By Sachet Koul:
Given the recent turn of events, I asked my grandfather if he wanted to return to the valley and live in the ‘cocoon’, so to speak; he stayed silent. When I asked my dad, he very promptly said ‘yim divne rozn’ (meaning: will they let us stay?) and when I ask myself the same question (the second generation migrant settled in Delhi working for an Internet startup), I think of it as ‘rent’ or maybe at best ‘a summer house’. If you are surprised at the line of thought above, you clearly haven’t spoken to a KP. For my grandfather, who spent his life’s earnings in building a house in which his family could prosper, the feeling of betrayal is unimaginable. For my father, who spent his young adult life in the valley, the feeling of mistrust is unimaginable. For me, a young adult who can only call himself a Kashmiri in ethnicity, the feeling of disconnect is unimaginable.
Personal/family feelings aside, a society is made up of people who live in it and nothing stands more true to this than the statement ‘safety is in numbers’. Do we feel safe as Kashmiri Pandits returning to the valley? The honest answer is no. It really disheartens me when a J-K MLA comes out openly and says “Kashmiri Pandits must seek unconditional apology from the majority community for migration and leaving them behind at the mercy of guns, grenades, bullets, crack-downs, PSAs, AFSPA, custodial killings, rapes, murders, forced labor, custodial disappearances, humiliation and rule of lawlessness”. Since when is the victim supposed to ask for apology from the tormentor? If the KPs hadn’t escaped during the 1989-90 militancy period, the whole community might have been ethnically cleansed. This kind of blatant propaganda was seen even back then, with slogans like “humko chaiye azadi”, what about the KP freedom? Who gave them the right to take that away? No amount of pseudo-sympathy statements mean anything if the J-K govt is unable to protect its own citizen.
So am I pro-cocoons? Yes, as a start I would like to start living there (even if it is temporarily) and explore my motherland. Talk to the people there, understand them, and see if they have really changed.
Some things need to be experienced first-hand, even if they are from behind a barbed fence at first.