Recently I read a story about a teenage boy who was complaining his mother about the way he had been ridiculed among his peers and friends. His friends were taunting and making fun of him. Reason being he did not know about his aboriginal place, his family history and was unable to converse in his mother tongue. That narrative was about a young boy belonging to an indigenous tribe in Papua-New Guinea. He had been adopted by the Christian family and taken away from his ancestral village to New Zealand. He had been bestowed upon with a privilege to get civilized as per modern customs and be a so called gentleman. In the present scenario, we witness similar aspersions being met out to Kashmiri Pandit (KP) children whether it is common society in J&K or in other unfamiliar territory. Our children face similar kind of outlook as if we are from other planet. Being born and brought outside their homeland, all away from their cultural and linguistic traditions, they often find themselves at crossroads. Unaware of their origins, whenever new generation KPs are challenged about their bonafide identity they often find solace in disguising themselves in larger national identity.
We are and will always remain the proud citizens of the Indian nation. In this all-encompassing and whole accommodative social setup, Kashmiri Pandit commands a very unique place. However due to several known and unknown historical, political and social factors this distinctive status of Kashmiri Pandit in Kashmiri society faced turmoil from time to time. They were designated as Kashmiri Migrants which mostly comprised of Kashmiri Pandits who had to leave their homes and hearths in Kashmir to run for their life due to terrorist violence. It has been a long time since KPs were internally displaced and were deemed as refugees in their own land. Much water has flown down the river Jhelum since then; the circumstances have also changed for good.
In the search of secured career options new generation KPs find themselves caught up in a dilemma. Having brought up in the atmosphere which cherishes an engineer or doctor more than an artist or military officer, our community has lost in the race of diversity and reach. On one hand we crave for political representation and on the other hand we don't prefer our children learn Humanities but to focus entirely on sciences. We even encourage our youngster to go overseas for education or for work. Old generation often blames youngsters for having neglected their elders in pursuit of their careers who in turn take on elders boldly and often rebel for not meeting their aspirations. Whom do we actually blame for this situation? It is a million dollar question.
Our community lies in shambles today and is going through a tough phase, never ever witnessed before. Though there were times in the yore, when legends say that only 11 families of KPs were left in Kashmir. Those families survived as they managed to stay in their motherland. Present danger is multifold, because we are ousted from our native place. We are at the verge of extinction. At least more than ninety percent of our youngsters don't speak in their mother tongue, let alone knowing their culture and traditions. Our elders also keep on pressing children for studying but never ever venture or show interest in recapitulating ancient stories and old tales of wisdom. Busy schedule and cumbersome life is cited as a way forward.
We are not realizing that the plight is worsening and we are failing to anticipate the change. However change might not be a positive one but we are taking it for granted. When we delve further we discover that many families have sent their wards to the far off places for study or for work, in fact new generation is getting settled outside their homeland. Only left behind are their ailing parents and infirm elders. This shows the neglect and disregard towards our own identity. Biggest reasons of this migration outside J&K state is the disharmony among KPs themselves and economic reason to some extent. We all want our children to be high achievers as brilliant scientists and popular doctors. No one needs best artist, dedicated military officer, career administrator. Lack of chances in J&K is also to blame. Therefore everyone is sending his child to distant places to earn livelihood.
Only confined to certain occupations have made them dependent on the limited career options. This has taken toll on their existence as a community with least diversity & has also hindered their evolution as a society in the process.
Our ego has to be kept in check. One KP must respect other KP. We must not criticize and look down upon other KP with suspicion. This suspension and harassment has to end for all times to come. Respect and reverence is to be granted equally to rich and poor, to rustic and urban amongst our community. We have to live by this golden rule "United we stand, divided we fall". It has to start from our immediate family. We have to check the adverse impact of westernization on our new generation. Saving our core cultural values and traditions for generations to come will help in regaining the lost pride of KPs.
A Kashmiri Pandit's ability can bridge the social and political divide and help in creating the atmosphere of mutual understanding among different provinces of our largely diverse state of J&K. His intellectual prowess and deep understanding of society can be applied for the betterment of relations among different sections of our community. His intrinsic ability to quickly assimilate ones thoughts and expressions will come handy. Learning, studying and venturing into new fields of knowledge has given him the edge over others. Therefore in the pervading mood and ripe atmosphere, it is to be seen whether present political dispensation augments the rise of Kashmiri Pandits like a phoenix from the ashes or he is left unchaperoned to struggle for his survival & eventually vanish into an unknown oblivion.
(Lalit Anjum (M.Tech, BE) is an Independent Researcher, an alumnus of NIT Hamirpur HP, presently residing at Jammu)