Virtual Homeland of Kashmiri Pandits

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Volume 3, No. 3 - August 2003

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The Pandits in Focus again
K.N. Pandita

Mr. Gautier, the French journalist has been speaking about the internally displaced Pandits. Recently he organized an exhibition in New Delhi on this beleaguered community. The Home Minister, despite his heavy schedule of work and ‘insignificance of the occasion’, did not miss a visit to the exhibition. He expressed regret for having neglected these people in the past. But surely, he did not make any promise for the future. Big people do not make promises and commitments for small things.

At the time of his visit to Kashmir after Nadimarg pogrom, he had advised the remnants of Pandits to stick to their places where death and destruction waited in wings for them. Did he really neglect them?

No, not at all.

A well-meaning and high-profile NGO based in New Delhi has announced it would be holding a two-day exclusively seminar on the problems and prospects of Kashmiri Pandits. Various NGOs in this country have, during the past twelve years of Pandit exile, organized seminars on Kashmir situation but rarely on Pandits. As such the one under contemplation of the aforementioned NGO is a welcome step. There must be compulsions for doing the exercise twelve years later. But organizing a conference exclusively on the internally displaced Pandits (IDPs) means just touching on the peripheries of the Kashmir problem and not its core. If the core problem is addressed and a break- through achieved, evidently resolution of IDPs problem will be one of its logical conclusions.

Politicians in and out of power, Kashmir-related organizations and experts, who have mushroomed over the years, retired bureaucrats who feel it convenient and also very lucrative to dabble in Kashmir issue, one and all generally and sometimes forcefully talk of the return of the natives albeit “with honour and dignity.” Several schemes of their rehabilitation have been proposed in the past. The NC regime often claimed it had submitted the rehabilitation scheme to the Centre. So does he PDP - led government with the emphasis that it also discloses the budgetary involvement for the scheme.

Not only that even the Union government occasionally doles out to the Parliament some of the clues on its approval of rehabilitation scheme of Pandit IDPs. Booth the State and the Union government take extraordinary care to sidetrack the core of Pandit issue and talk only of peripheries.

This, in a sense, is to exploit the Pandit plight. A lot is said about the sub-human conditions in the IDP camps. The Relief Commissioner is never tired of doling out the figures in crores spent on the “migrants” and their camps. Who can challenge these figures? But nobody in a positions of authority speaks of core issues. Those who touch on it, are labeled as anti-nationals and all other negative appendages to which the Pandits are now used.

Kashmir is a political issue and the Pandits are the victims of a clash between the colonizing forces on the one hand and subnational aspirations focusing on the acquisition of absolute political power on the other. In the eyes of the colonizers, they became suspects and in the eyes of the majority group they became “the other”. What makes them more resentful for the local majority group is their indigenous character: what qualifies them for abandonment by the colonizers respectively is their unwillingness to off load the historical baggage of repression.

Their plight was further aggravated when in the aftermath of the creation of a new state on the basis of two nations theory in 1947, New Delhi began projecting Kashmir as its secular model. Nothing could be more hypocritical. This projection, a manifestation of the enlightened colonialism of sorts, was amply reflected in Nehru’s super sensitivity for his connection with the mystifying land. Nostalgia is not a forbidden fruit but astute statesmen never allow prudence to succumb to it.

Obviously, India’s neighbouring adversary, who never took his eyes off Kashmir, concentrated on the unraveling of this secularist mask. Her task had become all the more easy on finding in Kashmir an ambivalent political leadership, a receptive state apparatus, and a vulnerable civil society ready to respond to religious clap-trap. New Delhi, after the true pattern of oriental colonialism, remained content with the disastrous policy of patronizing the urban elite of Kashmir leaving the masses in a state of suspense and confusion, not to speak of economic deprivation. Political analysts frequently using or misusing the term ‘alienation’ have borrowed it from their colonial lexicon. Distortion of history continues with skill and subtlety.

In Pakistan’s agenda of dismantling the Kashmirian “secularist” symbol, the Pandit was the natural and unmistakable front-line target. The canard -- irrefutably of external origin -- of Jagmohan persuading them to leave Kashmir was drummed by the liberal secular press and platform in India as an appendix to the desecularisation campaign.. It became the creed of those who forced exile on the Pandits.

The Indian State and its expansive security and administrative apparatus was fully aware of the impending disaster in late 1980s. Yet, having reconciled to the idea of a theocratic Kashmir within a “secular” India, New Delhi’s monarchs were in no hurry to stop the exodus forced in 1990 on those who had been projected as symbols of secularist dispensation in Kashmir. If that were not the case with the latter, then adequate preemptive measures would have been taken at proper time. The Indian authorities failed to implement the first and the most fundamental duty enjoined upon them by the Constitution and the law of the land -- the duty of protection of life.

Now that the spurious claim of Kashmir’s inter-community harmony has been demolished and total ethnic cleansing of the minority community effected after six hundred and fifty years of tireless effort, intermittent pogroms of the Pandits reflect the culmination of their ethnic cleansing achieved by the direct action of one and indirect support of the other colonizing partner respectively. Therefore the fundamental question is what is Indian State’s definition of secularism in the context of ethnic cleansing of religious minorities?

To what extent should territorial aggrandizement squeeze and rubbish the minority, human, civil and political rights under the facade of nationalism? What mechanisms will the Indian State evolve for empowering “reverse minorities” a categorization now substantially recognized by the United Nation’s bodies and other international political organizations? Without addressing these fundamental questions and without taking decisions based on historical experience and precedence, the exercise of talking about Pandit issue is tantamount to exploiting the distress of the community. The Pandit leadership should be alive to these machinations.

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