Kashmiri Pandit family performing puja at their residence in Srinagar. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Dr Bashir A Dabla

  1. After mass migration of the KPs from Kashmir in 1991-93, the sole question of basic importance remained will they return back?  In the following period, the question turned into when they will return back?  Now, in the context of different developments, the question turned to how they will return?   In last few years, this question changed to why they will come back?  Though at the initial stage this question was simple, but 23 years after migration, this question became very complex and resist any solution.  This question haunts every Kashmiri’s conscience.  It has generally been observed that while near total Kashmiri Muslims (KM) want all Kashmiri Pundits (KP’s) back in the valley and live a normal life.  On the other hand, dominant majority of KPs wish to be in the valley with proper care and security.
  2. In the backdrop of this uncertainty, a music-based programme was broadcast by Radio Kashmir, Srinagar at 9.30 AM on Sundays during April-June 2013. This programme was based on detailed telephone calls of KPs living in different cities of India.  They responded to a Kashmiri Muslim broadcaster’s questions and frankly expressed their views about Kashmir, Kashmiriat, life conditions, problems and return migration.  The KPs who called on phone and conveyed their views had following features:table-dabla
  1. Broadly speaking, this radio programme conveyed ideas and sentiments of KPs and KMs about each other and their composite life and society.  Some of these prominent ideas included the following:

        [i]            The KMs maintained that

[a] There really exists composite culture and tolerance of plurality of religions  in Kashmir;

[b] Despite mass migration, the ideal cultural whole and cultural traits still exist with social legitimacy;

[c] Mass migration has not negated and devastated the ideal type of social and cultural relationship between two religious communities;

[d] Despite educational and economic losses due to migration, there has not emerged wider and deeper social antagonism between these separated communities.

                [ii]  On the other hand, the KPs maintained that

[i] Despite grave implications of mass migration, the conscious identity about Kashmir and Kashmiriat has not died down;

[ii] Though they live in an alien social-cultural environment, they have not accepted the superiority of other cultures and show affinity and concern for their Kashmiri roots;

[iii] The grave and cruel conditions of migrant life outside Kashmir, they have not betrayed their roots and confirm their commitment to their cultural traditions; and

[iv] While conveying the problems of migrants ‘life’, they also express the hurdles and obstacles in the way of returning back to Kashmir.

  1. The radio conversation revealed certain realities related to KPs migration and their intention to return and their constant association with Kashmir and Kashmiriat  and numerous problems of migrant  life.  Some of these prominent views were as follows:

[i]    KPs have no comfortable life in the physical, psychological and social sense.  Their attachment to their origins and roots have not been forgotten, rather intensifies continuously.  They consider themselves first inhabitants of Kashmir and seem upholding its social and cultural ethos.   Non-Kashmiri cultures and communities seem secondary to them.  “Others” remain ‘outsiders’ and “panun” remain ‘punun’ even in present times.

[II] Though both communities suffered in all fields, the bonds between the communities did not die down.  These positive bonds survived even in hardest times.

[iii] KP’s can never lose Kashmir and its culture and its practices can never be ignored.  Its glaring traditions such as plurality, tolerance, interaction and reciprocal relationship can never be sidelined.

[iv] Suitable and heavenly climatic conditions of Kashmir still lure KPs and they romanticize their old days in that heavenly environment and social-cultural ethos based on brotherly relations.

[v] All these sentiments were expressed more by the elder generation of KPs rather than by their youngsters and children.  The latter have least degree of feeling and association with Kashmir.  They know Kashmir as Bollywood has portrayed it in Hindi movies.

[vi] While the KP elders are still committed to their cultural and social roots, their children cannot be characterized in same terms.  The Kashmiri language has become ‘grave casualty’ at their hands.  Since they were born, reared, socialized and educated in alien environment, they hardly know Kashmir and its cultural heritage.  The functional compulsions outside Kashmir didn’t allow them to continue with their cultural tradition.

[vii]  Since all KP children/youngsters have got education and higher jobs in all cities of India and the world, they constructed their houses and established homes at those places.  It seems difficult even to think to return to Kashmir in those living conditions.  Moreover, they have no point of attraction for thinking in terms of returning to Kashmir.

[viii] KPs visualize the situation which may emerge if they return to Kashmir en mass.  The separate colonies for migrants in future will not solve their problems but will increase and intensify.  It will create the ‘ghetto’ community in Kashmir.

[ix] Last, KPs are conscious of that fact that a new generation of young people has taken over Kashmir in all fields.  In order to live the normal, peaceful and pluralistic life, this generation has to be approached properly and proper rapport developed.

  1. The above analysis of the radio conversation in 9 programmes does not answer the question

[ mentioned at the start of this paper] reasonably, realistically and in totality.  It follows that some of basic importance are missing.  The crude social reality stands in the argument that the mass migration of KPs took place in 1991-93.  While it was easy to shift from Kashmir to outside cities and towns in the country and the world, it seems very difficult, near to impossible,  to return back in the same number. It is because of some developments within and outside the community during last two decades.  As mentioned in the previous section, the KP children were born, reared, socialized and educated in pure non-Kashmiri cultural environment.

After getting higher education and getting higher positions in public and private service sector in India and abroad, they have constructed houses and intend to live at those places for longer time.  They are settled there and would never like to be disturbed.  These aspects of the KPs’ life were not highlighted sufficiently in the radio programmes.

The views and opinions expressed by KP telephone callers were primarily and essentially of those who belong to the rural areas, elders, married-literate-middle income groups [see the table above].  These age groups only are rooted in Kashmir and Kashmiriat and they have emotional-cultural attachment to their motherland and they only feel cut off from roots.  Only they will be able to develop rapport with the new generation in Kashmir. In this context, the question of KPs migration back home seems misdirected.  It needs to be formulated and directed properly.


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