Kashmiri Pandits who, unlike majority of their co-community members, and whom government called as Non-Migrants (NM ), didn’t move out of the Valley in 1990 are up in agitation to have their pending demands addressed by the government. Few days back they lodged a protest in the compound of Press Enclave Srinagar under the banner of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti. The Samiti President informed the gathering that they have resubmitted grievances to the state authorities on 12th August 2020 and are waiting for a positive response. And if it doesn’t come within the stipulated time, he announced, “ the KPSS will be forced to go for a fast-unto-death.”
Their demands are:
- Extension of PM’s job package and apportionment of 500 posts / one job per family for 808 Non-Migrant KPs / Kashmiri Hindu families – which has been already approved by the MHA; cash assistance
- Safe accommodation, protection, preservation and restoration of temples and other religious places belonging to the Hindus in Kashmir.
- Their other grievance is that after 5th August 2019 developments they have been suffering on account of the political vacuum that has engulfed the Valley.
The NM are asking for the bare minimum that is required to keep one physically and emotionally afloat. These demands are in no way different from what the Pandits, who moved out (officially called Migrants) have been projecting. In their case, too, government has not responded. It is a tragedy for this community that nobody is bothered about its plight. Story remains same for both NM and the Migrants. They may be living apart for the moment but both suffer a pervading sense of “ orphanhood”. KP is a forgotten lot only to be recalled from the consigned record when, in Delhi or elsewhere , it becomes necessary for the ruling party to confront the adversary and score a political point. It matters least whether the point scored is relevant to the community’s cause or not . Shrill debate over, they stand reverted back to the cold store.
Edward Said tells us that “Exile is the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home.” For the Pandits it is a double whammy – separation not only from ‘true home’ but also a segregation from the Kashmir society, at large. What aggravates the tragedy is the fact that Pandits are made to suffer a theory of intra-community rift, also. A cunning politician discusses them in the abhorrent terminologies like Non-Migrants and Migrants, just to drive a wedge between them. The worst part of the exile tale is that a nomenclature is encouraged to emerge. Now, KP is either a Migrant or a Non –Migrant: beyond these unpleasant prefixes there is nothing to define him.
Year 1990 gave birth to story of trials, tribulations, deprivation, trauma and loss of opportunities. It generated a kind of social barrier between Migrant Pandits and the Non –Migrants – a process of social stigmatization went under way. Encouraged by the inimical elements, one sees the other with a degree of suspicion. The unwelcome fall out of the exodus has been the the creation of complexes in the community, like that of adventurism and helplessness. This strange phenomenon of looking at each other rather than to each other has set in. As things portend, it is likely to remain so even after the unpleasant phase of unintended migration comes to an end.
It is time to reiterate that NMs and Migrants are of the same stock and will remain so. Momentary separation doesn’t matter. No artificial barrier will hide the truth . Some may have moved out in the circumstances which we must appreciate in a proper perspective. Similarly, we have to appreciate the grit and tenacity of our brethren who stuck to the roots despite heavy odds, and give them credit for keeping community’s flag high in Kashmir, at the time when game seemed to be over for the nationalist forces. It is a travesty that vested interests are portraying them as the adversaries. It is better to realize that what comes to either of them, in the ultimate analysis, it helps the community to survive, as a whole.
There is a convergence of sorts in projecting the demands when NMs seek protection, preservation and proper management of temples and shrines of the Hindus, in Kashmir, which have been plundered by the unscrupulous elements. Over the period of time, the displaced community has been agitating for the same. This is a time to display a united spirit and join hands to lend support the NMs in seeking redressal of their grievances. After all they are the grievances of whole Pandit community. The governments in J & K and New Delhi will do better to understand this.
B L SARAF is former Principal District and Sessions Judge