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Transcript of live chat with Ashok Pandit

Transcript of live chat with Ashok Pandit

Publication: India Times
Date: May 2, 2002
URL: http://chatinterviews.indiatimes.com/articleshow.asp?artid=9065922

(Ashok Pandit is Filmmaker & Spokesperson, Panun Kashmir)

"If people had reacted to the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri pandits 13 years back, Gujarat wouldn't have happened."

Semu > What is Panun Kashmir all about?
Ashok Pandit > `Panun' means "Our" (in Kashmir). After the exodus in 1990 when we were forced to become refugees in our own country after 50 years of independence, Dr Agni Shekhar a known poet, came out with this concept of an organsiation called `Panun Kashmir'. Youngsters joined him. Panun Kashmir for the first time in the history of Kashmiri pandits gave a political slogan of homeland. We demand a homeland in Kashmir on the north-east of river Jhelum and invite each and every citizen of this country who believes in the Indian Constitution to be a part of this concept of homeland. We thought of this because it is that majority of Kashmiri Muslim population who rejected our stay with them in Kashmir. We assure that one day we will manage (the dream) to have our own homeland.

Arpsd > Do you think terror in the world can ever be stopped?
Ashok Pandit > Yes, provided there is a will of the politicians, the people and the nation at large.

Abhishake_lala > What do you have to say about the cultural genocide of the Kashmiri (pandits) clan by terrorists? Do you think that this community can ever get back its lost legacy even after returning to Kashmir?
Ashok Pandit > On 19 Jan, 1990 the world's biggest human tragedy happened when all the mosques in Kashmir played an audio cassette asking the Kashmiri pandits to leave their homeland, but leave behind their women folk. Rapes, burning of our houses, breaking of temples and a complete anarchy was created by the militant organisations with the support of the majority Muslim population. We will get back to our homeland one day to claim our legacy in the valley. Our legacy is so strong that nobody can kill it.

Atishi > What about the little children who were uprooted in 1990 and wouldn't know the Kashmir culture at all? What are we doing to preserve this culture?
Ashok Pandit > There is definitely a fear in the community of losing ones culture. After the exodus we have held on to our culture steadfastly, and we see to it that even young children speak in Kashmiri. Parents and various Kashmiri pandit organisations are working towards preserving this culture. Our painters are painting Kashmir, our singers are singing Kashmir and our poets are writing Kashmir. Each and everyone is working towards it through their various professions.

Niran77 > What do you think about the Gujarat problem? What is the permanent solution for it?
Ashok Pandit > The Gujarat problem is what we experienced in Kashmir 13 years back and the world remained silent on the atrocities committed on us till today because we were Kashmir pandits. If people had reacted to the genocide and ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri pandits 13 years back, Gujarat wouldn't have happened. The only solution to the Gujarat problem is that all those (of different communities) affected by it should sit together and clear the misunderstandings. The biggest mistake they will make if they believe in the promises of any political party. And if they still believe in them (political parties), they will remain refugees like us for another 15 years. The political parties will use them as an argument and sell their tears for their personal gains the way BJP did to Kashmiri pandits. Similarly, Congress, Samajwadi and Communist parties will sell the tears of Muslims in Gujarat (if they rely on them too much).

Semu > Kashmiri refugees can exercise their voting rights via post. Yet, why is it that after all these years not a single Kashmiri leader has been elected who could voice the plight of Kashmiri pandits?
Ashok Pandit > We out rightly reject the ballot by post concept as it is absolutely futile. Our first fundamental right to live has been snatched away from us. We want that back first and then the exercise of the Right to vote comes in. How can we vote a person (even from Kashmir) who will not work towards our cause? Kashmir pandits are suffering only because they don't constitute a vote bank for any political party.

Chhotoo > Sir, I have written (hard hitting lyrics) for an album on the present political scenario and I want to desperately contact you. Could you please give your email id, or contact number?
Ashok Pandit > My office number is 6327385

Semu > Will abolition of Art. 370 of Indian Constitution, whereby Kashmir is given special status help in restoring normalcy in the state?
Ashok Pandit > It is one of the solutions to solve the Kashmir problem. But, if there are constitutional hazards of abolition this Article (370), there are other ways and means by which you can restore normalcy in the state. Firstly, hand over the valley to the army without any political interference. Secondly, Farooq Abdullah, who is the main architect of the Kashmir problem, should be sacked and put behind the bars. Thirdly, terrorists should be treated like terrorists and not sons-in-laws, which our governments have been doing.

Supratik > It seems everyone in India is not even sensitive to the Kashmiri Hindus. Would they ever listen to the two crore Bangladeshi Hindus- can you plan to do something to help out Hindus in Bangladesh?
Ashok Pandit > Looking to the conditions prevailing in Bangladesh, I strongly feel that Hindus in Bangladesh will have to sort out problems on their own. The reason being, the rulers, the system of our country, supposedly a secular country are not bothered about the majority community. And, till the time there is no major reaction, nobody will listen to us, as we have been taken for granted since last so many years.

Chhotoo > Why don't the Kashmiri pandits start returning to the valley?
Ashok Pandit > How is it possible to return back under the present circumstances when there is no law and order in control? Where the foreign mercenaries have taken over the entire valley? Where every day a common man is killed on the streets, the security forces are killed in many numbers? Where the law of Nizm-e- Mustafa is ruling? The images of genocide unleashed on us are still fresh in our minds. We are peace loving and educated people. And, we condemn the gun culture, which is in full command in the valley. We'll return to the valley only when we feel that we can build the nursery of secularism again.

Semu > Do you think that Gujarat retaliation is the result of anti majority policies adopted by most of the governments?
Ashok Pandit > To some extent.. Yes.

Chhotoo > Sir Javed Akhtar, Mahesh Bhatt and you had visited refugee camps in Gujarat. What kind of healing touch was provided?
Ashok Pandit > My answer is the same as earlier, where I said that "Don't allow politicians to sell your tears."

Supratik > It is an earnest attempt to bring out the plight of Kashmiri Hindus. I understand being a Bangladeshi Hindu. Please advice on how to reach Indian media on the issue of Bangladesh's Hindu citizens?
Ashok Pandit > You have to form an organsiation, come on the streets, impress the foreign media, create pressure on the system of this country through the foreign powers and you will see the result.

Semu > Given the resources you have, why don't you make documentaries on the plight of Kashmiri pandits?
Ashok Pandit > Though there are no resources I as a film maker, have recently made a documentary titled, "And the World Remained Silent", which was screened at the House of Commons, England. We got a tremendous response there. The film has been screened at various social organisations, colleges and schools for public awareness. And, my next documentary is on the effect of terrorism on the women of Kashmir, both Muslims and Hindus.

Chhotoo > Could you please tell us more about your film on the plight of Kashmiri pandits?
Ashok Pandit > My film depicts the trauma which my community faced in Kashmir. It depicts the atmosphere created on the 19th of January 1990 when thousands of Kashmiri Muslims came on the streets, burned our National Flag and created a terror. It also depicts the inhuman conditions in which these 3.5 Lakhs Kashmiri pandits are living in the refugee camps. It basically poses a big question to all the so-called secular minded people, human rights organisations, and intellectuals of this country as to why they have remained silent on this biggest human carnage.

Niran77 > Still, innocent people are dying in Gujarat. Don't you think the government should take necessary action in the state?
Ashok Pandit > Definitely yes.

Sign off Message > Ashok Pandit Panun Kashmir appeals to all the country men to rise above petty politics and react to in human acts with the same intensity. Only then it will create an impact. It also appeals to all the media, print as well as electronic, to highlight the Kashmiri pandit's issue the way it is doing now in Gujarat.
Thanks. Bye!!

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