A Kashmiri Pandit speaks

So this Independence Day, we have Saksshi Mattoo, a Displaced Kashmiri Pandit in Exile, Entrepreneur, Writer, Blogger and an Activist and most importantly a mom. She has been actively involved in the India 4 Kashmir, a Pan – India movement by the Kashmiri Pandits to reclaim their lost ground and rehabilitate India in Kashmir with Dignity. This Independence Day, we have Saksshi, talk about the impact of repealing Article 370.

It took 72 years to rectify a mistake. How do you feel about this?

We the people of Jammu and Kashmir have waited far too long for this great historical mistake to be rectified. Not just the Kashmiri Pandits but the Sikhs, Shias, Ladhakhis, Kargilis, Dogras, Gujjars, Bakarwalas and every other community, cohabiting yet facing a step-motherly treatment in the state is elated today. Article 370 was an oppressive barrier, an intangible wall, which prevented the full integration of the state with the rest of India. Though it offered “special status” to the state, yet that status was no good. Instead it plunged the state into uncertainties and kept development at bay. However, it provided enough fodder for the politicians to stay relevant and thrive on the unsuspecting junta for political gains. As the curtains finally fall on this discriminatory article, we feel grateful, optimistic, empowered and vindicated today!

What does this decision mean for the next generation like your son? Will they be able to be more closer to their roots?

Honestly, our generation is the bridge between the generation that was forced to flee their homeland and our future generation. All these years, we have kept our faith, culture and tradition alive in a bid to remain closer to our roots. We wear our legacy with pride on our sleeves. As torchbearers, the onus lies on us to keep our ancestral inheritance alive, and we have been successful in doing so. As a Kashmiri Pandit (KP) mother in exile, I, like hundreds of other KP moms face my own dilemmas. It is not easy to convince your kids to lead a lifestyle they don’t identify with, especially when they stand disconnected from their roots, without any certainty of returning home to Kashmir!

I have in fact, shared my feelings through a blog that I wrote more than 3-years ago. As an inquisitive child, my son has taken me off guard several times by questioning his identity and home in Kashmir. Once he randomly questioned me, “Mumma, how did your home in Kashmir look like? When will I get to see Nani’s house in Kashmir? How does holding fresh snow feel like and when will I get to experience it in Kashmir?” His innocence and yearning to return home to Kashmir often flows through his questions.

Today, however, I can reassure him about our return once the Government of India tables a concrete plan for our return and rehabilitation in the valley. In true sense, this move will take our future generations one step closer to their roots!

Does this decision mean more peace and more law and order in the state?

Kashmir has been on boil since 1990s. The law and order in the erstwhile state deteriorated rapidly in the last 30 years. Today, as India embraces Jammu and Kashmir with warmth and affection, we believe, the law and order situation will certainly improve in the coming days. The transition of J&K from a state to a Union Territory will certainly pave way for peace and development. This healing touch will help J&K to progress at par with other states and UTs. Article 370 was a building block that stood in the path of GoI schemes to reach the people.

The state was governed by its own constitution and penal code (Ranbir Penal Code). How can a state progress when it is entwined in the complexities of two constitutions? In hindsight, a new dawn with a million new opportunities awaits to unravel its magic on the people, who want nothing but peace here! It is a matter of time when J&K will stride ahead to reclaim its glorious past.

What are the upcoming plans of the citizens of the state? 

The Government of India is committed to the safety, security, and development of its people. I am sure, before announcing this bold decision of abrogating Article 370, it must have weighed the odds, studied the collateral damages, and prepared an action plan for after-the-abrogation period. I am not a representative of the government and therefore, not authorized to comment on this. However, I can assure you that GoI must have worked around an effective plan to stabilize the situation for its people. It takes a lot to complete the paperwork and overcome legal hiccups to get everything back on track. We have full faith in the government and are hopeful that it will soon work on a rehabilitation plan taking our community in confidence.

What are the major changes that you are looking forward to in aspects of trade and education? 

There will certainly be major but positive changes in terms of trade and education. The abrogation of Article 370 has opened the floodgates to countless opportunities for the residents especially the youth. We need to see if the government imposes certain riders alongside, nonetheless the state that was crippled from unemployment, job opportunities, educational prospects will witness a paradigm shift. Strife torn Jammu and Kashmir thrives mainly on tourism and agriculture. However, with Article 370 as history, new possibilities await us. India is happy with this decision and waiting for the opportune time to espouse the given chance. All these years development had taken a backseat.

Today, however, renowned companies like Steelbird and Amul are waiting to set up their plants there. There is a potential for job creation to cater to the people who have suffered for years from the lack of it. Besides, Srinagar is all set to host an investor summit in the month of October this year. Looking at the events unravelling one after the other, all I can say is that trade and education sector will witness a boom in the near future. We have an initiative called KP Startups through, which we will prepare a list of our upcoming and current entrepreneurs who would want to open up branches or initiatiate new startups in the valley. All this would also depend on what the government policies are and how is the government willing to support such entrepreneurs.

How can the citizens of this country help in developing the state more? 

Honestly, J&K is passing through a crucial transition phase. I urge everyone to stand in solidarity with the government and people of J&K. Now is the time to behave sensitively, and rise above selfish interests to demean anyone. When such changes happen, it takes a while to absorb the news and make adjustments. Let us begin by embracing each other with open arms. We are the children of the great Mother India and at this stage, it is important to – Respect, Restrain and Reassure. Having said that, each citizen can make their own contribution in which so ever way suits them. Anyone is now free to invest in the newly formed UT.

Let us help develop J&K through sectors like tourism, investment, education trade, handicrafts etc. No matter what you do, how you do, do it with a positive intention. Remember, good deeds and intentions go a long way. “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” ― William Shakespeare.

What is your message for the fellow Kashmiris across the world? 

We are one! Let us stand united, and committed for the cause that we tread on. Let no one break our resolve to seek justice for the wrongs done to us. Despite many onslaughts and exoduses, our forefathers did not succumb instead sacrificed their lives to keep our legacy alive. We should not forget them by belittling their martyrdom. We need to strive hard to get our 7th genocide recognized in history books and urge the GoI to take concrete steps to fulfil the dream of our homeland. We have miles to go before we sleep!

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