Monday, November 26, 2007

Declare us Internally Displaced: Kashmiri Pandits


Sarwar Kashani
Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)

New Delhi : Saying they would wish to go back to their roots even if forced to "remain in exile for 1,000 years", displaced Kashmiri Pandits are demanding that they be declared internally displaced persons.

In search of their identity and home, they organised a musical concert here this weekend with the help of one of their Delhi organisations, Roots in Kashmir (RIK). The musical sojourn at Chinmaya Auditorium in south Delhi brought forth a nostalgic montage of the Kashmir valley, which is silhouetted by unceasing violence.

"Keeping in touch with our lost culture is to memorise our homeland," 18-year-old Aditya Raj Koul of RIK told IANS.
"Kashmiri Pandits feel cheated," he said. "We demand the affected people should immediately be declared internally displaced persons (IDPs), in accordance with the definition of the UN."
IDPs are people forced to flee their homes but who, unlike refugees, remain within their country's borders.
According to UN guiding principles on internal displacement, IDPs are those who have been forced or obliged to leave their homes to avoid the effects of armed conflict or violations of human rights and who have not crossed an internationally recognised state border.
Nearly 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits, who are Hindus, were forced to move out of the valley after Islamist militancy broke out in 1989, and since then they have been living in camps in Jammu, Delhi and other places in India.

And they were present in force at the musical event.

A leading singer from Kashmir, Vijay Kumar Malla, enthralled the audience, mostly Pandits, with devotional songs, Sufi music and ghazals.

Malla, known as the Ghulam Ali of Kashmir, touched an emotional chord while recalling the literary and scenic beauty of the valley.

And when Malla sang Ehsan Qamri's Urdu ghazal "Ham Se Mat Poochhiye Hum Kidhar Jaayenge: Thhak Gaye Hain Bahut, Apne Ghar Jaayenge" (literally meaning: Don't ask where I shall go; Too tired, I want to go home now), tears rolled down many an eye.

There were moments of joy too when the singer churned out romantic love songs from Kashmir.
"Tamah" (a desire), as the programme was aptly titled, was meant to "bring the matters of Kashmiri Pandits into public focus and was a wish to reunite the community under one roof".

"Kashmiri Pandits are incessantly facing the demographical and geopolitical wrath of their having become outcast," Koul said. He alleged that the Indian government's claims about rehabilitating them had turned out to be a political gimmick.
"Many (among the displaced) feel that the sensitivity of this issue has been adulterated and compromised with. The pain is too much to bear with, which burns deep in our hearts and minds," said Koul, whose RIK has taken an initiative to highlight the plight and rights of the community.
Reiterating the demand for a probe into the causes and events of selective killings of Pandits,followed by alleged ethnic cleansing by terrorists, Koul said it was "amazing that not a single person has been convicted for the killing of thousands of Pandits".
Before Malla, another Kashmiri singer, Lovely Raina, mesmerised the audience as did RIK's imposing audio-visual presentation that traced the history of their exodus and how Pandits fell to militant bullets way back in 1989-90.
One of the posters in the presentation made the point of Pandits longing to return. "Even after 1,000 years of exile, we will be back to the valley, back to the roots in Kashmir," read the poster.

(Sarwar Kashani can be contacted at s.kashani@ians.in)

1 comment:

Anupama Kak Bakaya said...

I, a Kashmiri hindu,have for all these years been a mute spectator to the conditions of our people and the agony each one of us had to go thru.Being born and brought up in an environment where KEEPING QUITE was a norm, it made me accept everything that happened to us as a quirk of fate.This is one of the reasons why ,even after being enraged at the way we were forced to leave our land, I never ever attempted to even raise my finger and let the world know that I TOO EXIST!
It is for this reason that I have a lot of respect for the younger generations of Kashmiri hindus who have shown the courage and the determination and have made the world stand up and take notice. I would like to thank the organizers for an excellent show . It was indeed a pleasure to be there. Memories flooded my mind with each song that was sung.
Thanks again and may God bless you all