Revisiting migrant issue

Face to face interaction among Kashmiri communities is key to remove bitterness

Sajad Bazaz
Srinagar, Publish Date: Apr 20 2018 10:35PM | Updated Date: Apr 20 2018 10:35PM
Revisiting migrant issueFile Photo

Last weekend a private get-together of migrant Kashmiri Pandits (KP), Kashmiri Muslims (KM) and Kashmiri Sikhs (KS) organised here in Srinagar by a reputed event management group - Space Communication - under the banner of ‘Salaam Mahara’ was a unique way of attempting to rejuvenate bond among Kashmiri communities. It was simply heartening to observe a small but beautiful display of reunion of Kashmiri communities and vowing to strengthen their cultural bond and brotherhood.

For the first time, members of ‘angry’ Pandit community invited from different parts of India during the two day ‘Salam Mahara’ event mingled with the members of Kashmiri Muslims and Sikhs to erase their bitterness. None of the communities was in complaining mood and Pandits in particular were nostalgic in their narrative. Almost all of the KP speakers expressed their guilt of not returning to the valley during all these years.

Since 1990 when in the month of January we observed mass migration of KPs from the valley, it was first time in 28 years that the divided communities of the valley assembled on a platform to talk, connect and carry forward their rich legacy of Kashmiriyat.

Historically speaking, in 1947 and 1948 when Hindus and Muslims were slaughtering each other on either side of Punjab, Kashmir was remarkably peaceful. Both Kashmiri Pandit and Muslim communities lived without fear. and exhibited a spirit of mutual tolerance.

But,  the scenario changed in January 1990. During this period of 28 years of turmoil, a political narrative was built on the premise to seek return of migrants. Precisely, for many groups and political parties this migrant KP issue was an oxygen to keep themselves alive in the political arena. It was always disheartening to see even reputed personalities other than politicians to preach hate by flirting with KP migrant issue. Political parties having varied ideologies have continuously been engaged to use this migrant issue to drive their own interests more than aiming at the welfare of the Kashmiri Pandit community. 

So far, the whole narrative has revolved around return of Kashmiri migrant Pandits to the Valley where some plead separate homeland for them within the valley and some oppose this kind protected return of KPs. For some time, particularly in the initial years of migration, the demand for return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits to the valley carried weight. It was relevant to seek their return to their homeland as most of the migrants were struggling to settle even on routine domestic fronts. Now, if we have a look at the scenario around the migrants, we would find most of the migrant families after hectic efforts have got settled at their respective locations across the country. It has took them 28 years of hard work to get settled away from their homeland.

Today, I think return of KP migrants, who are one of the important pillars of Kashmiri ethos, should not be an issue. Pressurizing them to return to the valley for permanent settlement would be another injustice to this segment of Kashmiri brethren. During all these years of migration, this community has braved extreme geographical, climatic and cultural aggression in their areas of settlement and carved a space for themselves to live honourably. How can they be asked to dismantle their own homes again to satisfy the dirty political agenda of individuals/ groups and parties?    This is extreme of injustice.

Here I fervently hope that I am not sounding a voice against the return of KPs to their homeland. I reiterate that KPs are an integral part of Kashmiri society and they are ambassadors of Kashmir wherever they are settled. For 28 years, we observed a huge communication gap between the two communities. The gap was promoted by those who used to beat drum of migrant issues more to satisfy their own egos and interests as is evident from the fact that this drum beating only complicated the problem. 

So, under the circumstances, what is the alternative to get back the displaced KP community mingled with Kashmiri Muslim community? How to bridge the communication gap? I think programmes like 'Salam Mahara' are need of the hour. I don't think the traditional narrative of pitching return of displaced KPs holds any ground now. Let members of both the communities are provided more 'Salam Mahara' platforms to connect and talk in a free atmosphere. Let regular social interactions among the Kashmiri communities rejuvenate the bond among communities. 

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for).


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