The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits in 1990, designed to effect their motivated ethnic cleansing, will go down in the history of these aborigines of Kashmir as a continuation of the persecution they had faced for hundreds of years, in particular during the despotic rule of tyrant kings. They did not get any respite even in the post-Independence days of their country, India.
The colossal crisis through which the exiled community or for that matter the entire Kashmiri society is passing through is in reality a threat to India’s great values. Acute fear gripped the Kashmiri Pandits from September 1989 onwards, when they were threatened with posters to leave the Valley. After the killing of prominent members of the community, including women and young boys, they started feeling what they had felt when hounded by the Afgans in the second half of the 18th century—“O heart, there is fear and dread in the city. Prepare for journey, disorder is dominant in this city”.
Killing one and scaring a thousand was the concerted plan neatly executed by the local terror groups against the KPs. The choice of exile was forced on the KP community by the Pakistan sponsored terrorists. The elected state government at that time abdicated its Constitutional duties and left people’s life and liberty at the mercy of the terror groups. The terrorist violence is unabated till this day. The terror-stricken Pandits ran for life, leaving their homes and hearts behind them. They sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in the country. Now the Kashmir Valley is without the Kashmiri Pandits. The whole community of seven and a half lakhs is in their 29th year of exile. They crave to return to their roots.
There is no one at the political level, not even the Prime Minister or the Home Minister, or at the bureaucratic level, prepared to stick their neck out and come out with an actionable time bound plan for the return of the exiled community back to the Valley. The plight of the Pandits has been slowly forgotten.
The successive Central as well as state governments have done precious little for the rehabilitation of the community. They have contributed, in a big way, to the freedom struggle of India against the British imperialism, and also to the national reconstruction in the post Independent era. The long history of KPs has been punctuated by triumphs and tragedies. The antiquity of the KPs and its Aryan origin are well established. Human memory is short and so is, unfortunately, the memory of our leaders. I.K. Gujral was the only Prime Minister who acknowledged this and said that “if the coffers were to be emptied for their return and rehabilitation back in the Valley that would still be less price of the nation for the contribution of this illustrious community.”
The forced migration of 1990 left the KP community shattered them physically and psychologically. Scores of social organisations worked day and night on voluntary basis to bring succor to the exiled. They are working relentlessly for the protection of their distinct socio-cultural entity. It is taking lot of time for the leadership of the community to put across its considered views on the ultimate resettlement of the entire Kashmiri Pandit community in Kashmir on its own terms.
From 1989 till date, KP groups are devoting a lot of time to their mission in one form or the other towards the task of restoring the honour and dignity of the Pandits. There is no one at the political level, not even the Prime Minister or the Home Minister, or at bureaucratic level prepared to stick their neck out and come out with an actionable time bound plan for the return of the exiled community back to Valley.
The plight of the Pandits has been slowly forgotten, although the majority community in Kashmir often says that Pandits are an inseparable part of Kashmir and are most welcome as natives to their own homeland. The religious leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq recently once again appealed to the exiled community to return home and urged the government to facilitate their dignified return.
The return of the Pandits to their homeland has to be the outcome of a consensus among different political parties of the nation and leaders of different communities. The government of India has a moral and constitutional responsibility for working towards such a consensus.