Friday 19th July 2024,
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The irony of love and longing for Kashmiri Pandits

The irony of love and longing for Kashmiri Pandits

Suddenly, everyone wants us, Kashmiri Pandits (KPs), to return to the Valley. Everyone, including Yasin the murderer and Geelani the Fuehrer. And, not just return, but return with “honour” and “dignity”. Why? Because “Kashmir also belongs to the KPs” and, believe it or not, “without KPs Kashmir is not complete”.

Kashmir has also been in the news, lately, for floods. Flash floods, massive floods, unprecedented floods, rising, sweeping, inundating, impending… all manner of floods. But none as frequent and overwhelming as the flood of love and longing (L&L), for us KPs, among our erstwhile neighbours in the Valley. 25 years ago, these neighbours just wouldn’t let us go. They pleaded with us, blaring from almost all the mosque-loudspeakers no less. Even as we all were hot footing at night, in the snow, they wanted us to leave behind our sisters, mothers, daughters and wives. How considerate! It was, perhaps, out of a chivalrous concern for the KP women about to embark on a difficult journey. How can we forget those midnight “entreaties” and such massive and frenzied public outpouring at the time of our parting. They will forever remain fresh in our collective memory.

We, the KPs, had become a veritable flood in the winter of 1989-90. The flood that choked the tunnel and the highway till it reached Jammu. And once in Jammu, it receded into the temples, the ashrams, the courtyards, the warehouses, the garage blocks, the parking lots, the pavements, the tattered tents, the shanties, the suburbs, the outskirts and beyond. In our racial memory, it was, arguably, the seventh time in the last five hundred years that the river Tawi of Jammu had taken a spillover from the river Vitasta of the Valley. (Pardon the impossibility of this metaphor if taken literally. Frankly, what tempted me was its compelling imagery, as also the sheer magnitude of madness it lends to what the KPs in the Valley have been going through.) Yet, I am not sure if anyone can imagine the kind of floods Kashmir has witnessed. Particularly, the swirling floods of “KashmiriYAT” and “InsaaniYAT”!

This current flood, of L&L, in the Valley for us KPs, is not without an interesting context or even a special “YAT” of its own. Rumour has it that it has been triggered by a big avalanche called JamhooriYAT. (We, the KPs, are repeatedly told, that such things do not happen by themselves.) This avalanche happened by way of the election results of May 2014. As if one wasn’t enough, another avalanche took place within seven months, in the form of the Assembly election results of December. We are supposed to be grateful for what these two elections delivered. We, now, have a “super patriot” and a “master strategist” and also their gifts of consummate statecraft. It is this miraculous combination that is supposed to have rubbed off to even hardcore mainstream separatists such as the PDP. It is working like a charm. and turned them into resurgent patriots. It was evident in the release of Masarat Alam and also in their demand for the remains of Afzal Guru. Never mind the heresy of capitulation in the Agenda for Alliance. Or, the exaggerations about the volte face within 24 hours, by the grand old Mufti on the floor of the J&K state Assembly after his high-profile meeting at the North block on the return of KPs.

Every time we itinerant and insensitive KPs feel like hearing from our lovelorn erstwhile neighbours, all we have to do is to announce our intent to return from our “lavish and comfortable” exile. What this creates is more than a few ripples, on the placid calm of a peace loving Valley. And, the most non-violent satyagraha the Valley comes up with is to drown itself in the L&L for us KPs. In addition, one hears a soul-stirring chorus about the state’s fabled harmony. It is often followed by a sincere reminder, of a “sinister conspiracy to fracture Kashmiri society by raising the walls of mistrust between brothers”. One cannot help but wonder as to what were we KPs smoking when we decided to flee in 1990.

Even if we had to flee, I don’t know why we had to stick out like victims of a genocide? After all, the Islamist Jihad has put in over 500 years of hard work and yet we stubbornly refuse to honourably disappear. What is the point we were trying to prove? And, to whom? And, then we come up with a demand like Panun Kashmir. Why don’t we KPs get it and stick to the script? Are we bigger Hindus than the Saffron Brotherhood? Are we any more patriots than the Super Patriot? Even as we were grappling with these inane issues, someone somewhere slipped up on the semantics. And before you could ask where does the buck stop, a 24×7 debate was on. It was about the idea of a “composite township for KPs” instead of returning to, essentially, what and where the KPs fled from. Prime time hosts, across channels, took over the issue, to settle it as only they can. How could my editor lag behind? So, she called and asked, “will you write on this”? As I was half way down saying “but, of course”, she asked “by the way, you are not in favour of a ghetto for the KPs, are you”? Now, what do you say to a “suggestion” like that?

All that comes to my mind is that we KPs never lived in a ghetto. Even if it was just one house in an entire village or a neighbourhood, KPs stayed put. We were a docile community, with 100 per cent literacy and zero per cent crime. KPs were never known to have rioted or even retaliated. Even when we were being cleansed from our homes, we did not seek ghettos to live in. That is not us. But, today, those who chased us out and turned the Valley into a Jihadi ghetto are issuing sermons to us on the virtues of returning to our usurped lands and encroached homes. In effect, they want us KPs back as sitting ducks and soft targets. Why not, when they are so used to us as captives. The ministers and the politicians, who roam about protected by several layers of security, proclaim with a straight face that the situation is normal. Those who ran an anti-KP pogrom are setting terms for our return. This isn’t funny. But what is funny is that the flood of L&L, caused by the opening of the sluice-gates of platitudes and hypocrisy, has all but receded for now. Left in its wake, as is only to be expected, is some usual muck of a hope belied, the wretched carcass of a trust violated and odd debris of an illusion shattered. All this is no more than some unavoidable collateral, nothing really serious. And there is nothing new in this either. Everything is indeed normal.

Sushil Pandit

The Daily Opinion

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