Kashmiriyat wounded by terrorists 

Ashok Bhan
New Update
Women mourn after Puran Krishan Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit, was killed by terrorists in Shopian on Saturday

New Delhi: Kashmiri Collective conscience is once again severely hurt by the brutal murder of PK Bhat, a youthful Kashmiri Pandit in Shopian Kashmir, by urchin and coward Kashmiri terrorists. While expressing overwhelming condemnation, The civil society hit the streets to strongly protest against the killings of innocent natives and blamed the separatist and radicalised leaders for having imposed the killers' mindset on the vulnerable youth of Kashmir. 

Consequently, Kashmiris are killing their fellow innocent and unarmed Kashmiris. After all how long people will have to live with mayhem and brutal murders by radicalised terrorists?

If the safety and security of the Pandits are not ensured in Kashmir, the terrorists' and jihadis' mindsets will keep increasing their space. 

It is the Pandits – born of the soil and water of Kashmir along with the majority of peace-loving Muslims who are the real bulwark against the radicalisation of Kashmir should be strengthened and empowered for the revival of the plural rich Kashmiri ethos, say the Kashmiri thought leaders.

Kashmiri Pandits have an existential stake in the Valley. They have to be physically present on the soil of the Valley as living components and stakeholders and day-to-day participants in the socio-economic, political, cultural and spiritual ethos of Kashmir valley. Otherwise, how will the present as well as future generations realise that Kashmir is the keystone of their heritage through millennia, finding mention even in the Indian oldest scriptures?

Kashmir was considered the abode of Saraswati, the highest seat of learning in India and was also referred to as Sharda Peeth. So much so that students on graduating from Kashi would take four symbolic steps towards Kashmir, denoting their aspiration for higher learning. Almost the entire body of Sanskrit literature has its origins in Kashmir.

Rajatarangini, an authoritative historical tome on the royal lineage of Kashmir, written by Kalhana in the 12th century, outlines the greatness of King Lalitaditya, possibly the most powerful Indian emperor of all times, whose kingdom in the 8th century extended from the Caspian Sea in the north to the Kaveri basin in the south, and included Assam in the east. How many Indians have even heard his name? How many of us know that Srinagar was established by Ashoka the Great?

Mahayana Buddhism was spread across mid-Asia, China and Japan by Kashmiri monks. Patanjali gifted his yoga sutra to humanity and his. Sarangadeva is considered the father of both Hindustani and Carnatic music. Acharya Abhinav Gupta, one of the greatest scholars of all time, wrote 46 literary classics, including the renowned Abhinav Bharti. His principles of RAS are being taught in 80 universities around the world. Why educationists and policymakers are deliberately withholding such vital slices of history from our textbooks?

Kashmiri Pandits have a rich heritage and their roots are engraved in the soil of the Valley for more than five thousand years. That can neither be destroyed nor obliterated by any power more so by unleashing terror and vicious campaigns.

Three decades after living in exile when the community was slowly and steadily coming to terms and many in the new generation had started unearthing and rediscovering their roots in Kashmir Valley, the targeted killings of pandits in the current year have sent shock waves. 

Since 2010, societal relations between Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims had started rebuilding. Since 2010, almost 4500 employees were appointed and deployed in Kashmir of whom around 1,100 live in transit accommodations and the rest in rented spaces. Some of them had started investing in the reconstruction of their homes on the lands they own.

The government side says that major terror groups, with their masterminds sitting across the border, are worried over the sea change that has come in the situation in the Valley. More than 99lakh tourists visited the Valley till September end and this has been the cause of worry for Pakistani handlers sitting across the border. This is the main reason why unknown ‘hybrid’ terrorists are being used to kill soft targets like Kashmiri Pandits and outsiders in the Valley. 

Despite protests and demands, by KP employees the Centre has decided not to allow the mass transfer or relocation of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley to the Jammu division. 

Contrary to the claims of the authorities, the ground situation in Kashmir is very grim. The infiltration has not come down nor is any relent visible in the targeted killings. The Pandits are sandwiched between the so-called national interests of two rival states, one of which claims to be the world's largest democracy. The abrogation of Article 370 in 2019 and the government’s iron-fisted policy have brought the number of militant attacks on the security forces down and the frequency of bands and stone-pelting did decrease, but it has not brought a significant difference with regard to the attacks on the civilians including Kashmiri Pandits.

PM Modi’s promise that normalcy would return, after the abrogation of article 370 said, “I assure you that the situation will normalise and people's problems will reduce.” He said a handful of people were trying to foment trouble by use of terrorism they would be given a fitting reply by the security forces and people of J&K themselves. People have realised the strength of sustainable development launched by the central government after realising the benefits of complete integration.

In that sense, the situation on the ground in Kashmir is far from normal, contrary to what Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government says. Since January 2022 according to South Asia Terrorism Portal, 137 people have lost lives in 81 incidents of violence, which included 20 civilians and 18 security force personnel. As many as 99 terrorists/insurgents were also killed. 

The above statistics should also be seen in the context of the fact that the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan is much quieter these days compared to what was the situation in the past. In fact, there has been just one instance of the violation of the ceasefire agreement over the last six months.

Director General of Police Dilbag Singh says, there are now grave and dangerous challenges from Over Ground Workers (OGWs) and it is “very difficult to identify them.” And here, the Pakistani ISI may be playing a role in manipulating not only the minds of the Kashmiri youth but also exploiting overall “the religious fault lines” that exist overall within India.

Governor Rule gives all statutory powers to the LG government to do justice to this illustrious community, who are now living as refugees in their own country for the last 33 years.

It is hoped that the central government shall revisit its J&K policy by demonstrating political will and large-heartedness in dealing with the Kashmir situation and liberally fund the return, rehabilitation and security of Kashmiri Pandits back in their homeland, which is the Kashmir Valley.

To quote what former Prime Minister IK Gujral once said, “For the illustrious Kashmiri Pandit community, which has contributed a great deal in shaping the nation building a democratic, progressive and secular India, if the coffers of the country are to be emptied for them, it would still be a small price to pay.”

It is important for the Lt. governor to rise above civil service jargon while designing a package for the return of Kashmiri Pandits. It is also imperative to hold consultations with representatives of Kashmiri Pandits so that all aspects are taken into account and the entire gamut of present and future problems analysed threadbare and in complete detail.

It is not a big deal for the Union of India to repatriate and empower the Kashmiri Pandits back in the Valley. This community can easily be rehabilitated in Three smart cities in Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag district headquarters.

Kashmiri Pandits are a religious minority, which calls for due statutory recognition. The constitution of a state minority commission shall be a good step in this direction.

The MHA being the nodal ministry, shall start a structured dialogue with Pandits, for designing a comprehensive, time-bound package for return and rehabilitation in three smart cities. It shall not take more than two to three years for its implementation.

It would be in the interests of Justice to constitute an SIT under a retired SC judge to go into the killings in Kashmir and the gamut of ethnic cleansing of the KPs and Sikhs.

Pandits believe that if the exiled community is not repatriated back to their homeland with dignity and pride now, peace shall always allude.

Therefore if it is not now then it will be never.