By K.N. Pandita
In early 1990 we saw the culmination of ethnic cleansing leading to extirpation of entire minuscule Pandit religious minority from J&K, the only Muslim majority State of the Indian Union. Craven ministers of the then ruling Congress-NC coalition fled the valley, and dug in at safe places in or outside the State. Haunted by the sense of their betrayal, they feared the people, who had reposed trust in their dubious political cacophony. Ordinary people of Kashmir looked at the situation rather unsuspectingly.
However, the reality was something different. Actually, the ruling clique was in deep camaraderie, heartily enjoying the fruits of the subterfuge. In a calculated move, they converged on iron curtaining on Indian public and world community the publicity of an event of great national disaster. This was done by manipulating the state controlled media. Accusations were heaped at the doorstep of Pakistan, thereby absolving themselves of their perfidious intentions and the calumny of their local cronies.
The rise of fanatics and terrorists, who perpetrated atrocities on the religious minority so as to force exodus on them, was very effectively projected as the handiwork of Pakistani intelligence sleuths. All sorts of wild accusations were leveled against them in national media and on international platforms. At the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Kashmir religious minority delegates tried to plead their poignant case with the international body, the Congress government official delegations and NGOs shamelessly sang the songs of Kashmir’s communal harmony and brought out profusion of encomiums for the vague slogan of kashmiriyat.
Nearer home, the Congress rulers, during their long stint in office, meticulously avoided rather stonewalled even the slightest reference to the plight of Kashmir Internally Displaced persons. They did not discern in Kashmir scenario a lurking challenge to the secularist fabric of India; they were thick-skinned at the defamation this disaster spelt for the Indian democratic dispensation; they never entertained it as violation and abuse of United Nations Charter of Human Rights of which India is a signatory; they never had the qualms of conscience that Kashmir atrocities vitiated and vandalized the golden heritage of Indian nation viz., vasudevam kutumbukam, and they never had even an iota of fear that their nefarious intentions rubbed the scriptural altruism of satyamava jayati into dust.
Twenty-Six years have gone by and 70,000 families are languishing in exile. They are rootless and homeless surviving on the crumbs the government grudgingly throws at them — the homeless in their camps. This is what the much touted freedom movement of Kashmir and the non-violent national freedom movement of Indian National Congress brought to them. Their total extirpation did not take place even during the rule of tyrant and zealot Sultans of Kashmir.
All these years there have been talks and talks of taking the herd of the bipeds back to the “anti-Hades” of Kashmir. But nobody talks of core issues and their solution. Nobody tries to fathom the depth and dimensions of the entire conundrum. It is not because those at the helm of affairs lack capacity to do so, no, they lack the will not capacity. Who among the large army of MPs and MLAs— the creamy layer of society— ever raised in the parliament/assembly even the smallest question about this fast disappearing historic entity? They remain tongue tied; media has become deaf and dumb; people’s thinking power is made hostage to canard. However, salutes to this community that has struggled to survive by fortitude, endurance and self-reliance.
It is for the first time in the post-exodus history of Kashmir IDPs that one brave heart among them, who, by quirk of destiny, happens to be a member of the legislature, namely Pandit Surinder Ambardar, mustered courage and apprised the media threadbare of the dimensions of collapse of secular democratic dispensation in Kashmir. His statement, appearing in the Daily Excelsior of 9 December 2015 is the crux of the crisis that has engulfed us; it is an eye-opener for those who are at the helm of affairs in Kashmir or in Delhi. It talks of the genesis of the crisis, the diagnosis of the disease, fact-finding mechanism, damages to icons of cultural heritage, status of ecclesiastical institutions and complexes, identifying precise means of building inter-community confidence and above all the imperative of government taking the entire community on board through interaction with community elders and its think tanks. Who are there among the IDPs who do not want Kashmir to become peaceful and prosperous? We know that his dissection of the case will madden those in the seat of power because he has given call for reaching the roots of the problem and not its peripheries. This is the first time that a real voice has found expression through sheer fore of courage and dedication. Atrocities on the beleaguered minority are perpetrated through a thousand ways, which defy individual explanation. He has mustered courage because he comes from the grassroots level of the community, because he has suffered individually and collectively, and because he has been a deeply hurt sensitive member of the community who, despite such handicaps, dedicated his life to the service of the motherland.
Only the other day, we had the rare news that some political party MPs initiated a debate in the Parliament on Kashmiri IDPs. They have pulled it out of wraps after twenty-six years of its hibernation. It is perhaps for the first time that some among the Parliamentarians have focused on them. We do not know what has been their driving force but we are thankful to them for having raised the issue. This should open the door for more threadbare debates on all dimensions of the issue. The not-too-significant debate in the Parliament at least conveys a message to the government that return and rehabilitation matter, drummed up so vociferously, is not of primary importance. The nation needs to know why and how of ethnic cleansing. We have also noted with some satisfaction that the national electronic media, which hitherto considered it an unforgiveable sin to even superficially touch on the Kashmir IDPs, have recently changed guard, and screened videos of their life in the refugee camps during their exile. It should augur well for the country and J&K. (The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, India).
Following ethnic cleansing of Kashmir, and extirpation of a miniscule religious minority of Pandits, the only Muslim majority State in the secular India Union in early 1990, the then Congress-NC coalition government in the state audaciously quit the government and took to heels to places in or outside the country to secure their persons against the wrath of those who had catapulted them into the seats of power.