After the killing of four Hindus and Sikhs in Kashmir in the past, there are reports of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. To know the truth of these reports, the daily’s reporter Vaibhav Palnitkar spent three days in the valley. Visited Srinagar, Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam districts. Most of the Kashmiri Pandits did not talk to the media due to security concerns, but during this time many such Kashmiri Pandits were also found who are completely fearless. He says that concern has increased after the killings, but now he is not ready to leave Kashmir. Most of them dismissed reports of exodus.
Sanjay Tikku, the chief of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, who has repeatedly raised the voice of Kashmiri Pandits after refusing to leave the Valley in 1990, has demanded, “Kashmiri majority should not only support on social media, but also work on the ground. By declaring from all the mosques of Kashmir, trust should be established that what happened is wrong. His entire community stands under the protection of the Pandits.” Here by majority, tikku means Kashmiri Muslims and by minority means Hindu and Sikh communities.
Tikku is one of the few Pandits of Kashmir who did not leave the valley even during the 1990s militancy. Since then till today he is raising the voice of Kashmiri Pandits on every platform in Kashmir. Tikku has been given heavy security after the recent killings. His life is in danger. When we reached to meet him, we had to pass through the lines of security forces. We were searched and our identity was confirmed. After this we were taken to the room where Tikku was sitting with his feet covered in a blanket. He also had a 24-year-old son with Tikku. He was discussing the stir on social media by placing a laptop in front of him. After this we started talking to Sanjay Tikku.
Pandits are also migrating due to employment and economic conditions
We asked Tikku what is happening inside you after the recent murders? To this he said, “What we Kashmiri Pandits were feeling in 1990, are now feeling the same again. Can’t say when things will get better. Even after the great exodus of 1990, Pandits have been migrating. The main reason for this was security. Kashmiri Pandits have also been forced to leave the Valley due to employment and economic conditions.
Majority of the population should assure the minorities of Kashmir
Our next question was, are you also thinking of leaving the valley? To this Tikku said, “Even in the dangerous conditions of 1990, we did not leave the Kashmir Valley, so what will you leave now? We all have decided that we will stand here. I have told the civil society here that do not support us only on social media, but also work on the ground. This belief should be established by declaring from all the mosques of Kashmir that whatever happened is wrong, the whole community is standing in the protection of the Pandits. All minorities should be assured that the majority of the population stands with them.”
Allegation: No one to listen after the abrogation of 370, BJP leaders do not even pick up the phone
Now we asked that after the withdrawal of 370, there was a claim of ‘new Kashmir’, did anything really change? This time Tikku’s answer was very sharp. He said, “The new Kashmir after the removal of 370 is that 7 people were killed in 5 days. Nothing has changed for Kashmiri Pandits, Muslims, Sikhs after the abrogation of 370. Earlier, in the state governments, the matter was heard through our public representatives, but now there is no one to listen. Local BJP leaders here now walk in security, no one even picks up the phone. BJP wants that the remaining Kashmiri families also leave the valley. So that they can tell the rest of the country that Hindus are being genocide and all Kashmiri Muslims are jihadis.
Complaint: When needed, silence is taken with the majority, that is, Muslims
Our next question was, there is a perception in the rest of the country that Kashmiris are fanatical, jihadi and anti-Hindu, is this correct? To this Tikku said, “If this was true, then it would have been difficult for us to stay here. It is only sad that when we need the majority community, at that time they keep silence. Had they come out in our favor openly, then the exodus of 1990 would not have happened. The perception that is created about Kashmir is also not there. You have to understand that all the parties of the country have always used Kashmiris for their political gains. “
Vijay Raina did not go to his home in Jammu to give this message that Kashmir Pandits are not scared
We spoke to another Kashmiri Pandit Vijay Raina. Vijay, a resident of Kulgam, had to leave his home and migrate to Jammu in 1990, but around 2010 he returned to Kashmir under the PM Rehab scheme and now lives in the heavily guarded Government Kashmiri Pandit Colony.
There are several buildings of 4-5 storeys high along the Jammu-Srinagar highway in which about 350 Kashmiri Pandit families live. Displaced Pandits have been brought back from Jammu and settled here. Most of the people living here are in government jobs. The entire colony is sealed from all sides and a tight security vigil is maintained.
Raina says that before killing seven people, he had made a plan to go to his house in Jammu. That’s when these killings started happening, so I stayed in the valley. We asked Raina a few questions which he answered flawlessly…
Question: It is being said that people are migrating in large numbers. Is this true?
Answer : The manner in which people have been murdered recently has created an atmosphere of fear. After this the government has come into action. There are 6-7 settlements of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, the government has also given us security. The issue of migration is not correct.
The permanent homes of the people living here are in Jammu only. It is festival season. The office has been discharged. So they have gone to their Jammu homes. People will return again after celebrating the festival.
Question: Why didn’t you go back to your Jammu home?
Answer : I already had a plan to go to Jammu. The day I had to leave, news came that Kashmiri Pandits and a Sikh woman had been murdered. After this I thought that if I went to Jammu now, it would send the wrong message. Some people call Kashmiri Pandits as fugitives. The wrong message would also have been sent to the majority of the population, so decided to stop here. Here I am standing with all my might.
Question: Is Kashmir the reality as it is understood across the country?
Answer : The Muslims of my village trust us completely. We also trust them completely. We Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs all live together. Whatever Kashmiri Pandits work in government jobs here, they go and work among these people. Still some people are trying to communalise the situation here and create a fight.
Question: Do you think you will ever be able to breathe in the open air without protection?
Answer : We just want that we can live our life again as we used to live freely in our village before 1990, but the recent murders have created an atmosphere of fear again. Now the government is trying to create an atmosphere of peace and we hope that such an atmosphere will definitely be created.
Question: What according to you is the solution to the Kashmir problem?
Answer : Prime Minister Narendra Modi should make Kashmir the capital of the country for one year. When he stays here then he will understand the problems here. Nothing is going to happen sitting far away. Ministers, officers, delegation, police, nobody will understand anything about Kashmir. If they spend a year here, they will understand how the pulse of Kashmir is.