NEW DELHI: Return of Kashmiri Pandits to their beloved homeland is a very important issue in my opinion.

I am glad some talk and thought has been going on in this direction for some time now. It should however not become a controversy.

It needs to be encouraged by everybody and I do not think people in the valley are opposed to this. I remember the good old days before 1990 when we all used to be together, respecting each other’s feelings. We all are one family irrespective of the religion given by the family which gave us birth. The need of the hour is to get back that affection and love and be useful to each other in all respects.

The mere thought of returning to demarcated area , separated by barbed wires or walls in the valley away from the main kochas and streets where we spent our good times both amuses and hurts me. Going back to areas where you are not a part of the mainstream is meaningless. It only means to have better climatic conditions, like staying in an air conditioned prison.

Talking of 1990 again and again is not the solution. We need to look forward and go back to our old homes or build places in the main city or villages where we came from. I know many of us have sold our properties and may not be able to go to the same building but if the government is giving any subsidy, it needs to be utilized for going back to our ancestral place and not to havens. I saw a so called protected area near Nikas, close to my ancestral village Hawal in District Pulwama recently, it resembled a cage. Such places look like zoological parks.

I have been spending lot of time in the Valley during the last 20 years and the amount of love and affection I get every time from my muslim friends and neighbours in Kani Kadal , Karan Nagar or my village Hawal , where I spent my childhood is beyond description. People from these places also come and visit me in Delhi and are always in touch. I took my father to our ancestral village Hawal a number of times and the same affection we get from all the inhabitants who are still there. The affection makes me forget the anguish one gets when looking at the deserted Pandit houses which has become a hallmark of that village which had a Hindu majority. The call of the day is to have the slogan that Pandits and Muslims who are a part of the history of Kashmir should live and die together and not be carried away by the talk of safe havens, which to my mind is impossible and not practical. That is a sure way of perpetuating hatred of which we have seen enough.

On my part I have already made a small house in Humhama in memory of my departed mother. It is the only Pandit house in the locality. It was literally built by my Muslim friends and is also being looked after by them in my absence. I visit it often and am always proud of this possession. I never regret my decision and invite any sceptics to visit it. It is a true example of harmony for which Kashmir is so well known.

(Dr Upendra Kaul is Executive Director Escorts-Fortis, New Delhi)