Tuesday, July 7, 2020
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Reviewing Kashmiri Pandit narrative

K.N. Pandita

Thirty years to date, the exiled community is going through a new experience of salt-rubbing into its wounds.

The new Home Minister inaugurated his stint in the ministry with a comprehensive assessment of the situation in Kashmir, past and present. Recently, he was in Srinagar on his first official visit and is reported to have met with a host of people representing an array of interests.

It appears that by some strange quirk of destiny a small section of central leadership has been showing some interest in Kashmiri Pandit narrative. By which angle they look at the exiled community is difficult to judge.

Amit Shah made a somewhat ungenerous comment about the Pandits when he said that they were not willing to return to their place of birth. Was it sarcasm or that he wanted to convey to the local majority community that it had inflicted such a grievous hurt on them that they decline to return home (which ironically is nowhere).

For Indian politicians of all hues, Kashmiri Pandit is an expendable commodity. He is not a vote bank: he is not a rabble-rouser; he is not a gun wielder’; he is not a communalist and anti-national and he is a law-abiding citizen. What more disqualification does a community ask for to be sidelined, neglected and finally written off?

Reviving Kashmiri Pandit narrative after thirty long years of apathy and abandonment makes us skeptic about what is being said or thought about us in political and social circles today. The mysterious interlocutor running errands between the Raj Bhawan and the South Block and perhaps nocturnal visits to Mirwaiz Manzil also, albeit seldom without an olive branch, expects us to return to our eight hundred-year-old history of servility and self-mortification if we are to make any progress in our pursuit of returning to our homeland and making our stay in the valley without hassles.

The narrative of the return of the exiled community has been made a political gamble by all those who believe they are the arbiters of our destiny. This is how they are tactically exploiting our travail to serve their political interests. In futility, we are crying for our human rights not understanding that for our arbiters we are political and not human stuff.

The “moderate” Hurriyat leadership tries to convince a few wayward and mentally diseased lumpen to agree to speak its language if the Pandits want to return. The “language of the moderate Hurriyat” is the moderate version of the language which Geelani, the hardliner speaks. Those who have taken up the gun to have the freedom of speech want us to speak what they speak.

To NC, which has not recognized Kashmiri Hindus a religious minority while accepting Kashmiri Muslims among national minority in the constitution it gave to the people of the State way back in 1957, we are “Indian spies” as scripted by Sheikh Abdullah in his autobiography. Ironically, those who ruled over Kashmir dynastically for seven decades and also shared power with the blessings of New Delhi are not the spies but those who eked out a miserable living as a scribe or a school teacher emerges as a spy in its reckoning.

The BJP has not lagged behind any other political party in casting aspersions on us just to castigate us and make political capital out of it. What did Amit Shah mean by saying that before asking for political reservation, the Pandits should make up their mind to cast vote to his party? Did he ask the valley majority to vote for his party if they wanted to reap the benefits of Indian federalism? Amit Shah wanted to send a message to the Kashmir valley majority community that his party is not for any genuine or non-genuine political concession to the exiled community.

However, in this confusing and baffling situation engineered by the powerful and the tricky politicians to break the spirit and resolve of the Pandits to return to their homeland, the net outcome is that some amongst us with no political vision and no understanding of the tricks of politics and no commitment whatsoever can be roped in as show boys giving the community nothing but confusion worse confounded. A canard spread by the BJP in the higher echelons is that the Pandits do not want to go back and I know that even some highest responsible leaders have given vent to such politically motivated statements. They know that by spreading the canard, they create an escape route from the lofty and rather expansive commitments which the party has made like scrapping of Article 370 and 35 A etc. These circles should understand that if the Pandits do not want to return to Kashmir it is not because they are settled in places far away from their homeland but because the Centre, as well as the State governments, have succeeded in bringing their joint conspiracy of keeping the Pandits in deprivation and dispersal for last three decades to the delight and hilarity of the majority community in Kashmir. This is called vote bank syndrome. It will be noted that during the three decades of exile, the powers running the country and the state have been regularly asking the Pandits to give their roadmap for return and rehabilitation. This is the double-edged sword they are using. After being given the roadmap, they are quick to say that there is a wide difference between the proposals and hence none of these is acceptable. Amusingly, on the other hand, when we ask the authorities what the government’s roadmap is, they refer to the Prime Minister’s Package of 2008 which is not only murky and ambiguous but also maximally catering to the interests of four more groups of people other than the Pandits.

In these environs of intentionally created confusion and uncertainty only recently, a curious and unexpected statement has come from the Governor that has bestirred the entire community in exile. The Governor in reply to his questioner categorically said that (a) the mainstream political leadership never said that the forcibly occupied houses of the exiled community should be returned to them (b) the Government has the necessity of rehabilitating the exiled community at a suitable place and offer them residential accommodation free of cost. For the separatists, ambivalent, pseudo-secularists, communalists and the rabble-rousers in the valley and their sympathizers elsewhere, this statement is a bolt from the blue. It strikes at the deep roots of hate-India stance which has solidified over the long decades of insurgency.

However, such a threadbare statement by the Governor absolutely contrary to their expectations has made the Pandits very skeptic. Will this ever become possible with the central and the state government? Will the anti-Hindu mind of the valley accept this challenge without demure? Will the Governor take even the smallest step in the direction before the elected government takes over? Will the elected government agree to the formula? And finally, will the standard bearers of the Islamic Caliphate take it lying low? These questions are not a figment of imagination; they are grounded in realpolitik of Kashmir. Nobody knows when the psychological purging of the landless, friendless and directionless exiled community of Kashmiri Pandits will take place

(The author is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies of Kashmir University, . Feedback- [email protected])

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