Former national spokesperson of PDP and known oncologist, Dr Sameer Kaul, who is conducting cancer awareness camps in Kashmir in association with the Breast Cancer Patients Benefit Foundation, talks about his association with politics and the issues faced by Kashmiri Pandits.
I firmly believe that being pro-Kashmir does not necessarily mean you have to be anti-Indian. I feel the dispute over territory has never been anything more than that. It has not been a dispute over the various kinds of people inhabiting this land. Yes, religion is important. It is also important to make us all better human beings, not just a means of political or social choice. Religion, at least in its truest form, must integrate and not disintegrate, and be a highly private sacred affair.
I am not a full politician, least of all an accomplished one. For me, the PDP came as a fresh breath of air. The party talked about the middle path in Kashmir, wore the clothes of comparative morality, promised to work towards social and economic justice. In all, a change from continuous political domination of a family or a party over the last 60 years of contemporary Kashmir history.
I decided to lend them a hand while taking my hobby of drawing room political discussions to the next level of semi-active participation. This I did at the cost of harming my relationship with different political parties and my own community, the Kashmiri Pandits. Not to mention the hurtful barbs from the right-wingers, each time I sincerely projected my party's viewpoint via print and electronic media as my role as the national spokesperson.
However, during and immediately after the recent elections, as events unfolded, politics in general, and my political choice in particular, have not suited me. The U-turns on ideology to accommodate opportunism, I realised, are core components of this game, and I just didn't fit in.
I have never been a hanger on in search of crumbs. Political claustrophobia is abhorrent and self respect is paramount as far as I am concerned. I therefore decided to cut myself, lose with dignity and live with the people, for the people and amongst the people of every caste, creed and affiliation.
I cannot say that I, and I alone, represent the point of view of Kashmiri Pandits as far as the resettlement is concerned. Multiple points of view exist in a background of mistrust and insecurities as a result of their tragic exodus from their historical homeland. By and large, they continue to be agonised and confused about the road ahead. Factitious opinions emanating from multitudes of socio-cultural organisations led by disparate leadership has not helped matters so far. Nor has the unabashed political brinksmanship exhibited by various mainstream and separatist parties.
They see in it as much an opportunity to achieve a disproportionately large space under the sun of contemporary political history, while others see it as no more than a means to revive their sagging political fortunes. Governments should only facilitate, monitor, enable, even finance inter-community dialogue to achieve slow but solid social, political, economic integration between them.
The Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims are the stakeholders in this conundrum. It is only they who should decide where, when and how or even whether they want to live with each other. After all it is not only about stone walls. Both communities need to wipe the slate clean and think of a new way forward, with a cool mind.
(As told to Naseer Ganai.)