25 years on, Kashmir Pandits long for homeland
It has been 25 years since the Kashmiri Pandits fled from the Valley following outbreak of militancy, but the memories of the terror they faced and the pain of leaving everything they owned is still afresh.
Nagrota: It has been 25 years since the Kashmiri Pandits fled from the Valley following outbreak of militancy, but the memories of the terror they faced and the pain of leaving everything they owned is still afresh.
With the onset of armed insurgency, more than four lakh Kashmiri Pandits migrated during the exodus, taking shelter in other parts of the country.
"The people, who were our friends suddenly turned foes, loudspeakers were being used to threaten us and warn us to leave the Valley," said Bansi Lal Koul, a resident of Jawahar Nagar in Srinagar who along with his family migrated to Jammu.
He said that the people "who had promised to protect us turned their back when the need arose".
"On the assurance of our neighbour that they would protect us, we stayed back for sometime, but when a few armed militants knocked our doors, nobody came for our help," he claimed.
The displaced Kashmiri Pandits, who are till now staying in various migrant settlements across Jammu, said they had to undergo unimaginable hardships when they became "migrants" in their own country.
Fearing attacks by militants, a large number of Kashmiri Pandits had to leave their houses in the night.
"As the militancy started in Kashmir, there were large scale pro-freedom processions on the roads. The demonstrators were openly demanding death for India and Indians and the police watched like a mute spectator," alleged Alok Kumar, a resident of Habba Kadal in Srinagar, now putting up in the Jagti migrant township in Nagrota.
He said that he along with his family had to migrate to Jammu in the dead of the night leaving everything behind.
"When gun-toting militants became a regular sight and news about prominent members of our community being targeted and killed became a daily affair, we decided to migrate in the night leaving everything behind," he said.
The migrants had taken shelter in makeshift camps in Jammu and had no inkling that they will not be able to return to their homeland anytime soon.
"We had never seen such scorching heat, several of our community members died because of the inclement weather," said Veerji Bhat, a migrant Kashmiri Pandit.
Many of the elderly have since died while longing to visit their birthplace one last time.
"Their last wish could never be fulfilled," said Avtar Krishan, another Kashmiri Pandit.
Alleging that the successive state and central governments have failed to heal the "wounds" of the displaced community, Vinod Pandit, chairman of the All party migrants coordination committee, said, "Nothing much has been done for the displaced community. We have become a victim of neglect by both the state and the central governments."
He claimed that the governments have failed to implement any confidence building measures to "end the alienation" of the displaced community.
"There is an entire generation who has not been able to see their place of origin and an entire generation has died with the hope to visit their place of birth one last time," he said.