‘Treating our ethnic cleansing with budgetary measures and financial doles is – one, not a prudent solution and second, an insult to our cause. Please understand the gravity of the situation. Our exodus is just a symptom of the malaise that has affected the valley. We would prefer to stay in exile than being sent back to be slaughtered again in a few decades. Please treat the disease and not the symptoms,’ writes Lalit Koul ‘Sharnarthee’.
Dear Mr Prime Minister
On this World Refugee Day, I am writing to you as a refugee in my own country.
Yes, it is paradoxical!
You might ask, how can I be a refugee in my own country? But that is the reality! That is what we are -- refugees in our own country -- 700,000 of us Kashmiri Hindus. In exile for last 24 years and still counting. Still longing for our homeland, Kashmir.
Even though the rest of India has graciously embraced us and given us refuge and opportunities, we still feel homeless because our roots are still in our homeland Kashmir. We are wingless pigeons, who have all the desire to fly back to their nests but can’t.
Mr Prime Minister, I have followed you and your speeches very closely during the just concluded elections. I, like millions of other Indians, reposed my faith in you and vowed to work with you and under your leadership to reclaim our nation and take it to newer heights.
During your election campaigning, you promised that you will work for the return and rehabilitation of we Kashmiri Hindus back in our homeland Kashmir. President Pranab Mukherjee also highlighted this as one of your administration’s top priority in his address to joint session of Parliament.
Recent media reports and statements from the home and finance ministries also indicate that you have set the ball rolling on this subject and are considering some proposals. And that is very laudable because yours is the first government since our exodus that has made our return and rehabilitation a priority initiative. Thank you.
Having said that, I am getting very concerned about the proposals that are apparently being reviewed and pursued. Based on what I have heard and read in the media, your government is considering some economic and jobs package for us Kashmiri Hindus that in your opinion will facilitate our return and rehabilitation in our homeland Kashmir.
Frankly speaking, if that is what your proposed plan of action is, it is nothing but old wine in a new bottle. It is an old tactic that has been tried and has failed miserably.
Mr Prime Minister, let me be very candid. We didn’t leave our homeland for money. And we will not go back to our homeland for money. We were forced to leave because our identity was at stake and we will not return until our identity is secured for all time to come.
I respect your intellect and political experience and am thus expecting a better response from you and your government. I was not expecting a knee-jerk response to our gruesome ethnic cleansing. Since you have worked in Kashmir during the ’80s and ’90s and thus know the situation on the ground, it is shocking that you would think that the solution to our issues is a financial package.
Treating our ethnic cleansing with budgetary measures and financial doles is – one, not a prudent solution and second, an insult to our cause. Please understand the gravity of the situation. Our exodus is just a symptom of the malaise that has affected the valley. We would prefer to stay in exile than being sent back to be slaughtered again in a few decades. Please treat the disease and not the symptoms.
I know you are a big proponent and practitioner of the latest management techniques in addressing governance issues. I would like to submit that before embarking upon any financial or other packages for Kashmiri Hindus’ return and rehabilitation, the government needs to do a root cause analysis of our exodus and ethnic cleansing. How can anyone address our issues without understanding the root cause behind our seventh exodus from the valley? The root cause of our ethnic cleansing was our religion and our pride in being Indian with the Tiranga in our hands.
We did not leave the valley because we didn’t have jobs there. We did not leave the valley because we didn’t have enough opportunities in the valley.
We left because we were being persecuted at the hands of Islamic terrorists, who were at that time ably supported by local Muslims.
We left because our mothers, sisters and daughters were being harassed, sexually assaulted and killed.
We left because our intellectuals were being selectively targeted and eliminated.
We left because we were being choked and denied the fundamental right of free expression.
We left because we were denied our identity and existence.
And do you sincerely think that financial package will provide us the identity, security and dignity? No. Never!
Mr Prime Minister, if you are serious about our return and rehabilitation, you need to consider the broader landscape prevailing in the valley. Our return is directly and closely tied with the political landscape and security situation in the valley. Has anything in the valley changed that makes us think that the present time is appropriate for our return? Anything? Nothing. Nothing has changed for us in the valley. We are still considered Indian agents who are inimical to the secessionists’ agenda. We are still considered kaafirs and mukhbirs.
Mr Prime Minister, in my humble opinion, the only thing that will work is to address the aspirations of folks from each region of the state of Jammu and Kashmir by eradicating the hegemony of Kashmiri Muslim politicians over the entire state. Ladakhis in Ladakh region, Dogras in Jammu region and Kashmiri Hindus in the valley need to be freed from this Kashmiri Muslim domination and given their due rights.
We Kashmiri Hindus have already faced seven exoduses during last few centuries and we have now vowed that this latest seventh exodus would be our last.
In Kashmiri, we say ‘Satim Chu Patim’, which means ‘7th is the last’.
So Mr Prime Minister, we Kashmiri Hindus will return to our homeland only after:
- An exhaustive inquiry by an SIT into the causes behind our ethnic cleansing is completed and made public;
- The conspirators and perpetrators of our ethnic cleansing are held responsible for their crimes against our community and punished as per the laws of land;
- Our fundamental right of freedom of expression is secured so that tomorrow no one is able to choke our voice;
- Our fundamental right of freedom of religion is secured so that tomorrow no one is able to demolish and desecrate our religious institutions and temples;
- Our fundamental political rights are secured so that we can have a political role and voice in shaping and securing our own future.
- Our fundamental right of having a homeland is secured by carving out a Union territory of Panun Kashmir where India’s Constitution will be fully implemented in letter and spirit without any local riders;
- Our security is guaranteed in such a manner that we will never have to face an eighth exodus in the future.
- Mr Prime Minister, we wingless pigeons have aspirations to live peacefully and securely in our own homeland.
We don’t need financial packages. If at all you are thinking of rehabilitating us in our homeland, just give us the security to preserve and protect our fundamental rights in our own secure homeland.
Those will be our wings that will carry us back to our homeland.
Lalit Koul ‘Sharnarthee’
Image: A Kashmiri Pandit attends a rally to mark World Refugee Day in New Delhi, June 20, 2010. Two decades after they were forced to flee Kashmir, thousands of Hindu Pandits seek to return to their ancestral homeland, their hopes lifted by a fall in Islamist rebel attacks. Photograph: Mukesh Gupta/Reuters.