Terming the displacement of Pandits from the Valley as "one of the darkest chapters" in the history of Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ], Union Minister Farooq Abdullah asked the displaced people for "forgiveness."
"One of the major tragedies that we had to go through was the ethnic cleansing that took place in the state of Jammu and Kashmir," said the former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir at a book launch in the capital.
"I think it was one of the darkest chapters in the history of the state that will always remain and for which even for years if we ask God for forgiveness I wonder if it will ever come," he said.
The minister was alluding to the displacement of Pandits from the Valley at the peak of militancy in the early 1990s.
"People had to leave their land and other holdings suddenly overnight, not knowing what the future holds for them. The hurt due to this tragedy still exists in young Pandits," said the minister who holds the portfolio of New and Renewable Energy portfolio.
Abdullah also rued the loss of cultural identity that these people have to face due to their displacement. "People in Kashmir don't know what Pandits look like..what the now empty temples meant for them..they have become aliens..I wonder if I'll be able to see it (the repatriation) in this birth," he said.
"Everyone wants to die, be buried and cremated in his own land. I lived in England [ Images ] for 12 years but I never became English though I married an English woman..for me those narrow lanes in Kashmir meant far more that the beautiful roads in England," he said.
While commending the Pandits who overcame their loss to hold big positions in the country, the minister pointed to the need to take care of those who lived in cramped quarters at refugee camps.
The minister also warned that such environment was detrimental to youngsters as they bred "hatred" and "extremism" among them and said it will be "the biggest danger in the future."
"With the rate of extremism I see today I wonder whether secularism will survive. My fear is of the younger generation who know that they belong to Kashmir but haven't seen the place but then there is a yearning to get back to their land and at the same time the fear in them if its safe enough to live in peace stops them from doing so.
"It is these younger people we need to look and cater to," he said, adding that thelevel of religious tolerance has dropped over the years.
He said even Muslims in the Valley have not been spared of extremist elements. "Muslims are also suffering. We believe in the Sufi culture..there are forces in the state trying to push out that too," he said.