Physical and Psychological Trauma
The tragic plight of Kashmiri Pandits who continue to live in exodus away from their homeland remains a blot on modern Kashmiri history. The majority community in Kashmir owes an apology to them. But far from the recognition of their pain and suffering, their tragic plight is often mocked at. Youngsters continue to be fed wrong narratives and outright lies regarding Kashmiri Pandits. They are being constantly fed narratives of hate and poison against the KPs. But the fact remains that the KPs became victims when the majority community decided to embark on path of religious extremism where Kafirs had no role and rights.
What Kashmiri youth must understand is that the massive onslaught of Pakistani-sponsored insurgency in 1989 affected almost every walk of life in Kashmir. In its very beginning, the armed insurgency jolted the venerable bond of peace and harmony between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits. The growing fear and insecurity forced Kashmiri Pandits to leave their homes for safety and survival. Their long cherished dream to return to their homeland could not materialize all these years. Over the years, this displaced community has produced burgeoning expressions of pain and suffering. These expressions have successfully and still continue to immortalize the agonizing memories of past, of rootlessness, of identity crisis of their community, scattered around the country and outside the country. Nothing can match the agonized memories of a displaced community. The plight and agony of Kashmiri Pandit migrants erupted on two levels; physical and psychological.
Common Cultural Heritage and Identity
No matter what Islamic extremists declare, nobody can dispute the fact that the Pandit and Muslim residents of Kashmir are not only the descendants of a common cultural heritage and identity, but have historically lived together beyond the barriers of religion and ideology. This was true even when communalism, a holocaust of violence terribly incited and escalated by the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 had murderously blinded the Hindu and Muslim residents of India. When truckloads of dead bodies were traded in other parts of the country, not even a single death was reported from Kashmir despite the Muslim population being high. However, this historic harmony became victim of the militant insurgency which erupted in late 1980s in Kashmir. It brought about a tragic end to this harmonious, unruffled and peaceful history of the Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir.
Early Casualties of Pakistan’s Proxy War
The proxy war initiated by Pakistan, the rebelling Kashmiri militants with backing from Pakistan and Kashmir, the regular protests for so-called freedom by the local belligerent mobs and the increasing number of the deaths and disappearances led to a growing sense of insecurity among Kashmiri Pandits. The militants and their patrons declared them as the enemies of Kashmiri freedom movement and the “spies” and “agents” of India. The militants intimidated them to vacate the valley by using mosque loudspeakers and by pasting death warnings on electric poles and walls everywhere.
Some of the prominent Pandits who initially resisted the provocations were brutally targeted and killed. Islamists wanted to enact an ethnic cleansing to rob Kashmir of its plural identity in favour of a puritanical Islamic identity. Unfortunately, the Indian state apparatus at that time just capitulated. The growing fear and insecurity led to a mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits to Jammu and various other parts of the country in the beginning years of the troubled 1990s.
The story of irreparable loss, suffering and distress, both physical and psychological, of Kashmiri Pandits begins with the migration. Their broken memories of the past, their unflinching yearnings to return to their homeland, their helplessness while living a sub-human life in squalid migrant camps, their tormenting sense of uprootedness and their endless strivings to settle in alien socio-cultural and linguistic settings, are some of the poignant aspects which often get ignored amidst the din of politics.
The Tragedy Of Mass Migration
The physical plight begins with the very assassination of some of the prominent Kashmiri Pandits even before the mass migration. The way they were forced to leave their homes in overcrowded trucks evokes the pathetic images of the coops of poultry. The major chunk of the displaced Pandits had to live in an omnium-gatherum of dilapidated migrant camps in Jammu. In these camps Pandits silently bore the humiliating hardships. What they were provided in the migrant camps was a shameful accommodation. In some aspects, it was worse than the established slums. The inhabitants divided their single room accommodations by piling up trunks and hanging old sarees and bedspreads as walls.
The psychological plight, on the other hand, is very complex and involves almost every Pandit inhabitant of the tented camps. Their anxiety and despair, causing a “sickness unto death” develops from the very moment when the outbreak of militancy in 1989 unleashes the reign of terror and insecurity in Kashmir. They left their homes in a muddled and indecisive state of mind. Their actual psychological battle to belong to a new terrain and to re-connect the present with the snatched past, began after migration. The more the consciousness of loss of their past grows, the more their psychological despair intensifies. Some say the Pandits loved their land even more than their fellow Kashmiri Muslims, because they lived there even when Islam had not arrived. Their love and attachment with their land led to a grave psychological disturbance among Pandits after migration. They were simply unable to withstand the mental horrors. The horrors brought upon them by the Islamic extremists were backed by the neighboring country. And such horrors which destroyed Kashmir must never be forgotten!