13 August 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Only once the Panun Kashmir has demonstrated its united strength. It was early in the nineties in the national capital when it had organised a largely-attended seminar at the popular Siri Fort Auditorium. The wounds of the Kashmiri Pandit community for having been compelled to leave their home and hearth were too deep and fresh at that moment. It was not unnatural that tears would roll down the cheeks of the audience on the mere mention, which was understandably quite frequent, of the Valley, their heritage and the holiest shrine of Khir Bhawani. Nobody had any suspicion that the Panun Kashmir would emerge as the platform for him or her to rescue their unique culture and traditions apart from zealously protecting their political rights. This trust and optimism were to be belied soon as the powerful and motivated outfit of the displaced people underwent one split after the other. Viewed in this background it seems that some of the factional leaders have realised their mistake and are in a mood to make due amends. They have held a meeting in this city seemingly suffering from qualms of conscience over their failure to stay together. There is realisation that their disintegration has in turn caused disillusionment among the rank and file. What is worse, according to them, is that their stated objective itself has gone haywire. Their return to the Valley is increasing becoming a dream leave alone their claim for a separate homeland in the south of the Valley. The Union Home Ministry has conceded in the Lok Sabha that 'no Kashmiri migrant family has returned to their homes so far'. According to its statistics, there are as many as 56380 such families 'temporarily' staying in different parts of the country - the majority of 34644 in Jammu and 19338 in Delhi. Of them, 4778 families in this region and 237 in the national capital continue to live in camps. What has been left unsaid is that an entirely new generation has grown up in the intervening period for which the Valley has but only a horror image. Why should the teenagers be interested in going back to the land when they have greener economic pastures in the atmosphere in which they have grown up? Clearly, therefore, the challenges before any organisation seeking to speak on behalf of the Kashmiri Pandits are many. The Panun Kashmir factions have done well to read the writing on the wall. While saying so one is being sincerely hopeful that the present exercise is not actually intended to carry out yet another division that will be a cruel joke.