Homeland issue: The crucial missing part in this jigsaw puzzle is the Kashmiri Pandits themselves

By Ishan Kukreti and Sarthak Kaul

While Delhi was sleeping its nonchalant Sunday sleep, things were abuzz at Jantar Mantar as protesters kept coming in supporting the call of ‘Chalo Dilli 5000 Plus Mission’ today.

The protest, some 3000 strong, was an effort by many organizations like, Panun Kashmir, Roots in Kashmir etc who have been demanding the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits.

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The protesters raised slogans like ‘Punan Kashmir’ (Our Kashmir), ‘Geelani ko phasi do’ (Hang Geelani) among others and burnt Pakistani flags to express their discontent and anger.

” If I change my name to Israt Jahan, then I think the government will listen to me,” said Vivek Fotedar, describing perfectly the mood of the protesters.

Apart from the all pervasive demand for ‘Homeland’, many echoed the concern over the absence of Kashmiri Pandit voice in the ongoing dialogue between the Centre and J&K state.

‘The crucial missing part in this jigsaw puzzle is the Kashmiri Pandits themselves. The government is talking about us, but they aren’t asking us. They should speak to us and every time a separatist sneezes, they should not catch cold. Mr Mufti promises composite towns one day and the next day he backs out. The government should not get scared by a hundred odd people and should stand still on a decision,’ one of the organizers, Rashneek Kher,  from Roots in Kashmir said.

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However, Tarak Fateh, a Pakistan-born Canadian writer, broadcaster and a secular and liberal activist, who was also present for the rally, felt that the community needs to form a coherent strategy first, ‘ You cannot dance and sing your way to Kashmir. The priority should be making a strategy, securing the border so that militants can’t enter India and create a scene similar to the 90s.’

Ashoke Pandit, filmmaker, who has been a prominent voice in the whole issue, feels the situation is turning like that in the 90s again, with stone pelting and slogans becoming every day occurrences. ‘Separatists like Yasin Malik are talking about composite culture now. But they are the ones who made us leave. They have killed us, they have raped us and now they are talking about composite culture? Why are these people not behind bars for waving Pakistani flags? every country has laws relating to sedition.’

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The passionate and optimistic gathering mostly contained middle aged men but a fair number of youth was also present. Michla Matharu, a young architect says it’s her right to go back as Kashmir is her birthplace. ‘ I have started my life from scratch once, if I can go back to my homeland,  I don’t mind doing it all over again.’

‘We are going to create a Gurgaon, a Greater Noida not a Ghetto. The idea is to create a modern city which will propel J&K as state into the future. We will go back and we will go back on our terms, not of Yasin Malik’s or Geelani’s.’ Kher adds.