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HindustanTimes Wed,24 Sep 2014

Leaving past behind, Kashmiris adopt Pathankot as new home

Vinay Dhingra, Hindustan Times  Pathankot, November 13, 2013
First Published: 21:05 IST(13/11/2013) | Last Updated: 21:10 IST(13/11/2013)

They unceasingly yearn to return to the valley. They cling onto memories with the hope that someday, peace will prevail and they will be able to return home.

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Nearly 55 Kashmiri Punjabi families bid goodbye to Kashmir when terrorism struck the valley in 1990 and adopted Pathankot as their new abode.

The dark phase began with terrorists killing Makahan Lal Thaploo, the first Kashmiri Pandit in Anantnag. Following this, scores of families left their homes and fled under the cover of darkness.

Whatever they could lay their hands on -- valuables, cash, ornaments or even eatables -- these families set foot in Pathankot and neighbouring areas in search for a better future.

While a few Kashmiri Pandit families settled down in Jammu, their Punjabi counterparts, who had relatives in Pathankot, chose this town as their new home.

Recalling the harrowing time that he and his family witnessed during the terrorism days, Sunil Kumar, hailing from Anantnag, told Hindustan Times on Wednesday, "I am leading a better life in Pathankot. We had to leave everything behind in Kashmir. Though the government is providing us compensation, it is a meagre amount. It took us 23 years to lead a normal life. Our children are working and earning their livelihood here. The town has accepted us and provided us shelter. People are warm and friendly."

"I have my own business of foodgrain. We cannot get over Kashmir but this town has given us a new lease of life. We've been able to establish ourselves," he added.

Kumar said members of his community spoke in Kashmiri dialect whenever they assembled during functions and social events.

Echoing a similar view, Sunil Abrol said life had turned around ever since they came to Pathankot.

Abrol said he and his brothers were into pharmaceutical business and giving a tough competition to other dealers in the town. "We were cloth dealers in Anantnag. We left behind our homes, cash and gold in Kashmir."

"Some Muslims managed our properties back home and due to that, we were able to establish our business here. Our Muslim friends visit us in Pathankot during festivities," he added.

Mahesh Kumar, who also migrated with his family to Pathankot, claimed, "We feel safe in Punjab compared to Kashmir. I remember some miscreants pelted stones at our house when there was cricket match between India and Pakistan. We feel safe here and our children are receiving better education."

Kumar, who works in the private sector, said, "Unlike Kashmir, we have a better quality of life in Pathankot," he added.          

Population 500
Favorite festivals   Shivratri, Diwali
Dance mixture of Punjabi and Kashmiri
Food: Non-Veg (Mutton), Yakhni
Veg: Dum Aloo, Veg Yakhni, Halk Saag and Lawas, Kashmiri roti with kulchas from Kashmiri bakeries 
Favorite dish: Dum Aloo

Drashna Gulati shares how she cooks Dum Aloo
Ingredients: Cut small potatoes in equal sizes, mustard oil, grinded red chilies, common salt and Kashmiri spices
Method: Boil the potatoes. After peeling it, deep fry them in mustard oil until they turn red and crispy. Pour mustard oil in a fry pan and red chilli powder along with Kashmiri spices. Put the sliced potatoes when the gravy takes a reddish colour. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Serve with rice.
 
Prominent Kashmiri Punjabis
Sunil Abrol, leading pharma dealer
Surinder Gulati, trader
Sat Pal Gandotra, transporter

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