I and my friends Manish and Sunil were going to Garh-Mukhteshwar for a dip into the holy Ganges. As soon as we reached Garh-Mukhteshwar, we took a boat to go to other side of the river for a swim. The rays of the sun were shimmering in the waters of Ganga , intermittently blinding our eyes. The garland of flowers floating nearby shielded our eyes briefly, thus giving us some respite. That Garland may had embellished an idol of god or it may had been a final gesture of reverence to the dead by a family member. Who knows! Anyway, We reached the other side within minutes. A Panditji was offering prayers for his clients, who were repeating the hymns chanted by the Pandit.
I have always believed that the cool waters of the Ganges rejuvenates my body and mind and Manish could not disagree with me .After the Bath/Swim, we sat on the wooden planks nearby. And Manish started about his favorite topic-Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits. An elderly Gentleman, who was sitting opposite,just a couple of meters away, on the other wooden plank approached us and asked, ”Are you Kashmiri Pandits?” I said, ”yes we are”. He said,” My name is Singh, I have served armed forces and I was Stationed at Kashmir in the nineties”.
Our conversation started…..
Manish-what is your present assessment of Kashmir?
Singh-It is better than nineties ,but it is still not Normal. When I was there, it was like a guerilla war, we never knew when, where , how and who will attack us. We had to be prepared at all times. Had we been given powers, we would have normalized the situation within a day. It is the politicians, who are doing the macabre dance on the cost of the lives of their soldiers, just to enhance their political career.
Manish- You must have heard the cacophony of pro-jihadi , anti-India, and anti-Hindu slogans, that was voiced from the loudspeakers of the Mosques across the valley?
Singh-Yes, I did and so did my colleagues.
Manish-Did you met Kashmiri Pandits there?
Singh-Only in the early 1990.You fled to jammu and other parts of India as the terrorists were killing you.
Manish-It was all pre-planned. The majority of the Muslims, in the valley, were privy of the plans and intentions of the Terrorists. But they maintained a sinister silence.
Sunil-In 1947, the army of the Maharaja sided with Pakistan and thus helped Pakistani army to annex POK. This all happened on the name of religion. The same happened at the time of Sukh Jiwan Mal, when his army deserted him. Yaqub shah, being a shia muslim was also deserted by his army. History repeated itself in 1989-90 and Kashmiri Pandits were rendered homeless.
Singh- The lack of political will is a deterrent for the return of Kashmiri Pandits. you are not a vote-bank and you did not even raise your armed unit to counter your hostile contemporaries in Kashmir .The political will is a must for the return of Kashmiri Hindus. Kashmiri muslims are being heard because they talk not only diplomatically masquerading peace, but when the need arises ,they restore to violent methods also. They know how to be heard.
Manish-We are a peaceful community. But that does not mean that we are naïve. At the same time, I have to agree with you. Our peaceful nature has become a hindrance. The govt. too knows this fact, that is why they have not been able to make inroads for the kashmiri pundits into Kashmir. Pakistan has a Plan for Kashmir and Kashmiri Muslims. National conference, PDP and congress has plan for Kashmiri Muslims .The plan for Kashmiri Hindus is to appease Kashmiri Muslims by marginalizing KP’s socially, financially, religiously and politically . As you said it is vote-bank politics.
Sunil-The valley-centric political parties are playing dirty politics. They have over years, successfully sown the seeds of hatred against India. The frequent outbursts of Mustafa Kamal against India is not new. The recent obnoxious statements of NC MP Ghulam Nabi Ratanpuri is also not new. Attaullah suhurwardy,a senior NC Leader, the former minister and Deputy speaker had said in a speech in State legislative council that he is first a Muslim then an India and that It is the fundamental duty of a Muslim to strive for conversion ,any muslim who forgets this duty is not a worthy Muslim. The Kashmiri Hindus were proving to be an impediment for the religious zealots and bigoted politicians.
PDP is also no saint. Their patron Mufti mohammed syed instigated riots and violence at Anantnag, which led to migration of many Kashmiri pundits in the mid 1980’s.It is a known fact that when he was the chief Minister of the state, he did not used to salute the National Flag of India on special occasions like 26th jan or 15th August. It was a clear indication to his vote-bank that he does not care about India. These gestures by the valley-based mainstream political over the years have poisoned the minds of majority of Muslim minds. This propaganda has lead a Kashmir Pandit to a point of no-return.
Manish-That is why we demand a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits. we have seen seven migrations. Enough is enough .We can not live anymore at the will and whim of Islamist fundamental jehadi mindset politicians, who use us whenever it suits them and discards us when it suits the emotions of their vote-bank.
Singh-The politicians should consider this option. As I said a political will of the government is a must to facilitate the return of Kashmiri Pandits.
Manish –If Govt. is not serious to facilitate our return on our conditions then, let them formally announce us as Refugees. There are many countries who have special laws for refugees. We will also find one such country. At least we-the kashmiri Pandits can live as a community and preserve our ancient heritage and culture.
Singh-Govt. should ponder over this point too. You see, Kashmir matters for me as well!
Sunil-How does it really matter to You or rest of Indians .Majority of Indians are still oblivious to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. Majority of them still believe that we live in Kashmir even today.
Singh-You may be right! But I too have given my blood for Kashmir. I was hit by the bullet in my right leg. My colleague was killed in the Gun battle with the terrorists, in front of my eyes. I too faced trauma-physically , emotionally as well as mentally.
He folded up his trousers to the thigh. There was a livid Scar above the right side of his right knee. I looked at the face of Singh. It was livid as well. The sweat drops on his forehead made me realize the conspicuousness of his Curled white moustaches that still had some shades of black. Just like his personality.
Calmness descended on his face as he curled down his trousers.. He was again composed .Manish was looking at him intensely.
Manish-Singh Saab, I appreciate your patriotism. You are also one of our many unsung heroes, who gave their blood for Kashmir.
Sunil-I agree with Manish. Where will you go from here singhji?
Singh-I live in Gajraula. I will reach there within half an hour .Where are you going?
Manish-Lucky you. You have a place to be called as Home. My home is illegally occupied by some Muslim men in Kashmir. By the way, we are going to NOIDA.
We exchanged our mobile numbers, with this hope that we will remain in touch with each other and share some more information and incidents on Kashmir. Before he left he said, ”you should ask Govt. for a place of your own in Kashmir”
Singh fared good bye to us. We watched his back as he walked with a limp towards the Boat. His family was already in the Boat. A man grabbed his hand and pulled him into the Boat. The boatman paddled the Boat away from us. we waved with our hands at Singh. He waved back. He alighted from the Boat, ascended the stairs , looked back at us and again waved. we waved back.
Singh Saab was gone but there are thousands of singh saab’s who have fought for Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandit’s fight for the restoration of their rights and justice is long, arduous with little support from the Government machinery. For some, it may look impossible to restore our basic fundamental rights in Kashmir. At times, it feels that a Kashmiri pandit is fighting a lone battle. But then we meet some people like singh, for whom Kashmir still matters. And hope floats. Just like that garland that floated in the Ganges and shielded our eyes from the blinding reflections of the Sun…..