On 3 May 2015, less than two weeks ago, a protest was held by Kashmiri Pandits in Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The rally had been announced well in advance over social media and, as a result, hundreds of people from the exiled community, some of whom had travelled from places such as Jammu and Pune, participated in the gathering. It was organised by a few Kashmiri Pandits in Delhi and also had representatives from various Pandit organisations such as Roots in Kashmir, Kashmir Visthapit Sangharsh Samiti, All India Kashmir Samaj, Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch and Kashmiri Samiti among others.
What the protest aimed to achieve was not very clear. Many Kashmiri Pandits currently feel cheated by the Narendra Modi government. They accuse it of succumbing to the pressure of the separatist groups in the Kashmir Valley and backtracking from its earlier announcement of creating a separate township for the resettlement of the Pandits. The protest at Jantar Mantar should have been about the immediate concerns of the exiled community; it should have been a message to the new governments in New Delhi and Kashmir that they cannot take the Pandits for granted. The organisers made a few feeble noises, but none of them could be seen as a direct affront to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Nevertheless, the protest was given ample coverage by most media organisations and some of its organisers dubbed it a success.
The problem lay with certain constituents of the rally’s organising committee who have direct links with the Sangh Parivar. In fact, one of the slogans used at the rally was, “Jahan hue balidaan Mookerjee, woh Kashmir humara hai” (The Kashmir where Mookerjee sacrificed his life is ours!), that I first remember hearing at an event organised by the BJP a little after the exodus in Kashmir.
In 1990, almost all Kashmiri Pandits—about 400,000 people—were driven out of their homes by Islamist extremists. A significant number of the majority Muslim population in the Valley believed that the call for freedom from India that had resulted in this exodus was a mandate of history. Many of them remained silent, or even cheered on, as their Pandit friends, neighbours and colleagues were forced into exile.
Most Pandits took refuge in Jammu city first. Here, they were made to believe that the Sangh Parivar was very concerned about their plight. The reality of course, was quite the opposite. Representatives from the Sangh Parivar, for instance, told the Pandits that they must not stay in Jammu for long, “The locals fear that you will seek your pound of flesh in their resources”. Subsequently, while the Pandits struggled to put their lives together as refugees in their own country, many in the Sangh Parivar and its supporters dubbed the Pandits cowards for “not putting up a fight.”