The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits – time to understand ‘why’?

‘Yesterday, 19th January 2019 marked the 29th anniversary of the beginning of a tragic mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits (KP) from their traditional erstwhile home – the valley of Kashmir – their Maej Kasheer. Anecdotally, it was their 7th mass exodus from Kashmir during the past seven centuries or so!

Across the globe, all KPs silently mourned the day with solemn remembrance, within the confines of their heart and homes. Many KPs would also have shed many a silent tear drop, provided any tears would have remained to be shed after having cried for the past three decades. Tears or no tears, their hearts must have undoubtedly pained with grief. The sudden loss of one’s home, without one’s fault, inflicts a lifelong pain on all members of the home; their memories and nostalgia shall keep tormenting them till they live! They must derive enough spiritual strength to bear the loss and survive as a community.

The night of 19th January 1990 shall be remembered forever as one of the darkest nights in the history of Kashmir – a night during which the future course of Kashmir was beamed load and clear on the PA systems across the length and breadth of the valley. In the days immediately following that dark night, most KPs uprooted themselves, purely out of utmost desperation. Kashmir had witnessed a total collapse in the administration and the Pandits had lost all faith in the government. They did not see anyone, other than themselves, who could protect them!

Historically, following a gradual collapse of all arms of a so-called democratically elected government in the valley – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, as well as the administrative – during the months leading to 19th January 1990, each KP family-head was suddenly agonisingly compelled to decide what to do next and how to act (or rather react) in order to save the family – in terms of not only the physical security but also honour.

What happened then is history now, although their scars will never disappear. Now, after these past 29 years, is it the time to keep discussing and arguing WHAT happened then? No, not really. What happened then is important but only to a certain extent; the whole world knows what happened! For that matter, on individual and family levels, as noted in the author’s book, 22 Years – a Kashmir Story, one lakh (100,000) KP families may have (rather shall be having) one lakh true stories to tell. But who has listened to them so far and who will listen to them now, as they don’t make the vote bank? The past 29 years have shown that no government truly cares for them; the politicians, as well as many individuals from all sides with vested interests, have been using their cause for getting individual political and financial leverages.

Therefore, in 2019 and hereafter, what is more important is to truly understand – without emotions, using a cool and traditional wise Pandit head – WHY it all happened and WHY Pandits were left with no other option but to uproot themselves and commit social suicide? As the need of the hour, therefore, a total – impartial and unemotional – analysis is necessary at all levels for taking a deep look into the ever-changing political and social scenarios witnessed by Kashmir during the past one thousand years and, particularly, in the 1980s.

Only when one understands the ‘WHY’, one can take all necessary steps to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring, not only in Kashmir but elsewhere in India and the wider world. A deeper analysis will reveal a cocktail of sinister geo-political, national and state level agenda, catalysed by individual greed and power politics, which finally became a recipe for the unfortunate exodus of the Pandits.

Needless to reiterate this nth time that Pandits must keep trying to help themselves, as their resilient and noble ancestors had done to survive and thrive. They must also try and help their own KP community, if that is important for them. In 2019, as in the past seven centuries or so, they continue to be political orphans. That is one reason why, characteristically, they make such an individualistic community, albeit with brilliant individuals who leave significant marks of highest citizenship wherever they thrive and prosper on the planet.

As proven historically and clearly in the past 29 years, KPs proudly continue to be amongst the finest, most responsible and peaceful citizens of India and of all other countries where they live and contribute. God bless them!

This article will not be complete without remembering and offering a humble homage to all KP ancestors and all those Pandits who were martyred in the valley in 1989 and thereafter. May they all rest in peace!’ … Bill K Koul

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