GAR FIRDAUS BAR RUE ZAMINAST, HAMI ASTO HAMI ASTO HAMI ASTO............. BIG question Ė does above statement really means for Kashmiri Pandits?
Till today the above words are famous to describe the beauty of Kashmir. Kashmir the land of learning, the land of beauty. Kashmir was a Paradise on Earth for people all over the world. Its beauty and magnificent snow peaks were like creations of godís love on the canvas of earth.The struggle of the Pandits started even before the mass evacuation from the valley in 1989. India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir in 1965...& 1971; Tourism in Kashmir started declining during latest 1980 Ďs and 1990ís due to the terror spread by the militant groups and so called People who termed themselves as rightful owners of Kashmir.
In 1987 Farooq Abdulla emerges as the winner in the elections and forms the government with Indian National Congress.The losing candidate was Mohammad Yousf Shah who later became Syed Salahuddin, chief of Militant Outfit Hizb- Ul- Mujahedin, thereby spreading terror in the Kashmir Valley and taking innocent lives.The whole valley was drowned with protest following strict action and curfew by the police. Militancy started spreading their wings more extensively in the valley with bomb blast. On 8th December ĖRubina Sayyed daughter of Home Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was kidnapped by JKLF.
Kashmir was a paradise a fact for the Kashmiri Panditsí till the Year 1989. The barbaric evacuation of the Kashmiri Pandits took place on January 19th I989. On that day the loudspeakers of mosques in Kashmir blasted out a message as a threat: Pandits leave the valley, leaving behind your women. We want Pakistan, without Kashmiri Pandits. The entire country stood like a dumb deaf and mute spectator to the atrocities being done on the Pandits. Their ears were deaf to the sound of the helpless pleas of the Pandits. Kashmiri Pandits were specifically targeted and eliminated by the terrorists, children were also not spared.Kashmiri Pandits were chosen individually as in case of Pandit Tika lal Taploo, who was shot dead on 14 September 1989 and mass killings as in the case of wadhama massacres. The tortures faced by the Pandits were inhuman and merciless in every form. Torture death was subject in every cruel form by hanging, Branding with Hot Iron, Drowning alive, burning with cigarettes, and bleeding to death. At Times the assailants didnít even allow a proper cremation of the dead bodies.Farooq Ahmad Dar aka Bitta Karatey killed many Kashmiri Pandits in an inhuman way subjecting them to extreme brutality.
In 1989, the approximate number of Kashmiri Pandits thrown out from the valley wasmassive. Even Political Parties such as the BJP and RSS failed to help in the plight of Kashmiri Pandits sufferings. Congress have built separate colony for the Kashmiri Hindus but the government cannot give the assurity of the safety of the Kashmiri Pandits if they come to stay there .In 1989 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee from the valley due to 'ethnic cleansing' carried out by Muslim militant organizations.
Thereafter the life of the Kashmir Pandit have been turned upside down in such a merciless way that still the broken path could not be mended. They have been mercilessly thrown out from their own homes, insulted assaulted and battered for life physically as well as mentally. They have faced such an emotional breakdown that the scars of losing their homeland will never heal. The tears never stop flowing and can never be controlled thinking about the lost paradise. You can see the pain and yearning for their homeland in eyes of each and every Kashmiri Pandit. It has been more than 21 years that the Kashmiri Panditsí are wandering like Gypsies and Nomads in their own country, even when they have a place which has their ancestral rights.
I had an opportunity to speak to one of my associate who has been through the dark clouds of unrest which turned doomed for the Pandits. Sundeep Bhatt is one of those from the Pandit community who has felt the pain of losing his homeland. You can still hear the pain the anger in his voice when he thinks about the days they were evacuated from their homeland. Pain because he doesnít know whether he or his children will ever be able to touch the soil of their homeland and say it their own again. Anger, because the government is not in a mood to do anything concrete for the community. This is the story of every Kashmiri Pandit, the voice is of Sundeep but the pain and helplessness is of the thousand Kashmirís who donít know what the future holds for them.
Sundeep was just 7 years when he left Kashmir; it was the Mid April 1990. They were the last Hindu family to evacuate their village. Seeing the tense situation and fearing for the safety of women and children elders in the family decided to leave the village and go to a safer place. They left as they were of the impression that they will come back after a weekís time or maximum to maximum 10- 15 days. The evacuation is temporary was the feeling of Sundeep family that once everything calms down they can return to the safety of their homeland. But alas this was not the case.... The evacuation was permanent. A plot to throw Kashmiri Pandits out of their own land and never to return back to feel the paradise again.
The plight of Kashmiri Panditsí can be seen in the refugee camps of Jammu (Muthi Camp, Purkhoo Camp, Transport Nagar, Jhiri Camp, Nagrota Camp, Mishriwala Camp, Battalbalian Camp, Udhampur) & (Nandnagri, Sultanpuri, Kailash Colony ,Maviya Nagar ,South Extension Palika Dham Lajpat Nagar Aliganj Bapu Dham Amar Colony Mangol Puri Patel Nagar Sultanpuri Moti Nagar Begampura in Delhi )where they are surviving a life of a homeless person. They have a roof upon their head but not a place to call their home. Its hearting to know the plight suffered by the Pandits,The living conditions were really very pathetic in early days... when Sundeep family took shelter in GSI building transport nagar... in an under construction building. There were approximately 50 - 60 Hindu families residing in that 4 story building. There were 10-12 families from different part of Kashmir living together. The living conditions were inhuman and a indicator of the hardships that were still to come. There was no water... no electricity.. no fans.. Education got disturbed... unemployment increased..The Pandits were in deep depression...they started dying due to sun stroke.. Snake bites... etc... Since then the Pandits have lived in camps with economic and health problems. Many Families died of snake bites, Heart Attack due to tremendous mental stress and Pressure.
In the refugee camps Pandits stay in very pathetic conditions. Even the most basic amenities of water, a proper drainage system and toilets are missing in these camps. Family of 8- 9 people stay in a small 10 x 10 room. The Pandits population is on a decline as the bearing any new off spring in the family is almost nil due to space constrained. We speak about human Right Violation in other countries, Global Warming Internal disputes of other nations but when it comes to the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits their cries for help goes unnoticed, Unheard. Why has there been no debate on the plight of the Pandits in parliament, maybe because for the government they are a minor percentage of their vote bank. The Pandits are not only tortured by the extremist and militants but are also subjected to negligence from their own people, their own government. The government comes forward to rehabilitees the people effected by natural calamities such as the Tsunami and earthquakes which are wrath of nature, that cannot be avoided. But, the same government does not even take a single step forward to rehabilitee the Pandits back in the valley on whom the inhuman calamity befallen is manmade. The government says that it has made arrangements for the Pandits to come back to the valley and give them accommodation and jobs, but how far are these houses secure for them? The government does not want to take responsibility of the safety of the Pandits, if the government is incapable of safeguarding its people then on what grounds do the Pandits return to the valley. Govt. of India and State govt. has allotted one room set flats somewhere in jagti, nr. Nagrota on various different conditions, Another ridicules step taken by State govt. on the name of govt. jobs on the sake of their lives, they hired few thousands Kashmiri Pandits on a condition that have to join at their native town only and they will be never transferred to other part of state. Why do the government want to lay this condition? Today the Pandits have migrated to different states for livelihood starting their struggle from scratch. Once a flourishing family has been turned to a pauper and has to once again start building his nest which was destroyed not because of the storm but because of the indifference of the humans of his own kind
This was the case of each and every family who were thrown out of Kashmir only the camps of their sufferings were different be it Muthi camp in Jammu or Transport nagar in Delhi. No one can understand the sadness and irritation which the Kashmiri Pandits feel as they are now refugee in their own country they were proud of their cultural heritage and their homeland still they are proud to call themselves Kashmiri Pandits , who are a example of patience, but the irony is they are still refugees. The government grants them relief funds of few hundred rupees per person, but can that few hundred rupees give them the freedom they want to enjoy to stay peacefully in their homeland.
The younger generations like Sundeep have migrated to other parts of India in order to make a livelihood and upgrade the standard of living. But, still you can see the sadness and the pain in their eyes may be they have a smile on their face but there is no twinkle to go with that smile. Itís like a stream of water that looks as a stream from outside but has been dried from within. Sundeep and all other Kashmiri Pandits would love to go back to Kashmir if the government of India removes article 370 . The Economic growth of Kashmir not only depends on tourism and exports but they need real time investment from organizations which can change the tide of the economic and social condition of Kashmir. Currently every Kashmiri Pandit today is in mental agony and pain and donít want to return to the valley in the present scenario where there is no future for them. But the Emotional mind of every Kashmir Pandit wants to return to his homeland. Today every Kashmiri Pandit dream of the scent of his childhood in the neighbouring field of his homeland. He dreams of the places he has visited with his family, the place where he has fought with his friend Valley. He wants to sit endlessly at the Dal Lake absorbing its beauty and calmness. He wants to pray peacefully at the Shankarcharya Temple absorbing its power of Knowledge and Wisdom.
The Raging question is why have the government been so lenient for the cause of Kashmiri Panditsí Why are the Kashmiri Panditsí still staying in the refugees camps in inhuman conditions. The Pandits once had an affluent life .They stayed in big bungalows, now they have been forced to spend 21 years on roads. A hounding question which needs to be answered is, are they really refugees in their own country? There is place for everyone in Kashmir but not for Kashmiri Panditsí who are the Heart and Soul of it. The History of Kashmiri Panditsí goes back to 5000 years. If nothing is done to restore the Kashmiri Panditsí in the valley the day is not far when the younger generation will never know the Paradise which was once their home. Slowly the Kashmiri Culture is on the decline and something needs to be done to preserve it. The Issues of Kashmiri Pandits is not termed as a plight but is termed as a Hindu- Muslim tension, Neither the government nor any NGO nor UN is doing anything to restore the self respect & dignity of the Pandits who are living as refugees in their own country..
What is the reality? Do the government really want the Kashmiri Pandits back in the valley or is it just that they are making a mockery of the emotions of the Pandits. On Republic day Indian people were prevented for Flag hoisting at Lal Chowk. Senior leaders of the main opposition BJP have been held to prevent them from entering Indian-administered Kashmir for a flag-raising ceremony. Sushama Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar were arrested. Kashmir being a part of Indian the homeland of the Pandits still Our Indian National Flag Pride of the country could not be hoisted in its own soil. What can be termed as the failure of the government when its own National Flag cannot be hoisted in its own country?
Can anyone imagine the lightning of pain that passes through the heart of Pandit when he visits his homeland as a tourist? The pain in the eyes, the feeling of heaviness in the steps when he passes the places where once he flourished. The beautiful memories of his childhood have been lost somewhere in the decade that has passed. Today there are only memories left of the mass praying at Hari Parbat where each one use to gather together and pray for the well being of oneís family. Where every Pandit standing beside you could recognize you and would break into a broad smile and loving hug when he met you. Where the elders of the community blessed the younger for a fruitful and peaceful life. Where has the Kashmir of dreams disappeared?
Donít let the Kashmiri Pandits be a Refugee in his own country. The threads of the life and dreams of Kashmiri Pandit for his homeland has been turned into a intrigued web, this web needs to be sorted out at the earliest so that each thread can go in its own direction with its free will. The thread whose journey started from Kashmir got entangled in the tortures of time and passed far away land. Let that thread find its own way towards the land of its dream where it meets the other threads and reach its final destination resting in peace and harmony. Itís a Thread of dream for every Kashmiri Pandit. Letís weave together the thread of dreams for the Kashmir Pandits whose barren eyes are awaiting the glimpse of his homeland.