'Kashmir is heaven on earth. I had to come back.'
On October 13, 1990, Roshan Lal Mawa, above, was shot four times in the abdomen in his shop in Zaina Kadal, Srinagar. He survived and moved to Delhi with his family.
This was at the height of militancy when Pandits were driven out of the Kashmir valley.
Nearly 29 years later, he reopened his shop which had been lying vacant for almost three decades, even as there have been reports of Muslim residents occupying Pandit properties.
In the three decades Roshan Lal established a successful business in Delhi, but it wasn't home. He had always wanted to return and the 73 year old realised he had to take the first step, that would help others like him to come back home.
He was overwhelmed when locals welcomed him with the traditional tying of a head gear and hugs and more hugs. It was, in his words, Kashmiriyat the way he has always known it.
Both Roshan Lal Mawa and his son Dr Sandeep Mawa radiate warmth, and you can feel the enthusiasm in their voices even when you talk to the father-son duo from a thousand miles away on the phone.
"Kashmiriyat that you feel and get here is not there anywhere in the world. It's such a wonderful place," says Roshan Lal Mawa in a conversation with A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com.
How is your business in Kashmir, sir?
It is first class. You know I sold my one month stock in two days. People have been thronging my shop to welcome me.
Were your shop and home lying vacant all along?
It was vacant. It has been vacant all these years. My Muslim brethren have safeguarded this property. They had faith that I would return and I have.
You have a successful business in Delhi, but you still chose to come back?
There is no place like home. The love and affection I get here was absent there. Kashmir is heaven on earth. I had to come back.
Doesn't the regular encounters between the security forces and the militants bother you?
The general public has nothing to do with the shootings. That is on between the army and the militants.
99% of the population is peaceful. They want peace. Life is short and everyone wants peace.
There are bad elements, it is not good, but peace will return.
Please write in your report that Kashmir is safe, people are loving and lovable.
Kashmiriyat that you feel and get here is not there anywhere in the world. It is such a wonderful place.
Peace will return and everyone must come home.
Dr Sandeep Mawa: 'God has blessed this place'
How old were you when you left the valley and where did you do your medical studies?
I was 12 years old when we left our home. I did my medicine in Jammu.
How does it feel to be back home?
The feeling is positive. It feels so nice to be welcomed by locals as if they were waiting for us to return.
God has blessed this place. Bhuri nazar lag gayi (someone cast an evil eye upon us) and the violence started at that time 30 years ago.
I am busy with social work. I have an organisation, the Jammu and Kashmir Reconciliation Front, and that keeps me busy.
A few years back you had brought back 50 Pandits.
Yes! And at that time too I had spoken to Rediff.
Is it true that you are planning on bringing back another batch of 200 Pandits this time?
Yes, it is true. They are spread all over in Mumbai, Delhi and Jammu.
Are their homes and shops also lying vacant?
No, these 200 belong to the economically weaker sections. We are finding ways to help rehabilitate them here through my social service organisation.
Are you not worried about their security?
Others may have doubts, I have no doubts. 98% of the people are peace loving.
You must keep in mind that the youth of today never saw the militancy we faced in the 1990s. They were born later.
You know what they tell me. They say, 'We heard about militancy and what happened to you from our elders. We want to hug you to let you know we love you.'
It is unfortunate that some misguided youths are lured into militancy.
We are safe here. We can become a successful state of this country. We want to be here and we will stay here.
Does your Jammu and Kashmir Reconciliation Front receive any funds from the government or from the public?
No, absolutely not. We don't receive any funds from the government or from my friends or public. Even if people give us money we don't accept it.
I have a successful business and this organisation is totally funded by me.
It is between me and God.