Wednesday, July 23, 2008

And Kashmir Left The Pandits

Voices

“Kashmir movements have had secular forces. The JKLF in Kashmir abjured any reference to Islam to begin with. But religious rhetoric overtook Kashmiriyat after a while, and the JKLF itself was overtaken by groups who wore religion on their sleeves.”

“What are you talking about here? Which secular forces have been involved with the ‘Kashmir Movement’? What Kashmiriyat are you talking about? It’s really disheartening to read these strange theories about Kashmir. Yasin Malik and Kashmiriyat! To me he is a bloody terrorist
I am a kashmiri pandit and I don’t know what that term Kashmiriyat is supposed to mean.
I would have thought that Kashmiriyat means common bond of culture, language etc between Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims. Where is the bond?”

Religion is and was, always the story of Kashmir. Pandits believe that because they were a Hindu minority in a Muslim land, which is why they are out.
It is all about being a minority. And maybe that’s why people want to be in majority- always. That majority becomes the identity and the security. That’s where religion comes in, it becomes the identity and a guarantee to security.

Kashmiri Pandits used to live like minorities in Kashmir. It’s as simple as that.
I blame Hindus of Gujarat for the mess in Gujarat and I blame Muslims for the mess in Kashmir. I blame inaction of the majority, when they refuse to speak up against the wrongs; that is when the fabric of society is torn, a society that is formed on nothing but trust. If onus of secularism in India is on Hindus, then in Kashmir it should be on Muslims. They have to take the blame. Can one imagine talking to a Muslim victim of Gujarat and telling him that it all had nothing to do with religion? In case of my family, the Army told us that, “We can’t guarantee your Safety”. Our Muslim neighbors told us that, “You are on the HITLIST for next week, and so you better leave.” Later these very people came looking to buy our property. They always knew about the coming wedding in the family and started to dangle the carrot. Am I supposed to feel grateful for that?

However, those were really strange times.
There was construction going on in our house just before we left Kashmir. A lot of steel construction sheets were lying piled up in the house yard. When we left, the locals stole those sheets. But, the funny thing is that an announcement was made from the local mosque that those steel sheets belongs to Pandits and have to be returned. And the people did return it. Later those sheets were used to build CRPF bunker outside/almost inside our house. The same mosques were giving calls to arm up for “Freedom Azadi”. We needed the money, so we did sell the house finally. That house was about hundred years old. We had an old stone sculpture that surfaced during the construction of that house. My folks used to worship it. It didn’t make it to the truck that made way to Jammu one early morning.Today, that place houses a big business complex. So, what’s my claim on Kashmir. I have to lay claim on those stone sculptures…ancient stone heads. Nothing else is left. I say I am from Kashmir, a Kashmir thats long gone. I don’t belong anywhere anymore. I am cynical, when I see lines like, “religious divide was never between common kashmiri people.” Then why am I out of Kashmir?
Okay, Life for Pandits in Kashmir was a lot easier as compared to the life of Muslim in Gujarat, Mumbai or in any Hindu Majority city. Relation between Pandits and Muslims in general was (and for some people still is) great. I mean we lived a good life together. Yet, here we are now, Kashmiri Pandits living a seemingly (as some would like to say) comfortable life out of Kashmir.The first step to bridge a gap would be to acknowledge the presence of gap; the things in Kashmir did not change overnight.By failing to acknowledge the gap, we too are likely to add to the mythical stories about Kashmir that one keeps reading.

It wasn’t only the Pandits who left Kashmir, Kashmir also left the Pandits.

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