We Will Live There Again In Peace
Text & Photos By Fahad Shah
Ashok Kumar Bali
Nagrota (Jammu): Constructed on 716 kanals of land in Jagti, Nagrota- in the outskirts of Jammu city, the Mini Township for Kashmiri Pandits has 4200 two-room flats and many other facilities like schools, hospitals, health centres, proper roads, parks, old age home, community centre, water supply scheme, separate power station, proper arrangement for sewerage and drainage and commercial complexes including spaces for bank and post office.
The Kashmiri Pandit families who had been living in camps at Muthi, Purkhoo, Nagrota and Mishriwala were shifted to the Jagti Township in this year summer. A pleasant area, calm and quiet with traffic connectivity to Nagrota-Jammu, but still a temporary abode for these families who want to return to their own ancestral homes in Kashmir.
At one corner of the park is a large window where he is sitting, repairing electronic equipment. He greets you with joy when he hears you are from Kashmir. A medium sized room greets you as you enter the flat. At one corner is a door that leads to the kitchen and on the other two sides is another room and washroom. Plastered walls with pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses hang just above the sofa; where Ashok Kumar Bali alias Ashiq invites me to sit. He is a 52-year-old Kashmir Pandit who has been allotted this flat. Bali was a resident of Shopian, before he migrated to Jammu when the armed rebellion started in Kashmir. He lived in camps and now lives here in one of the flats of the township. He has some property dispute in Shopian, for which he visits the valley often. Built on half-a-Kanal land, his house is not a home anymore. He had an electronic goods repairing shop in the Shopian market. He says, “I used to close my shop at 10:30 at night.”
Buildings of the Jagti Township.
Twenty one years ago, he was told by his Muslim friends not to leave from valley. But he decided to leave anyway. “The state government took a wrong decision that day. They should have provided us security,” he told The Kashmir Walla. When Bali left his home he couldn’t take his all belongings with him. He says, “The largest loss of Kashmiri Pandits is their friends and neighbours. My friends had a Muslim name for me, ‘Ashiqo’.”
His thoughts are a contrast to some of the Pandits living in Delhi or other parts of world. He is not part of the radical Kashmiri Pandit organisation, “Panun Kashmir”. He says, “I don’t support what Panun Kashmir says. Our Muslim brothers in Kashmir told us ‘we will protect you till last drop of blood’.”
Another Kashmiri Pandit who lives in a government quarter in Jammu says that they have been neglected by everyone. Bansi Lal is a retired government employee whose family lives in Delhi but he preferred to stay back in Jammu, for he gets peace here. “We are on electoral rolls but we are not allowed to get an election card. It hints that our votes are used for some purpose. The other thing is that some time ago government announced that government employees among us will be given some ration supply every month. But we never received anything fairly,” he complains.
For Ashok, a Chinaar leaf of Kashmir is worth millions. He has been attached to Kashmir even after his migration in June, 1990. He often visits the valley to meet his friends and his neighbours. He sits in the Barber shop which was once his own shop and talks with people.
Entrance of the Township for Kashmiri migrants at Jagti, Nagrota.
After landing in Jammu, he says, “We were allotted tents and then a 12X10 feet room for one family. For all these years, we have lived in tents and small rooms. Now we have been allotted flats, two rooms, on two year contract basis.” Ashok lives in this flat with his wife, three children, and mother.
Ashok’s mother enters the room and says, “Muslims visit us here to see if we are fine. We hug each other. Share love. They are our own people. Both Muslims and Pandits were betrayed.”
Bali has a strong belief in his return to his roots. He says that the flats are not their permanent homes. “One day we have to return to Kashmir. We will live there again in peace,” Bali beams.