Kashmiri Pundits

This January 2020, it is thirty years since the Kashmiri Pundits' exodus from the Kashmir valley took place. They had suffered grave injustices, violence and humiliation prior to the migration away from the place of their social and cultural roots in Kashmir Valley. The phenomenon of this exodus had been due to the communalisation of militancy in Kashmir in the decade of 1980s. While no ruling Government has applied itself enough to 'solve' this uprooting of Pundits from their roots, there are communal elements who have been aggressively using 'what about Kashmiri Pundits?', every time liberal, human rights defenders talk about the plight of Muslim minority in India. This minority is now facing an overall erosion of their citizenship rights.

Time and over again in the aftermath of communal violence in particular, the human rights groups have been trying to put forward the demands for justice and rehabilitation of the victim minority. Instead of being listened to those particularly from Hindu nationalist combine, as a matter of routine shout back, where were you when Kashmiri Pundits were driven away from the Valley? In a way the tragedy being heaped on one minority is being justified in the name of suffering of Pundits and in the process violence is being normalised. This sounds as if two wrongs make a right, as if the suffering Muslim minority or those who are trying to talk in defense of minority rights have been responsible for the pain of Kashmiri Pundits.

During these three, many political formations have come to power, including BJP, Congress, third front and what have you. To begin with when the exodus took place Kashmir was under President's rule and V P Singh Government was in power at the centre. This Government had the external support of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at that time. Later BJP led NDA came to power for close to six years from 1998, under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Then from 2014 it is BJP, with Narerda Modi as PM, with BJP's brute majority is in power. Other components of NDA are there to enjoy some spoils of power without any say in the policies being pursued by the Government. Modi is having absolute power with Amit Shah occasionally presenting Modi's viewpoints.

Those blurting, 'What about Kashmiri Pundits?' are using if as a mere rhetoric to hide their communal colour. The matters of Kashmir are very disturbing and cannot be attributed to be the making Indian Muslims as it is being projected in an overt and subtle manner. Today, of course the steps taken by the Modi Government, that of abrogation of Article 370, abolition of clause 35A, downgrading the status of Kashmir from a state to union territory have created a situation where the return of Kashmiri Pundits may have become more difficult, as the local atmosphere is more stifling and the leaders with democratic potential have been slapped with Public Safety Act, where they can be interned for long time without any answerability to the Courts. The internet had been suspended, communication being stifled in an atmosphere where democratic freedoms are curtailed which makes solution of any problem more difficult.

Kashmir has been a vexed issue where the suppression of the clause of autonomy, leading to alienation led to rise of militancy. This was duly supported by Pakistan. The entry of Al Qaeda elements, who having played their role against Russian army in 1980 entered into Kashmir and communalised the situation in Kashmir. The initial Kashmir militancy was on the grounds of Kash-miriyat. Kashmiriyat is not Islam, it is synthesis of teachings of Buddha, values of Vedant and preaching's of Sufi Islam. The tormenting of Kashmiri Pundits begins with these elements entering Kashmir.

Surely, the Al Qaeda type elements do not represent the alienation of local Kashmiris, who need to be drawn into the process of dialogue for a peaceful Kashmir, which is the best guarantee for progress in this ex-state, now a Union territory. Communal amity, the hallmark of Kashmir cannot be brought in by changing the demographic composition by settling outsiders in the Valley. A true introspection is needed for this troubled area. Democracy is the only path for solving the emigration of Pundits and also of large numbers of Muslims, who also had to leave the valley due to the intimidating militancy and presence of armed forces in large numbers. One recalls Times of India report of 5th February 1992 which states that militants killed 1585 people from January 1990 to October 1992 out of which 982 were Muslims and 218 Hindus.


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Vol. 52, No. 38, Mar 22 - 28, 2020