I am a Kashmiri, but though I am a Kashmiri Pandit ( KP ), my blood and DNA is the same as that of Kashmiri Muslims ( KMs ). I feel the pain of both KPs and KMs for what they have suffered. So I have been trying since long to bring them together in one organisation, which I named The Chinar Foundation. Chinar is a huge, oak like, tree, in Kashmir, which gives shade and comfort to all people who come under it, and my aim was to bring both kinds of Kashmiris together under a single umbrella so that they could exchange their viewpoints, and bind up the wounds of the past. Our common Sufi culture kept us united in the past, but now we are poles apart. I tried to unite the two earlier in India, and ever since I came to California, I have been trying to do the same, but I regret to say I have entirely failed.
Many KPs whom I spoke to said all KMs are ‘rascals’, and can never be trusted in anything. Others said that the first step to reconciliation is for Kashmiri Muslims to collectively confess their guilt of hounding KPs out of the valley ( since many KMs deny it, saying Governor Jagmohan was responsible ) and committing other atrocities on them. Some want a Criminal Tribunal to be formed to expeditiously punish those KMs who had committed atrocities on KPs. Others want huge compensation.
On the other hand, KMs whom I spoke to said that the initial step to solving the Kashmir problem is to accept that Kashmir is not a part of India, withdraw all Indian forces from India, hold a plebiscite and grant azadi to Kashmir. Until this is accepted all talks are useless. KMs also say that KPs only talk of their own sufferings, but are wholly unconcerned with the sufferings of KMs, and the atrocities committed by the Indian security forces.
It is evident that both sides have very hardened attitudes, and anyone in their group who tries to make even the slightest concession to the other group on these ideas, or even make contact with them, is regarded as a traitor. Even if one sits with people in the other group, one is branded a traitor.
KPs were happy when Article 370 was abrogated, not because it benefited them in any way, but because KM ‘devils’ have been ‘put in their place’ ( by reducing the status of J&K to a union territory, thus humiliating them ) and Muslim appeasement has ended. On the other hand, KMs were all against this abrogation, and they were furious seeing KPs kissing the hand of Modi in Houston, Texas.
A KM lady living in the Bay Area of California told me she wrote against abrogation of Article 370 on her Facebook page, and now her KP friends refuse to talk to her or even take her phone calls. On the other hand, a KP gentleman I spoke to ( whose family lost their entire business in Kashmir after the militancy and targeting of KPs ) said KMs can never be trusted. He told me he once went to a gathering of KMs who were abusing KPs, thinking he too was a Muslim as he had a beard. But when they realized he was a KP their tone immediately changed, and they started praising KPs, which was clearly hypocrisy.
I suggested to both KPs and KMs to at least sit together to exchange their outlook, but they have refused point blank. Maybe at some time in the future my efforts may succeed, but presently the prospects are bleak.
(The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s own and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Rational Daily.)
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