Farooq Seeks ‘forgiveness' For ‘ethnic Cleansing'7 January 2011
New Delhi: Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah on Friday said the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley is the darkest chapter in the history of Jammu & Kashmir and sought “forgiveness” for the “ethnic cleansing”. Dr. Abdullah, also a former Chief Minister of the State, regretted that an entire generation of Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits had grown up without knowing each other. “There are youngsters who do not know what Kashmiri Pandits were like, what their habits were; they have seen empty temples, they don't know what was recited in the temples, for them the Pandits are aliens,” he said. Referring to the Pandits who have grown outside of Kashmir, he said though they know themselves as Kashmiris, they have never seen the Valley. Dr. Abdullah was speaking at the launch of a book, “The Garden of Solitude” by Siddhartha Gigoo, that captures the life of a Kashmiri Pandit boy and his journey post-turmoil. The book traces the exodus of Pandits from the Valley and the protagonists' search for stories that are on the verge of being forgotten by a generation. Making a pitch for peace, Dr. Abdullah said Pandits and Muslims have always shared cordial relations and the recent acrimony is unfortunate. “During the riots in 1947, Pandits and Muslims stood together against the invaders, challenging them with spades and wooden weapons. They protected each other. What happened in the years between 1947 and 1990? Why did the Muslims not stand up and say that we will protect you to the Pandits? We need to study that.” Hinting at involvement of Pakistan in the turmoil that the State now battles, he said: “The wave that came from the neighbour gradually grew into hatred. God exists in all forms and religions. As a Muslim I seek the Pandits' forgiveness.” Urging the younger generations to strive for peace, Dr. Abdullah said: “The older generations are now settled, but it is the youngsters that we need to focus on”. He said while a number of Pandits have secured their lives and are settled in various parts of the world, there are still many who are languishing in difficult conditions in camps. He called for a more secular approach and an end to extremism. “If extremism grows, there will be no peace. This book should serve as an eye-opener to the pain and the agony of the Pandits who had to leave homes and move to distant places and face difficult situations. It is every man's desire to die and be laid to rest in their own homeland,” Dr. Abdullah said.