Saturday, June 15, 2024
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‘Navreh’ message for the displaced Pandits of Kashmir

K N Pandita

The New Year (Navreh = Nava Varsha) of the now displaced community of the Hindus of Kashmir Valley is celebrated according to the Saptrishi calendar entering the 5100th year. This five–thousand–year–old calendar was suddenly discarded and rubbished with the advent of Muslim rule in the mid-14th century. However, historians like the author of Baharistan-i-Shahi written in the early 16th century, did use the Saptrishi calendar alongside the Hijra calendar which the Muslim missionaries had brought to Kashmir.

On a penultimate night, Kashmiri Hindus invariably observe the tradition of filling the platter called ‘thaal bharun'. At least seven items like a handful of rice, a few grams of sugar, milk, herbs, walnuts and especially the new year's astronomical almanack called jantri are placed on the platter and each member of the family is supposed to cast his look on the contents of the platter early next morning the Navreh day. It is considered an auspicious omen for the plentifulness of the coming year.

This is an old Zoroastrian tradition meticulously observed even during the current orthodox regime of the Ayatollahs in Iran. They call it “Haft Seen” meaning seven items beginning with the sound S.

The significance of Navroz, the day of Equinox usually falling on 21 March, has been stated in Avestic literature. The curious sentence runs as this: roch-I navroch jamashweta patmanak biavart meaning on Navroz, Jamshid brought the ‘Measurement’—the measurement of Time and Space. This is the legend of the origin of the measurement of time and space.
Jammu Sharada Sanjeevani Kendra took the initiative of dedicating this year’s Navreh celebration to the memory of great Pandit physician and social reformer Shriya Bhatt, who had cured Sultan Zainul Abidin Bud Shah (15th century) of some disease. He had implored the Sultan to call back the departed Kashmiri Hindu community and renew a glorious page in the history of Hindu Kashmir.

On this occasion, a senior RSS leader, and Sah Sarkaryavah Dr Krishan Gopal digitally conveyed his felicitation message to the displaced community of the valley. We are thankful to him and his organization for the goodwill gesture shown to the exiled community. Normally, the RSS avoids talking about the displaced community, and the community does not scratch the matter unnecessarily. However, the message that the senior leader conveyed falls short of some fundamental observations and nuances intricately connected with the history of the rise and sudden expansion of jihadism-terrorism in Kashmir from the 1980s.

The foremost observation about Dr Krishan Gopal’s message is that it is in line with the classical vague .and incoherent statements that usually emanate from political leadership of every hue in the country. For example, he says “various exoduses were faced by KPs from time to time during last 700 years and the last one was 1980-1990.”

The question is that if the RSS knew that KPs had been under repression for the last 700 years, what agenda did it suggest to the GoI in 1947 for ensuring that the Muslim majority rule in J&K (that had ousted the Hindu Maharaja) would not repeat the history of its forebears? RSS opened its shakhas in J&K only to increase the numerical strength of its cadres on the All India level with no agenda for the security of the vulnerable community. The suppression and oppression to which the Pandits were subjected during the so-called popular rule of Nehru’s protégé, beggars no description. Did RSS even once lodge a protest with the then Central or State government about the maltreatment of Kashmir Hindu minrity? No, never. If the life of the founder of the BJP was lost in Kashmir how would RSS think that the Hindu minority was safe under the existing dispensation. They beat their breast, and rightly so for the loss of Shri Shyama Prasad Mukherjee but not for the Kashmiri Pandits for being in a precarious situation.
Even today the situation demands that instead of pontificating, RSS should script concrete and implementable suggestions of permanently securing the Pandit minority from the existential threat that loomed large on them for seven long centuries and even haunts them today despite the so-called normalization of ground situation in Kashmir Valley. I wish Dr Gopal had watched the video showing the conversion of a Hindu labourer from Bihar recently conducted by Kashmiri Muslims.

Take another example of issuing vague statements. Dr Gopal says that ”the time is ripe for the KPs to celebrate religious festivals in the valley.” Where is the religion of Kashmiri Pandits; where are their shrines, temples, agraharas and asthapanas? Where are the traditional caretakers of these shrines where festivals are celebrated? Perhaps Dr Gopal is not aware that today only 30 per cent of Hindu shrines and temples survive in the valley and these, too, in utterly dilapidated and ruinous condition. For the last three decades and half the Premnath Bhat Memorial Trust, the organization of displaced KPs in Jammu, has been crying for the protection of shrines and temples’ property in Kashmir but there are no takers of this supplication. The Trust tried its best to get a bill passed so that like Awqaf, a Board for Hindu Shrines and Temples is constituted. Not to speak of local adversaries even a lawmaker opposed and got the bill scuttled. Did RSS ever speak and ask the government to forbid the vandalizing of Hindu shrines and temples in the valley?

Dr Gopal was enthusiastic in calling the day Shaurya Diwas and Vijay Diwas. We are an integral part of the Indian Union and take pride in being so. But did not the entire community of KPs show unflinching determination in upholding national interests by bearing the atrocities, killings, kidnappings, rapes, lynching, forced exile etc, but not succumbing to tow the anti-national line of their tormentors. Does not this community deserve to be honoured by the nation as the most outstanding community in a fight against terrorism and jihadism and protecting the integrity of the nation? Did RSS ever felicitate even a single KP while setting up grand rallies at different places in the country?” Did not martyrs like Tikalal Taploo, Justice Nilakanth Ganjoo, Autar Krishen Raina, Pandit Lassa Koul, Pandit Premnath Bhat, Pandit Sarwanand Premi and many others deserve a Martyrs Memorial in the heart of the city of Srinagar.

We would also like to comment on the much-trumpeted "change" in the ground situation in Kashmir. What is the implication of "change" in the context of Kashmir’s secular profile? India has sunk trillions of rupees in Kashmir to win the elusive peace. That is fine. The Prime Minister spoke for more than an hour to an incredibly huge crowd to the tune of 2 lakh in Srinagar recently.
The refrain of the media was that Kashmiris had forgotten their previous tryst with Pakistan and now only the tricolour was to flutter everywhere. Yes, that is right. But during his one-hour-plus address, while the PM touched upon almost every aspect of the Kashmir situation, he did not utter a syllable about the 36-year-long exiled community of Kashmir Pandits. Why was he afraid of telling his huge Muslim audience that now that India had done so much for the people, it was the responsibility of the people to initiate a peace dialogue with their exiled and estranged brethren to bring them back with dignity? What prevented the PM from making this kind of appeal?

This is the crux of the issue. This explains why leaders make evasive and vague statements about Kashmir. They have to be loyal to their slavish mentality. To say that the ground situation has changed and militancy is gone is the culture of colonial powers, not nationalists. A nationalist Prime Minister addressing the mammoth gathering in Srinagar would have said that he would not leave Kashmir unless the people at large made an appeal to their exiled brethren to return to Kashmir and they would be their protectors. This would have sent the ball out of the court of the Prime Minister. Kashmiri Pandits know that the evasive and diabolic rhetoric sustains the status quo in Kashmir and Pandits take a good laugh at it.

(KN Pandita is the former Director of the Center of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University.)

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