What It Means For Kashmiri Pandits
Panun Kashmir Movement
The accession of Jammu and Kashmir State to the Union of India in 1947 brought in the sustained influence of Muslim majoritarian politics in the State patronized by the 'Soft-State' perceptions of the subsequent governments at the Centre. Special status became a bargaining chip for the political elite of Kashmir through political machinations strengthening the Muslim precedence. It developed into a Muslim monolithic political culture and reaction over the period giving rise to the secessionist movement in Kashmir. The forced mass-exodus of three lakh Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir Valley was the logical culmination of the militarized form of pan-Islamic fundamentalism bringing turmoil in this region. Having the experience of the Indian governance and lack of sense of history in certain political circles in the national politics, the secessionist forces have over the period since 1947 succeeded in creating confusion and division amongst the political elite of India to hoodwink the Indian people of the real dimensions involved which are now unfolding to the misfortune of this country. The whole issue stands internationalised today by these forces having created a well designed confusion of a disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir State, made possible by the fragile, vacillating & contradictory approach of powers that be at Centre and its political allies.
The leadership of the present secessionist movement in Kashmir is quite clear that even if the present movement fails in achieving the ultimate objective of independence from India, it will strengthen the ascendancy and control of the Muslims over the politics and other spheres of the State and thus legally convert Kashmir into virtually a Muslim State within the secular framework of Indian republic. The recent statements of the Prime Minister and others in Government of India, including some Central Ministers regarding 'anything Short of Azadi' 'autonomy' and 'Concessions' to the State show the sensitivity of the so-called secular and progressive forces in India to substantiate what secessionists in Kashmir desire. The National Conference on the other hand, in particular, is demanding greater autonomy or Pre-1953 status for Kashmir as a pre-requisite to initiate any political process in the State.
The issue of the survival of Kashmiri Hindu Displaced Community, naturally the fourth factor in the State of J&K, shall have to be addressed objectively and with more seriousness. Their survival, life and tradition are directly linked with how the community is settled in the Valley of Kashmir keeping in view the ground realities of the situation in the State and particularly in Kashmir. Almost all political and social organisations in the country are unanimous about the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley with 'Safety, Honour and Dignity', once normalcy returns in Kashmir. But unfortunately, none of these organisations have till date tried to interpret these words into the articulation of the measures they would like to initiate in this direction . The practical feel of life K.P.s have been going through in Kashmir with their experiences of the last six years of exiled life, forces the Kashmiri Pandit Community to ask all and sundry to explain what 'security, honour and dignity' implies. If the purpose of this parrot-talk is to create an impression on the minds of the Indian people that Kashmir was all roses and normal for Kashmiri Hindus before the armed strife, it is not only incorrect but misleading too. The coinage of 'security, honour and dignity' being used conveniently has in fact harmed this community in the context that the entire community has been kept as hostage to uncertainty and indecision about them. Time has probably come when the Kashmiri Hindus themselves will have to articulate w hat 'safety, honour and dignity' in Kashmir, once normalcy is restored there, means for them. It is high time we dwell upon the issue in the light of the historical experiences, national commitments and the new world order.
Safety, dignity and honour are generally relative terms. What they mean for one individual or a group of individuals may not necessarily be the same for all others. The heroic attempt of Pt. Birbal Dhar and supreme sacrifice of his family and Pt. Harkar Bakshi paved the way for the Sikh rule in Kashmir in 1819 A.D which put an end to the 500 years era of brutalities on Kashmiri Pandits at the hands of the alien Muslim rulers in Kashmir. The period witnessed hundreds of thousands of discouraged.
The State Govt's policy of Muslim precedence was supported by majoritarianism and mob reaction which had/has been/become a fact of life in the Valley. The result of a cricket match played somewhere in the world would provoke the 'faithfuls' of the Valley to target Hindu houses, damage to a mosque in the Middle-East would result in desecration of minority places of worship and property and Pakistan's President getting killed in an air-crash would subject the Kashmiri Hindus to abuse at the hands of Muslim mobs. The wide-ranging and pre-planned loot and arson of 1986 in the Valley and particularly in Anantnag district shocked the Kashmiri Pandit Community and they felt isolated in their own habitat despite the existence of a colossal nation/State.
In an attempt to break from the ancient past, names of hundreds of places were conveniently changed in the Valley. Disputes were given birth to in regard to the rights of possession and property in respect of places of historical and cultural importance . A concept of so-called 'Kashmiriyat', which is nothing but a bundle of half-truths and brazen lies regarding historical facts about the Valley, was introduced in connivance with the instruments of the Governance to distort the cultural impact of Kashmir . To this on-going process, the Government of India has all along been a mute spectator, willingly.
The Kashmiri Hindus, people of Jammu and Ladakh share common experiences in regard to the discriminatory policies of the State Govt. towards them from 1947 onwards. Fundamentally, the treatment meted out to them was due to the fact that K.P.s and majority of the people of Jammu and Ladakh were/are non-Muslims and that the State had/has overtly or covertly endorsed the fact of Muslim precedence in almost all the spheres of politics and economics in the State.
Despite this important similarity in experience of Kashmiri Pandits, people of Jammu and Ladakh, there are some pertinent dis-similarities as well. The Kashmiri Pandits have undergone a long barbaric era of 500 years prior to Sikh rule in Kashmir which squeezed them from an overwhelming majority to a minuscule minority in their own habitat. Secondly, the Muslim mob reaction to the community in Kashmir established the fact that Muslims did/ do not desire any co-existence. Thirdly, but very important is t he factor of forced mass-exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and their displacement throughout the country. And here lies the difference in the framework of the ideograph as to what 'safety, honour and dignity' means for each of these peoples.
The continuous struggle of Buddhists in Ladakh for a Union Territory and lately for a Hill Council and an overwhelming support by the people of Jammu to the demand of Regional Council for Jammu province are valid pointers in the direction of the aspirations of the people concerned. The Councils with wide executive and legislative powers will be able to take care of the rights of the people of the two respective regions. This arrangement has potential to guarantee the 'security, honour and dignity' of the domiciles of the two regions. In case of Kashmiri Muslims, the State of India has already gone too far to accommodate them. Beyond a Constitutional provision of Art. 370 (which has been instrumental in creation of a State within a State and has also give n rise to' vested interest), pumping in thousands of crores of Rupees into Kashmir and maintaining precedence of Kashmir in the politics of the State, the Government of India, it seems, is ready to concede more which in their thinking may be able to further consolidate the identity of 'security, honour and dignity' to the 'faithfuls' in Kashmir.
In case of the Kashmiri Hindu community, the fourth factor in the State of J&K, the members of which have been forced to live as refugees in their own state/country, 'safety, dignity and honour' to the community means free flow of life. Ordinarily, there are three components of free flow of life. But so far as the experiences of K.P.s with the system in which they lived/ live and guarantee of right of franchise to the subjects of India is concerned, the free flow of life for them has four components. A system which provides commitment in regard to all the four essential components of free flow of life can only ensure 'safety, honour and dignity' to the Kashmiri Pandit Community in Kashmir on their return to the Valley.
- The community should be able to maintain its homogeneity and compactness, protect and promote its cultural tradition and keep on contributing to the overall Indian ethos.
- Its members should be able to live as free citizens of the country without fear of any discrimination from any quarter, enabling the community to contribute to scientific advancement and the civilizational process of the new world order.
- The community needs to be ensured of a secured future to its posterity in its historical habitat and the future generations should not be compelled to leave their homeland due to any political, economic, educational or administrative reason.
- The Kashmiri Hindus should be given an equal right to take part in the democratic political process at all levels to shape the destiny of their community and nation as per the aspirations of the majority of the people.
The demand of the community for a Union Territory for seven lakh Kashmiri Hindus in the north and east of river Vitasta (Jhelum), besides the demand's strategic value in the national context, should be viewed in this perspective that it ensures them a permanent constitutional guarantee in respect of all essential components of free flow of life. If a comprehensive exercise at national level is not evolved for a lasting solution of Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandit problem, the day is not far off when small communities in the country making the nation shall extinguish and entities like Kashmir making the State shall secede. And thus shall also start the beginning of a process for balkanisation of India, dismemberment of Indianness and murder of an immortal ethos.
All those who speak in terms of return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley with 'safety, dignity and honour', on restoration of 'normalcy' in Kashmir, are enjoined upon to initiate a well meaning and effective response in this regard. They are also expected to contribute to a solution that saves the community from a further genocide in future and consequently the nation, in case the K.P community is forced to return to the Valley only on the basis of goodwill gestures of the Kashmiri Muslims, the State of India including its instrumentalities in the State of J&K and of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir.
The above document was published in 'The Hindustan Times' New Delhi of 7th January, 1996, with the caption "Kashmiri Hindus Denial of Dignity & Security" in Guest Column and in 'Daily Excelsior' Jammu, of 12th November, 1996 captioned "Can KPs return with honour ?" under the signatures of Sh. Ashwani Kumar, Convener, Panun Kashmir Movement (PKM) with minor alterations.