The mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is one of the darkest chapters in the history of Kashmir (“When the water in the spring turned black,” Jan.19). There are no words to describe the pain and agony they had to face. I want to tell them that all Kashmiris share their pain and feel sorry for what happened in 1989-90.
But all Kashmiris should not be tarred with the same brush. There are many examples of how some Kashmiri Muslims made every effort to stop their Pandit brothers from leaving their homeland and how they tried to keep their belongings safe in their absence. Presenting only one side of the story and showing all Kashmiris in a poor light is not fair. There are miscreants in every society but they are not the face of a whole society. In 1947, when India and Pakistan were torn asunder by Hindu-Muslim riots, Kashmir was the only place where Muslims and Hindus lived in complete harmony. All Kashmiris (even the so-called ‘hardliners’) still wait for their Pandit brothers to return. However, portraying Kashmiri Muslims in a negative manner can create resentment and anger.
The painful fact is that we treated Kashmir as part of India geographically, not emotionally. Did we really try to address the issues faced by Kashmiris — Pandits and Muslims? Why do rights activist speak only about the atrocities in Gujarat? What about the lakhs of Pandits uprooted from their homes? In order to stay alive, they have become refugees in their own country.
The exodus of Pandits from Kashmir was a painful episode in the history of our nation. It is one of the greatest human tragedies since Partition — the story of a lost community and a lost generation. We read about Gujarat riots, Assam riots, and so on, but it is not often that even major newspapers carry articles on the beleaguered Pandit community whose members are refugees in their own homeland.
Twenty years on, many Pandits have picked up the pieces and gone back to living outside the Kashmir Valley. Although they have been invited to return, they are afraid. The Hindu should be commended on featuring the article on the forgotten anguish of the Pandit community.