Most people in India and abroad think ‘Kashmir is an integral part of India ' is being parroted by leaders of all political hues, which sounds like an arbitrary statement designed to rebuff Pakistan and to reaffirm India's military might over a coveted geographical area.
Kashmir is not a piece of land. It is the abode of the soul of India.
Kashmir was considered the highest seat of learning in India, and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that when students graduated from Kashi, they took four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.
Rajtarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful emperor in the subcontinent of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name?
Acharya Abhinav Gupt, one of the greatest scholars of all times wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of ras are being taught in 80 universities around the world.
Why the educationists and the policy makers are deliberately withholding such vital slices of history from our text books?
How will the present as well as future generations realize that Kashmir is the keystone of our heritage, finding mention even in our oldest scriptures?
Kashmiri Pandits have rich heritage and their roots are engraved in the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years. That can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power. But the ground reality is a little different.
Kashmir today is without Kashmiri Pandits. Realities are, at times harsh and strange. They are living as migrants. The irony is that they did not get any respite even in the bright days, especially in the post-independent days of their country, India.
The colossal crisis through which the community or for that matter the entire Kashmiri society is passing through is in reality a crisis in the country’s great values - the perversion in practice of its constitutional jurisprudence, the socio-political and moral norms.
Pandits were forced to migrate by those who imposed their writ on Kashmir by unleashing death and destruction. The state government at that time abdicated its constitutional duties and left the peoples life and liberty at the mercy of the marauders.
Pandits sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in the country. It has been 29 years since the community has migrated. Pandits crave for return to their roots. They say bidding farewell to the soil they have sprung from is too traumatic as experience to be conveyed in words.
Successive central as well as the state governments have done little for the rehabilitation of this community, who 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.
It is a community whose history generates envy at their achievements as well as sorrow at their plight today. The long history of these migrant Kashmiris has been of triumphs and tragedies. The antiquity of the Kashmiri natives and its Aryan origin are well established. It was I K Gujral as Prime Minister who said “If the Nation’s coffers have to be emptied for dignified return & rehabilitation of this illustrious community back in the Valley, still it would be a lesser price for their contributions towards modern nation building”.
The forced migration of 1990 left the Kashmiri Pandit Community shattered physically and psychologically. Scores of social organizations worked, day and night, on voluntary basis to bring succor to the people. In a permissive, soft and caste-ridden state and in many ways cruel, the exiled illustrious KP community has been created as refugees from its own flesh and blood, and has been cast aside to fend for itself. To survive as a distinct community is next to impossible in present day world until the migration is reversed and the community is rehabilitated back in the Valley. They are working relentlessly for the protection of their distinct socio-cultural entity. Their struggle is still going on. 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 Kashmiri Pandit groups are devoting a lot of time to their mission in one form or the other towards the task of restoring the honor and dignity of the Pandits. There is no one at the political level not even the PM and the HM or at bureaucratic level prepared to stick their neck out and demand action to restore the dignity and honor of the Pandits and come out with an actionable time-bound plan for the return of the exiled community back to Valley.
Hopes that with huge mandate the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government would pay serious attention to the plight and future of the Pandits were sadly belied. The Party leadership only exploits the victimhood of Kashmiri Pandits in every electoral campaign. The BJP-led government is as confused and as inactive as any of the other governments that had held office since 1989. No government has ever consulted the representatives of the exiled natives.
Meanwhile, the plight of the Pandits has been slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their suffering, but there is nothing by way of action. The future of the Pandits, as an important stakeholder and component of the Kashmir conflict, is less and less talked about.
There are attempts by various social groups and civil society activists to ensure that the promises made by the nation, to restore the honour and dignity of the Pandits, are not forgotten. These groupings are interacting vigorously with leaders of the government and opposition political parties to ensure that this dimension of the Kashmir scenario is not forgotten. The socio-religious leadership of majority community and the groupings those who have for some reason chosen not to be part of the mainstream are helpful factors towards the return of natives back home.
The return of the Pandits to their homeland cannot be achieved unless the nation and the people of Kashmir are in unison and create consensus. The government of India and the state government have to devise a plan and come up with a common and comprehensive return module and enforce the same in time bound frame work. The government of India has constitutional and political responsibilities towards working for such a consensus and towards demonstrating strong political will. It has to create infrastructures, housing colonies etc., provide adequate jobs to the educated youth and rescind the distress sales of immovable properties and secure all religious places, cultural centers and endowments.