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Written by Girilal Jain   
Friday, 05 March 1993 00:00
Editorial in The Economic Times

In view of the incoherent manner in which the Union government is known to function, it is not possible to be sure that the home minister, Mr. S B Chavan's statement in Parliament on the Kashmiri pandit's demand for a zone in the valley for their rehabilitation represents a firm and carefully worked out official policy. But even if Mr. Chavan has done no more than engage in loud thinking, it represents a welcome departure from the government's, attitude of indifference to the plight of pandit refugees. It is at least willing to listen to them, though the reasons for it remain obscure.

In many ways, Kashmiri pandits are a remarkable specimen of Indian humanity. Their role as builders and preservers of great traditions from the Vedic to the tantric with Buddhism ? in between not be exaggerated. They were also great empire builders. Such was the strength of their spiritual tradition that its catholicity not only survived the conversion to Islam of fellow kashmiris but also impressed itself, in course of time, even on those who came from abroad.

It is also difficult to think of other Indian community of similar distinction and achievements which has suffered so much. The story that Kashmiri pandits were once reduced to a few families (some put it at nine and others at 11 or 13) may be apocryphal but the consequences of persecution are obvious. A sense of insecurity is deeply etched into the psyche of most of them; it expresses itself in many ways, not always pleasant, but you cannot miss it even among those who left the valley generations ago. And, of course, Kashmiri pandits are great survivors. As a rule, they do not give up. India outside Jammu and Kashmir is large enough to absorb 200,000 to 250,000 Kashmiri pandit refugees and they are talented enough to carve out a place of dignity and honor for themselves.

Witness what families like the Nehrus, Saprus, Katjus and Haksars have achieved. But the dispersal of a community is a tragedy indeed ,a form of genocide. It will be a welcome development if it can be avoided in the case of Kashmiri pandits. Their love for, and commitment to, the land of their forefathers is evident enough from the continuing presence of around 150,000 refugees in make-shift camps in Jammu. They could have dispersed to the rest of the Union. They have chosen not to. Alternatively, they could have asked for special colonies for themselves and even the not-too-friendly government in New Delhi would have felt obliged at some stage to concede such a demand.

Instead, they have been determined to go back. This determination is enough to prove false the propaganda that the then governor, Mr Jagmohan, had only to provide them trucks to make them rush out. Indeed, it speaks for the depths some of us Indians have touched in our desperation to avoid reality that we have been willing to believe such nonsense.

Though my own sympathies have been publicly engaged on the side Of kashmiri pandits, I must confess I was startled when a group of activists came to meet recently to. canvass my support for their demand for a separate zone in the valley where they could live in peace under union government's protection. The logic behind the proposal, as they explained it, was faultless. They were determined to preserve their distinct identity; this would not be possible in a Diaspora ; they could not return to their old homes since their security could not be assured either by the government or well-meaning Kashmiri Muslims, who themselves lived in terror of militants and fundamentalists.

The idea, however, appeared impractical in view of the government's anxiety to win over the militants even at the cost of further whittling down the constitutional links with the state. It also looked to me a poor substitute for their return to their hearths and homes so that they could be where they belong - among the Kashmiri Muslims. Apparently the government is not utterly impervious to reason. Whether it will have the courage to go ahead is , however , open to question.

Last Updated on Thursday, 09 September 2010 02:05


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