Virtual Homeland of Kashmiri Pandits

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Volume 3, No. 4 - September 2003

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Hizbul Mujahideen and the Pandits
Pt. Kashi Nath Pandita

In a statement appearing recently in national newspapers, militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen says that it will allow the Kashmiri Pandits to return to their homes in the valley if they join the anti-India separatist movement and fight against the Indian troops side by side with the Hizbul cadres.

We may remind our readers that following the gunning down of BOP leader Tikalal Taploo on September 14, 1989 by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front gunmen in front of his house in Srinagar, this writer published a letter in The Kashmir Times asking the JKLF leadership to spell out its policy towards the Pandit minority of Kashmir.

In its response in the same paper, the Secretary of JKLF had said that its policy towards the Pandits was clear. If the Pandits wanted to save their culture and identity, they should join the movement for freedom of Kashmir, it said.

By the end of 1990, JKLF terrorists selectively gunned down more than a thousand Pandits. At the end of the day, they claimed they were secularists and that Governor Jagmohan was responsible for the exodus of the Pandits.

Those who wage a freedom struggle are expected to be well-versed in the history of their land. It is in fitness of things to remind these communal forces - turned - terrorists that the movement for liberating Kashmir from autocratic rule was launched by the Kashmiri Pandits in Lahore in about 1920.

Kashmiri Pandits studying in colleges and university in Lahore at that time and the Kashmiri Pandit diaspora in that metropolitan city combined to initiate the movement. Of course, as happens with all freedom movements, Kashmir freedom movement began with ideological and intellectual input. It was premature to take to the streets. First ideological ground had to be prepared. At that point of time, Shiekh Abdullah was not in the picture. He must have been a student in the school in Srinagar. The regime in Srinagar approached the British Indian government in Lahore to keep a strict eye on the political ambitions of Kashmiri Pandit students and their organizations.

Kashmiri Pandit diaspora in Lahore was in close liaison with well-known Pandit families that had settled in other parts of the country especially in Allahabad, Lucknow, Jaipur and Amritsar. There was regular exchange of notes between the two wings of Kashmiri Pandit diaspora in regard to the intellectual exercise for freedom of Kashmir. The British Resident in Srinagar was regularly posted with information on this count. When the Muslim Conference was formed, the Pandits in Lahore and elsewhere in India refused to cooperate with it. Its ideology was communal in content. But the ideology of the Pandit diaspora was secular. It was self explanatory and did not need a certificate from anybody.

That the Muslim Conference was communal in content and generally towed a parochial line, the Kashmiri Muslims were feeling rather uneasy with them. Then appeared Shiekh Abdullah on the scene. As long as the Shiekh towed the communal line of the Muslim Conference, the Pandits refused to be part of the movement although the Muslim Conference, too, had the same agenda as that of the Pandits diaspora in Lahore. The problem was of ideology. The Pandits could not stomach communal approach.

But with Shiekh Abdullah parting ways with Muslim Conference in 1929 and forming the National Conference, the approach of the Pandits whether in the valley or in Lahore witnessed a change. They joined the NC and became its active members. I need not mention the names of all the Pandits who made substantial contribution to the freedom movement through the instrument of National Conference. That is not the point.

The point is that as long as a movement in Kashmir stuck to secular principle and ideology, the Pandits welcomed it. Thus the Pandits represented not only their faith in secularism but also gave recognition to the Kashmirian ethos of coexistence and tolerance, the qualities of which every Kashmiri feels proud.

This shows that the Pandits did not oppose the freedom movement in Kashmir but were its sharp instruments. This position was reversed when the JKLF gunmen desired of Pandits to join their anti-India movement in its armed uprising in 1990 if they wanted to preserve their existence and culture. This was not a veiled but an open threat. No such threat was ever handed down by the Muslim Conference or the National Conference to the Pandits. No such threat had ever been handed out by the Pandit organizations to the Muslim population of Kashmir.

Evidently, the armed uprising in Kashmir had abandoned the history of freedom movement of Kashmir and had agreed to pursue an agenda, which not their compatriots but their Pakistani masters had chalked out for them. The agenda, obviously and without an iota of doubt, tended to serve the interests of its originators and not its implementing agency.

In other words what the JKLF was pursuing at that time and what its re-christened model, the HUM is pursuing today, is a betrayal of the Kashmiris irrespective of the fact whether they are Muslims or Hindus.

It is the result of this arch betrayal that more than sixty thousand Kashmiri Muslims have been sent to their cold and silent graves. This all has been done in the name of religion. The long drawn Kashmir freedom movement spearheaded by the National Conference never resorted to the slogan of Islam. But it respected all religions by agreeing to accept secularism as the guiding principle.

The JKLF is in shambles. It broke down not because it met with stiff physical resistance from security forces but more because it was an ideological flop. The same is going to be the fate of HUM. It is a matter of time.

It should be clear to the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist outfit that the Pandits are not supporting India in Kashmir because India is a Hindu country and the Pandits are looking for religious identity. Not in the least. The Pandits, like millions of Muslims in Kashmir, are pro-India because India promises democracy, secularism, plurality and peaceful coexistence.

If the HUM thinks that Pandits should join their anti-India movement and fight side by side with them, what has it to say about the millions of Muslims of the valley who have rejected the gun, taken part in democratic process and are engaged in building Kashmir of their dreams. Are the HUM terrorists planning to massacre them one and all in the name of religion?

HUM and its affiliated outfits would do well to understand that the age of religious fanaticism and communal hatred has lost its ground. There is a big conflict within the Islamic society itself because of the compulsions of modern scientific and technological advancement. There has been a split in the HUM. Schism has crept into it and the indigenous cadres are having more realization of the imperative of their identity. There should be no doubt with anybody that these terrorist outfits are counting their last breaths. Any sensible analyst can tell them how self-defeating their adventure proved by extirpating the small Pandit religious minority from Kashmir.

Before we close this write-up, one more thing needs to be made clear to the HUM. If they think that the gun is to decide the fate of Kashmir, then Kashmir will remain part of India till eternity. If a dialogue is to decide the fate of Kashmir, she will remain a part of India till eternity. If a proxy war is to decide the fate of Kashmir, she will remain a part of India till eternity. And as such, the Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir shall remain integral parts of India till eternity.

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