PARADISE LOST

* Kashmiri Pandits have largely vanished from the Kashmir valley. As per a 1996 survey of Government of India, there are around 19,000 Pandits left in the valley. The number of Pandits in 1988-89 was over three lakh. Those who are still holding on here are facing problems of unemployment and an “increasing sense of vacuum” as most of their Hindu brethren have moved out. Older Pandits who are sticking around have a level of comfort with their Muslim neighbourhood. The younger generation is, however, different. The mass migration of Pandits has, perhaps, deprived Kashmir it’s legitimate tag of being a liberal and pluralistic state.

*  Like children elsewhere, the valley’s young too love their holidays. But this time round there is too much of it. The incidents of violence have left children psychologically scarred-so it seems. Children ask why schools are closed and their unit-tests postponed. They watch television but how long can they stay put in front of the idiot box? It is almost a month. Many have sent their children in the city to villages. But they do ask  why so many vacations without a demand from their side. Who should explain to these children the politics of their adults?

* The situation in Srinagar is so fluid that it changes within a minute. A petty incident has the potential to flare up into a big crisis. Shopkeepers suddenly down shutters, autorickshaw drivers sneak into the closest lane and people on the roads scurry to safety. Weapon-mounted police vehicles, padded and helmeted CRPF and state police emerge from nowhere. And there go tear gas shells. In a fraction, a beauty turns into a beast. Tear gas leaves one with tears.

* Kashmiris are very well informed about politics. There is talk everywhere about the curfew, police movement, Farooq Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or Geelani. Each has his own take on the current situation in Kashmir. Some say in unison, “Sab chor hain” (all politicians are thieves).

* The repeat shutdowns and restrictions on movement leave those not part of the street protests bored. How long can one remain indoors? Relief comes with the call of prayers from the nearby mosques. People devoutly go to the mosques. It understandably offers them a sense of calm in the troubled times. The ‘Azaan’ (call for prayer) is a psychological balm for  most Kashmiri Muslims.

(All views are based on interaction.)

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