The decision of exodus was thrusted upon the Pandit community and they were told in clear terms that this was the only course they could take. This was, in a very subtle and organised manner, conveyed to the Pandits by their Muslim friends, neighbours, colleagues and comrades.
Kashmiri Pandits have made a history by living in Kashmir for over five thousand years.
In article titled ?The road Kashmiri Pandits did not take? appeared recently in The Friday Times, a Pakistani daily by Khalid Hassan, a Pakistani journalist was later on carried by Kashmir Times. It asks the Kashmiri Pandits to embrace the secessionist movement in Kashmir and ?mentally extricate from India'sfatal grip and reattach themselves to Kashmir?. It also calls the rabid communal and fundamentalist movement in Kashmir, responsible for ethnic cleansing, genocide and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, a resistance and an upsurge against ?Indian Occupation?.
It has become a habit for some people to twist the facts of history, to suit their vested interests. Historically speaking, the Kashmiri Pandits have made a history by living in Kashmir for over five thousand years. Though they faced exodus several times in the past, yet they chose to live, ultimately, in Kashmir because they had/have consistent adherence to the land and tradition of Kashmir. For them, politics would always take a back seat in their life. Yet they were, in their own land, economically squeezed, politically marginalized and socially excluded. The forces which made them to reach such a situation were none else than those whom the community trusted, favoured and believed in 1947, when accession and transition of power took place. The community made a conscious effort to erase the past bad memories of persecution and relied more on the promises made to them in 1947. It needs to be emphasised here that in the changed scenario the Pandits wilfully ignored the fact of historical intent to ethnically cleanse the Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir. They even sidelined the fact that in 1947-raid, they had faced the worst that could have happened to them. Some of them were brutally murdered, thousands of them were left homeless and were forced to take recourse to exodus. Yet the Pandits looked to the future.
They were told that the people'srepresentatives would take care of the governance, and the constitution would be the ultimate law and secularism and democracy would be the guiding principles, and that the minorities would be protected by the government'sinstrumentalities and the constitutional provisions. They believed and reposed trust in the leaders like Sheikh Abdullah, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, and the State Government, supported by the Government of India, and the overwhelming Muslim majority community, which was believed to be behind the decision of the National Conference in 1947. What happened thereafter is history.
The Pandits faced apartheid at the hands of those who had promised them democracy and the rule of law, and to the shocking surprise of the community, the Muslim majority community, instead of providing them protection, made every possible effort to drive them out of Kashmir when there was an upsurge against the Kashmiri Pandit community in 1989-90. Even the Governments failed in their constitutional duties to protect the Pandits-the indigenous people of Kashmir.
The Pandits had no choice to make except thinking in terms of leaving their ancestral abode when they observed that no organ of the society and the State had willingness and capacity to protect them in their land of origin. The decision of exodus was thrusted upon the Pandit community and they were told in clear terms that this was the only course they could take. This was, in a very subtle and organised manner, conveyed to the Pandits by their Muslim friends, neighbours, colleagues and comrades. The selective killings, coupled with attacks on the minority religious and cultural institutions, and directives given from mosques and press-media hastened the process. The road of exodus, the Pandits took was shown to them by their fellow Muslim friends and neighbours. It was only after the forced exodus that the Pandits actually understood the whole game-plan. The fact of the matter was that, in essence, virtually all from the majority community put in their efforts in their own way to cleanse Kashmir of the Pandit community; some did it with guns, some with pens and some with the words of mouth. The majority community believed that Azadi and Nizam-e-Mustafa was round the corner and that the Pandits were the main obstruction in the process of establishment of an Islamic State.
The exodus of the Pandits has added a different dimension to the whole Kashmir issue, and the Pandits have yet again become the ?cynosure? for many. The Pandits, after exodus, took a fresh road consciously. The Pandits cannot, and will not, live on the so-called goodwill of anybody in Kashmir. Asking someone to live on the mercy or the goodwill of the others is ultra vires of the human and fundamental rights and the constitutional guarantees.
For the Kashmiri Pandits, accession of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India is full and final. They are Indians to the core of their hearts and soul. They would not like the conditions, similar to the earlier ones, are created to force them again to leave Kashmir. It is, therefore, the correct road that the Pandits have chosen because it is this road alone that can ultimately bring peace to the peace loving community in Kashmir and help resolve a historical issue that has given pain to them over centuries.
The Pandits in 1947 took the path that was offered to them by the united will of the Congress and the National Conference, backed by the Muslim majority community of Kashmir and the Government of India. In 1989-90, they followed the path that was forced upon them by the majority community of Kashmir. It is only in the post-exodus era that the Pandits have chosen a path themselves and that too thoughtfully and consciously. The road the Pandits have taken this time will lead them directly to their homeland, sooner or later, with a promise that they will hold their heads high in their homeland with security, honour and dignity.
(The author is the President of the Panun Kashmir Movement.)