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Lokvani Talks To Activist Sushil Pandit

Ranjani Saigal

Activist Sushil Pandit (SP) who is the founder of Roots in Kashmir, an organization that works to connect second generation members of the Hindu Kashmiri exiled community that had to leave Kashmir during the exodus  of 1990 and Major Ashok Kaul (AK), a retired Army Major and a film producer, talked to Lokvani about the state of Kashmir today.

Sushil Pandit is a known voice of Kashmiri Pandits. He is the founder CEO of Hive Communication and co-founder of Roots in Kashmir. Major Ashok Kaul, a retired Army officer who took to film production in his post Army career working with stalwarts like Raj Kapoor, is working to use film as a medium to tell the story of the horrific tales of the genocide and exile of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley.

The two presented insights about the Kashmir issue and their individual take on the problem 

Can you tell us about Roots in Kashmir?

SP: Since the exodus of 1990, Kashmiri Hindus have made their home outside of Kashmir. Their children, who were born outside of Kashmir are losing touch with their roots. That is an even greater tragedy that we may loose a great culture. In order to address this Roots in Kashmir was created. "Roots In Kashmir" is an initiative launched by the Kashmiri Pandit Youth, to reclaim their Roots that identify them. Even though they have been hounded out of our homes and hearths in the Kashmir valley, their "Roots" are very much anchored in the Vitasta Valley. This is an initiative to protest and raise the general awareness of public to a level where the  "fight for our roots" is felt, heard and acted upon .

What is the exodus of 1990? 

SP: On 19 January 1990, in the dead of the cold winter night, the terrorists took over the Loud speakers in the Mosque and screamed out slogans ordering Kashmiri Pandits to leave.  Prior to that they had killed several prominent Hindus.  On that night it was one of the worst exodus since World War II when thousands of Kashmiri Hindus fled their homes.  I can still remember the sound piercing in the cold winter night striking terror.  Unfortunately because of blundering politicians playing into the hands of the terrorists this story is not well known. 

Is the new government under Modi’s leadership giving any hope? 

SP: First I must say that miles in horizon we cannot see a leader as competent as Modi ji. Having said that, while in the first few months they did an excellent job of not supporting the terrorists there seems to be absolute reversal of course now. Being a separatist is very lucrative in Kashmir because politicians keep giving your money to buy peace. I was hoping the new government would indeed not keep feeding the terrorists. But things are not getting any better and that is disappointing. 

What would you like to see in Kashmir? 

SP: First so many of the criminals who committed horrible crimes including murder are roaming free. They must be brought to justice. We need to stop feeding the terrorists.  We can then do more to restore peace in the valley. 

Major Kaul , how did you get to be a film producer?

AK: When I was posted in Kashmir I met Raj Kapoor at an Army event.  We got to get to know each other and he said he wanted to work with me. After I took retirement from the Army, I saw him again and he asked me to manage the production unit for  Ram Teri Ganga Meili. It was a great experience. I did other films including Henna. 

On my own I went on to produce Param Vir Chakra which has won many national awards.  I also made India’s first animated film Bhagmati. 

What do you think your greatest accomplishment has been to date in the film world? 

AK: For producing Bhagmati, I got over 400 people trained in the Animation technique. While the film did not do well, the process started the Animation industry in India which has become a booming business. I feel very proud of that. Of course Param Vir Chakra was also a special experience that I am very proud of.

Are you planning films to highlight the Kashmir issue? Is it easy to find funding?

I am working on a script now.  While in the past finding funding was difficult, today there are people who want to support unique ideas. 

What is your take on the Kashmir issue? 

I am an army man. I say very simply that Kashmir is mine and no one can dare take it away from me.  If we have that confidence and attitude no one can indeed take Kashmir from us. 


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