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How removal of Article 370 will benefit Kashmiri Pandits

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Many journalists and Kashmiri Muslims are asking Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) how’s scrapping (if we can call it so) Article 370 going to facilitate return of Pandits to valley? How’s it going to help KPs? Some of them even telling us our happiness is because of the feeling of revenge?

Well, yes, revenge it is! And why should we not celebrate that? We were wronged and shouldn’t we seek revenge? If you had been thrown out of your house and reduced to being a refugee in your own country, what would you have done? We at at least sought a peaceful revenge unlike those who pick up guns. But more than revenge, we are happy because this step paves the way for our return. And I will tell you how, not as a Kashmiri woman (for whom, am sure you agree, this act was unfair), but as a Kashmiri Pandit.

I witnessed our exodus in 1990. I was in my pre-teens then. Yet, my experiences in 1989-90 left bitter memories of that place, its Muslim population, in my mind. For years, I believed every Muslim was anti-Indian. It took me a number of years in Delhi and my interactions with many Indian Muslims to realise that the latter are different. They are as Indians as me or we Pandits. But decades later also, I could never feel the same way about Kashmiri Muslims. In 2013, I visited Kashmir for the first time since my migration, I interacted with many local Muslims there, some of course detested our presence over there, but there were many who were no longer anti-Indian, some wanted to be a part of India while others wanted just peace, some did repent what they did to Pandits. But despite seeing a bent towards India among some, I could never feel secure among them. Not even once did I sleep properly during my week-long stay there.

A slight voice outside my room reminded me of the night of 19 January 1990, thus keeping me on tenterhooks all the night. No matter how nice the local Muslims were to us, I never could trust them completely. I simply can’t do that given my experience as a child. Since I can’t trust the majority population (i.e., local Muslims), how can I even think of going back and living among them? This holds true for other Kashmiri Pandits also. Even if Government of India had given us free houses and crores of rupees, there was no way it could have made us feel safe for we had seen our neighbours stand with our hunters and there was no guarantee that history won’t repeat itself. Especially when several separatists have been quite vocal against our return.

Coming to the question, how repealing of Article 370 changes things for Kashmiri Pandits? It paves the way for all Indians to go to Kashmir. So when pro-Indians will go there, we will have company. We will no longer feel isolated, alone as if we are in a hostile region (the feeling that people like me experienced whenever we have been to Kashmir). And this feeling will also give back confidence to all those local Muslims who have been pro-India but were scared to say that because of the valley’s prevailing conditions. With more Indians there, the anti-Indian voices will have a reason to be scared, not us. Also, we will no longer be treated as second-class citizens in our own homeland. And that’s why we are happy. And so is every pro-Indian Kashmiri.

From a Kashmiri Pandit (Aditi Bhan)

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