Our tryst with destiny: A Kashmiri Pandit perspective

What does revoking Article 370 really mean to those who had to flee the J&K valley three decades ago?

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5th August 2019 will be permanently etched in the minds of Kashmiri Pandits as a historic day when mainstream India finally found the resolve to do the right thing and correct a blunder of epic proportions. For the past three decades Kashmiri Pandits like me have felt a part of their body severed, and the desire to be part of Kashmir once again has never ebbed.

Kashmiri Pandit.Indian Link
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard in Srinagar, 5 August 2019. Photo: AP

When news of the security build up in Kashmir began to come in, no one in their wildest dreams had imagined that the action would be so swift and strong. The dismantling of Articles 35A, 370 and the reorganisation of the state was a masterstroke by the Modi Government. Upon hearing the news, as odd as it may seem, my initial feeling was not one of joy; instead memories of the dark day came flooding back when we were forced to leave our homes in Kashmir overnight under the cover of darkness. My eyes welled up as I re-lived those terrifying moments when family and friends were saddled on to trucks like cattle with minimal or no belongings, and left to find shelter in open spaces and sub-human conditions outside Kashmir. The physical and mental pain suffered by the people of this generation due to the onslaught of militancy and the feeling of neglect by India came rushing back to my mind.

Slowly as the news sank in, the realisation dawned that we would at last be able to go back to our homes.

Upon hearing the news, as odd as it may seem, my initial feeling was not one of joy; instead memories of the dark day came flooding back when we were forced to leave our homes in Kashmir overnight under the cover of darkness.

Celebrations broke out in Kashmiri Pandit homes and it appeared that the rest of the country had finally heard their cries and pain.

It was a vindication of sorts. The neglect of the people of Jammu, Ladakh and border areas, and discrimination against Kashmiri Pandits since the past 70 years will now hopefully come to an end.

The removal of Article 35A and Article 370 has put paid to the hopes of the political dynasties of the Abdullah and Mufti families who neglected their own people. For years the separatist leaders stoked the fire in Kashmir and misled an entire generation of people to go on the streets and protest. The separatist leadership in Kashmir held on to this position for the last 30 years and never wanted a political solution. Their steadfast refusal to join mainstream politics meant that they had no avenues of fundraising and relied on the Hawala route for funding stone throwers and their self-interests. With NIA applying pressure by choking their funding sources, Hurriyat ran out of steam.

This change will trigger an infusion of the best human talent seeking opportunities in the area, and will open the local population to huge economic and social opportunities. The Modi Government has used the huge mandate provided by voters to drive strong change in the system. While the local population may find it difficult to accept the news, their attitude is bound to change as economic benefits start to trickle down.

While this is one of most defining moments of Modern India as we strengthen our social fabric, it is also a difficult period for those affected by this. The next few months will be crucial, and it is time for all the people residing in areas other than Jammu and Kashmir to look out for Kashmiri students, tourists and businessmen and make them feel safe and welcome at all times. After this change, it is time to open our hearts as well and provide a feeling of warmth to everyone affected. Authorities need to make sure trouble-makers and over-zealous and foolish activists don’t takeover. Hope police deal firmly with miscreants if any, so that all doomsday predictors are proven wrong. The 17th century Kashmiri saint Resh Pir said that life and human values should be a gulkand: the nectar of peace, tolerance, brotherhood and humanity is a pious thing. It is time to remember his words.

India gained independence on 15 August 1947, but for Kashmiris like me, our real Tryst with Destiny started on 5 August 2019, providing a solace to our deep scars: these may now heal a bit faster.