Kashmir has an excellent future: Vijay Dhar

Pandits have to come back ultimately; Valley is safe

We should introspect rather than blaming others 

Family of Vijay Dhar is one among those few who chose to return couple of years after the migration of Pandit community in early 1990 from Kashmir. Vijay is son of well-known Kashmiri politician Late Durga Prasad Dhar. He studied at Jamia Millia Islamia Delhi and has remained active in politics and social life. He came back to Kashmir in 1992 and settled here only after 1998. He decided to set up DP Dhar Trust in the same year to contribute in the field of education. By now Delhi Public School which he established in Srinagar a few years ago has made a mark.

In an exclusive interview to Rising Kashmir’s Online Editor Daanish Bin Nabi, Dhar talks about his homecoming and setting up of DP Dhar Memorial Trust.

How would you define your father’s role to shape up your life?

He died at a very young age. He addressed United Nations at the age of only 31; such was his grip on politics. His influence on me has been primarily on things he would tell me often. Firstly, always keep your head on your shoulder. Secondly, always keep your hand down. As any other son, I have also learnt a lot from my father. One important thing about Sheikh Sahib, Bakhshi Sahib and my father Durga Prasad Dhar is that, they had a national pride and we are lacking that.
What motivated your family to come back to Kashmir?
My mother got ill in 1992. While were taking her to operation theatre she asked me when are we going back to Kashmir. There and then I made up my mind to return. Then in August 1992, we decided to come back to Valley. On hearing about our decision to return to Valley, hell was let loose in Home Ministry. They gave me an impression that Pakistan will shoot me and my family. For security reasons our names were changed. When we landed we received a warm reception from our people. Everyone welcomed us warmly. Then things started to calm down. In 1998, we finally returned and our family came with the idea of starting a school as education was the worst hit in early stages of turmoil. We had kept something in mind for our school, first not to ask for any government help and secondly not to take money from anyone.

You also served as Rajiv Gandhi’s Political Secretary. Tell us about that?

I won’t call myself political secretary. But yes, as a friend I was assisting him for four years. So with that association and my father’s political era we had with a reasonable association with Mrs. Indira Gandhi. At the end of the day, I don’t think anyone of us has achieved anything for Kashmir. And I really can’t understand what we are fighting for. If we look rationally then we really have done nothing for Kashmir. I solely blame myself and I am also responsible as much as all of us are. I think we could do a lot. A simple example, we have in the form of universities here. Why can’t we turn these universities into educational hub? We are all responsible.
So many efforts to bring back Kashmiri Pandits have not yielded encouraging results. What is your take?
I can’t give you reasons for migration of Pandits from Kashmir. I can only tell you about myself. That was a moment of uncertainty which just spread. I personally think Kashmiri Pandits should return. But the problem is they don’t feel secure enough to come back which is totally wrong. There are families who are returning to Valley. However, they are very few. Ultimately, these Pandit families have to come back to the state. And as far as Kashmiris are concerned they do welcome their Pandit neighbour families and friends.

Congress is believed to be the spoiler in Kashmir. What are your views?

I have changed my views completely now after being involved in various political scenarios. As I said, we are to be blamed than anyone else or any spoiler. We have done nothing for our own people and keep on blaming others. It is very sad that we point finger on others rather than looking at ourselves. Forget about political parties, what as common people have we given to our society. To me politics is not important but people, society and more importantly youth of our society are. We should blame ourselves for being spoilers rather than any other party or people. Aren’t we the biggest spoilers? Yes, we are. We should introspect rather than blaming others.

How do you see future of Kashmir after looking back at 20 years?

I tell you we have an excellent future but we are spoiling it. No other State in India has a bright future like ours. In 1988, we had a good tourist season we got five lakh tourist and simultaneously two lakh tourist for Amarnath the same year. That means in 1988, we had seven lakh tourists. In 2013, we had six lakh tourists and four lakh tourists for Amaranth which means from 1988 to 2013 there has been an increase of 3 lakh tourists. Likewise, in Jammu we had around one crore tourists.
Can’t we attract even 10% of that now? And I must tell you that these 20 years of turmoil have done wonders for Kashmiris. Kashmiris went out to see the world. Earlier, Lala would come in and get shawls and carpets and suddenly when Lala stopped to come to Kashmir, Kashmiris went out in his search. Now Kashmiris have done phenomenally well in every respect. It is delightful to see Kashmiris doing well all over the world.
DPS was a major step in modernizing education, still there is some resentment from various sections of the society.
If anyone has anything against me they should tell me. I will make myself clear to them. Let them have a discussion with me. I made a difference of two percent; let others make the remaining 98 per cent now. I am not a messiah but I am doing my bit. Everyone faces opposition and same is the case with us. Biscoe School also faced resentment earlier but parents supported it. I must be grateful to all parents as they support me like anything.

People relate DPS to Delhi’s efforts and relate it to normalcy in Valley?

This school has nothing to do with New Delhi or the politics of the state. We neither teach politics nor do we discuss it.
What about total enrollment in DPS and on what basis you give admissions?
Today, we have 4200 students. As far as admissions are concerned we first try to give it to siblings, then to any special child. But the main thing for selection of a child is how much parents are interested in their child. We are very keen as far as infrastructure of the school is concerned and we have probably a good infrastructure compared to any school in India. Our senior library has 40,000 books and junior library have 20,000 books.

What about expansion of DPS?

I will be happy if I can look after what I have at this moment. If I had known that school needs so much dedication I won’t have started it. Unless you don’t have proper dedication you can’t think of expansion.

Thank You.