A Pandit who braves violence and death to live in Kashmir

Pic for representational purpose only.Pic for representational purpose only.

The militancy in Kashmir, targeting the Kashmiri Pandits led to an exodus in the 90s as hordes of Pandits left their homes to avoid persecution in the Valley and migrated to safer places. The culture of coexistence and political harmony disappeared overnight as society lay fractured by religious extremism. The Pandits packed their bags and left their homes, property, jobs and everything behind to start a new life. However, there are still few Hindu families who continue to live in Kashmir, irrespective of the difficulties.

One of them is Motilal Kanth, a 48 year old residing in Quaziabad Kralgund of Kupwara district. In 1997 his family left the Valley but Motilal decided to stay back despite his home being destroyed a year later by unknown assailants. Since then, Motilal has mow been living with his Muslim neighbour for almost two decades. Motilal's friends from the Muslim community had joined militancy: "We gave shelter and food to militants in 1991 and sometimes even the Pandits would be thrashed by the Army. We used to celebrate festivals together and attending weddings as well as funerals together. We used to symbolize communal harmony," says Motilal. Since 2001 Motilal kanth has been living with the family of Late Ghulam Nabi.

With a population of 500 Pandits in Kralgrund, Motilal is the only one in his village. Irrespective of that, he has become an integral part of society with free access to homes and gardens of his neighbours. He is invited to each and every function or occasion taking place there. Motilal wishes that those from his community who fled, would have stayed back and found a way to co-exist, like he did.

It was on an ordinary evening, just like every other day, that life Motilal once again came face-to-face with violence. After the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, the situation in the Valley deteriorated as civilian, militants, security forces & unidentified gunmen wreaked havoc and violence. On the night of October 12, 2016, Kashmir was under the cover of violence for five months, internet service disrupted and radio and TV were the only source of news. At around 8:30pm when everyone was watching news, two unidentified gunman barged into the house. The owner of the house Ghulam Nabi was asked to come out, and when he refused the gunmen dragged him out and shot him. A number of gunshots were fired at Ghulam Nabi as they escaped.

The whole village mourned as the police also came to the spot and started an investigation. "Ghulam Nabi was very a pious and dedicated person. I don't know why he was shot dead. I have seen deaths from earlier on but this time it was different. Killing innocents is inhuman. After we heard gunshots, we came out and saw Ghulam Nabi lying on the ground in a pool of blood. We tried to take him to a hospital but he lost his life on way" says Motilal.

"For the first time I thought about leaving Kashmir and head to Jammu, but the love of the local villagers made me forget the pain of loss. After this attack, everyone tried to assure me, provide comfort and help out."

This killing was followed by a massive crackdown in the village by security forces. Around 32 persons were arrested under suspicion and later released. According to the police, as few days after the killing of Ghulam Nabi a poster surfaced, pasted on local mosque, with the stamp of Lashkar-e-Taiba. The poster claimed that informers of police and army will meet the same fate of Ghulam Nabi if they didn't stop spying for police. The poster also mentioned names of local residents mentioned who were asked to appear during Friday prayers and apologize.

However, since then normalcy returned to the village and Motilal continues to live with his Muslim family.

Sajad Lone

Sajad Lone

Sajad Lone energetic journalist, from North Kashmir's Kupwara. Masters in Journalism, with three year of local experience.

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