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Rediff.com  » News » 'Lull Before A BIG STORM In Kashmir'

'Lull Before A BIG STORM In Kashmir'

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
Last updated on: June 21, 2024 00:35 IST
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'There is no peace in the Kashmir Valley.'

IMAGE: Jammu and Kashmir Police commandos during a search operation in Narwal, Jammu district. June 13, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

"People are not coming on the roads because of the fear of the gun. And the fear of the gun is not restricted to security forces alone but fear of the Enforcement Directorate, National Investigation Agency, the local station house officer and that is the reason they are not coming on the roads to protest," Sanjay Tickoo, president of the Kashmiri Pandits Sangharsh Samiti, tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com.

 

What we saw in the film Kashmir Files, how far were those incidents true?

I feel the film should have been named Kashmiri Pandit Files or Pandit Files.

The film-maker had not taken (into account) the frustration of what has happened in Kashmir to the majority (Muslim) community.

Secondly, the writer or director had no interaction with any of Kashmiri Pandits who stayed back in the valley. We could have given a clear picture as to what happened to us at that time to him.

Had he done that Kashmir Files would have become a very big film for all those people who live or lived in conflict zone areas like the North East or Punjab of the mid-1980s. Unfortunately, he did not do that because it would not have benefited the film-maker commercially.

I also disliked how Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoted this movie and other BJP MPs too promoted it.

And what did we as the Kashmiri Pandit community get in return for Kashmir Files, a film that was made on us? Nothing. The film-maker earned Rs 400 crore from our miseries.

In the movie there was a scene where Hindus were segregated from the Muslims and killed in the villages of Kashmir. Is it true?

No, this never happened. It disturbed me and I issued a statement too then.

IMAGE: Kashmiri Pandits arrive to watch a screening of Kashmir Files in Jammu, March 20, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

Was your home ever marked with a cross in the 1990s to show that it is a Kashmiri Pandit, Hindu, home and it needs to be targeted like the Nazis did with Jews?

It was not marked like that. They pasted posters on the main door to leave the Valley if you work for the Indian security forces.

Were these posters put on Kashmiri Muslim homes too, of those who were pro-India?

No, because at that time every Kashmiri Muslim wanted azaadi. And it is also true that 60 percent of Kashmiri Pandits' lives were saved by their neighbours who were Kashmiri Muslims.

And what about signs like 'Indian dogs go back'? Was this not pasted on Kashmiri Pandit homes?

No, they were posted only for Indian security forces.

What is your opinion about Prime Minister Modi's stance on Kashmiri Pandits?

I recall when he became prime minister in 2014, a year later there was a show on NDTV where I was asked what hopes I had with Modi and I replied, 'Big zero'. I said just wait and see.

I have personally met all the prime ministers from H D Deve Gowda to Narendra Modi to discuss the Kashmir Pandit issue and I realised that all prime ministers do only lip service. When I met Modi after he became PM I realised in my first meeting that he will also do only lip service for Kashmiri Pandits.

Who was the best prime minister for Kashmiri Pandits?

Dr Manmohan Singh.

Now you are sounding like a Congress supporter.

I am not a Congress supporter. I am saying so, why Dr Manmohan Singh? Because he started the return of Pandits with a rehabilitation package which the present regime claims they gave. The present regime has not done anything for Kashmiri Pandits.

IMAGE: A poster remembers Rahul Bhat, a government employee who was killed by terrorists in Budgam, Srinagar, May 12, 2022. Photograph: Umar Ganie for Rediff.com

The Modi government abrogated Article 370 which is a big step, isn't it? I as an Indian feel today that I can buy land in Kashmir.

Earlier too you could buy land on lease for 99 years in Kashmir. How many did that? And tell me, how many people have bought land in the Kashmir Calley?

185 people bought land in J&K by 2023, according to government figures.

These are only businessmen who are buying. An ordinary Indian cannot buy land in the Valley because you cannot afford it as the land prices have shot up.

These businessmen will buy land for five-star hotels and this is not going to help me as a Kashmiri Pandit.

Will you not give credit to Mr Modi for the peace that has been restored in the Valley? Tourists are coming in large numbers and there are no incidents of stone pelting and hartals.

There is no peace in the Kashmir Valley. It is the lull before a big storm. BIG STORM. Mark my words.

Why are you sounding so pessimistic, considering that you have been so optimistic about staying in the Kashmir Valley when almost all the Kashmiri Pandits left?

I have been here for the last 35 years and I have seen the militancy graph going up and down in my lifetime.

This time people are not coming on the roads it is because of the fear of the gun. And the fear of the gun is not restricted to security forces alone but fear of the Enforcement Directorate, National Investigation Agency, the local station house officer and that is the reason they are not coming on the roads to protest.

The public is keeping patience right now, but in future anything can happen.

You mean protests like what we saw after Burhan Wani's death?

It will be worse than that. Just check out after 2019 the Poonch-Rajouri belt and find out how many security forces have been martyred by non-State actors.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com