Kashmiri Pandits long to return home

BENGALURU: “People are wailing over communication blockade in Kashmir for over 10 days and some people like Shehla Rashid are creating sad tales and false propaganda about the present scenario. But, what about us, who have lived away from home for 30 years?,” ask many Kashmiri Pandits who are now hopeful of 'Gara Gachun' (homecoming).  

The Kashmiri Pandits have been living in exile for close to three decades and away from their homes following the genocide in 1990. They are seeing light following the recent revocation of Article 370. They are hopeful of going back home, getting their homes back and also recovering their lost properties after the January 1990 massacre that led to an exodus of more than five lakh Kashmiri Pandits.

The Pandits believe that the valley which has been so far on fire will bounce back to life best described by poet Amir Khusrau as "Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast, hami asto, hamin asto, hamin ast (If there is a heaven on earth, it’s here, it’s here, it’s here).

“Kashmiri Pandits are now happy that Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India and is a reality. They need not fear persecution for calling themselves Indians or for respecting the Indian tri-colour and Constitution. Also, it is now beyond doubt that India’s first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s agreement with Raja Hari Singh was a historic blunder and temporary in nature. We will not hear anybody making anti-national statements like ‘I am not Indian. I am a Kashmiri’. It is commendable that finally an Indian premier after so many decades had the will to open the roads for us to return home", said Romesh Kumar Mattoo, veteran journalist and Founder President of Kashmiri Pandits'  Association, Bengaluru Circle and Chairman of Kashmiri Hindu cultural welfare Trust, Bengaluru.

‘Special status allowed separatism’

In an exclusive chat with Deccan Chronicle, Mattoo said, "Article 35 A and 370 of the Constitution caused damage to Jammu and Kashmir. The beleaguered erstwhile state was out of ambit of central agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and even the Anti-Corruption Bill was not applicable here. Politicians took advantage of this for decades and looted the funds meant for development of the state. They became wealthier, and supported the separatist movement.

It was as if a dominant community in the state had license for treason. It gave room for dynasty rule. There was no accountability for developmental funds released and the ruling dynasties amassed huge wealth and bought properties all over the world."

He also analysed that the very fact that the Congress party during its rule had to keep reiterating that Kashmir is an integral part of India implied that it was not so citing that Jammu and Kashmir had a separate flag and constitution, he added.

Excepting those who are inclined towards Pakistan and a separatist ideology, the Kashmiri Pandits, Ladakhis, Dogras, Valmikis and Hindus, are happy about the revocation, he said.

'Minority rights misused'

“Kashmiri Pandits have a 5,000 years history. The Muslims came here about 1,400 years ago and the Hindus were forced to live as minorities. Leaders from this community misused and enjoyed the minority status bestowed on their religion by the Indian Constitution and supported Pakistan. In reality, we were reduced to a minority there,” Mattoo said.

The Kashmiri Pandits are hoping now that cases related to the massacre of their kith and kin are reopened and their properties usurped are returned to them.

 Mattoo expressed optimism that the NDA-2 rule will put an end to appeasement politics and introduce stringent rules to curtail anti-national activities in the valley. “We are feeling happy and empowered now. Finally, the strong stance taken by Modi government despite fears of facing widespread repercussions at an international level and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's counter to nuclear war threat by Pakistan has sent shivers down the enemy country's spine. The Balakot strike is a strong message to Pakistan as well as China", opined Mattoo.

Curfew in valley, a necessary move

Supporting the curfew, vigil by the armed forces and communication blockade in the valley, Mattoo opined that the move was necessary to contain violence that could be perpetrated by Pakistan and the separatist forces.

 “It is very much needed till things settle down. I am sure that now development will finally step into Jammu and Kashmir and we the natives, can enjoy the benefits of being proud Indian nationals.”

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