‘How painful it is to hear a fellow Kashmiri Pandit carelessly brushing away any discussions about Kashmir, whilst making such irresponsible sweeping statements as, “Why should we discuss Kashmir, we don’t live there anymore? … There is no chance my children or I are going to live there, so why do I care? … They ousted us from our home, so I hate Kashmir and all people there …We suffered so much discrimination and prejudice against us when we lived there but look at the progress we have made since our exodus!”
Not only are such statements without much thought, they are toxic, extremely painful and provocative for any Kashmiri who cares for our motherland, Maej Kasheer! Such irresponsible and selfish statements are simply abhorrent and detestable. Are our social, ethical and moral values only connected with our materialistic desires, objectives and outcomes? Does Kashmir become important only if we are able to physically live there? Do people, places and things assume importance only if and when we are able to use them? How can one be so unwise and selfish? How can one speak on behalf of whole of the displaced Kashmiri Pandit community and profess we should stop thinking and caring about Kashmir? Do we know how many Pandits crave and work very hard to return, or create opportunities for others to return, to their motherland? How can we take away the birthright of our children, and their future generations, to return to the land of their ancestors, by harbouring such selfish and myopic thoughts?
Citizenship is not about the individuals; it is about the common and collective good of all members of the community. Citizenship requires one to transcend one’s likes or dislikes for the sake of the community. Kashmir is much beyond our hedonic needs. Kashmir is the geographical and spiritual head of India. Kashmir is our mother!
I may not be able to speak for all members of my Global Kashmiri Pandit community but, to me, the land of Kashmir remains my motherland, my Maej Kasheer, where I was born and where all my ancestors were born. Kashmir is sacred to me because:
- She witnessed, over the past nearly seven centuries or so (since the 14th century), a steely resolve, numerous hardships, deep convictions, struggles, tenacity and resilience of my ancestors and their honest and conscious endeavours to keep their Kashmiri Pandit identity intact. I must respect and uphold their unrelenting endeavours and never discredit them by doing or thinking anything contrary to what they endeared, endured and stood for;
- Guru Teg Bahadur, the 9th Sikh Guru, offered supreme sacrifice for Kashmiri Pandits when he was beheaded by the then Mughal king of India in exchange to their freedom from religious persecution; and
- She contains the mortal remains of my ancestors.
As a tragic historical event, most Kashmiri Pandits were left with no choice but to leave their motherland in January 1990, and thereafter, for a number of reasons, which include:
- The failure of the central Government of India;
- The failure of state Government of Jammu & Kashmir;
- The failure of law and order in the state of Jammu & Kashmir; and
- Inability of Kashmir Muslims – neighbours, friends and colleagues – to instill confidence and a sense of security in their Pandit brethren community at a time when hundreds of members of the Kashmiri Pandit community were deliberately targeted / killed by the militants – both foreign and local, as part of an ill-conceived scare campaign that was scripted, produced and directed across the LoC. It is true many Kashmiri Muslims were also targeted for being perceived to have pro-India feelings, inclinations and / or leanings. But for such violence, the recent history of Kashmir would undoubtedly have been different!
My memoir, 22 years – a Kashmir story (2017), documents my painful exit from the valley in December 1989, as well as my personal struggles between 1988 and 1994, whilst also illustrating my emotional roller-coaster – a transition from my mental states of extreme fear / anger / frustration into compassion /empathy. I fell in love with my motherland again, immediately upon my brief return to the valley in April 2012.
It is not important if I live permanently in Kashmir or not; what is important is that I remain connected with my motherland – spiritually, culturally and physically, as practically possible, till I die. Till my last breath, I shall not stop dreaming and making positive endeavours for the return of peace and prosperity to my motherland. As per a public will in my book, Issues White-anting India (2017), when I die – in another month or in 50 years – I hope my ashes are brought to Kashmir and scattered amongst the deodar tress on the grassy slopes of Pahalgam. Simply, I want to return to where I came from!
There is no doubt that both Kashmiri communities have suffered immensely during the past three decades or so – physically, the tragic loss of numerous lives – both young and old, permanent dislocation(s), loss of assets and income, and irreparable mental agony and disease. Undoubtedly, the prime causes of their respective sufferings do differ to a reasonable extent but now, after these three decades or so, it is true both communities have truly suffered to a significant extent, both also facing a potential existential threat in the process. It is that suffering, and their respective disillusionment, together with their common Kashmiri roots and their unique culture, which must bring them proactively back together to weave a new social tapestry, turn on a new peaceful leaf in the book of Kashmir’s history and help their Maej Kasheer regain her health.
The years of 1989/1990 can’t be brought back and retrospectively fixed, but years 2018/2019 are here and now. Let us be wise enough to help ourselves, now that we have realised that no government(s) will ever help us! Similar to their Kashmiri Muslim brethren, Kashmiri Pandits have also suffered from a strong disillusion, albeit of a different kind. But the past three decades have removed many veils of their disillusion; and the reality is standing stark in front of them, which take eyes and a clarity of thought to see.
Finally, it is important to reiterate that it does not matter if we love or hate Kashmir, or if we are able to live there or not; what is more important is that we, as Kashmiris, must remain connected with our Maej Kasheer – spiritually, socially and culturally, wherever we are located globally, and work coherently together to bring our motherland back into the pink of her health, prosperity and lost glory, without any mutual distrust, hate or animosity – for Kashmir and Kashmir alone.”