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Pic: Mubashir Khan/GK

With the conclusion of the DDC polls, democracy has been pulled out of the recession and restored in J&K. That is the latest national mantra. The polls have been listed as the most peaceful in the past three decades. So, now the development will flourish in peace acquired through DDCs. As a natural corollary it should  become the starting point of Kashmiri Pandits’ return journey.

They deserve to be made partners and beneficiaries of this vibrant democracy. If they still live outside that will lay bare a big hole in the narrative of normalcy. It becomes incumbent upon the government and the community to complete the circle of normalcy. If the foreign media can be conducted to stamp the claim of normalcy, the return of Kashmiri Pandits will send more powerful and genuine message of times having changed for better.’

The minuscule minority has suffered a lot since its migration in 1990s when circumstances darkened the whole of the Valley, and its residents. Now, one of the fundamental duties of the government is to help them return to their homes. And the community that was on the frontline, advanced numerous arguments for bringing what August 5 delivered, to cheer it – Delhi’s direct rule, should also think of the return journey to the Valley. It is the only way to redeem the pain.

In the past more than 30 years, pain has been a constant companion of the community. The mere thought of leaving the home injects feelings of distance and the uncertainties. But when the migration takes place in the dead of dark nights of a situation filled with horror and fear, the pain becomes immeasurable. Only the community knows what it has suffered.

The Kashmiri Pandits saw hope of their survival and safety in the migration. They must have been scared of staying in their homes. The fact of the matter is that there were selective killings of the community members and an atmosphere of hostility had built up in the Valley where Indians were targeted.

Some chastised the migration. They advanced the argument that If they were Kashmiris, they should have stayed back in the Valley along with their fellow Kashmiris. The logic of such voices was that, if they were Indians, as they were deemed to be the last post of India in Kashmir, then again, they should have stayed there as Indians. These lines sound good for the script writers of heroism in adversities, but the things were far removed from the reality in which they found themselves in the times.

It is not to minimize the risks that Kashmiri Muslims faced. They died in high numbers on daily basis, and also suffered deprivation of all kinds. They have their own story of pain to tell; they had no option to escape from the land of their ancestors. Worse still, they were painted as collaborators in creating the situation that had turned hostile for Kashmiri Pandits who migrated to the places where they considered their co-religionists could offer them much-needed sense of security.

The time line of the past three decades is dotted with the nightmarish conditions that the community suffered. They had good homes to live in, good jobs and vast orchards to tend in the Valley. But all this changed into the life in tents. Their miseries cannot be gauged by any yardstick. They avenged this misery by narrating it in a manner that distances between Kashmir valley and the rest of India grew.

A thesis has become stronger over the decades that Kashmiri Pandit who are well-settled outside J&K will not return. Some have found much better and secure life in foreign countries. This, though correct, overlooks the fact that they could not have waited endlessly in the migrant camps. That, however, doesn’t mean that the community’s return should be written off the calendar.

Two things need to be understood. The pain is pain whether this is in the Valley or outside of it. Love for the land is pure for those who were born and brought up there. In this era, where children shun their parents to live separately, to expect that the Kashmiri boys and girls to return the Valley is unrealistic. The story of the elders, however, is different.

The real problem in their return is because of the vested interests at work. They don’t want any reconciliation. The governmental efforts alone would not help the matters, and it should not be satisfied with reservation of jobs for the community boys and girls in the Valley. It must talk to genuine stakeholders to make its democratic fruitful.