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'Government has opened doors for Kashmiri Pandits to go back to their homes'

August 09, 2019 20:30 IST

'A lot of revamping has to take place before the Kashmiri Pandits go back. The place is going to be on the boil for a while. I feel it will take a little while for everything to settle down; it is not going to be easy.

'But over a period of time, a lot of Kashmiri Pandits are going to go back to their land.' 

 

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party workers celebrate the Union government's move to revoke Article 370 that gave special status to the Jammu and Kashmir, in Lucknow. Photograph: Nand Kumar / PTI Photo

Satish Mahaldar is one of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits who live as refugees in various parts of the country. 

In 1990, when his parents had to flee from Srinagar to Delhi, he was a student. It was not easy for his father to accept the reality as a refugee, and like many others he also slipped into depression and soon passed away. 

Satish Mahaldar now works as a financial analyst and an entrepreneur from Delhi.  Last year, he had co-ordinated the yatra Kashmiri Pandits undertook to the Mata Khir Bhawani temple in Tulla Mulla village in Srinagar. 

 

In this interview to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier, Mahaldar, below, talks about how Kashmir will change after the abrogation of Article 370. 

Last year when we spoke, you had said that the plight of Kashmiri Pandits had been just a political jhumla. Now that the Narendra Modi government has revoked Article 370, what is your feeling? 

We see hope and commitment in our prime minister as this decision will pave way for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. It will also take the Kashmir valley back to its old glory and help in the overall development of Jammu and Kashmir. 

I would say, this is the opportune time for Narendra Modiji and the Government of India to bring peace in Jammu and Kashmir and reclaim our borders. 

From the point of view of Kashmiri Pandits, the road ahead is not so easy yet this has given us a ray of hope. 

Were you expecting the Modi government to do this within 100 days of them coming back to power? It had appeared that Kashmiri Pandits had lost hope in the BJP after they didn’t do anything on this issue when they were in power from 2014-2019. 

As scrapping of Article 370 was in the election manifesto of the BJP, it did not come as a surprise to us at all. 

I would definitely say that this was the opportune time to revoke both Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution as it goes in the direction of the integration of the nation. 

Congress MP Milind Deora tweeted that scrapping of Article 370 would bring peace in Jammu and Kashmir, jobs for Kashmiri youth and justice for Kashmiri Pandits. What kind of changes do you envisage? 

I fully agree with what he said. The local Kashmiris have been robbed by their own people, the mainstream political parties for the last more than 70 years. 

With the scrapping of 370, more jobs will come to Kashmir. 

You mean people from other parts of India will have the confidence now to invest in Kashmir? 

Of course. This will bring in more employment opportunities for Kashmiri youth. Hereafter, J&K will be under Government of India and a lot of national schemes started by the central government will be implemented there too. 

However, many people describe what the Modi government has done as a historic blunder… 

I don’t agree. From the national perspective, this is the right move to not only protect our borders but also bring peace in the whole of Asia. 

It is the need of the hour for the country to stand for Jammu and Kashmir and also Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. It is also the right time as Pakistan is not in good shape now. 

But some people say that Pakistan will infiltrate and flood the valley with arms, and we will see more violence happening…. 

I don’t agree. Pakistan will be left with no choice but accept the reality. The reason is, America has given clear instructions to them to settle the Afghanistan and Taliban problem.

So, right now, Afghanistan is the primary issue and Kashmir is only secondary for Pakistan. 

Pakistan also has failed in diplomacy and foreign relations. Of course, the military and the opposition are not on the same page as the Imran Khan government. 

Imran Khan in a warning tone said that there would be more Phulwamas… 

They will definitely try to disturb us but they will not be able to do much because their hands have been chopped by Trump and IMF. The economy of Pakistan is such a bad shape that they have no choice but listen. 

Why I said Narendra Modi did this at the right moment was because Pakistan is on the back foot right now. Also, they have to focus on Taliban and Afghanistan first because of the pressure from the US. 

Why do you think politicians like Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are vehemently against this move by the central government? 

Because they are aware of the mood of the people of Kashmir. People know that the mainstream politicians have been cheating them all these years. 

These politicians want the Kashmir issue alive because that’s the only way for their survival. 

In the last 70 years, why is it that no development taken place in the state? Because these politicians were making money out of keeping the state and its people underdeveloped. 

Just see how the people of Ladakh were cheated all the time. Whenever the fund allocation came from the centre for J&K which included Ladakh also, nothing went there. You will be shocked to know that there is not even a single higher education institute in Ladakh. 

Do you expect Kashmiri Pandits to return to the valley in large numbers? 

Of course. But a lot of revamping has to take place before the Kashmiri Pandits go back. The place is going to be on the boil for a while. I feel it will take a little while for everything to settle down; it is not going to be easy. But over a period of time, a lot of Kashmiri Pandits are going to go back to their land.  

How long do you think for normalcy to come back in the valley? 

I don’t see normalcy coming back soon, it is going to take at least one year. There is a lot of anger for the local politicians in the minds of people who have lost their sons, who have cheated them all these years. It is going to be on the boil for at least one year. 

The last time  we spoke, you had said that only Kashmiri Pandits could bring peace in  Jammu and Kashmir… 

Why I said was, secularism has been missing in the state with the exodus of Pandits and Sikhs. It became a 100% Muslim state. Until we achieve a balance in the population, peace will not come back. With the scrapping of Article 370 and Article 35A, the government has opened the doors for Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs to go back to their homes. 

What are your personal thoughts as a Kashmiri Pandit? 

I am very happy as a Kashmiri Pandit who has been living the life of a refugee for the last 29 years. 

At the same time, there is a question in my mind, how can we retain the identity of Kashmiri Pandits which is 6000 years old? This is one of my concerns.

Shobha Warrier / Rediff.com
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