Kashmiriyat is the heart and soul of Kashmir. It is the social consciousness and cultural ethos of Kashmiri people. It necessarily means goodwill of Kashmiris to co-exist, to have mutual respect and fraternity.
During the tough times of partition, when various regions were facing the turmoil of riots, Mahatma Gandhi could see a ray of hope in Kashmir as Kashmiri Muslims (KMs) never harmed any non Muslim despite provocations.
Despite of that what the valley witnessed in 1990s was a saddening bitter reality. The relationship between the two communities started souring with the beginning of insurgency in February 1986 when
major anti-Pandit riots broke out in the south Kashmir's Anantnag area. Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) were beaten up, their women raped and several houses and temples burnt down. Terrorists and militants unleashed the demonic forces of murder, loot, killings and rape.
The mass exodus began in 1990 when crowds started shouting anti-India and anti-KP slogans. KPs were forcibly pushed out of the valley by Muslim terrorists, trained in Pakistan. They were subjected to brutal treatment leading to their exodus and mass migration to different parts of the country. Approximately 100,000 of the total KP population of 140,000 left the valley during the 1990s. But at the same time it also needs to be emphasized that the common Muslims of the Valley had nothing to do with this exodus as there are many stories highlighting the close ties between KP and KM families.
After The Exodus:
The KPs faced inexplicable hardships. Many of them died in camps. They went through extreme psychological trauma. Thousands of them still languish in refugee settlements. Even after more than two decades, the KPs have still not been able to return to their ancestral land. Also they are facing the threat of extinction of their distinct culture and identity. They are awaiting an opportunity to return to their homeland.
Recently central government mooted a proposal for their return whereby the government plans to set up separate clusters for settlement of KPs in the Valley. Many questions are being raised regarding this proposal and Iin general :
- Why this return: Simple, the valley is their home. We need to assure them security in their own homeland. Also their rehabilitation will not only be justice to them but will also restore the secular character of valley.
- Why now : Even after 25 years there has been hardly any progress on their resettlement .The right question would be why not now ? In fact now is the most appropriate time. Already we have lost more than two decades and the future generation of KPs may not have very strong sentiments as those of the current ones. Politically, the PDP –BJP coalition makes it even more feasible.
Well begun is half done and the proposed beginning looks promising but what is required is a well envisioned long term policy. All the political, social, economic and security related challenges and the steps required for their mitigation should be anticipated and worked upon. Thus, a comprehensive policy should be drafted so that the long desired for harmony be restored.
- Relocation is fine, but how: The government has proposed composite townships, termed by some as ghettos ,mini- Palestine etc. Here what we need to be reminded of is that the prerequisite for KPs to return is to give them the sense of security. They are afraid and that sense of security won’t be possible if they are not relocated in the proposed manner for there will always be radical elements and militants trying to derail the process of their rehabilitation. So, to begin with, such a proposal is the only practical thing to do and as the time will pass, the two estranged communities will intermingle and the mutual confidence will be restored. That’s only way out to rebuild relations between KPs and KMs.