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Saturday, June 3, 2023

31 years on, Kashmir still the home Pandits long for

Sixty-five-year-old Pyare Lal Raina’s wish is to return to Kashmir, the land where he was born and spent the best years of his life.

Raina’s family is among more than 4,000 families that moved into a township for Kashmiri Pandits at Jagti, 25 kms from Jammu after the exodus of Pandits following outbreak of militancy in 1989.

Life has been tough for the Rainas in Jammu. The family had to move houses and in rented accommodations several times before settling down in Jagti township eight years ago.

At Jagti they were allotted two-room sets which were meant to make their lives a little more comfortable. But the colony of Kashmiri Pandits presents a picture of neglect. The houses are dilapidated, the walls damp with water seeping from blocked pipes.

“Some apartments for Kashmiri Pandits at Jagti are in a bad shape with water leaking,” Raina said. “We don’t get clean water. Nothing is being done to change our lot.”

Around three lakh Kashmiri Pandits left the valley in the early 1990s after militancy erupted. Most of them settled in cramped transit camps for Pandits in Jammu.

But it is not just the accommodation issues alone that have been worrying Raina. He stopped working three years ago after his wife fell ill. His two daughters holding masters degrees are unemployed.

“We are tired now, the government is doing nothing for us. I have lost hope, one of my daughters is an MBA and the second daughter has done MCA, but both are jobless.”

Raina says he is looking for a day when the Pandits can return to Kashmir but for that the government has to be serious and come up with a road map for their return.

“The situation has not changed much for us since we came to Jammu, there is no progress,” Raina said. “We have been hearing about our return for 30 years. We are ready to go back to Kashmir but the government has done nothing about it.”

A little away from Raina’s house, Pintoojee, another Kashmiri Pandit at the Jagti township, says the government has failed to fulfil the expectations of Pandits since they left the valley and the community members must be involved to draw up plans for their return.

“The government is not serious about the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits,” he said. “For making a concrete policy for return of Pandits, it is important to include inputs of the representatives of Kashmiri Pandits.”

Kashmiri Pandits settled outside Kashmir are now hoping their problems would eventually come to an end even as the sentiment for returning to the valley remains strong.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed)

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