First Person

Kashmiri Pandits are dying; where is the mighty Indian state?

I have been living in Kashmir for the last five years. I was first appointed under Prime Minister’s Special Package for Kashmiri Pandits in 2015 in the education department.

By Anonymous, 20 Oct 2021

Then, two weeks ago, targeted attacks on minorities began in Kashmir. It started with Makhanlal Bindroo, a famous businessman in Srinagar, the heart of Kashmir.

It then picked up with two teachers being gunned down inside a school. That very day, as we returned from our schools to our rented accommodation, a spiral of fear took hold of me, and all the other Kashmiri Pandits living in the colony.

Around 4000 Kashmiri Pandit employees, currently working in the valley under Prime Minister’s special package, live in rented accommodations. Few of them, about ten or twenty percent are in transit camps. However, a large majority lives in rented homes.

Most of us came back to Jammu after the killing of those 2 teachers inside the school premises. That incident sent shockwaves among all the employees there. My wife and I returned the very next morning, after being gripped by fear the whole night. My parents and all my relatives called me repeatedly.

Memories that my parents shared with me, of their exodus, came flashing back to me. My situation is similar to what they lived through in the 1990s.

Kashmiri Pandits have had a bloody history, a tragic past.

The 1990s were resounding to each and every one of our families. I could not sleep the entire night. I finally moved to a migrant camp in Jammu’s Jagati. I wanted to continue my job in the education department, but how could I, without the State providing me any sense of security? Without instilling any confidence?

Packaged employees were recruited in 2010. Eleven years have passed since then. Government promises of rehabilitating them and providing secure accommodation have completely failed.

We don’t have a safe place to live.

On Sunday, terrorists barged into a similar rented accommodation in south Kashmir. How can the state ensure my security, my right to life? I cannot give my life for a mere condemnation statement.

The governor’s condemnation statement is not going to bring back the dead. Something needs to be done.

Laborers, whose lives are at risk, need to be pulled out. The government cannot hide behind the fact that everything is      hunky-dory.

Those in power have failed us. For the last twelve years, governments have done nothing for Kashmiri Pandits on the ground. They could not rehabilitate the 4000 Kashmiri Pandits living in rented accommodations. We have a transit camp in Kashmir, where 96 families are putting up in abject conditions. Six families share one quarter. In the school attack that killed two teachers, two entire generations were destroyed. What is the government doing for them?

Where is the Mighty Indian State? This is the India of 2021, not the 1990s.

These 4000 Kashmiri Pandit employees, who moved to Jammu after the targeted killings began, will not return to the valley until the government gives them a sense of security, or provides safe accommodation. This is my heartfelt appeal to the honorable governor to give relief to Kashmiri pandits putting up in Jammu in wake of these minority killings in the valley.

Eleven civilians have been killed this month. The Prime Minister has not even given a passing mention, and neither has he issued a single condemnation statement. Why this apathy? I am disturbed. This is heart-breaking and the government should assist us. It should assist the laborers who are now leaving.

Until the conditions in the valley turn back to normal, we are not going to return back.

We won’t be cannon fodder for the ill-fated policies of the Indian State. My parents saw this in the 1990s, where one entire generation was lost. Two generations of Kashmiri Hindus were lost. My grandfather lost his senses to schizophrenia. This is my heartfelt appeal to the state. Please do something for the employees, for every pandit living in the Kashmir valley.

The Kashmiri Pandit colonies that the state had been building for us, have been under construction for the last 12 years. Only ten percent of the employees stay there. There hasn’t been any progress in over a decade, despite continuous promises of secure accommodation.

No reason has been given to us for the delay. Many of the camped dwellings for Kashmiri Pandits have been made from fabricated sheets. The government must increase the sense of security in employees.

When I was coming to Jammu a week ago, my wife got a call from her mother. Her mother asked her about the things she had carried along. But my wife said, “We will be coming back in a week.” To this, my mother-in-law, who left Kashmir in the 1990s, responded, “That’s what we had thought too.”

What has the Mighty Indian State done for Kashmiri Pandits? PM Modi promised us so many things, but only for electoral gains in the Hindi heartland. They used our prejudice.

This is my earnest appeal to the government. Please provide us security in Kashmir.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.