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Tears, tea & a gift of almonds: How a Kashmiri Pandit was welcomed back in the Valley

The reopening of Roshan Lal Mawa's shop in Srinagar was a big affair, with neighbours, acquaintances and old friends turning up in hordes for a hug.

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Srinagar: Three days after Roshan Lal Mawa, 75, reopened his dry fruit shop in Srinagar’s Zainakadal area, it still feels like a dream. The Kashmiri Pandit is back home for good, nearly three decades after he fled the Valley following a failed militant attack, and his joy knows no bounds.

“I have been a frequent visitor [to Kashmir]. I never stopped coming but there were times I felt I would never resettle here permanently,” said Mawa, as visitors flooded his shop Friday to congratulate him on his return. “It feels surreal, but I am finally here and I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

The reopening of Mawa’s shop was a big affair in Qaziyaar, the locality where it’s located. Neighbours, acquaintances and old friends poured in, jostling for a chance to hug Mawa when he rolled up the shutters, Wednesday. Fellow shopkeepers honoured him with a turban or ‘Dastar Bandi’ — and Mawa broke down.

“There were at least two to three thousand people. Some held my hand, others hugged me and some kissed me,” said Mawa, who lived in Delhi during his exile. “I was showered with rose petals and candies. Tea was arranged for the visitors. I have never received so much love in my entire life,” he added, “I wish to die in my homeland. May this soil be my eternal abode.”

Coming back home

The businessman told ThePrint that it took a lot of convincing before his family agreed to move back to Kashmir.

His son, a doctor, used to shuttle between Delhi and Srinagar along with Mawa to maintain business ties. However, moving back, permanently, was a scary proposition with the memories of their traumatic departure still vivid.

Before they fled, Mawa, 46, and his family lived in the Bohrikadal area of Srinagar. According to Mawa, on 13 October 1990, when Kashmir militancy was at its peak and Pandits were being driven out by the hordes, a young boy pumped bullets into Mawa’s stomach

His neighbours helped him reach a hospital, where he was saved. But his family was shaken as the situation in the Valley worsened each day.

Mawa was handling his father’s business in the Valley but he decided to move out and start from scratch in New Delhi.

“Delhi people gave me a lot of love,” Mawa told ThePrint. “I had everything that I needed except for my friends, my nation (watan) and my love. There was no one with whom I could share my thoughts, or talk in my language. My neighbour of 29 years (in Delhi), I don’t know him to date,” Mawa added.

Mohammad Ibrahim, one of the locals who flocked to see Mawa Friday, used the opportunity to appeal to the Kashmiri Pandit community to return to the Valley. He also accused certain media houses of defaming Kashmiri Muslims.

“They should come back. We will welcome them here,” he said.

“We have asked our Pandit brethren to return home. There is nothing to fear,” said another local, Mohammad Shafi, “We have suffered a lot now… Time has come to heal our wounds.”

Mawa said he was overwhelmed by the kindness he had experienced since his return.

“Even today, one boy came and asked me if I was Roshan Lal, I said, yes, and he hugged me tightly. He kissed my forehead and gifted me almonds,” said Mawa. “He said it was his moral duty to welcome me.”

He felt that peace between Pandits and Muslims was something the local population had to pursue on their own, instead of relying on politicians.

“I want to appeal to the people. The government will not do anything for us. They have taken us for granted,” he added. “We [Kashmiri Pandits] are probably their vote bank and they don’t want us brothers to meet,” he said.

“Kashmir is OK. It will be all OK again,” he said.

 


Also read: Why these Kashmiri politicians are hiding in Srinagar hotels instead of campaigning


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. The Pandit who has bravely returned to the Valley must be saluted but any large scale return of Hindu’s can only be in circumstances of Kashmir being part of India- fully- without any caveats. We await the “special status” being revoked and Kashmir being fully integrated into the Indian State. At that point, we would like to see how welcoming the local communities in Kashmir will be to their Hindu brothers and sisters who were forced to flee radical Islam. Jai Hind.

  2. Frankly this seems quite choreographed. When you’re a minority of one in the Valley- which is riddled with anti India sentiment today- I wouldn’t expect the gentleman to say much else but sing the platitudes of his helpful neighbours and conveniently blame the politicians. It sounds “right” whilst forgetting even today Kashmiri Pandits land and property is illegally occupied by the Muslim Majority, that Kashmiri Pandits were forced out and will never be welcome again in numbers that would challenge the status quo. Kashmir cannot be understood without connecting the hardline Wahhabism that infiltrated the religious veins of the population, displacing the traditionally accepting Sufism and turning them on their Hindu brethren. Any suggestion there is a turn back to accepting Kashmiri Pandits without wiping out the foreign Wahhabism from local mosques would be a fools errands.

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