What Must Be Done Before We Return Home
Frivolity is the characteristic of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah even in handling profound matters of the state and its poeple. He has now set up a small committee of some officials of the administration to organise the return of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits to their homes in the Valley, after the past eight years of misery and attrition. Had the actualities of the situation been not as tragic and critical as these are, this would go in record as yet another of his numerous laughable, comic measures in running the luckless state.
The committee went wandering around in its efforts to meet individuals and sundry. What do they go out to offer or talk about without any formal authority? And what would they be able to take back with them without having the elementary knowledge and understanding of the multi-dimensional problems of the community in exile, dispersed in widespread areas, and of each family and each individuals?
Such perfunctory meetings in the confines of tents, hovels and slums into which we have been pushed, on the one side, and in the ornate, ableit heavily guarded, chambers of the Chief Minister and his cronies, on the other, can result only in creating further confusion in the chaos that envelops the state. Or perhaps, Dr. Farooq may be led to imagine that he has thrown dust into the eyes of the world. Yet, it is principally he who is to answer for this meaningless and ridiculous and, in a large measure, pernicious exercise. On his part, he may have one preconceived purpose - to create dissensions among the community ranks by presenting a mischievous picture out of the so-called committee reports. That fancy, however, will be his utter disappointment.
Let it be known and understood clearly by as much the State authorities and the Central leadership that the Kashmiri Pandit community will never again allow itself to be used or carried away on one consideration and pretext or another. Those of us who survived the 1989-90 holocaust by the terrorist Islamic fundamentalists and came away have steeled our resolve to retrieve what all was lost and vowed to return home in triumph and dignity. Homecoming, be it after a day's hard labour and sweating, a month's vacation, a year's accomplishment or a decade's tryanny of exile, is always a matter of rejoicing. So should it be for us.
The world has witnessed how we were slaughtered, uprooted and kicked out of our homes. Our trauma, however, is by no means recent. Even in the earlier years after Independence in 1947, we were always discriminated against, deprived, humiliated and systematically reduced to second- class citizens by the successive so-called "people's" governments. And the governments at the Centre ignored and betrayed us and denied us our constitutional as well as universal human rights. We have been wilfully maligned, misrepresented and insulted by insinuations such as the most illogical and baseless propostion that the community left the Valley at the instigation of an individual. Or, again, that we were exploiters and had grabbed almost all government posts and positions of influence. At one time, a Central minister in a patchwork government went as far as to state this unpardonable, utter falsehood in an immoral and perverse effort to justify the insurgency in the state which is a challenge to the country's integrity and also minimise our intense trauma. Little did they see in the blindness of their personal and presumed political interests that they were cutting at the very roots of what they pretended to be fair and in the nation's good.
Decades of such heartless negligence and oppression by the governments, both at the Centre and in the State, have resulted in our having lost faith and confidence in them, irrespective of the political party that was in power at any given time. We have never been allowed to participate in or share power or any decision-making. No democracy is worthy of the name if it results in languishing even a small section of society in neglect and stark discrimination.
Yet, there is the power of the people which is supreme and which can make and unmake governments. And, so, we have now come to repose our trust only in the people of India represented by Parliament at the Cenlral level and by the legislature in the State. We look up to them for justice, honour and security for now and the future, which they are honour bound and morally responsible to secure and promote for each section of society in equity and justice, without discrimination.
It is in this background that the community has deliberated minutely on the catastrophe that has befallen the Valley, the whole state and, indeed, the entire Indian nation, and the trauma gripping the secular sections of the Kashmiri society. Out of this have emerged the minimum essential factors required to ensure normalcy in the state and for us to return there.
In short, plain terms, we will return to the Valley only when we feel secure and confident to live as full and equal citizens in a civilised society and environs. This is possible only when the State is fully integrated with the motherland - India.
Before we make the first move, the Centre and the State must publicly acknowledge that we were hounded out by the terrorists and have suffered untold losses and privations, and that all this would be made good and returned to us within a stipulated time. This acknowledgement and promise must come by means of a Resolution by Parliament as well as the State Lagislative Assembly. The Resolution must enjoin upon the government immediately to restore to the refugees all they have lost before they go back to their homes which they had to leave under duress.
Restoration of Assets
To make this restoration real and possible speedily, Parliament must allocate special financial and other necessary resources. It must make the Central Government directly responsible and accountable to Parliament in creating conditions whereby all our assets and the accumulated dues and yields from such assets, our avocations and places of worhsip and all that we have been robbed of and deprived is restored to us with expedition.
In no circumstances shall we agree to these allocations to be channelled through the State machinery. As already stated, these must be the direct charge on the national exchequer to meet the exigencies of this national calamity.
It is equally essential that the minority community is afforded some political leverage in the form of not less than six seats in the State Assembly for at least the next 25 years. Of these, three should be taken into the Council of Ministers with portfolios as have an effective bearing on the special interests of the resettling refugees. These constituencies must be given the right of recall in case the incumbents fail to reflect, and work for, the aspirations and requirements of the shattered community.
Besides, it will be be no less important to ensure that the minority community is enabled to be participating at all crucial points in the administration at all levels. We should also be enabled to send three representatives, either by election or nomination by the Central Government, to Parliament.
It has to be understood clearly that the constitutional and political concessions sought here are not to be termed as 'reservations' even when such unusual provisions are being made from time to time for those who have been derived or deprived, or not normally been able to acquire a political say and clout, such as some lower castes, women and so forth. We are only seeking a temporary expedient in the direction of restoring confidence and a sense of belonging for the thoroughly shaken, traumatised and numerically weak Kashmiri Pandits.
In this context, it may be recalled that the community had made substantial inputs of intellect and physical sacrifices during the State's struggle for a popular, democratic set-up. At no time for long years after Independence had they sought or worked for special representation in the legislature or elsewhere. They could have conceivably got some, using the influence they had in formulating the new ideology and political set-up, had they been so minded. This was because they had firm belief in the equity that was promised for all. That promise, neverthless, turned out to be illusory on the anvil of performance which got worse with each day, culminating in the ongoing disaster of 1989-90.
Our rehabilitation, resettlement and renewal of life in the State will necessarily be focussed on the development of our age-old values, traditions, emotions and natural inclinations. Thus, education, culture, our tested special capabilities and the pursuit of excellence in all that we undertake shall form the top priorities in the scheme.
These then are the core fealures - arrived at after deep deliberations - of how our present-day crises can be resolved and how our future has to be forged and to be lasting. Needless to say that any other patchwork or course or plan of action will not be of any value, and will be unaccpetable to us, unless that encompasses the essence of what has been stated above.
We hope the government will announce its acceptance within a reasonable time, say, three months. However, we do understand that, while the policy decisions would take only as much time as the political will is made up, the physical, practical implementation of the prograrnmes would take its time to reach completion when the displaced, uprooted people can return home. Till then, it goes without saying that the government would have to take care of them and provide all facilities, amenities and financial assistance as allows of a reasonable scale of living for respectable citizens.
The elders of the Kashmiri Pandit community at their meetings in Kashmir Bhawan in June, to deliberate on their response to the offer of talks made by the government on the issue of return and rehabilitation of the displaced community, responded variously and many viewpoints were expressed. Since the response from the community, whatever it be, cannot be stated in isolation, it appears necessary to sum up some broad facets of the background to their displacement only to facilitate a logical response.
The facets expressed in the meeting were:
l. The secession of Jammu and Kashmir from the Union of India through all possible means - political, military and psychological - has been and continues to be at the core of ongoing uprising and mass involvement.
2. The Islamisation of Kashmir and the establishment of an Islamic theocratic system called Nizam-e-Mustafa, a system which runs contrary to democratic, secular and pluralistic dispensation, is the real goal of different dissident political groups in Kashmir, including the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC).
3. The Islamic fundamentalist upsurge is actively encouraged and logistically supponed by a number of Islamist states and groups on the globe.
4. The ethno-religious cleansing of Pandits has been the utmost priority on the agenda of secessionist-fundamentalist forces in Kashmir and the destruction of their left-over properties is a proof thereof.
5. The National Conference government headed by Dr. Farooq Abdullah has not concealed its apathy, nay even hostility, towards the Pandits. It has no blueprint for their return and rehabilitation. The State government has expressed its inability in evicting the forcible occupation of Pandit propenies in the Valley.
6. Terrorism continues in the Valley. The recent killings at Sangrampora in Kashmir and Gool Gulabgarh in Jammu bode a dark prospect for the Pandits.
7. The politicisation of a human problem of Pandits at all official levels is highly discouraging.
8. The Kashmir issue is not to be viewed in isolation. It is closely connected with the developments in the region, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The upswing by the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot be without its repercussions on Kashmir, especially when the militant organisations in the State are making fervent requests to their commanders to send their legions to the State to fight in the Valley. In fact, some Taliban mujahids have been captured by the Indian security forces.
In this backdrop, the Kashmiri Pandit community has to formulate an appropriate response to the offer of talks for their return and rehabilitation.
The following broad suggestions emerged from the prolonged deliberations:
1. The present political structure in the state is in no way different from the one of 1990 which saw the extirpation of Pandits from the Valley. Unless a radical change is effected in the entire structure that ensures security of life and property of the minorities, the return shall not be feasible.
2. Any suggestion for structural alteration is changing the demographic profile of the Valley so that Hindus and Muslims are evenly balanced.
3. To begin with, a compact and secured rehabilitation of Pandits has to be planned in their homeland.
4. Constitutional, institutional and structural guarantees are needed to satisfy the Pandits that they are equal partners in the nation- building process of the State. This could envision reservations in all the three organs of the state.
5. A special census of the Pandits should be held and, according to the results obtained, the gerrymandering of the constituencies should be ended.
6. Adequate compensation for the vandalised property of the Pandits should be paid plus adequate funds and materials be provided on the pattern of Chrar-e-Sharif so that they are able to build residential houses for themselves. The shrines and temples destroyed should be rebuilt by the government. No Refoulment After Return
7. There should be no coercion for their return nor should there be refoulment once they go back. The government must provide dependable guarantees to that effect. No punitive measures should be taken to punish any member.
8. The Pandits stress upon the constitution of a commission of enquiry with these terms of reference: (a) rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, (b) ethno-religious cleansing of the Pandits and their mass exodus and (c) Islamisation of Kashmir.
9. A clear-cut recruitment policy of the Pandit youth in government jobs, admission to educational institutions and deputation for trainings.
These are some of the main long-term measures. But there should also be some short-term measures to alleviate the ongoing suffering of the community in exile.
1. Improving the sanitary and living conditions of refugee camps in Jammu, Udhampur and Delhi.
2. Increasing the cash and kind relief to the displaced families.
3. Eviction of illegally occupied properties - houses, shops, orchards, etc. in Kashmir and paying the damages done to property and also paying the rent for the period of occupation.
4. Recruitment of Pandit candidates at various state-level, region-level or district-level posts and posting them in Jammu till their return to Kashmir and resumption of their original posts.
5. Speeding up pensionary documents, ex-gratia awards and other pending matters of the displaced community.
6. Immediate cash relief to traders, agronomists and orchardists as they have suffered immensely.
7. Frugal sanction of scholarships to students up to TDC Part I to such students as will be identified as poor and resourceless in or outside the camps. Ending discrimination against Kashmiri Pandit boys and girls in schools and colleges and streamlining the Kashmir University Migrant Cell in Jammu.
8. Catering to the needs of the state employees according to the demands set forth by the Displaced Employees Forum.
Prof. K.N. Pandita
THE decision of the State government to dump the Hindu community of Kashmir, living in exile for the last seven years, back into its ravaged past, is patently a politically motivated manoeuvre, aimed at using it to provide a secular cover to the Muslim crusade in Jammu and Kashmir and to conceal the real objectives the militarised pan-Islamic fundamentalism is set to achieve. There is an element of ludicrous in warbled versions about the ugly events that occurred in the state in 1990, and scattered over the length and breadth of India a huge fugitive population, which poured out of the Kashmir Valley in thousands to escape genocide. It will please no one if the lies are whitewashed and the process of the ethnic cleansing of the Hindus from Kashmir is sought to be camaflouged by make-believe and tendentions scoops about what really happened in Kashmir. It serves none, the least the Muslims in Kashmir, as well as in the rest of India, to claim that the religions crusade in Kashmir espoused the values of secularism by murdering the Hindus on grounds of compassion and in furtherance of its divine duty to deliver the sinners unto justice, without malice to them.
Muslim militancy in Kashmir did not grow out of the alienation of the Muslims, the economic deprivations allegedly imposed upon them by a wilful and rapacious Hindu minority, seeking their enslavement to win the Hindu imperialism of India or the erosion of the autonomous political identity of Jammu and Kashmir to promote the interests of the ruling class/regimes of India. Militancy in Kashmir is a highly technical form of terrorism, which is aimed:
i) at organising armed Muslim resistance in Jammu and Kashmir against India;
ii) at changing the demographic composition of the Muslim majority regions of the State by ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir; and
iii) at preparing the ground for foriegn intervention to cut off Jammu and Kashmir from India and unite it with Pakistan.
The Kashmiri Hindus have right from 1947 formed the frontline of resistance against the Muslim separatist movements and the sustained attack of Pakistan to disengage the State from India. Pushed to the rear by the exouds, they have not surrendered to the overwhelming pressure of the militant violence in Kashmir. They still symbolise the protest against the Muslim crusade and resistance against Muslim secessionism.
The process of Islamisation of the State began in 1947; so did the long Muslim struggle for the secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India. The Hindus in Kashmir opposed both the Muslim secessionist struggle for Pakistan as well as the Muslim irredentist movement seeking to convert Jammu and Kashmir into a Muslim state.
The successive governments in India used the Hindu community in Kashmir as a pawn in their games of political interest. The Indian leaders, who swore by secularism, accepted the exclusion of the State, the only Indian state with a Muslim majority, from the secular political organisation of India in 1950, when the Constitution of India was framed and a blanket limitation was placed on its application to Jammu and Kashmir by virtue of Article 370. For a decade, the State was ruled by an Interim Government by decree and ordinance. In the absence of safeguards against discrimination, protection against religious persecution and right to equality of opportunity, the Interim Government and the governments followed roughshod over the minorities, particularly the Hindus of Kashmir and the Buddhists of Ladakh. Over the decades, the Islamisation of the State became an integral part of Indian secularim, which the Indian leaders sought to sell to the Muslims in India to earn their goodwill. In the long run, the whole process brought the Indian State as well as the Hindus of Kashmir face to face with their nemises.
The Hindus in Kashmir are the victims of the Islamic movements for the ascendance of Islam in India, of which the creation of Pakistan was a historical expression. Committed to oppose the Muslim struggle for the secession of the state from India and its unification with Pakistan, they are branded as the traditional enemies of the Muslim nation of Kashmir. The genocide of Hindus in 1990 was an act incidental to the Muslim Jehad in Kashmir. Similarly, their ethnic cleansing from Kashmir was an essential part of the struggle to disengage the State from India. In exile, they still are a vital target of the military campaign the secessionist forces are carrying on in the State. In their exile as well, they form a part of the national resistance against the secession of the state from India.
The ideological conflict between the national aspirations of the Hindus in Kashmir and the Muslim struggle for self-determination is fundamental. No solution of the Hindu problem in Kashmir and the rehabilitation of Hindus is possible, without taking this basic conflict into consideration. So long as the powers-that-be in India consider Islamisation of the state as a concomitant of Indian secularism and submission of the Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir to the slavery of a Muslim state as a guarantee of the secular identity of the Indian State, no settlement, however ingeniously designed, can deliver the Hindus in Kashmir from the state of servitude they have lived in during the five decades of Indian freedom. And if, after the mass genocide and forced exodus, the Hindus are pushed back into the terrorist violence and the slavery of the Muslim state, the consequences will portend incalculable harm to them as well as the whole nation.
The travails and turmoil the Hindus in Kashmir suffered during the last five decades have a historical significance which the Indian people can ignore at their own peril. No one in this country can overlook the fact that the attempts to reconcile Muslim communalism in India with the movement for national liberation ended in a dismal failure. The 'direct action' campaign the Muslim League launched in August 1946 brought the irreconcibility between the Indian struggle for freedom and Muslim communalism to surface and, as the campaign of direct action spread, it broke up the Indian resistance against the Muslim demand for Pakistan.
The real character of the Muslim Jehad in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be left out of the consideration of the crisis that has engulfed the Hindus. Posterity will not forgive the Hindu community of Kashmir if it takes recourse to subterfuge and defend the Union Government and the State Government in their attempts to conceal the truth. They must explode the myth that:
(a) the Muslim crusade in Kashmir espoused the cause of secularism, irrespective of the genocide of the Hindus and their ethnic extermination;
(b) the Muslim crusade in Kashmir symbolised the reaction against the alienation of the Muslims, allegedly brought about by Indian interference;
(c) the exouds of the Hindus was a conspiracy hatched by the then Governor, Shri Jagmohan; and
(d) the return of the Hindus to their homes in Kashmir is dependant upon the acceptability of the Muslims.
A feeling has been allowed to grow with deliberate intent that the return of the Hindus to the valley depends upon the goodwill of the Muslim majority and its approval. Curiously enough, an impression has been created that the Hindus would be able to return to their homes neither by virtue of their own right nor even by virtue of the authority of the Indian State, but by virtue of the approval of the Muslims in the Valley.
The recognition of the prerogative of any religious majority to determine the right of the minorities to live in the land of their birth has ominous consequences. The approval of the Muslim majority as a condition for the return of the Hindus to their homes in Kashmir, where they have lived for 5,000 years of their history, directly implies that the Muslim minority is able to live in India with the approval of the Hindu majority and, if ever the Hindu majority withdrew their approval, the Muslims in India would be left with no claim to live in India.
The right of any minority to live in the land to which it belongs cannot be subjected to the approval of the majority in any state. The Hindus have an inherent right, as sacrosanct as the Muslims have, to live in Kashmir, and it is for the Indian state to ensure that this right is enforced. If the Muslim majority in Kashmir resists, its effefts must be neutralised.
To ensure the return of the Hindus to the land of their birth, the Government of India must take the following measures:
(i) terrorism in the State, of which the Hindus have been and still are a primary target, must be dealt with as a military problem, which it really is, and brought to an end;
(ii) Jammu and Kashmir must be integrated fully into the secular constitutional organisation of India to ensure the Hindus protection against religious persecution, discrimination on the basis of religion, political isolation and economic deprivation, which they have been exposed to during the last 50 years;
(iii) the process of Islamisation of the state which has been in process since 1947, under the cover of the separate and autonomous political identity of the State guaranteed by Article 370, must be reversed;
(iv) the demographic changes brought about by the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from Kashmir and the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province are reversed; and
(v) a high-power committee of the Hindu community in exile is constituted to prepare draft proposals envisaging the modalities for the return of the community to the Valley.
Prof. M.K. Teng
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