It is heartening that some groups of migrant Kashmiri Pandits have made bold publicly to voice that they do not wish to return to the valley only to be ensconced in exclusive domains but to be once again integrally among the Muslim population whom they still regard with affection and trust.
I have consistently argued that migrant Pandits must not lay claim only to the place and territory but to the people as well for any lasting rehabilitation of minds and hearts, and for a recuperation of Kashmiriyat which, notwithstanding inimical forces, still thrives among Kashmiri Muslims in overwhelming measure.
Equally imaginative has been the initiative taken by some Pandits to meet with Mirwaiz Omar Farooq to clear the air on either side. Nothing could have been more forthcoming and admirable than the suo motu declaration by the Mirwaiz that the returning migrants will be welcome to hold their pro-India allegiance—something that would after all only align them along the mainstream Kashmiri political formations like the National Conference and the People's Democratic Party, both of whom subscribe to the accession of the state to the Union and thus to the Constitution of India. The Mirwaiz has thus at once removed the Pandit allegiance to the Union from the false archive of communal discourse and placed it squarely within the universe of democratic choice. This must be seen as a richly wholesome and far-reaching contribution to the politics of secularism and sanity.
One is confident that the Pandits who have taken this enabling and constructive initiative fully realize that their projected return will be to a polity and place which bear scant resemblance to the power equations of bygone times. The valley of today is chock a block with a generation of young Muslims who are second to none in attainments of diverse kinds. Their academic brilliance and prowess at stiff national competitions should put paid to any old and customary evaluations and social and professional equations thereof. Returning Pandits will do well to share the joy of their attainments, and learn to acknowledge their intellectual leadership in the spirit of non-sectarian human ism.
The idea that to begin with returning migrants across communities be sheltered in composite neghbourhoods is not a bad one. After all, the logistics of placement back within old neghbourhoods and environs cannot be met overnight. That task of relocation will inevitably entail infrastructural efforts of great intricacy—but one that will hopefully be accomplished with joyful coordination and cooperation over a period of time.
I have had the uplifting experience of having talked with some Pandit migrants who went back to the five locations in the valley some years ago. Nothing could have been more enthusing than to be told that whereas they had any number of grievances against the state and central governments, their rich source of material and emotional sustenance had been their Muslim neighbours who – in many cases – had seen to their quotidian needs even before the Pandits had actually occupied their flats. Few places in the world where such a thing might still happen.
Here is wishing the project every success.