Kashmiri Muslims would welcome Pandits if they return to the Valley, journalist and writer Sahil Maqbool said at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Monday, adding that political agendas had soured the relationship between the two communities.
Maqbool, who was part of a session on Kashmir with writer Siddhartha Gigoo, co-editor of A Long Dream of Home; The persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits, said the Kashmir conflict can have a solution only when Kashmiris across communities – Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs – “sit together and discuss the issues”.
“We, the Muslims of Kashmiris, fully understand the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits in the last 25 years. But we also need to understand that there is a political reason due to which the issue is not being solved,” he said. Maqbool said the relationship between Pandits and Muslims in the Valley was friendly until armed militancy began and counter-insurgency operations began. “I can assure you that if our Pandit brothers come back, they can share our homes and land. Properties which were not sold off by Pandits are still intact, untouched,” he said.
Siddhartha Gigoo narrated tales of Pandits who had to leave Kashmir and of many of those who still live in camps. He recounted how, when he had travelled to Srinagar in 1996, his Muslim friends had said the city was a warzone and that his life would be in danger “if I did not grow a beard”.
“Kashmir has survived the conflict. And today, a number of Kashmiri Muslims I meet tell me that they know about the ordeal the Pandits had to suffer,” Gigoo said, adding he hoped for some sort of reconciliation between the two communities.
In an earlier session, entitled Chronicles of Exile, Gigoo said that the children of people living in exile have become rootless. It is important, he said, that they know their customs, culture and rituals.
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