“In February 2019, during his visit to Jammu, the author had a chance meeting with a senior member of his community at his uncle’s place. This well-read, intelligent and charismatic, Kashmiri Pandit gentleman initially challenged and dismissed the author’s views on Kashmir and his approach to dealing with the Kashmir problem. However, that evening, over phone, he exhorted the author to have an audience with the executive council of a community organisation, which the author accepted gladly.
On the day of the meeting, it rained heavily in Jammu. Many people would have chosen to stay indoors, but some people were committed and keen to meet. The author, accompanied by his father, reached the venue about half an hour before the scheduled start of the meeting. His father drove through heavy rain and Akhnoor Road construction bottleneck, and braved the Jammu traffic to reach in time.
After reaching the venue, the author strolled back and forth, like a caged lion, on the open veranda outside the president’s office – with multiple thoughts flowing through his busy mind, about the purpose and likely outcome of the meeting – while his father settled back in a chair inside the office. After about half an hour, three gentlemen arrived to attend the meeting.
There were five people in the meeting room, which included the president of the organisation, three senior members of the community – all retired government chief engineers – and the author. Most of the chat occurred between the president and the author, whilst the three, graceful and youthful, retired chief engineers looked on intently.
The author proposed how the Pandit community could help itself and the valley of Kashmir using an out-of-box, positive approach. He emphasised why it was important that the Pandit community took the necessary initiatives and reconnected individually with the members of the Kashmiri Muslim community. He also proposed the Pandit community must support the local politicians of the state instead of relying on non-state politicians, based on valuable lessons learnt in the past. Interestingly, all five people have healthy and strong connections with many responsible members of the Kashmiri Muslim community; all members could easily exemplify the concept of Kashmiriyat.
Special Kashmiri tea – kahwa – was served two times, with Kashmiri baker’s kutlum (pastry puffs) and tael-wor (bagels with sesame seed). The president expressed his regret a few times about why the author had not met him during the last two years after launching his books in India. He also conceded that, while he had heard about the books and the book launch, it had never occurred to him that the author could be an indigenous Kashmiri, as his (global) name had misled him. On his part, the author silently wondered at both those statements made by the president.
Towards the end of the meeting, the author presented the president a signed set of his four books, which was followed by a photo session.
About a week later, the author left Jammu. A couple of weeks later, he called the president to follow up on their meeting and was advised that many members of the executive council were busy with social commitments, as the wedding season was on. After a few days, the author followed up with the first gentleman – to learn about the decision of the council and whether they had agreed to his proposal; he was promptly advised that the council had out-rightly rejected the his proposal. The author was also advised that the reported Balakot strike had completely changed the mindset of people in favour of a more popular movement in India and, as such, no was prepared to consider his proposal.
Later, the author wrote to the president but never received any response.
The author continues to walk alone, whilst the stalemate continues, with no hope in sight. God save Kashmir and the Kashmiri Pandits!” … Bill K Koul (16 April 2019)