The Greater Kashmir of March 5 carried a news item about the global meet of Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and its deliberations over various issues arising from their departure from the valley in 1990 owing to political turmoil. It is more than two decades that this community is living away from its home. Obviously, one living away from home has to face many hardships. Their urge to return to the valley is natural and should not be grudged.
In my writings on current affairs in Kashmir, I have, a couple of times reflected on the issue of Pandits, their unwanted departure from their homes and the prospect of their return and reintegration in Kashmiri milieu. I have, like many other political activists including dissenters, always held that Pandits are part and parcel of Kashmiri history and society and an important component of Kashmiriyat. This is the view of most of Kashmir’s. On personal level, interaction between the migrated community and their neighbours, friends and well-wishers back home never ceased. They maintained their cordial relations through communication and in many cases through personal visits on either side. This shows that on grassroots level goodwill exists in considerable measure.
People in the valley are mystified why the Pandits left in haste and recklessly in 1990. They should have opted to stay on and face the ordeal which their Muslim neighbours and friends had to go through. Communities have to learn to face the difficult times with fortitude. Those who stayed back and did not leave the valley continued to be treated sympathetically. Even in social aspects of life, they were the recipients of goodwill of the majority community.
But we need to leave the past and its painful memories behind and move on without getting stagnated at any particular incident howsoever painful. Human life must move on. It is never too late to mend. Change of attitudes and change of mindset is needed. I think signs of that change are visible.The valley dwellers as well as the migrated community feel that a new chapter of inter-community cordiality ought to be opened, away from the pulls and pressure of political forces.
I have seen the footage of recent deliberations of Pandit Meet at Jammu. It was an assemblage of very sensible and very responsible thinkers of the community. There was lot of rationalism in what they talked on various issues. Every speaker was clear about the need of harmonious and tolerant living together. In particular, the expression of a desire of contributing actively to the development of the State was unanimous. Representatives of Pandit Diaspora in the Meet were more expressive about composite culture of Kashmiris. I have also interacted with some of my good friends among the Pandit community who are known for their wisdom, understanding and human values. I found them as much pained by what their neighbours, friends and general masses of people in the valley had to suffer at the hands of the security forces as well as the gun wielding youth and also the corrupt administrative machinery. I have also closely read the substance of resolution they have passed.
I must frankly tell the Pandits that the core issue on which they should concentrate is return and rehabilitation. Other issues which they have touched upon seem to me peripheral. Once they are rehabilitated in the valley, moist of their other issues will get solved or may disappear. Therefore I do not find it necessary to react to those auxiliary demands. But I concentrate on what is said below:
In regard to their idea of “wholesome satellite city”, I sought meaningful elaboration of the concept because it appeared to me indicating a shift in their known demand of homeland. Honestly speaking, I was amused by their elaboration. They said they meant a twin-city of Srinagar adjoining the present old city with composite and inclusive occupancy where any Kashmiri including the 35 thousand migrated Pandit families could settle down. They frankly desired that the contemplated city could be true representative of Kashmiriyat where both communities would revive their age old common social and cultural bonds and live in peace and harmony allowing respective traditions to flow freely.
I found it an interesting idea but I look at it from another and equally important angle. Kashmir is a world reputed tourist place. Srinagar city has the key position in this tourist region. But frankly speaking, old Srinagar is really old and worn out. It has lost its grace and shine, beauty and cleanliness. It is a congested mess unworthy to be called the capital city of a world renowned tourist spot. Therefore we need a new Srinagar city what may be called the twin-city capital. There are many examples. We have Delhi and New Delhi, Mumbai and Nai Mumbai. We know of Buda and Pest as Budapest, the capital of Hungary, and we have Tehran and Tehran Pars –-- the new Tehran. Likewise we could have New Srinagar and I would recommend the name of this twin-city as Gulistan.
The Gulistan could accommodate around 35 thousand migrated Pandit families and equal or even greater number of families of the valley including some from the old city who would like to shift to modern civil lines. The State government has recently provided rehabilitation of 17 thousand families shifted from Dal Lake. It should be possible to acquire a lakh of kanals and create a new modern township, which will be the tourist-oriented capital of Kashmir adjoining old city. PDP Chief, Mufti Saeed had, during his tenure as CM, proposed Parihasapora as the site for new capital city. Hanjeek Udar extending right up to Pampore could be considered as the site.
The benefits of this enterprise are many. A new civil society oriented along modern concept of living in the Gulistan will take shape in due course of time. A habitat of about a lakh of homesteads would ease congestion in the old city where pollution of air and water has become a health hazard. The twin-city would provide infrastructure for educational and medical facilities to the youth in healthy environs of broad streets, underground sewage, street lights, and parks and play grounds etc. Blue print of the township would take nearly half a century to develop to full strength. It means the project will provide livelihood to thousands of workers for long years. It could develop modern means of surface transport like tramway, sidewalks and motorways. The railway line would pass either through the new township or close to it adding to connectivity scenario. The last point to mention is about funding. Once this project is finalized, the State government can approach international funding agencies and voluntary organizations across the world. I think sponsors would be forthcoming. Even Kashmiri Diaspora in Europe, USA Australia and elsewhere would be too willing to contribute.
I hope authorities at the helm of affairs would be inclined to give this proposal a serious thought. This will un tie a tight knot in Kashmir politics. Once the migrated Pandits find that the majority community shows them the goodwill, they should have no objection to be part of a process for the final settlement of Kashmir dispute.
This article was published in Daily 'Greater Kashmir' on 12-03-2012