were themselves refugees- empathized with community and echoed each other in saying,” We understand your pain, we will get back to your homes and the land of your forefathers.” Nothing happened . Nothing will happen- the community members are convinced .
Kashmir is now the new land of extremism where any other thought is unthinkable , and the soldiers, howsoever big their number may be, would not be able to give them sense of security. After the 27th anniversary of “ holocaust” anniversary is over, the countdown for the 28th anniversary has begun. Sad !
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