A few days back one of my dear friends Rakesh Pandita was martyred in the Tral town of Kashmir by the people in whom he had immense trust to put his life in their care. I have been completely shattered and have lost all hope of ever returning to the valley.

It was around 12 years ago when a group of Pandits hailing from Tral area decided to repair a very pious pilgrim center in an area called Nawdal and restart the Nawdal Pilgrimage. During the deliberations and apprehensions around who would stay in Kashmir to oversee the work, this young man Rakesh Pandita offered his services. He said he could go in advance to make the arrangements because he had many Muslim friends asking him to come back and live in his own house that had only been looted and not set ablaze unlike other Pandit houses in the area. In response to my worrying about his safety, he reassured me that he had full faith in his neighbors and friends. Finally, we all agreed to his proposal and his journey back to his roots began which unfortunately culminated in his martyrdom on June 2nd.

During these years in Kashmir, Rakesh had become a municipal councillor in Tral on a BJP ticket. BJP is trying to derive a political advantage out of his killing by giving us to understand that this was a political murder and had nothing to do with the return of Pandits to the valley. BJP leadership is living in a fool’s paradise if they really believe this.

Let me state the facts as I understand being a Kashmiri by birth, by my upbringing, by my commitment and my service career. Whatever is being done to a Hindu in Kashmir is Jihad-fi-sabilillah, nothing more, nothing less. There is nothing political about the relation between the Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir. We are all political masters and no political party is a pariah. There is representation from both communities in all parties, be it Congress, National Conference, PDP, BJP, BSP and Hurriyat too. No grudges on that scene.

Rakesh Pandita was killed because he was a Hindu and mind you, he was killed in his Muslim friend’s house. Had it not been so, Kashmiri Hindus who had opted to stay behind even after the forced exodus of 1990 would not have become the victims of Terrorists bullets. I will not put the whole list here but just a few illustrations will suffice – Shankerpora (Budgam), Vandhama (Ganderbal), Nadimarg (Shopian). Similar large-scale massacres took place in Reasi and Doda districts. There are many other examples of individual targeted killings. Just some time back, a hotelier (Krishna Dhaba) operating in the foothills of Shankaracharya temple in Srinagar was killed. A few weeks before that, a jeweller was killed in Srinagar and before that there was the cold-blooded killing of Ajay Bharthi in Anantnag district. This young man had also gone back to the valley, constructed a new house and brought his family along to live in harmony with the same neighbors who had betrayed them in 1990. Such is the faith we have in the brotherhood. He had become the sarpanch and was always helping all the Muslim neighbors- his being the only Hindu Household. Even this did not help and he was killed because he was a Hindu. I can go back in time and recount hundreds of such examples but these facts can be easily researched if anybody really cares about the truth and facts.

This is therefore, to request the leadership to ensure preservation of Kashmiri Pandits as a community before we are completely wiped out. Like what happened to the Parsis in Persia, Sikhs in Afghanistan, Yezidis in Iraq and the Native Americans in America. We are destined to become like these social groups if corrective measures are not taken right away.

As to what these corrective measures could be, the abrogation of article 370 and 35-A was a big leap forward. But there has been no follow up action to that. Rather, the clauses of Article 35-A were reintroduced through the back door thus continuing the Islamization of the valley’s environment and thought process. Hindu living in the valley is still Wajab-Ul-Qatal or at the most a Zimmi.

The idea of India as envisioned by the present dispensation cannot succeed at the ground level because the system is not upgraded enough to absorb this idea. Post-Independence, the ICS cadre that had been created by the British as a ruling class were rechristened as IAS. Their ego was further galvanized by being called the Steel Frame of Indian administration. Unfortunately, the ruling class mentality never went away. Probably they are trained like that in Mussoorie. Therefore, they have never accepted the new concept of being the Sevaks. They continue to shake hands with the local political bosses and derive advantage for both without caring for the Idea of India.

Had it not been so, the nationalists would not have been defeated and killed. Be it in Kashmir or in Bengal. Nobody was held accountable for what happened to the Pandits in Kashmir. Why did this steel frame crumble under the local political pressure? The chief secretary, the DGP, and the Intelligence people were all in slumber while people were killed at the whims of men like Yasin Malik and Bitta Karate. A.S Dullat ji was busy keeping the Abdullahs amused rather than getting some kind of action initiated when the valley went up in flames. The whole steel frame came under further pressure and allowed all the officials to go on a Hartal for months, thus paralyzing the administration. No action was taken.This steel frame has exhibited similar ailments in Bengal now. Otherwise, how could the Police not act when violence was taking place. How could the Chief Secretary not do his duty towards the people in distress. Similar to Kashmir, No action has been taken.

These new Rajas do as it pleases them just like the secretary in the BBC serial “Yes Prime Minister”. They do not hold themselves responsible for anything. They only keep their political bosses amused and in turn enjoy their patronage. I have been a part of this setup in Kashmir and am therefore well versed with this and I firmly believe that the Nationalistic idea of India will not succeed as long as the Administration is not rejuvenated.

As for Kashmiri Pandits, centuries of brutality and oppression have reduced us to a such a small number that we are not a major vote bank for any political party. Except for the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A, nothing has been done in the last 30 years that might pave way for our rehabilitation. Yet, our yearning to go back home is so strong that even after repeated betrayals at the hands of our Muslim neighbors and friends, some of the brave ones amongst us like Ajay Bharathi and Rakesh Pandita are willing to give the same people another chance, only to meet the same tragic end. And with these tragedies, the hope of returning home one day is slowly getting extinguished. And that is exactly what the Islamists want, as per them Kashmir is for Muslims only. We are the fools who infer that as Muslims are our brothers and we can live together happily.

Till the time the system continues to work against the state, there will be no end to the turmoil in Kashmir. Till the time accountability is not established for lapses and complicity of the administrative babus and their political masters, the wounds of Kashmir will not heal. Till the time the old establishment continues to be allowed to control the state of affairs, the Kashmiri Pandits will keep moving closer to extinction.

And the day might not be far when Kashmiri Pandits, the original inhabitants of Kashmir will just become a small footnote in the history of Kashmir. If there is nothing else the Government can do for us, they should declare us a critically endangered species like the Hangul (Kashmiri Stag) and put us in a reserve. After all, amongst other names, Muslims also called us Hanguls and just like the Hangul, we have been hunted down for centuries and are now battling for our survival.

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