Return of Kashmiri Pandits to valley should be Kashmir-centric mission

Arun Joshi

After the movie, The Kashmir Files hit the big screen in early March and the narration it generated showing how the Kashmiri Pandits migrated from the Valley, the Indian nation started believing that the return of the migrant community was the next step that the government of India should address to reverse all that has happened to the last post of India in Kashmir.

The government has gone into a mission mode, at least that is what is clear the way the government functionaries have made the return of the Kashmiri Pandits as the ultimate goal in restoring Indianness in Kashmir. The flavour has been added by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who has declared that the Kashmiri Pandits would be resettled in the valley soon and that there would be such conditions in which they would live in peace and comfort in the valley hereafter.

Three basic points emerging out of the narrative show ( a)  suddenly,  the government of India has become extra conscious of its duty to restore the migrant Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley ( b) it is a project in which the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits is seen as a final solution to the Kashmir crisis, and ( c) the restoration of Kashmiri Hindus to the Valley would be done under all circumstances.

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This sense of duty has related objectives, which of course, were played out by building a narrative of horrendous things that happened to the Kashmiri  Pandits in 1990, through the movie that is just a part of the story of Kashmir with all its merits and demerits. The movie has been adopted as a national cult and all that has been shown in the film needs to be reversed as if the return journey was a subject matter of another film.

There, no doubt, was a huge tragedy with which the minority community became a victim of the situation, but to make their return to the valley as a political and Hindutva project ignores the basic fact that since 1990 Kashmir has seen unprecedented troubles – largely attributed to  Pakistan and its mechanisms to annex  Kashmir through proxy war, and the internal factors, ranging from the corrupt politics and the rigged elections and how different political leaders played up with the situation. Kashmir, if the cutoff date is taken as 1990, has suffered for 32 years, and unless all the victims, be those who migrated or those who stayed back, are taken into one category, the real reconciliation cannot come about, and hence the current drive to resettle the Kashmiri Hindus to the Valley is an incomplete project. Unless it is taken above the political and religious lines, this “ The Kashmir Files “ narrative will not allow the complete assimilation of the community with their neighbours and friends in Kashmir.

Three generations of the communities – migrants- and within the Valley- have seen these upheavals – the pre-1990 generation which has nostalgia about the love and bond that the majority and minority communities enjoyed before the troubles hit the Valley, second generation  born between 1990 and now –  it was fed on the home schooling that there used to be Kashmiri Pandits who lived in the neighborhood and then left the valley, and the migrant community, in their camps and rented homes far away from Kashmir, had a different version. More of the story revolves around the persecution and the migration in the dark times of the 1990s.  The separation was complete. There were propagators on both sides . Third generation is having no idea as to what Kashmir is, the community members have built their own perceptions and they have planted their roots in other parts of the country and abroad. The only connection with Kashmir is their surname, otherwise, they are as removed from Kashmir like anyone else.

The fundamental of their return lies in the vision in which it has to be a Kashmir project, of course within the Indian union, but the concerns of the migrants and the Muslim majority that continue to live in Kashmir must be taken into account. The connect of the tragedies is to be analyzed before undertaking a mission that is having only religious and political objectives. It has to be harmonized operation.

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