Kashmiri Pandit diaspora is a scattered population, whose origin lies within a smaller geographic locale called Kashmir in J & K State of Indian Republic.  It also refers to the movement of the KP population from its original homeland, particularly to historical   mass dispersions of an involuntary nature in 1990.

William Safran in an article published in 1991, set out some rules to distinguish diasporas from migrant communities. These rules can clearly label KP’s as a Diaspora:

  • The group maintains a myth or collective memory of their homeland.
  • They regard their ancestral homeland as their true home, to which they will eventually return.
  • They are committed to the restoration or maintenance of that homeland.
  • They relate to the homeland to a point where it shapes their identity.


Diaspora initially was mainly referred to Jewish case. Rogers Brubaker (2005) also notes that use of the term diaspora has been widening. It can apply very broadly to “any and every nameable population category that is to some extent dispersed in space”. Brubaker argues that the initial expansion of the use of the phrase extended it to other, similar cases, such as the Armenian and Greek diasporas, Albanians, Basques, Hindu Indians, Kashmiris, Irish, Japanese, Koreans, Kurds, Palestinians, and Tamils have been conceptualized as diasporas in this sense.


We can safely broaden this definition, to include, not only overseas KP population but also the ones who got scattered within J&K and beyond in other Indian states.


Diaspora has history and ours is a long one. Volumes have been written about us especially our recent past which has firmly labelled us variously as Diaspora, Migrants, IDP’s. The process is also labelled as Ethnic Cleansing, Exodus, Migrations etc. Immaterial of the labels the pain, trauma and the after effects are established as current history.


I wish to revisit my personal experience about moving out. This, I believe covers only a very small part of the story of KP community experiences as victims of the circumstance.


If I chose to leave the valley in 1982, how can I club myself with the other unfortunate lot who were forced to leave in 1990 or even those who chose to stay back or even those who have now ventured to go back and settle down in their homeland.


I was also forced to leave the valley as my career progression was stunted by the government of the day. All those engineering graduates who were forced to work outside the valley after graduation (1970 in my case) were called back on account of big plans being floated in Power sector in J&K (the Gill factor) and the fact that there was shortage of engineers at that point of time. Government also had a handicap that due to special status of J&K they could not recruit people from outside the state unless they were Kashmiri state subjects. The carrot was that their seniority in the department will be treated in accordance with the “year of passing” and not “year of joining the service” (1973 in my case). This, together with working in our native place, was a big motivating factor to return from wherever you were working outside J&K.


 I worked for state Power Development Department for almost nine years. The promise by the state government for seniority was rescinded subsequently. The government did not come forward to let us know the reason for this change in spite of our efforts to elicit this information from the concerned quarters. We approached the High Court and got a judgement against us.


The unspoken reason for both – the Government rescinding their own  order and subsequently the high court judgement which also went against us, was political . The rationale perhaps was to avoid  Engineers  from the majority community getting obstructed by minority groups for a considerable period of time in years to come. Majority  of us who returned belonged to the minority community.


So a few of us who could get opportunities outside the valley chose to leave ,with pain in their hearts as well as a resolve to do well in a fair working environment. If there was no unfairness from both the State and also Judiciary in treating KP’s ,I would have stayed back. So, my leaving the state was not entirely voluntary. The greatest pain now for people like me comes from the fact that we may not be able to go back to spend the remaining years of our retired life in our motherland.


In one of my parting conversations with my colleagues and  seniors ,a  Muslim officer who happened to be a close relative of the then Mirwaiz  , asked me ,why I was leaving a  government job in my home state.

I said that I find no promotional avenues in future in this kind of a working environment, which was the honest truth.

His reply stunned me – he said that you have done a right thing as tomorrow if not today, you guys (meaning KP’s) have to leave the valley.  He also was envious and said that KP’s have at least India to go to and we, meaning Muslims cannot or do not want to go.


This coming from a politically connected person revealed the thought process of a major leadership group about KP’s. It also shattered the myth of “Kashmiryat” which we KP’s were hanging onto, to justify living in an unfair and unjust world in Kashmir.


I must mention here that the context of this unfairness and unjust world needs to be qualified. KP’s were a small minority post-independence (<5%). They had a literacy of over 95% & thus had much larger numbers qualifying for posts which were totally out of proportion to their population numbers. The majority was also catching up in terms of numbers of qualified candidates. The number of Higher end KP officers as a % of total Higher end officers was never >10% before independence. The number of clerical positions in the state administration could be higher for KP’s in proportion to the majority in the pre independence period. With the state government going in the hands of majority, the scene started changing expectedly. KP’s had to face more challenges as the years passed and government jobs were only avenues of employment.   


I will not use this writeup to fill the pages with details of pain of living outside our native place & the struggle to achieve a place in a fiercely competitive environment outside J& K. This pain of struggle is common for all struggles in life for sustenance. It is yet much less than the forced loss of living a life in your own homeland.


People in my age group who were born and grew in Kashmir at least up to the adult working stage suffer an immense loss of identity which comes from the fact that we cannot go back to our home land. All these years of so-called willing exile, we have also bred our progeny. The tragedy is that we have involuntarily passed this pathos to our next generation.


I will present the impact of this on our progeny by narrating about our visit to the valley in 2014. I took my family in 2014, especially my non-Kashmiri daughters (in-law) to show them our homeland. The children brought out an Album with pics and poetry to capture this visit.

Their shayiri (though not original) brings out the pathos of having lost our motherland……


Tu mere khoon mein hai , dil mein hai, rooh mein hai….

Tuj pe ho kaabiz koi garazmand lekin,sadaa hi teri mahak meri rooh mein hai…..about the homeland


Zara qarreb se guzraa to mene pehchana,Who ajnabi bhi koi aashna’a purana tha….about people we knew and  left behind


Kitni jaldi zindagi guzar jati hai…Pyaas bujti nahi aur barsaat chali jaati hai

Aap ki yaadein kuchh is tarah aati hai ,Neend aati nahi aur raat guzar jati hai….about the very little time the children  had spent in the valley


Ujaar di hai zalzalon ne yeh basti, Makeen talsh karoon ke makan talaas karoon…on seeing their, now sold, ancestral house


Meine kal shab chahatoon ki sab kitabtein phaad dee…Sirf ek kagaz pe likha lafz - Maa rehne diya…..about motherland


Bichri hui rahoon say jo guzray hum kabhi, Har gaam pe khoyi hui  ek yaad mili hai….remembering the sights they had in their mind…


Na tha kuch to khuda tha,kuch na hota  to khuda hota,….Dubhoya mujh ko hone ne, na hota main to kya hota…..desparation about future


You can see thus, that we have not only suffered the pain of moving out of our homeland but have passed it to the next generation too. We meet & know people in our community who have had much worse experience emanating from this forced eviction from homeland.


I must mention here that this pain was caused by not only unfairness of the State towards KP minority (or should we say a bias favoring the majority) but also by misplaced notions of majority taking guns as a route to their objectives (Aazadi and Islamization). The failure to achieve anything from this position has no doubt, also left the majority in a state of pain and chaos. I can and shall write about it elsewhere.


The tragedy is that all of us have positioned ourselves in such a corner that no sanity seems to emerge for a solution, e.g., TV debates.


As I want to restrict this writeup to KP’s only, I will try to delve only about our victimhood hanging heavy on us and its negative effects on our community.

Much has been written on effects of adversity on human character. Let me bring in Pradeep Bajpai who wrote a piece in the Speaking Tree (TOI) recently. He has quoted two extreme points of view on this   issue:

Francis Bacon, “Prosperity doth best discover vice, but adversity doth best discover virtue.”

Somerset Maugham held a contrarian view, that far from refining and improving human beings, adversity and suffering lead to coarsening of the moral fiber and make people self-centered, narrow, envious, unjust and uncharitable. He points out that more often than not adversities and suffering lead to resignation, which, far from resolving the perplexities of life, is tantamount to surrendering to the hostile whims of chance; in other words, to find good in suffering is the virtue of the vanquished.


Where has the long history of the tragedies befalling our community positioned us in this social context?  


This is a PARADOX with which we have and continue to live for ages. We have lived with this paradox from time immemorial. We continue to live with this paradox as it has apparently not affected our survival instinct.  

  • Adversity has perhaps stimulated us to refine our character, ennoble us and bestowed immense success to us as individuals. (a la Francis Bacon)
  • On the other hand, it might have led to coarsening of our moral fiber and make us self-centered, narrow, envious, unjust and uncharitable as a community. (a la Somerset Maugham)


The impact of this trait on our future generations is the core issue. We can see, that so far, the Kashmiri Pandit has stood up to these challenges and come out victorious at least as individuals if not as a community.

Pradeep, in his piece writes in conclusion: Ultimately, it appears that the effects of tragedy and suffering are dependent not so much on the circumstances per se, but our response thereto. Whether we get debased or ennobled, depends upon our reaction to the tragic event. It is our mettle that determines whether pain and suffering lead us on to higher realms of human existence or break our spirit and leave us to wallow in despair and self-pity. Adversity engenders challenge and challenge opens the door for the nobility of heroic struggle against odds.

I believe that this paradox can be explained at two levels: Sociology & Philosophical.

According to sociologist, C. Wright Mills, people often believe that their private lives can only be explained in terms of their personal successes and failures. They fail to see the links between their own individual lives and the society around them. The process of interpreting your individual life in the context of your community or the society in which you live is called sociological imagination. Is KP community lacking in this characteristic called sociological imagination.

On the Philosophical level, I believe Existentialism was long understood and adopted by KP’s. To illustrate this, please examine the following and you may find some answers to our paradox.

  • Existentialism is a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
  • Jean Paul Sartre claimed that a central proposition of Existentialism is that existence precedes essence. This means that the most important consideration for individuals is that they are individuals—independently acting and responsible, conscious beings ("existence")—rather than what labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories the individuals fit ("essence"). The actual life of the individuals is what constitutes what could be called their "true essence" instead of there being an arbitrarily attributed essence others use to define them. Thus, human beings, through their own consciousness, create their own values and determine a meaning to their life.

So KP’s can be termed as born “Existentialists” with little “Social Imagination”.

Let us come back to our discussion, on why is it necessary to grow ourselves out of victimhood mode and move on. I feel we need to get out from this negative mentality prevailing in our community and change our narrative.

It seems strange, that majority of those affected by the latest turmoil which is in its twenty ninth year, have as always struggled to achieve some sort of control in their lives even as a dispersed society.

In this stance what has got affected is the small minority who for various reasons have not been able to come to grips with life even after such a long period (more than a generation). Their voice may not be finding a scope to highlight their woes as the noise created by the whole dispersed community irrespective of the fact whether they are still struggling or have reconciled and settled down well. We need to go away from the urge to foist all our ills on any one issue. Intersectionality tells us that there is no one singular issue for Kashmiri Pandits in forced exile that can trigger any support from the state or center, because of the way politics works in conjunction with vote banks, dispersion of the community, lack of a sincere leadership within the community, appeasement of majority in J&K.

Without any doubt, each one of us wants to go back to our homeland. Will this narrative help us in achieving our goals in an environment where there is only lip sympathy from all political quarters. Isn’t it time to reorganize our narrative.

What are our core issues at present and what needs to be done to resolve them and move away from the prevailing “victimhood mentality”.

.Description: A politics of moral engagement is not only a more inspiring ideal than a politics of avoidance.It is also more promising basis for a just society. Michael J Sandel