We are as safe as others in Kashmir: Pandit family

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As the evening breeze blew over the banks of glossy Ranbiara river in Shopian, 22-year-old Nikhil while finger-combing his dishevelled hairs, asked his parents why the family had migrated to Jammu. 
What had spurred Nikhil to ask the question was the amity and hospitality the people from the majority Muslim community has lavished on him over past few weeks of his stay in the area.
Nikhil was born in Jammu at least six years after his parents had fled the Valley like thousands of other Pandit families had done in early nineties. And, it is Nikhil’s first visit along his parents to his native place of Batapora, Shopian. 
“Today I take pride in saying that I belong to this part of the world. This is not because of the awe-inspiring beauty of this landscape but because of the people living here,” said Nikhil, adding that he does not understand why his family joined the exodus.
The family actually has visited Bansi Lal Razdan, a Kashmiri Pandit who along with his wife returned native town of Shopian.
“I also left the Valley for some time but I came back soon and since have been living here amicably with my own people” said Razdan.
Razdan feels that they are equally as safe and or unsafe as anyone else living in Kashmir. “We are a conflict ridden society and in such societies people get killed, but running away is not a solution,” he said.
Razdan asks when his Muslim brothers who are being killed day in and day out, did not leave valley why should they.
“. . . And the truth is that it is the Muslim community that bears the brunt,” he added.
While young Nikhil enjoys the cool gusts of wind, Razdan says: “I have seen the worst tragedies befalling the people here. I clearly recollect how a childhood Muslim friend was shot dead at his home by renegades for no reason.” 
Razdan blames the “partial” media for creating an atmosphere of fear. “It is a stark reality that some bellicose television anchors reading out the motivated news scripts have dissuaded many Kashmiri Pandits to return Valley. They make a mountain out of a molehill” said Razdan.
Lounging on a charpoy at her porch, Razdan’s wife Tosha Razdan said she was the first one in her family of six who supported her husband to return home. 
She said they had been offered police protection umpteen times but they always rejected it as they never had felt any threat perception.
“We had never been harmed by anyone in the Valley. Why should we need any police protection?” Tosha asked, adding that it (police protection) makes people vulnerable. 
Tosha says that she never hides her Pandit identify while visiting the market or any other public place. “I always wear Sari and put Vermillion. I never felt any need to conceal my religious or cultural identity’’ said Tosha.
While the family emphatically supports the return of migrant Pandits to their native places, they are rather against the formation of separate settlements.
“We are already the victims of ill-conceived polices of the government. The flawed idea of separate colonies will ostracize us from our own people,” Razdan says while offering a fresh apricot to Nikhil.

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