I read in today’s Times of India ( at page 10 ) that a Kashmiri Pandit, Roshan Lal Mawa, aged 74 has returned to Kashmir and reopened his wholesale provision store in Srinagar. He had fled 30 years ago after being shot 4 times. He received a warm welcome on his return from the local people.
While one may be emotionally happy to hear this, the realities must be seen, which I have mentioned in my article ‘ 4 reasons why Kashmiri Pandits will never return to Kashmir ‘ published in pakistanistories.com ( see online ).
Apart from the 4 reasons I mentioned in my article, there is a 5th reason too.
If Kashmiri Pandits return they should be able to live with dignity and honor, and that includes the right to freedom of speech and expression.
I am a Kashmiri Pandit, and I believe that Kashmir ( and even Pakistan ) is part of India, and the demand of azadi for Kashmir is totally wrong. While I condemn, and have always condemned, atrocities on Kashmiris, I should have the right to express my views against azadi freely and publicly if I return to Kashmir ( those opposed to my views should also have the right to express theirs ). But if I express my views will I survive even for a single day in Kashmir ?
One may open a wholesale provision store in Kashmir on return there, as Roshan Lal Mawa has done, but one will have to keep his mouth shut on public issues such as the demand for azadi. No self respecting person would be agreeable to such a condition, at least not me. If I go to Kashmir I will openly say that the demand for azadi is wrong, and instead the demand of Kashmiris should be for reunification of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh under a secular govt ( see indianreunificationassociation.co.in ), Kashmir being part of it. Will I be allowed to say this and live ? I doubt it.
So good luck to Roshan Lal and his son Sandeep, but I doubt Kashmiri Pandits will follow his example. Kashmiri Pandits may be small in number, but one thing they have is self respect. They were hounded out of the Kashmir Valley ( not by Jagmohan, as many Kashmiri Muslims shamelessly propagate, but by some, not all, Kashmiri Muslims ). But even in the years of their exile from their homeland they have retained their self respect. To return they will have to give up their self respect and keep their mouths shut, which they will never do.
By Justice Markandey Katju
former Judge, Supreme Court of India