With ‘Migrant’ tag, moving on tough for displaced Kashmiris

In the 28th year of exile, children of displaced Kashmiri Pandits continue to face identity crisis. With the stigma of being migrants attached to them, a generation born and brought up outside their native land see it as a mark of humiliation.
Although Pandits were displaced from the Valley following the rise of armed insurgency, successive governments have recognised them as “migrant” and not displaced, a deliberate policy decision to negate the reasons for their exodus. Even those youngsters who returned to the Valley under the Prime Minister’s employment package have been labelled as “migrant employees”, making them an outcast in Kashmir.
As the majority of children have never seen their native place, they don’’t see themselves as inheritors of thousands of years of civilisation which gave rise to powerful kingdoms and spiritual masters. Life in camps and struggle to support their families has made them apprehensive of their future.
“During our interaction with children about our culture and history, they feel puzzled about the pre-1990 life in Kashmir. Children have either seen the life of camps in Jammu or metro cities. They want to rediscover their identity,” said Dr Ramesh Razdan, who is actively trying to encourage youngsters to learn and speak in Kashmiri.
“Things are not easy when it comes to the preservation of cultural and traditions as more and more boys and girls are moving out of the state for education and employment. It has also increased inter-community marriages,” he said.
“Youngsters are trying to identify themselves with new cities and states of India. In fact, several people don’t register themselves with Relief Organisation after marrying outside the community. They want to erase the word ‘migrant’ and the sufferings of exodus from their present,” said Anil Fotedar, who left his job in Chandigarh and returned to the Valley under the PM employment package.
As per data, 60,452 Kashmiri migrant families are registered with Relief Organisation. Off them, 38,119 had settled in Jammu in the 1990s. However, thousands moved after their children settled outside the state. A total of3.5 lakh persons are living in exile since 1989-90.