Don’t split a shared tragedy

  • Publish Date: Mar 10 2016 12:19PM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 1 2016 3:44PM
Don’t split a shared tragedy

In recent years, a contentious debate about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has run parallel to the larger discourse over the conflict in Kashmir. Every time Kashmir is discussed and New Delhi’s wrongs in the state are spotlighted, Pandit flight from Valley in early nineties is foregrounded to level the debate. This convenient approach to play one disproportionate tragedy against another may have served its political design well but it has drifted the two communities further apart. So much so that one is not to ready to acknowledge the other’s tragedy. The bitter and competing narratives have poisoned the climate. The pro-active role of the state to push the creation of the exclusive Pandit settlements in Valley has further vitiated the atmosphere. The purpose of this issue is to work towards restoration of some of the lost mutual empathy. Pandits have suffered but Muslims have done so disproportionately. And the issue that has made them to suffer is not the mutual hatred between the communities – there isn’t any credible history of such hate - but the larger problem over Kashmir. And this is something that is beyond the power of both the communities to resolve. What is in their power is to engage and work together. Only way to do this is an honest acknowledgement of the truth of each other’s narrative and building on it a vision of a shared future. It is true that this is an idealistic prospect in an intrinsically flawed setting of Kashmir, where vested interests monopolize the agenda and often subvert a clear perspective of the reality. But the challenge for the two communities is to make it happen again. Twenty six years after the exodus, Pandits have some unique dilemmas of their own. The displacement has plugged a section of the population into a wider world of opportunity but a significant number has lost everything and gone through the indignity of living in refugee camps. The community faces tough choices, split between the
older generation’s memories of their homeland and a new generation with no lived experience of Kashmir and hence less attached to the prospect of returning. But overhanging both generations is the fear of ethnic extinction. With the new generation marrying outside their community, the Pandits’ struggle to hold on to their language and a way of life is becoming ever more difficult. But in Kashmir this discourse gets pitted against the poignant narrative of the sufferings of Muslims. Thousands have died and hundreds have disappeared. But should these narratives collide? Aren’t both outcomes of the lingering conflict over Kashmir? What is needed for the two communities is to come together, strive for a mutual understanding and work to create conditions for an inclusive Kashmir. And this can only be possible in colonies and spaces which are inclusive and shared, not segregated.