Palsied intellectualism of our times

By K.N. Pandita

More than 700 top intellectuals of the expelled and exiled community of Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits) coming from pre-eminent professions all over the country and abroad, recently signed a memorandum wherein they warmly welcomed the historic decision taken by an overwhelming (two-third) majority of both houses of Indian Parliament in regard to important constitutional and administrative reforms specific to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. The signature campaign was necessitated by a lingering impulse of the internally displaced community of re-establishing its historical and nationalist credentials. The threat of erosion of credentials was posed by a sinister propaganda unleashed by their tormentors to malign the community even after its expulsion from the homeland. It had also become necessary to discredit the Left-oriented pro-militant opposition in the country who include a couple of community outcasts as well.
For the first time in their thirty-year-old life in exile their unanimous voice reflected in the memorandum has received fairly wide media hype essentially because it has blasted the bottom of many myths intended to paint the community in dark color. Propagating myths subtly among the pseudo-intellectual segments of Indian society has been a vicious conspiracy of the vandals. The objective of their intellectual dishonesty has been to profile the Pandits as the bête noir of Kashmir conundrum. Therefore, if this globally massive expression of solidarity by the Pandits with the crucial and historically far-reaching step of the NDA government has created ripples in the Para-national segments and palsied intellectual community in the country, it should not spring surprise to us.

For example, the ruling class In Srinagar and in New Delhi has sadistically countered most of the genuine demands or apprehensions of the exiled community as invalid arguing that the Pandits are a divided lot. The canard of “divided lot” is nothing but a ploy of keeping the community permanently deprived and discriminated against. The distortion of facts is so deep as to make even the highest echelons of civil administration pronounce that the Pandits are not really eager to return to their homeland. They make such cruel and politically motivated remarks only to cover up their dismal incompetence and failure in protecting a small minority from being pushed to the abyss of destruction.

A rediscovery of our thirty years of forced exile throws up a pertinent question as this. Why did the intellectuals of this vast country adopt the silence of the graveyard when they were physically a witness to the undermining of the fundamentals of our political arrangement, viz. secular democracy, in a very sensitive region of our country? Why it declined to objectively asses the phenomenon in the context of an over-arching national narrative and, delinking it for the time being from narrow societal parameters of a miniscule Hindu minority subjected to persecution and extirpation in a predominantly conformist Muslim society functioning under feigned democratic dispensation. The least they ought to have done was to analyze the dire consequences of the catastrophic phenomenon in national perspective. Why did not this and other traumatic events of the post-independence Indian history touch at the soul of our intellectuals and aroused them to respond to the call of their conscience. More than ten million lives were lost in the genocide accompanying the partition of the country in 1947 and double that number were displaced and made refugees. And still our misguided intellectuals, writers, poets and historians revel in attaching honorifics like “messenger of peace or apostle of peace” etc. to the names of those whose acceptance of the partition let the hell loose in its full fury. Except for two or three courageous litterateurs like Yashpal the novelist, Mohan Rakesh the playwright and Amrita Pritam the short story writer the huge Indian literary brigade just maintained silence. However, in comparison, the Pandit holocaust of 1990 may appear smaller in magnitude to this or even to the Sikh carnage of 1984, but its impact on the great saga of Indian civilization in its totality could be extremely disastrous if the posterity went around in deep ignorance of the event.

The intellectuals are the keepers of the conscience of a society. The true history of a nation is recorded less in books of history and more in productive literature of its writers, poets, artists and philanthropists. A social-historical work like the La Miserable of Victor Hugo speaks much more eloquently than all the histories of the French revolution. Munshi Premchand’s Godan is a compendium of all the positive and negative impulses alternatively tormenting human spirit. Was not the genocide, nay the holocaust, of the Pandits in 1990 and subsequent genocide of their culture in the long period of their exile a palpable subject which the intellectuals of this country should have reflected in their works of fiction, poetry, art, painting, documentaries, musicology, street dramas, folk literature, oral history and parodies? The palsied intellectualism of our times has let us down. The politics of calculated silence has become the bane of our intellectual world. But curiously, they broke their silence when many among them returnred their national awards after Modi took the reins of the government in 2014. It showed that not their professional or artistic acumen but their political alignment entitled them to those awards.

However, even in this cataclysmic period of our history, when the uprooted and widely dispersed community lost its centrality, it still continued to retrieve and preserve not only of what remained of their traditions and culture, but also indirectly or directly contributed extensively to the fundamental values of great Indian civilization. They fully participated in the national struggle for redemption of civilizational values. They travelled from clime to clime and from shore to shore not to shed tears on what had befallen them but to strongly and boldly plead the cause of the nation in its fight for preserving human values. Their intellectuals with a good number of female artists among them utilized their creative faculty in various genres of literature, art and sciences and richly contributed to national civilizational fund. The literature in exile produced by the community intellectuals and artists in English, Hindi, Urdu and Kashmiri, is as rich as that produced by the Kurds, Jews, Vietnamese and Iranian thinkers persecuted by pro-capitalist regimes.

In a historical perspective the history of Indian palsied intellectualism goes to the days of slavery of the Indian nation to the long rule of the aliens, first the Sultans and the Mughals and then the British. Forcibly separated from its traditional civilizational mooring because of its entrenched social status, the Hindu society lost its direction only to be aggravated further by murky modernism including the Westminster form of democracy. The hangover of centuries-old culture of slavery of the aliens was passionately sustained when India in 1947 passed from the hands of the British colonialists to Congress Sultans who under misconceived euphoria of secularism and populism passed on the State of Jammu and Kashmir to reckless arbitrary managers raised out of mosques and slogans of emotionally surcharged multitudes. Indian society was shifting from argumentative democracy to reckless monocracy. The loss of sense of justice and emergence of palsied intellectualism are symptomatic of a decaying culture. That should not be allowed to happen. Return and restitution of the internally displaced Pandits is s test of the willingness of the Indian state and civil society to uphold the essential principle of giving due recognition to all sections of society who contribute to the enrichment of Indian ethos. It is for the state to assess the repercussions of the recent constitutional and administrative reforms in J&K and the reaction of the valley majority on the return and rehabilitation of the internally displaced community to one place in their land of origin.

Finally, the Indian civil society shall have to concede that the naivety of allowing intelligentsia the option of political silence is a great disservice to the nation. The cause of Kashmiri Pandits has to be revisited and re-evaluated owing to its numerous dimensions in the broad context of nation building. Their absolute faith in and dedication to national cause has to be given its due and they have to be provided space to make full contribution to the emergence of New India. Their potential should be harnessed.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

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