Yes, that is what a Kashmiri Hindu in present-day India has been reduced to. A number on an official paper. Like the Jews during the Holocaust, Kashmiri Hindus too have been assigned an official number by governmental agencies. It is either their registration number at a refugee relief center or a refugee ration card number or their Indian passport number. It is their new identity -- a 'numeric' identity.
Sixteen years ago, Islamic terrorism forced a Kashmiri Hindu mass exodus from their homeland in Kashmir to far off places where they had to rebuild their lives. Sixteen years ago, Kashmiri Hindu women folk were sexually assaulted and murdered because they represented Indian ethos in the Kashmir valley. Sixteen years ago, Kashmiri Hindu men were hung from the trees with their eyes gouged out because they believed in the Indian tricolour.
All these years, after the ethnic cleansing they faced back in the valley, one thing Kashmiri Hindus have tried to preserve is their identity. Their identity is with their country -- the Great India and her Constitution. Their identity is with their homeland -- the vale of Kashmir. Their identity is with their language and culture. Their identity is with their Vitasta (also known as the river Jhelum). Their identity is with their shrines and temples in the Valley. Their identity is with Anantnaag and not with Islamabad. Their identity is with secularism and not with Nizam-e-Mustafa.
But, after losing their homeland and everything related to that homeland, Kashmiri Hindus are these days facing the prospect of even losing their identity.
The brunt of 16 years of forced exile has started to show its impact on this community of about 700,000 refugees. This community is the only community in the whole world that has been living like refugees in its own country but cannot be granted the refugee status.
In the official parlance, a 'refugee' is someone who had to flee his native country because of persecution or fear of persecution. In the Kashmiri Hindus' case, since they did not leave their native country, they cannot be officially designated as refugees.
But if we consider the common definition of a refugee, it is someone who flees for safety because of persecution. And that is exactly what this community had to face in the years leading up to 1990 -- religious as well as political persecution perpetrated by the Islamic terrorists and the State machinery existing at that time in the Kashmir valley.
Due to the mass exodus, this community ended up scattered all over India and other places where its members could find employment and safe haven. With the result, the identity of this minority community is facing signs of extinction. Not only is it becoming difficult for this community to retain its cultural and religious identity, now it is even losing the newly acquired 'numeric' identity.
These days, the members of this community, who due to their hard work are offered some employment opportunities outside of India, have to face another idiotic and governmental bureaucratic nightmare.
As a requirement for issuance of passports, the Government of India is requiring the members of this community to get their antecedents checked and verified from their place of birth.
Let us take a look at a simple and factual scenario. A Kashmiri Hindu, who is in his/her early twenties today, was a toddler when s/he had to leave the valley along with his/her parents back in 1990.
Now since s/he was born in Kashmir, it will be a life-long matter of fact that his/her place of birth will be always Kashmir. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Every Kashmiri Hindu born in Kashmir is very proud of his place of birth and the heritage that it brings along with it.
But how on earth could Kashmiri Hindu youths get their antecedents checked and verified from the valley when they have not even lived there for the last 16 years? The houses where these youths saw their first sunrise have either been burnt down or demolished or illegally occupied by Islamic terrorists.
The ground situation in the Kashmir valley is so precarious that none of these Kashmiri Hindus can yet go back and resettle there to live with peace, honour and dignity. The gun culture is still so prevalent in Kashmir that common people are always living under the fear of terror.
And under such state of affairs, the Government of India expects this community to get their antecedents checked and verified from the valley! But who can dare explain the idiocy of this policy to Government of India officials?
Throughout recorded history, Kashmiri Hindus have unequivocally expressed their allegiance towards the nation of India. They always have and will continue to believe in Indian Flag and Constitution. It was their strong and unflinching belief in the Indian Constitution that brought all the misery to this community in the valley.
If they had believed in the slogan of azaadi(freedom) and had supported the secessionist forces in the valley, they would have been safe pawns in the hands of secessionists and India would have lost Kashmir long time ago. It has been their belief in and support for the Indian Constitution that has saved Kashmir.
But who cares?
The Government of India and its various federal and state agencies will continue to provide the 'healing touch' to the secessionists and terrorists by implementing appeasing policies while the Kashmiri Hindu identity is slowly disappearing in the dustbins of history.
If the Government of India continues with its current flawed policies in the valley, it is not if but when the Kashmiri Hindus will become like the Hangul of Kashmir.
(The Hangul or the Kashmir Stag is the only surviving race of the Red Deer family of Europe in the sub-continent. The Hangul is listed as an endangered species in the Red Data Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.)