I am writing to you in response to Rahul Pandita’s opinion on the death of Janki Nath, a Kashmiri Pandit who chose not to migrate in 1990 from the Valley (“The ugly truth behind a ‘heartwarming’ story of Muslims performing a Kashmiri Pandit’s last rites.”)
The clots of Pandita’s moon now seem to have descended on his thought processes. A prolific fiction writer, Pandita has tried to bring in some of his imagination into the article which might be passed off as facts in future. I would like to respond to few points in Pandita’s article:
1. Pandita asked: Why does death of a Kashmiri Pandit (in this case, Janki Nath) become a news story? It has to be seen in historical perspective and the need to report such events is highlighted by Pandita’s misleading article. Pandita has tried to paint a grim picture of Kashmir and its majority inhabitants. Such stories (of compassion across religious lines) will help clear the misgivings about Kashmir and its people so that those who migrated (in whatever circumstances), but want to return now, can do so.
Yes, Janki Nath was not a Padma Shri or a fiction writer, not even a microphone wielding journalist-cum-crusader of a popular TV news channel. He was not even a character artiste in Bollywood that his death was reported in the national media. That reflects Pandita’s favourable bias towards rich and famous and further underlines the fact that some Kashmiri Pandits are not bothered about the welfare of other community members who are suffering the ill effects of migration.
Pandita could have chosen to ignore the story instead of trying to create a fresh scare in the minds of our Kashmiri Pandit brethren living in camps in Jammu or other places. He has given economic reasons for “few” Kashmiri Pandits (nearly 40,000 in 1990) to stay back in 1990. I would like to believe that it is precisely the economic reason that “few” Pandits do not want to return to the valley and are stalling the return of others as well. They run their shops selling the miseries of the majority migrant Kashmiri Pandits. If the migrants return to Kashmir, the shops of the “few” will be closed.
2. Pandita focussed on the presence of Kashmiri Pandits at Janki Nath’s funeral and stressed that they performed the rituals. Agreed, it happened that way. But does Pandita know that Malvan village had only one Kashmiri Pandit family and it were locals who sent for the Kashmiri Pandit in the neighbouring village so that Nath’s last rites were performed as per his beliefs? The story was not about occurrences on the day Nath’s death because he had died few days before the report was filed (if only Pandita had an eye for detail). It was about the sentiment that was expressed. By the way, how many Kashmiri Pandits came to console Rani, the widow of Janki Nath? That should make another interesting story.
3. Pandita put the number of migrants at 400,000. He must have been very poor at mathematics or research or both. A growth rate of more than 300% among Kashmiri Pandits in a decade is simply mind boggling. Consider Page 25 of this study about Kashmiri Pandits carried out by an independent body.
4. Pandita has quoted All Parties Migrant Coordination Committee head Vinod Pandit in the story and claimed that this gentleman lives in Kashmir. The APMCC head is a frequent visitor to Kashmir and does not live here.
5. I can pick a dozen more holes in Pandita’s article, if not more, but I will end it with this: I spoke to Vinod Pandit this morning. While he admitted that Rahul Pandita had called him, he denied having said anything that has been attributed to him. I have no doubt about the fiction writing prowess of Pandita. – Inayat Jehangir
Rahul Pandita responds:
Inayat Jehangir, the bureau chief of PTI in Kashmir, has not clarified any point I have raised in my piece about the falsity of the PTI report. I advise him to read it once again. In his report, the PTI reporter writes: “In the absence of a family member or a Kashmiri Pandit, the local Muslims organised the last rites of the deceased.” I called out his bluff by producing evidence that at least 12 Kashmiri Pandits were present at the funeral, including a priest. The deceased’s wife was there, too, and when I checked last, the wife counts as “family member”. In his so-called rebuttal to my piece, he now accepts that the members of the Pandit community were indeed present there and performed the deceased’s last rites. If he agrees that he is wrong and that my facts about his report are correct, then what is the rebuttal about?
Two: The PTI reporter further states that the Kashmiri activist Vinod Pandit whom I have quoted in my piece spoke to him and denied telling me what I have attributed to him (Pandit) in my piece. Anyone is free to go to Vinod Pandit’s twitter account (@VinodAPMCC) and see that he has retweeted my story. I spoke to Vinod Pandit and he stands by what he told me. Any reporter in Kashmir or elsewhere can call him and verify it with him.
The rest of the Jehangir’s rebuttal accounts for nothing but turgid sonorousness and I am ignoring it.