Coming Soon | Uprooted: Stories of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile
Support us in putting out our upcoming documentary titled "Uprooted - Stories of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile."
Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
For over three decades, 60-year-old Bansi Lal Sharma has preserved an aluminium trunk – a memory of his escape from militancy-hit Kashmir of the '90s.
One of the nearly 3,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits (KPSS) who were uprooted from their homes in the Valley, Sharma's voice is choked, eyes moist, as he gazes at the trunk, tucked away in a corner of the temple of his two-room house at the Purkhoo refugee camp in Jammu.
"I really don't know how this storm brewed... Loud processions would pass through our village in the evenings... Our neighbours wanted us to stay back but they couldn't guarantee our safety from outsiders."Bansi Lal Sharma
Worried about the worsening situation, he sent his wife to Jammu. As rumours of a militant being present in his village surfaced, Sharma too left for Jammu. He believed he would return home to Kashmir in a matter of months.
Languishing in Jammu
Months turned into decades, but Sharma hasn't been able to return home – just like the over 44,000 Kashmiri Pandits who have since settled, albeit temporarily, in refugee camps across Jagti, Purkhoo, and Muthi in Jammu, as per the Ministry of Home Affairs.
It is here that around 70,414 Kashmiri migrants (a large chunk of them are Kashmiri Pandit refugees) survive on a government monthly relief of Rs 3,250 per person along with ration.
Apart from Jagti where Sharma lives, there's also the old Purkhoo camp – a cluster of tin houses where the sun spares no one in the summer, and the cold descends quickest in the winter.
"Many Kashmiri Pandits are housed in concrete flats but what about us? Are we lesser humans?" rues Ashok Kumar Kaul, who once owned a shop in Srinagar. Having unsuccessfully applied for government accommodation, Kaul now stays alone in the one-room tin structure that doesn't exist on paper.
"Whenever I go back home to Kashmir, my neighbours welcome me. They like us because they know that unlike militants, we don't misbehave with them."
'No Longer Safe in Kashmir'
This, however, is not enough for the return of migrant Kashmiri Pandits, even though around 5,800 of them have been given government jobs under the PM's package for Kashmiri Pandit migrants, announced by the UPA government in 2008.
Back in Kashmir, Sanjay Tikoo, the president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti – an umbrella body of nearly 800 Kashmiri Pandit families in the Valley – says that every time a communal controversy erupts outside Kashmir, the situation for pandits in the Valley becomes grim.
"We are no longer safe here. All we want is a place anywhere outside Kashmir where we can die, if not live in peace."Sanjay Tikoo, President, Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti.
Not just tragic, the story of Kashmiri Pandits – whether in exile or at home – is varied. And capturing this varied reality not only requires a lot of time but also a lot of money.
Our upcoming documentary titled Uprooted - Stories of Kashmiri Pandits in Exile will cost us Rs 4,41,000 and we can only meet the expenses if you, our readers, chip in and support us in our endeavour to bring nothing but the truth to you.
You can click here to support our special project.
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