News Karnataka
Sunday, January 29 2023

Community leader looks back at how Bengaluru welcomed displaced Pandits

Photo Credit : IANS

Bengaluru: The unprecedented success of ‘The Kashmir Files’ movie has brought to the fore, the agony and misery that Kashmiri Pandits have endured in silence for more than three decades. In those uncertain days of the early 1990s, fleeing the valley in the dead of night, the beleaguered community took shelter in other parts of the country. After Jammu, and Delhi, Bengaluru is one place where a sizeable number of displaced Kashmiri Hindus have rebuilt their homes and futures.

The movie comes as a vindication for the community which was studiously ignored by successive governments and most of the mainstream media.

For RK Mattoo, chairman, Kashmiri Hindu Cultural Welfare Trust, Bangalore, watching the movie was a catharsis of sorts. Speaking to IANS, he blamed the prevailing ecosystem of the 90s and even to this day for the eerie silence over the plight of Kashmiri Pandits.

“After I watched it, I cried, cried and cried because he has shown our story. It is my story. ‘The Kashmir Files’ is my story. It is the story of 5 lakh displaced Kashmiri Pandits and it has come out now. I am very happy with the way people are taking it now. I’m getting thousands of calls from well-wishers saying we did not know all this happened. Nobody listened to us because there was an ecosystem which is existing even today and it was existing then of pseudo secularists. So they kept it under wraps. Government of India would always be in denial saying everything is under control.”

The bulk of refugees who landed in Bengaluru in 1990, were employees of public sector enterprises HMT and ITI units in Kashmir. Mattoo, a senior journalist in Bengaluru at the time, played a crucial role in helping the community members settle down in their new home.

“From 1990 to 2005, we had to struggle. Anant Kumar was the MP for Bangalore South and HMT was in his constituency. He took up our cause with the HMT management. All the educational institutions were very nice. Those days it was all on basis of capitation fees. I told them we can’t give capitation fees but please give us a seat on merit. That was agreed upon. In some places, they even refunded the fees. Later, (then) chief minister SM Krishna gave one seat in each stream in medical and engineering college for Kashmiri Pandits. He gave the community some land to construct a meeting place. We are very grateful to the people of Karnataka who have been helpful and accepted us.”

The focus on providing education to the younger generation paid off. Today, with a community centre, Shiva temple and other facilities in place, the five hundred and odd Kashmiri Pandit families of Bengaluru gather regularly to maintain bonds and conserve their culture. A ‘Martyrs’ Memorial’ plaque listing victims of the genocide reminds the community of their dear ones who were not so fortunate to escape.

“Now the aim is, we want every citizen of this country to know what has happened and how the ecosystem kept it under wraps for the last 32 years. We are not going to leave it there. We are going to ask for a commission of enquiry. All those crimes of the perpetrators who killed our people, everything is documented. All the documents that were kept hidden are available.”

Mattoo feels that the plight of Kashmiri Pandits should be a wake up call for the rest of the country.

“We don’t want a repeat of the same situation in West Bengal, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, parts of Tamil Nadu. We see similarities between what happened in Kashmir in 1990s and what is happening now in Kerala or Bengal. We have been warning the Central government for the last 7 years. This movie has brought up the issue now. We want the people to take up the matter now. They should not allow their areas to become Kashmir.”

By Narendra Puppala

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