Kashmiri Pandits tell their story
Over 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of Kashmir by and by the fear of Islamic fundamentalism. ‘Kashmiriyat’, a tolerant cultural identity of the Kashmiri people had enabled both Hindus and Muslims to co-evolve a composite culture in Jammu and Kashmir. The influx of the ideology, tactics, funding, arms and alumni of the Afghan jihad in the late 1980s destroyed the ethnic harmony and drove the Kashmiri Pandits out of the Valley and into refugee camps in New Delhi and elsewhere. Political correctness has kept them there ever since.
The Panun Kashmir movement has released a compilation of documents, titled Kashmir Documentation: Pandits in exile. They were scarcely the only victims. Autumn’s Final Country a documentary made by Sonia Jabbar talks about the lives of four women whose lives were shattered by the outbreak of terrorism. While the insurgency has been perverted by Islamic fundamentalism, its victims have been quite secular.
All the talk of making Kashmiris a party to peace talks is quite incomplete unless the Pandits are given a right to return to their homeland. The inability of both mainstream Kashmiri political parties and their separatist counterparts to articulate a coherent solutions to the status of the Kashmiri Pandits is disgraceful.