Will they return?

I wish they do and I wish we take the issue seriously

PANDIT HOMECOMING

SHAFI AHMAD

I wish they return soon. I am still in contact with my Kashmiri Pandit friends residing in Jammu or Delhi area. My Pandit friends tell me that I have depicted their flight in early nineties in the right perspective in my book “The Half Widow”. The issue of their return has been in focus time and again and has again received attention. But will they return is the moot point.
There can be many strings attached to their return be it social, political or economical. But first thing that should come to mind is the issue of security. They left the valley in trying circumstances although the issue of their flight has been discussed many times by various authors. What forced them to leave and who encouraged their exodus may be relegated to the back burner and let political scientists discuss that. But one thing is certain that the security situation at that time was not conducive. I discussed the security scenario with one of my Pandit friends in Jammu which, I said, was not conducive for Muslim population also. His apt reply was that ‘you demand Azadi while I feel I am already Azad. In the process if you lose something you have a reason while I don’t have’.
 Has the security situation improved to such an extent that a Pandit shall feel free to roam about like they did in the past? The fleeing Pandits that time felt that they were made a pointed target for  being pro India. Even some Muslims ,particularly workers of mainstream political parties also became  targets . The time has changed . A senior police officer, himself a Kashmiri Pandit, in an informal chat sums up ‘the Lashkar Taiba has a clear strategy. They call non Muslims including Kashmiri  Pandits as infidels but don’t attack them. Their goal is something Pan Islamic’. Leaving then militant attacks aside security becomes a psychological issue. If one lives among the majority community he has to be mentally prepared that he won’t be harmed. Where then comes the cluster housing for the community. The idea has already been rejected as was evident in Sheikhpora and Mattan. Omer Abdullah tweeted “all I can do is redouble my efforts to facilitate conditions for Pandits to return to Kashmir.” We need to create environment and not a security grid. Environment comes from mutual trust and not the gun wielding cop.
An old Muslim woman wailing and beating her chest over the killings in Wandhama was regarded as a ‘drama’ by a Pandit lady acquaintance of mine. The mistrust created two decades back between the two communities has vanished to a great extent.  The film “Sheen” by Ashok Pandit has been trashed. While as book like “The Garden of Solitude” by Siddhartha Gigoo is accepted (of course with couple of abrasions). The Pandit employees have taken a recourse with their postings in far off places and they serve and reside at ease with their Muslim brethren.
At central government level the migrant camps in Jammu are no longer an attraction and a necessity to show off to the world bodies that communal skirmishes have forced these people to flee and Kashmir issue is a Pakistan sponsored extremist Islamic rebellion. So, for them, camps to continue in very pathetic living conditions is not needed to be encouraged.
However, Pandit community face some problems which are mainly societal. The society has ceased to be a cohesive one owing to the fact that members  are scattered in many parts. The collective leadership in the community could encourage return but it is sparse. An  interesting analysis is put forth by my Pandit friend.
“The Pandits belong to a minority community and we know each other very well to a greater  extent. We are mostly educated and such people don’t accept leaders may be due to own ego and the credentials of those who yearn to lead.”
 Pandit youth have spread in all parts of India and even in Europe and US. Such people are hardly expected to return leaving the green pastures. But a sizeble population, particularly elder ones, have haunting memories attached with their motherland.
Their wish to return and the welcome steps by the civil society shall be catalysts in attracting Pandit community to return. However, the empty rhetoric by politicians can play a spoilsport  who take credit for everything , pasting ‘Fevicol’ to every step with the peace process.
Although I wish it happens sooner to enable me to enjoy a Gada Bata on Shivratri but in Srinagar environment yet, will they return remains to be seen!

(Shafi Ahmad is the author of  The Half Widow)

Lastupdate on : Mon, 21 Jan 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 21 Jan 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 22 Jan 2013 00:00:00 IST




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