Kashmiri Pandits: The Refugees In Own Land

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Srinagar: Haunted by Islamic terrorists, neglected by the nation, faced with ethnic cleansing the Kashmiri Pandits have become refugees in their own nation. The 90’s insurgency in the valley had forced over 3, 00,000 Pandits to leave their homes in Kashmir forever.

The truncated plan of Manmohan Singh led UPA in 2008 to resettle the Pandits in the valley again has fallen apart. The then UPA government had announced a Rs. 1, 600 crore plan under which 1500 youths were employed with the state government and settled in five transit camps spread across the valley.

But, today behind the high walls of one such camp at Hall in Pulwama, rows of dull quarters with closed doors stand facing each other in anticipation of something evil.

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Against the government plan, there is little sign of a bustling transit camp with of 100-odd Kashmiri Pandits brought in to undo the community’s ethnic cleansing in during the peak of insurgency in the valley. Instead there seemed to be fear and alienation.

In Kashmir’s April-May bloom, when everyone is out, the Haal camp residents suffer self-confinement, depression and fear.

“We don’t go out. Every time something happens in the Valley, the camp gets attacked by stone-pelters. We’re made to feel unwelcome. Where shall we go?” asked a Pandit woman. She lives with her husband and two children in the transit camp, 40 km from Srinagar, reported TOI.

While rest of the India is busy harping the intolerance tune and intelligentsia projecting itself as the messiah of ‘suffering’ Muslims, the Kashmiri Pandits are facing wrath for being patriots, for being ‘Indian Hindus’ (This is how they were addressed in the valley).

A couple of rows away, (first name withheld) Koul sipping Kashmiri tea, described the camp life as a situation similar to 1989.

“It’s the same hostility. Last year, they pelted stones at us even on Diwali. Two years ago, we noticed a dozen armed militants inspecting the camp from outside,” Koul said. The larger issue, he said, is the same old contest between religious and national identities. “For them, we’re Hindu Indians. Syed Geelani (separatist) keeps dubbing transit camps as RSS clusters. It’s stressful because such campaigns against us generate hostility,” Koul said to TOI.

When the ‘secular’ brigade is debating the evils of teaching Gita and Yoga classes, the valley has seen radical Islamization of which nobody seems to care.

Most mothers in the camp complained about the Islamicised education in private schools and frequent shut downs. “There are Islamic prayers in the assembly and class on Islamiyat. Although, our children are exempt from both, they sit outside classrooms and hear everything out of curiosity.

As if this is not enough, employment in kashmir has proved to be a major disruption of family life of the camp inmates. Many are forced to live separately due to this arrangement.

“Meeting end with a single salary is not enough and private job in Jammu does not pay much, so one of my kid stay with his father in Jammu and one with me here in the camp. This is like a divorce arranged by the state,” said a woman.

Koul said the camp had reached a “threshold” and was on the verge of petitioning the government for their transfer out of the Valley. “We can’t live in this dungeon perpetually,” he said. The state’s corrective experiment, which has no parallel in the subcontinent’s post-independence history, seems to have fallen apart.

Article by: Monishankar Choudhury