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A home away from home; Kashmiri Pandits and the question of Homeland

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By Ishan Kukreti

In the game of Indian politics, the issue of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) is like a football being kicked around. BJP bet its money on the Pandits to win elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The call for ‘Homeland’ is raised every now and then to induce a pan national sympathy wave in the country. Those who have ‘migrated’ live a life filled with bitter-sweet memories, cradling a faint hope of someday walking the streets again that they used to roam as kids.

 

The curtain rises

Kashmir, a region that had so boldly refused Jinnah and his two nation theory, had a school of Islam, Sufism, followed by the radicalization of both Hindus and Muslims post USSR break up. However, the real reason, which turned Kashmir into a field of open graves, remains buried in that time and place.

The events that followed the elections of 1987 and the entry of Pakistani and Afghan militants into the scene in its aftermath are not new stories to tell. It all ended with the exodus of a community from their land, their home.

‘The Kashmiri Pandit had to leave when his neighbor told him that he could not protect him anymore.’ Rahul Jalali, a journalist and a KP himself told NewsGram. Rahul was reporting Kashmir in ’91 but had to escape after an attempt on his life. Two years later his house was bombed. Nothing remains of his childhood there, all the memories are just in his head and they only get as tangible as dreams.

Many who left, like him managed to survive by the skin of their teeth. Many, like Lassa Kaul, the director of Doordarshan in Srinagar, were not so lucky.

 

A bag full of stones

Meanwhile the game continues. The talks of creating ‘composite townships’ have been shot down by CM Mufti on the grounds of diversity. Separatist leader Yasin Malik has appealed to KPs to come back. In the match between Rajnath Singh, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and Yasin Malik and the like, the Kashmiri Pandit is standing on the sideline, burdened with promises.

‘ Our houses were taken. There were brokers who sold them at nominal rates. Why didn’t Yasin Malik tell them then to not sell our houses, tell them that we have to come back? Can they give me my home back? Can I go back and say that this is my land, please give it back to me? I think that is not possible.’ a highly agitated Bihari Kak, once the owner of famous Kak Opticals in Srinagar said over the phone.

He says he wants to go back to his motherland. But even if he is given his land back, he can’t just go there and live. Employment opportunity and a means to earn a living are things conspicuous by their absence in Kashmir and Kak Opticals do not exist anymore.

 

A fire and some lost bangles

Moreover, fear of a resurgence of militancy can’t be denied. Having lived in terror, those who have somehow managed to start a new life in other places don’t want their children to live the same way.

‘ There is no fear. But at the same time there is a doubt, what if it happens again? You see the stone pelting is happening again. That’s how it was then, throw a stone and kill them. If there was a match, somebody was killed. Match lost, kill them, match won, kill them. That was the attitude. We dont want our children to live in this kind of atmosphere.’ Kak’s loss is overwhelming. The day their house was burnt, his 11 year old daughter cried the whole night for the bangles she had lost in the fire.

 

So, where do we go from here?

‘The only way to solve the issue of Kashmiri Pandits is a reconciliation along the lines of South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Without taking into account the basic human relations, no amount of governmental, political or any other kind of resolution can solve this problem.’ says Rahul Jalali.

A purge of all the negative emotions from the people is required to mend the damage. Till the time aggressor and the aggrieved don’t agree mutually to put this behind them and move on, not much can be achieved on the rehabilitation and ‘Homeland’ front.

 

Postscript

Rahul recounts an incident on a Jammu matador bus that gives the ground reality in the state.

‘ A Kashmiri Muslim family and Pandit were sitting together on the seat behind me. Given the size of these mini buses I could overhear them talking. And what they were talking about wasn’t the things said on Prime Time. They were recounting tales of personal loss. The Pandit had to leave his house and stay in camps and the Muslim had lost his father to the bullets of security forces. The two communities divided in history had found reconciliation in a little bus of Jammu.’

The story of Kashmir is one where people on both sides have lost and are no better than the other, one is destroyed by leaving Kashmir and the other by staying.

 

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79% Smartphone Users in India Using Over-the-Top (OTT) Apps

The OTT platforms installed on the devices are in addition to the casual entertainment apps such as YouTube and UGC

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Hotstar is the most-penetrated OTT entertainment app with 49 per cent of smartphone users having it installed on their devices. Pixabay

Seventy-nine per cent smartphone users in India are using over-the-top (OTT) apps for entertainment and as many as four out of five users have at least one OTT entertainment platform on their device, a new report said on Thursday.

Hotstar is the most-penetrated OTT entertainment app with 49 per cent of smartphone users having it installed on their devices.

The OTT platforms installed on the devices are in addition to the casual entertainment apps such as YouTube and UGC (User Generated Content) platforms like TikTok and with such as penetration, OTT entertainment apps have become the ‘most-penetrated’ app category for smartphone users in India after social networking, chatting and e-commerce Apps, revealed the report by market research firm techARC.

“Over the past three years, we have seen a lot of enablement both from the smartphone OEMs as well as operators’ sides. This has facilitated the growth of OTT entertainment services as well as consumption.

Smartphone, Users, India
Seventy-nine per cent smartphone users in India are using over-the-top (OTT) apps for entertainment and as many as four out of five users have at least one OTT entertainment platform on their device. Pixabay

“While 4G has undoubtedly created this category, it has been complemented by the smartphone industry that has innovated to save every micron on the screen for full-screen viewing, backed by a powerful battery and stereophonic sound,” said Faisal Kawoosa, Founder and Chief Analyst, techARC.

One of the main factors for Hotstar’s growth has been its sports content, especially cricket.

Meanwhile, Amazon Prime Video has slightly better penetration than Netflix in India. Prime Video penetration is 15 per cent as compared to 13 per cent of Netflix.

Also Read- Apollo 11 Astronaut Michael Collins Returns to The Exact Spot where He Flew to Moon 50 Years Ago

This is a result of Amazon’s close relationship with some smartphone OEMs where Amazon apps like Amazon Shopping and Amazon Prime Video come pre-loaded in the device. (IANS)