Thursday, September 25, 2014

Can this flood wash away a painful past?

Can this flood wash away a painful past?

A natural disaster in Kashmir has brought Hindus and Muslims closer. But the wounds run very deep
Jammu and Kashmir is currently facing a severe flood crisis. In Kashmir Valley, the ferocity of the waters has led to several deaths and large-scale destruction of property. While many groups and individuals are involved in rescue and relief operations, the Indian Army has so far been the biggest saviour.
Many are now hoping that this leads to the Kashmiris looking at the Indian military personnel in a different light. Given Kashmir and its embittered history of the last 25 years, that will take much more than a rescue operation.
But the flood has seemingly achieved something else. It has brought the Kashmiri Muslims and their erstwhile neighbours, the exiled Hindu community, closer. In 1990, Islamist extremism forced Kashmiri Pandits out of a land where their ancestors had lived for thousands of years.
The Pandits, constituting less than 5 per cent of the Valley’s population in 1990, were driven out in a violent ethnic cleansing. More than 700 of them were brutally done to death.
Ignored by the state
Today, out of more than 3,50,000 Pandits, only around 3,000 remain in Kashmir Valley. The Indian state has displayed lack of strength or even unwillingness to intervene in pogroms or other forms of violence perpetrated against its various communities. This arc of injustice includes the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, and the 1993 and 2002 communal riots in Mumbai and Gujarat. Similarly, the state has repeatedly ignored the plight of its tribal communities in both central India and the Northeast, and has remained almost indifferent to injustices meted out to the Dalit community.
In post-flood Kashmir, at least, moderate voices are hoping that the “shared fate” (of losing home) will now result in an empathetic view of “each other” and that the Pandits and Muslims will come to some sort of understanding on how to normalise relations. Is there a possibility of justice and reconciliation in Kashmir on the lines of South Africa or Rwanda? Can the Kashmiri Pandits return to their homes, especially given that the new government at the Centre has listed it as a priority?
While most of the houses in the Valley belonging to the Pandits have been sold for a pittance under extreme duress, the return under such circumstances also involves re-establishing the neighbourly trust.
However, as Ivana Macek writes about Sarajevo, such a process is a painstaking emotional and social endeavour, something that cannot be regulated from “the above” by political agreements or well-meaning but often poorly informed outsiders.
Even if the Kashmiri Pandits were to be housed in a separate settlement, the scars of 1990 will not go. It will be difficult to forget how, in several cases, their former neighbours, friends or colleagues were directly or indirectly involved in the murder of their loved ones (and in other brutalities such as rape).
The phenomenon of personalised violence, according to the scholar Cornelia Sorabji, acquires a particular importance since “brutality is aimed at humiliating, terrorising, and killing the ‘enemy’ population in order to remove it from the territory, but also at transforming the assumptions held by both victims and perpetrators about the very nature of identity groups and boundaries in order to prevent any future return of the exiled population”.
Absolute denial
So, how can the Pandits be expected to return without getting justice? And justice, as Victoria M Esses and Richard A Venon argue, does not only mean a formal legal system but also “people’s beliefs about the fairness of a particular situation”. The unfairness of the Pandit exile is a permanent denial by their erstwhile neighbours of being responsible for or complicit in crimes committed against them, or even an acknowledgement that the exile was forced upon them. There is absolute denial, forget public remorse or asking for forgiveness.
Various Pandit narratives have also recorded passiveschadenfreude by their neighbours and friends, like compelling many exiled Pandits to sell their houses during the peak of the conflict for a pittance and at a time when they were under extreme financial stress.
The process of reconciliation and justice can only begin once the two communities try and understand each other’s pain. The counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir have been deeply unpleasant. Around 17,000 civilians have died, roughly one-fourth of them at the hands of the Indian security forces. More than 8,000 persons have disappeared, and many of them are believed to have been killed by security forces as well. For many years, Kashmiris in the Valley had to suffer the humiliation of crackdowns and identification parades.
Justice denied
Over the last 25 years, instead of accepting the brutalisation of 1990, a majority of Muslims created the myth of Jagmohan, the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, who they claim encouraged the Pandits to leave. Myths, as Pal Kolsto, reminds us, “do not function or ‘act’ in one way or another of and by themselves: it is people who employ myths, in more or less harmful ways”.
That is why in the midst of this injustice, the Pandits’ call for justice corresponds to (as argued by Isabella Delpla): (a) a staunch denunciation of impunity; (b) a personal attempt to forgive (or both, since, according to Delpla, the two stances can be compatible); and (c) a personal refusal to use violence (but saying things like “God will take care of them” or “God has taken revenge through the flood”).
For 25 years, the Indian state has hardly shown any interest in providing justice to Kashmiri Pandits while a majority of India’s intellectuals have denied them agency. This long apathy has ensured that most of the documentary evidence of the crimes committed against them is lost. But like Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem, eye-witness testimony can lead to what the French historian Annette Wieviorka calls the “social recognition” of their suffering.
This commemoration from below (where the focus is on the subjective and psychological needs of victims) has to be the first step in bridging the gorge between the two communities. And then justice, in a legal sense, can follow. As Kavitha Kalvakuntla, the MP from Telangana, recently demanded in the Lok Sabha, this must include putting on trial terrorists such as Farooq Ahmed Dar aka Bitta Karate, who is responsible for killing at least 20 people, most of them Pandits.
Only then can the gorge of 1990 be bridged.
The writer is senior editor of The Hindu and author of Our Moon Has Blood Clots. He is a CASI visiting fellow. This article is by special arrangement with the Center for the Advanced Study of India, University of Pennsylvania
(This article was published on September 23, 2014)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Jalodbhava of 21st Century

The story of creation of Kashmir goes back to around 5000 years, when a demon by the name Jalodbhava, who although raised by Nagas, became a trouble for them. The nagas with the help of Sage Kashyap, requested Lord Vishnu to help them get rid of the demon. Vishnu drained the valley of its water and killed the demon. It was on the request of Sage Kashyap, the Nagas welcomed the humans to the valley of Kashmir. This was the beginning of human habitation in Kashmir. As a mark of gratitude, the Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) still revere Nagas, through the springs of Kashmir (Spring is called Nag in Kashmiri). Almost every temple in Kashmir has a spring considered to be a residing place of nagas of Kashmir and hence sacred
The tradition continued till 1990, when almost in one single night, the entire Kashmiri Hindu population was forced to leave their home of 5000 years. The pro-Pakistani elements and the Jihadis ensured that the valley is bereft of its aborigines and its only minority. On the night of 19th January, 1990, almost 5,00,000 people were forced to flee by force, coercion, threat, killing, rape or any other threat a savage could use.
In the last few years, Pandits yearning for their roots, decided to visit their holy sites. One such visit was planned this year by a group of 40 Kashmiri Pandits, to the holy spring of Kaunsar Nag also known as VishnuPad (feet of Lord Vishnu).
Kaunsar Nag is a spring in the mountain range of Pir Panchal in south Kashmir. The spring has numerous mentions in the religious texts of Kashmiri Pandits and even in the historical texts like Rajtarangani. Konsarnag – Myth, Legend and History
While not required by any law, they pilgrims considering the ground situation in Kashmir, decided to inform the concerned authorities about this trip. The idea was also not to provide an alibi to the authorities in case of an unfortunate event. The approval was duly given by the Deputy Commissioner of the area.
  Kausarnag Yatra DC approval
This did not go well with the Jalodbhava of the current era. The three elements of previous Jalodbhava were present in even now. There was Nag (spring), the descendents of Kashyap and water. The jalodbhava, now known as Syed Ali Shah Geelani, raised the voice of protest against the pilgrimage. He initially chose the camouflage of environment, forgetting that the spring and its surrounding were being promoted as a tourist destination by Tourism Department and thousand of tourist visit the spring every year.
On being rebutted with facts and low numbers of the pilgrims, Jalodbhava was left with no option but to show his true colours (Terminate Kaunsar Nag Yatra). The protest was against Hindus doing pilgrimage in Kashmir as his followers’ believe that Kashmir is only for Muslims.
 Posters against Kaunsar Nag Yatra
The Jalodbhava created communal tension, instigated violence against the pilgrimage and even threatened the pilgrims. As usual, the weak state government succumbed to the pressure of this demon and prohibited the pilgrims from taking the pilgrimage. (Separatists force govt. to withdraw permission for Kaunsar Nag yatra)
While the mythological Jalodbhava used his physical power to kill people, the reborn jallodbhava uses the gift of gab and religious ignorance to kill people.  The Jalodbhava of 21st century has been playing with the lives of many for over the years. While his children live a life of comfort, he has been brainwashing the youth of Kashmir against a plural society and respect for other religions. He has been indirectly responsible for many deaths. In 2010, the Jalodbhava through his rabid communal speeches instigated young impressionable minds to stone pelting and arson, resulting in death of around 120 people.
Post exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, the separatist like Geelani, had been shredding crocodile tears for their Pandit brothers. Knowing fully that Kashmiri Pandits return is difficult, (some even said impossible); they saw no harm in lying blatantly. Kashmiri Pandits were assured of protection, full religious freedom and brotherly treatment. Then something unexpected happen, the 2014 elections of India, threw up a Prime Minister, who for the first time in 25 years, confidently talked about the return of Kashmiri Pandits. This in conjunction with increasing number of Kashmiri Pandits returning to valley for pilgrimage created panic in the minds of Jalodbhava and his cronies. They today feel that Kashmiri Pandits can come back, hence, the mask of Kashmiryat (an imaginary word for ‘Hindus being treated well in Kashmir’) had to be thrown aside to block the return of Kashmiri Pandits.
The modern Jalodbhava sees the return of Kashyap descendents as a threat to his existence, and hence the opposition. Interestingly, the mythological Jalobhava was killed by Lord Vishnu from the very same spot, what is today knows as Kaunsar Nag

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


Kausarnag is an ancient pilgrimage like Amarnath. Before the forced exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1989 Kashmiri Hindus would undertake this Yatra every year. The river Vishoka Veshav in Kashmiri) as per belief is considered the incarnation of Lakshmi in Kashmir and since time immemorial this Yatra is being taken. The name Kausar Nag comes from Karm Sarovar Nag.
After a gap of 25 years Kashmiri Pandits decided to re-start this Yatra once again. The permission was sought from Government of J&K through formally submitting a request to the Deputy Commissioner of Kulgam District and the permission was duly given by him on 2nd July,2014. Accordingly arrangements were made for the Yatra.
The separatists started protesting against the Yatra saying it was a plan to change demography of Kashmir. They circulated posters against India, Kashmiri Pandits and the Yatra. In these posters they called Kashmir a Muslim Land.The posters read that India plans to change the demography of Kashmir on the lines that Israel has done.The posters were pasted all over South Kashmir. The separatists also started a campaign saying that the Yatra will destroy fragile environment. Nothing can far from truth than this.The Ahrbal Development Authority is inviting tourists to this lake. How can 50 Pandit pilgrims destroy the environment when thousands of house boat hotels in Dal are not doing it?
The separatists also started protests by means of stone pelting, burning of tyres, blocking of roads so as to threaten the Yatris.On 30th evening the Deputy Commissioner of Kulgam told a news correspondent that they have cancelled the permission although we have not been formally given any communication so far.The Deputy Commissioner obviously under pressure from CM Omar Abdullah cancelled the permission saying that the Yatra should be taken via Reasi saying that ,that is the traditional route for the Yatra. The Yatra route always has been Shopian-Kongwatan-Kausarnag.
This was an abject surrender by the State government in the face of protests by the anti nationals. The Yatris who had come from Delhi, Pune and Jammu were left with no option but to go back .
We request the Hon’ble Minister to
1.      Intervene and ask the State Government to re-issue the permission for the Yatra which was cancelled at the behest of the separatists.
2.      To be kind to Ensure Security for the Yatra via its traditional Route ie.Shopian and not Reasi ,this is not the Yatra Route.
Submitted by
Kashmiri Pandits  on 1st Aug,2014

Monday, June 30, 2014

Round Table Meet

The Kashmiri Pandit exodus is now into its 25th year. For the first time Kashmiri Pandits see a ray of hope in a national leader. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s robust espousal of the national interest, a no non-sense approach to security related challenges and an unqualified commitment to national integrity are particularly a matter of assurance for us, the Hindus of Kashmir in exile.

Along with this hope have risen some apprehensions too. Whether those in the government vested with the task, are sufficiently aware of the issues and the challenges involved? Are they reaching out to the community for wider consultations?

The recent spate of meetings the senior government officials and some ministers have had with the usual suspects from within the community is a matter of concern. Also, linking the return of the exiled community to the valley with only money, jobs and land is even bigger reason for alarm. This is a renewed attempt to sell the same non-solutions that the old congress governments have been attempting in the past. Such attempts tend to reduce our exodus from the valley to some kind of a natural calamity like famine flood or earth quake.       

Roots in Kashmir, the frontline organization of the exiled Kashmiri Pandits, organized a ‘Round Table Conference” in Delhi, where the leading Kashmiri Pandit organizations and credible individual activists were invited. The agenda was to discuss the critical prerequisites for a viable and sustainable rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus in the valley.

The round Table was attended by Dr. Agnishekar, Convenor Panun Kashmir and Dr. Ajay Chungroo,  Chairman Panun Kashmir, Sh.Rakesh Razdan, Vice President, Kashmiri Samiti Delhi, Sh.Amit Raina, Coordinator, APMCC, Sh.Kundan Kashmiri, President, Kashmiri Pandit Conference, Sh.Veerji Wangoo, President, Youth for Panun Kashmir, Sh. Sunil Shakdar, Chairman S K Foundation, Sh.Pavitra Handoo, Former President Kashmir Overseas Association, Sh.Ashish Zutshi, Roots in Kashmir, Sh. R.K Mattoo, Former Editor, The New Indian Express,  Dr. S S Toshkhani, well known Poet, Linguist, writer & scholar, Sh.P.L.Razdan and Ashok Zalpuri, known community activists  amongst others.

A unanimous resolution was passed by the participants representing the community, clearly identifying the 4 non-negotiables for the return of the Kashmiri Pandits:

1.    Acceptance of the problem as religious cleansing and genocide - It was resolved that the issue of return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus to Kashmir valley cannot be addressed without recognizing the fact that they were subjected to religious cleansing  and genocide which eventually lead to their displacement. Addressing the issue of return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus in any other concocted context only compounds the problem and is tantamount to denial of genocide.

2.    Forming a Tribunal of Justice - It was resolved that the government of India should recognize the problem of uprootment of Kashmiri Hindus as genocide and invoke the covenants of prevention of genocide. It was further resolved the government of India should create a tribunal on the pattern of Nuremberg trials to bring the perpetrators of genocide of Kashmiri Hindus to justice.

3.    Centrally Administrative Place, One Territory - It was resolved that Kashmiri Hindus be rehabilitated at one centrally administered territory in Kashmir valley with free flow of Indian Constitution. A sustainable and permanent return of Kashmiri Hindus will be possible only in such a dispensation.

4.    Accession of Kashmir is non-negotiable - It was resolved that accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India is final and irrevocable.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kashmiri Pandits protest Omar Abdullah's remark on their exodus

Sunday, 4 May 2014 - 10:40pm IST Updated: Sunday, 4 May 2014 - 10:45pm IST | Place: Srinagar | Agency: PTI            
A group of Kashmiri Pandits today held a protest over recent remarks by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that the exodus of the community from the Valley took place in 1990 when Jagmohan was the Governor.
Holding placards, the Pandits raised slogans at Jantar Mantar against Omar and said his remarks of blaming BJP for the exodus was akin to "not acknowledging the real reason and the people" responsible for it.
The protests held by Jammu-based organistaion Youth 4 Panun Kashmir (Y4PK) and joined by Roots In Kashmir (RIK), condemned Omar's statements on the issue.
"We are tired of listening to rhetoric and being refugees in our own country," Amit Raina of Roots In Kashmir said.
Omar recently in a rebuttal to BJP leader Narendra Modi's attack on him and NC chief Farooq Abdullah that their family "communalised" the state had said, "When Kashmiri Pandits left the Valley, Jagmohan, who has not parted ways with BJP yet, as far as I know, was ruling the state (as Governor). Farooq Sahib was not in power."
"Jagmohan was appointed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed (now PDP patron), who was the Home Minister in VP Singh cabinet. VP Singh was heading the government with BJP support...I hope they (BJP leaders) remember this," Omar said.
The protesters demanded that an inquiry commission be set up to look into the "incidents and violence" that led to their community's exodus from Kashmir on Jaunary 19, 1990.
"And, Omar said we had 'left' Kashmir. Playing politics, he put the blame on BJP. Don't we know who did it? We condemn his statement," Panun Kashmir member and a protester, Lalit Ambardar said.
Panun Kashmir Delhi Co-ordinator Vithal Chowdhary, who fled J&K when he was just seven years old, said, their demands were very simple and their protests always have been "against the Indian state and not the Indian nation".
The protesters also alleged that Farooq's recent remarks that "those who vote for Modi should drown in the sea" was a way for the father-son duo to "absolve" themselves of their responsibilities.
"Among our other demands is a piece of land back in our homeland Kashmir where we can live and be governed by a free flow of the Constitution, without the shadow of Article 370 over our head. We don't want to be treated as minorities but as any other Indian," he said.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Omar Abdullah Blog - May 2008

It's so easy to say that we will lay down our lives to bring Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley and I appreciate the sentiment as I am sure the Kashmiri Pandits reading it will. Pity that sentiment was missing when our mosques were being used to drive these people out, None of us was willing to stand up and be counted when it mattered. None of us grabbed the mikes (microphones) in the mosques and said 'this is wrong and the Kashmiri Pandits had every right to continue living in the valley.

Our educated, well-to-do relatives and neighbours were spewing venom 24 hours a day and we were mute spectators either mute in agreement or mute in abject fear but mute none the less.
And talking about mosques -- what a great symbol of mass uprising they proved to be. While I can't claim to have lived through it I have enough friends who did and they tell me about the early 90's where attendance was taken in mosques to force people to pray.