THE resolve expressed by Kashmiri Pandit community to launch a planned struggle to restore its obliterated identity in Jammu and Kashmir, may appear a small event to begin with, but its historical importance cannot be overlooked. At a recent convention in Jammu, members of the Pandit community demanded from regional and national political parties to state clearly in their respective manifestos before the legislative elections due soon their stance on the status of community lakhs of whose members have had to flee the State to save themselves from the atrocities committed against them by the people of other communities. By seeking to know their respective stands on the issue, the Pandit community is actually tying the political parties down to pushing for a resolution of the tangle.
By any standard, this is a welcome development that may affect Kashmiri politics in a big way. The plight of the Kashmiri Pandit community is unparalleled in the contemporary national political scenario. About a quarter of a century ago, hordes of goons started attacking Kashmiri Pandit people and their homes and properties in the most ruthless manner. They dragged men out of homes, tied them down to trees and committed all sorts of atrocities on their women and also children. On many, many occasions, when a Pandit family would be out of town for some time, the goons would take over their property and thus dislodge the original owners and residents from their own home and hearth. So wanton was this violence lasting for endless months that lakhs of members of Pandit community fled their homes and sought shelter elsewhere. Realising the severity of the problem, the Government then opened refugee camps for the displaced persons from the Pandit community.
Though the official count of displaced persons was never published by the Government, a conservative estimate put the number at about a million. In those refugee camps, life was hardly anything to write home about. Scarcity ruled the roost and most inmates of the camps prayed for an early end of their collective misery. Some efforts were made by the Government to secure a safe and sure return of the displaced Pandits to their own homes. Yet, most of those efforts proved to be only cosmetic in nature and did not serve the actual purpose.
Now the Pandit community seems to have resolved to put an end to this miserable condition. Hence the insistence upon knowing the respective stands of political parties on the issue. Hence the insistence upon inclusion of the thought in election manifestos. The success of this drive will depend upon how successful do the Pandits prove to be in creating a genuine pressure-group that could affect electoral outcome when the State goes for legislative battle of ballot. It is obvious that one community alone would not be able to prove itself as an effective pressure group.
The whole nation will have to stand by the Pandit community that has seen massive suffering at the hands of goons belonging to a certain community. All the vandalism unleashed by the goons against the Pandit community was part of an undeclared demographic purge, something the Government could do nothing to stop when it was at its worst high. Now that the Pandits are beginning a fresh drive to establish their identity again, their struggle needs a nationwide support. For, this is one case in which the struggle should belong to the whole nation and not just to members of one community. On the surface, this may appear to be a struggle of a community, but quintessentially, it is an effort to restore the glory of democracy as a basic principle by which the State of India stands sworn -- through Constitution and through spiritual loyalty.