On 6th October, around 7 pm, I received back-to-back messages about the killing of Mr. Bindroo in Srinagar. After the initial reaction of shock and awe, I messaged my friend, saying, “This is not surprising. We were always on target”. As we were still processing the news from the previous night, on 7th October, we read about two schoolteachers—terrorists checked their ID cards and shot them dead for being religious minorities in Kashmir. These ghoulish incidents cannot be dismissed as mere law and order issues.
The fear psychosis which my generation, to an extent, was devoid of has started haunting us. The hope and faith we had for a future in our homeland is drowning again. But why exactly are we talking about this fear in 2021? How did it accelerate to such an extent that Kashmiri Pandits have to pack up and leave at midnight to safer cities? Is it back to 19th January 1990?
The birth of “Naya Kashmir” post 5th August, 2019, was celebrated all over India. With few skirmishes regarding the communication blockade and later the pandemic, this year saw robust tourism in the Valley. People I know travelled back to their homeland for ‘holiday’ and were welcomed gladly by the locals. Yet, some of them were astutely told: “keep coming back as tourists”. Just quick reminders–in the 1980s, locals would say, “Don’t spend so much money constructing your house; it will eventually come to us”.
Nothing on the ground has changed. At the time of the exodus in 1990, locals in cahoots with terrorists targeted our community, and in 2021, with the growing radicalisation of the past three decades, it has led to the same situation. Suffice to say, it’s not fair to call everyone a terror sympathiser, but when the ‘silent majority’ chooses to look the other way over such incessant killings, it will surely raise questions.
We have been fed the delusional definition of “Kashmiriyat” for decades. Nobody till now has been able to decipher its meaning. Terrorist sympathisers masquerading as soft separatists, politicians, activists and even journalists have been eulogised over time and taken seriously as Kashmir’s voice. These people have peddled the same notion which the ISI has been speaking for decades. It has achieved nothing but sheer destruction to the entire region. Yes, the majority has indeed been a victim of terrorism, but the selective killing of religious minorities on the charge of ‘demographic change’ is deliberate and with the help of locals.
The official communication by TRF, a terror outfit that took responsibility for attacks, categorically talks about non-domicile holders, stooges (RSS), collaborators (intelligence agencies), and says anyone against the Kashmir struggle would be targeted. Compare this communication with what the official spokesperson of NC/PDP and their leaders have been saying since 2019. There is no difference. For the past two days, our social media timeline has been flooded with so many xenophobic, bigoted comments, with locals calling minorities as Sanghis, stooges, and settlers, that it becomes crystal clear, besides blaming Pakistan and the Taliban for the mess, the situation in Kashmir is not possible without the local support.
Over time, the media, academicians, and civil society have legitimised the “struggle for Kashmir” to such an extent that the names of Kashmiri Pandits don’t even come into normal discourse. The same coterie has whitewashed our exodus and shielded terrorists in the name of freedom struggle. Even today, they are called “alleged gunmen”, and “suspected assailants”. What do we achieve from this? The obfuscating scenario made by the same coterie is responsible for the tragedy upon us.
We are the favourite political pawns for politicians, who toss us from one election manifesto to another, with the banal charade of rehabilitation. Even if we assume the ‘effort’ made by the government, the ground reality is something else. Kashmiri Pandits are not wanted there. The sooner we start accepting the radicalisation of youth and the role of deep state and terror modules operating in Kashmir, the sooner we can genuinely expect peace. For that, diabolical minds who occasionally “speak truth to power” have to shed radicalised thinking and accept the ugly truth of Islamist terrorism.
As far as Pandits are concerned, our decision to hold the pen over guns can never make us dependent on others. The state and judiciary abandoned us in 1990, and today, without a whimper of condemnation and security or even warning to minorities, the old feeling has started looming again. The shabby assurances would mean nothing unless the ground reality changes. Our outrage and anger will subside with time as we know what being helpless means. The dream of homecoming might fade away soon.
(Srishti Kaul, a Kashmiri Pandit, lives in Jammu and is an educator)
Also read: Jammu & Kashmir: A new ray of hope?