Justice Markandey Katju-
Some years back I tried to start an organization called the Chinar Foundation (Chinar is a huge oak like tree in Kashmir having maple shaped leaves and a lot of shade). My aim was to bring all Kashmiris, Hindu and Muslim, together under one umbrella or Chinar, to promote Kashmiri culture and contribute to the welfare of all Kashmiris. My effort failed.
Now in America I have spoken to some Kashmiri Muslims here, and they have agreed to set up a similar organization here under my Chairmanship. However, they wondered whether Kashmiri Pandits will join them. I said let us try.
There is no doubt that Kashmiri Pandits are still very incensed over the fact that they were hounded out of the Kashmir Valley in the 1990s, and their grievance is justified. They were a tiny minority, hardly 4-5 % of the 8 million Kashmiri population, yet terrible atrocities were committed on them, and the wound is still raw. One can therefore understand their grievance.
Moreover, the false propaganda fed into the heads of the Kashmiri Muslim youth by their elders that it was Governor Jagmohan who was responsible for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley pours salt into the wound. The truth is that in the 1990s many KPs were selectively killed ( see details on Google ), loudspeakers on mosques in Kashmir blared out that KPs must convert to Islam or get out of Kashmir, notices were posted overnight on doors of KP houses that the occupants must get out of Kashmir or be killed, mobs of Kashmiri Muslims would come to KP houses shouting that KP males should get out of Kashmir but females would not be allowed to go ( a niece of my wife, who was about 15 then, told me this ). All this created such fear among KPs that they fled in terror. Today out of the 4-5 lac KPs who were in the valley in the 1990s only a few thousand remain. The ethnic cleansing of KPs from the Kashmir valley was almost complete.
Kashmiri Muslims must understand this if they want reconciliation, and not remain in denial mode ( as many of them are ).
At the same time, Kashmiri Pandits must realize (1) the exodus of KPs took place a quarter of a century back, and the present Kashmiri Muslim youth were not even born then or were toddlers. So they can’t be blamed for the atrocities on KPs, for that will be like Jews blaming the present Germans for the atrocities committed by the Nazis. (2) We have to move ahead (3) Two wrongs don’t make one right. Atrocities on KPs surely does not justify atrocities on Kashmiri Muslims.
Let us see whether my new effort succeeds. The previous one was a total failure as there was, and still is, a lot of animosity between Kashmiri Hindus and Kashmiri Muslims.
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.]