Thursday, September 9, 2010
But yesterday was different.
For once he had an agenda.He was here,we are told, to push for removal of AFSPA or as the bleeding hearts would say,to make it more humane.Humane being the key word here.Now imagine here is a country beset with insurgency and here is an army which is fighting the likes of Lashkar and Jaish not to mention Hizbul and others and is expected to be "humane".It reminds me of Mark Antony's famous lines(from Shakespare's Julius Ceaser) '"we are so meek and gentle with these butchers".They who trade in death and their sympathesizers seek a humane face of the enemy!
It makes for an interesting reading as to how our neighbours in the subcontinent are handling their insurgencies.The Srilankan army simply bulldozed the LTTE into submission without a care in the world about collateral or any damages whatsoever.The country that is so worried about India's human right excesses in Kashmir uses air power,artillery,infantry and navy wherever needed to quell its insurgencies and after doing all this have the gall to lecture us on our human rights.
The argument for removal of AFSPA is that things have improved in Kashmir and hence it is no longer needed.Well have they?
The Army has made it clear time and again they do not wish to enagage themselves in counter insurgency operations yet it is being extensively used to do so.Now let us understand what it means to take off AFSPA and ask army to enagage in counter insurgency operations.They will have to seek a warrant from local police everytime before they have to raid a hideout or act on a tip off.What a dumbhead one has to be to believe that the terrorists meanwhile would munch biryani and wait at the "appointed spot" till the time army gets a search warrant.
The army's record in counter insurgency has been close to impeccable.It has instituted enquires and initiated action against its own people found to be guilty of any form of human rights violations.A concerted and orchestrated campaign has been unleashed by the separatists and the bleeding hearts to tarnish the image of the army.The NHRC and other institutions of the State have found that less then 0.02% of the complaints of human right violations carried any weight and the rest have simply been unsubstainted and baseless.Now this new demand of setting up "greviance cells" would simply mean that more unsubstantiated complaints would be lodged and then used by the bleeding hearts and some sections of the media to simply cast more aspersions on an institution that makes us all proud.
While we understand that the Manmohan Singh government wants to be seen as doing "something" to "assuage" the feelings of the "alienated" Kashmiri Muslims but pray what an Eid gift would it be to tie the arms of your armed forces behind their backs and make them sitting ducks so that the "alienated" population armed with stones,bullets and Islamic venom could tear them to shreds and we here in Delhi would await for the bleeding hearts to give us character certificates for good human rights record.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
21 Kashmiris (read Muslims whenever you read ‘Kashmiris’ in journalese) were ‘massacred’ by Dogra soldiers that day, not unlike the 15 Kashmiris killed by Indian security forces this past fortnight, due to their opening fire on demonstrators. This connection, of course, has ‘noted’ historians (whose only works of note according to Google have been predicting when Allah will bless Kashmir with azadi) waxing eloquent on how things have not changed – poor Kashmiris are still at the receiving end of the atrocities of Hindu/Indian governments.
Left to be tacitly understood is that these poor Kashmiri demonstrators of 1931, 1990, 2008 and 2010 - then as now, had and have all the right in the world to pelt stones at the security personnel, beat them and shoot them, not to mention riot, loot and kill people who just don’t feel like doing the same. How else can they express (and show to the world) the immeasurable frustration they feel? Listen to any of the Kashmiri separatists, representatives of the current Opposition in Kashmir (party doesn’t matter) or even any random stone-pelter talk and you will find yourself being asked to believe that even 5-6 year olds in Kashmir (who also pelt stones) have this frustration pounding in their veins. Never mind the phone tappings and video confessions of some of the same stone-pelters that explain, in nitty-gritty detail, just how these bloody protests come about.
So, coming back to July 13, 1931. The story has it that serendipitously, at a major Muslim political gathering of Kashmir on the preceding June 21st, the ‘true problems, demands and aspirations’ of the Muslims of Kashmir got expression in the speech of a totally “unknown, robust Pathan” named Abdul Qadeer Khan. This one speech, like others in the subsequent politics of Kashmir, drove the normal peace-loving people of Kashmir to a frenzy, as it talked about how the holy Quran and the teachings of Islam had been violated by the Hindu rulers of Kashmir and asked the people to fight this autocratic force. So it was at the arrest of this one person on July 13 that Kashmiris felt necessary to protest outside the Srinagar Central Jail. A few ‘notable’ people have wondered aloud just what would have happened to the struggle for Kashmir independence had not that priceless man, Abdul Qadeer Khan arrived on stage that fated day – never mind the probable theory that this ‘accidental speech’ had been meticulously planned by the British to destabilize the reign of Maharaja Hari Singh as a little punishment for his patriotic demand for Independence of India from the British in the Round Table Conference.
It is also interesting how these people have tried to have it both ways - on the one hand they vociferously shouted out Allah-o-Akbar along with their demands of justice from the Maharaja and on the other they totally denied that the subsequent protests that took place in
Hopefully now you understand why you don’t get Kashmiri Pandits when you search the web for
- Radhika Koul. The author is an undergraduate student of
My name is Shabir Ahmed Wani S/o Ali Aziz Wani r/o of Narbal. This Hurriyat takes out these processions through these small children and give them money which results in stone pelting. In this context I called Wasim Allahpuri on Wednesday whose actual names is Ghulam mohammed dar and is the district president of Tehrek-e-Hurriyat led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani. I told him that there is a procession going on here and where he was. He complimented me and said that in this at least 10 to 15 people should get martyred so that the pot (demonstration) keeps boiling..as in the disruptions continue. This is basically tehrek-e-Hurriyat which gives money and brainwash also some of the kids as they want that the situation should not improve at all in this place.
Who is this Ghulam Mohammed Dar?
He is the district president of Tehrek-e-Hurriyat and before this he was a militant of Hizbul Mujahideen and was known as Wasim Allahpuri.
Is he the man who incites mobs?
Yes he is the person who is responsible for taking out processions through small children which results in stone pelting and subsequent tears gas shelling from the other side resulting in killing of innocents.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
New Delhi, July 09, 2010
Amid tension in violence-hit Kashmir, a group of activists have launched an online campaign asking people to send books to stonepelters and their instigators in the valley. The 'Peacebook Campaign' was launched on social networking site 'facebook' by 'Roots in Kashmir', a group of Kashmiri pandits who had migrated from the valley after outbreak of militancy.
The group is asking people across the globe to send books to hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who, they alleged, was instigating people to target security personnel and disturb law and order.
"Our campaign is not about people who are throwing stones but for the ones who are instigated them to indulge in stone pelting. Hurriyat leader Geelani is one among them. That is why we are asking people to directly send books at his residence," said Rashneek Kher, founder member of the group.
A total of 1,000 net users from different countries have registered themselves for the campaign, he said.
"We have collected about 300 books here which will be sent to Geelani once curfew is relaxed in Srinagar," he said.
Kher said schools children have been forced to throw stones. "Most of the stone pelters are school boys, who do not know why they are throwing stones. They should attend classes but they are instigated by people for their vested interest and forced to indulge in such anti-national activities," the activist said.
"We will continue with our campaign till violence in Kashmir Valley ends," Kher added.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
They came first for the communists
and I didnt speak up because I wasnt a communist
Then they came for the Trade Unionists
and I didnt speak up because I wasnt a Trade Unionist
Then they came for for the Jews
and I didnt speak up because I wasnt a Jew
Then they came for
and then no one was left to speak up
If there ever has been a blog post that I am writing with such a heavy heart as this one, it indeed is this one. There is an overwhelming gloom of the unnecessary violence in our home mixed with feelings of helplessness. Just when one thought things were finally looking better in the valley we are probably back to where it all began. It never occurred to me that the incentive for mischief in Kashmir would be such that it would lead us to a point that a handful of mobsters could hold the whole state to ransom.
J is a very good friend of mine,he is someone who has stood by me through thick and thin.We have known each other for 14 years now and never ever has an unkind word been exchanged between us. Our families are good friends too. The reader must be wondering why I am bringing the nice soul into what many call a "rabble rousing blog". The reason is that for two days now my friend has a couple of lines alongside his name in the facebook.
This is how they read:
"Sometimes I wonder why people are so apathetic towards the killing in the valley.It is time'that voice of sanity' needs to speak up.It is time that the anger and resentment of Kashmiri public is acknowledged and addressed to.It is time we stop living in denial"
The answer probably lies in the lines of the Pastor. You see "the voices of sanity" in Kashmir were mute conspirators when leaders of Kashmiri Muslims were shouting from the mosque tops and asking Pandits to leave or be prepared for the worst. The voices of sanity kept shut or simply absented themselves when the mobs were shouting, We want Kashmir without Kashmiri Pandit men but their women. The voices of sanity were unmoved when our age old temples were being reduced to ruins.The voices of sanity did not say a word when people celebrated the release of the butcher of the Pandits - Bitta Karate. The voices of sanity said nothing when the separatist leaders killed small voiceless Pandit children or raped their women.The voices of the sanity did not speak up because they were simply weren't Pandits as in the case of the Pastor's lines.It makes me terribly sad to say this but it is simply a case of bad Karma catching up.When you had time to speak for someone you didn't and now except for a few usual suspects there aren't many who would speak for you.
Knowing J, I hope when he talks of resentment and anger of Kashmiris he doesn't simply mention Kashmiri Muslims but Pandits too. Unfortunately the term Kashmiris is so loosely used today that most people tend to think that the only Kashmiris that are there are the Kashmiri Muslims but that's not J's fault.There obviously is a lot of anger among Pandits but then they don't take a stone every time they find the food unpalatable or the camps in which they are forced to live as unlivable.
The whole issue of denial is at the root of the problem that Kashmiri Muslims are dealing with today.For every issue that confronts them they find an imaginary ghost sometimes in India,sometimes in IB, sometimes in the cunning Pandits, sometimes even in Parveen Togadia or Jim Morrison but never do they look inwards to see if the fault could be there's too. Since they have driven the Pandits out they have ended up as a society which has a singular strain of obscurantist Islam and where dissent is crushed by death as we have seen in case of Maulvi Farooq, Abdul Ghani Lone and Sattar Ranjoor.
The young have been coaxed into believing that the road to Nirvana lies through a way paved with stones and bricks and people any other than them are pagans of stone and snake worshiping types.
I feel terribly sorry for poor Omar when I see the young forcibly anointed Mirwaiz - yes the one more helpless than me, shouting on television that India is killing Kashmiri Muslims. It leaves me wondering as to when he will have the courage to say the same about those people who killed his father. How strange is it that he and the Lone brothers are so scared that they have been forced to make friends with the very terrorists who killed their fathers. A strange society indeed... and they ask us to speak out...
Thursday, July 1, 2010
It is not Geelani that baffles us here but all those parents who send their children to riot, to lynch, to kill,to throw petrol bombs and to pump out all their adrenalin on the streets of Kashmir. I didn't know this was a way of channelisng pent up sexual energies in the new radicalized Islamic Kashmir .What kind a parent would send his son to indulge in riot I often wonder. But then there is a history to it.
Kashmiri Muslims are adept in the art of Stone throwing. The last I heard was that some Malik is writing a book on Zen and the art of stone throwing. Throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties when there was no "occupation force" the Kashmiri Muslims would indulge in this "sport" by throwing stones at each other. The Sher-Bakre (supporters of NC and supporters of Mirwaiz) would almost indulge in this Kane-Jung(stone wars) almost religiously and come what may every Friday post the Nimaz this would be a permanent fixture and would delay my return from the school because the Alikadal bridge would be hostage to this stone war. So to believe that they are throwing stones because they are mourning or protesting would be out-rightly comical if it wasn't terribly tragic.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind why all this is happening now. The answer is simple that the separatists no matter what they say see the Amarnath Shrine as an extension or a connect of India with Kashmir. They do not see the same in case of let us a Kheer Bhavani Shrine because even today it is not frequented so much by non-kashmiri hindus.
They feel that all the gains of cleansing that they clinically achieved so far are seemingly frittered because lacs of pilgrims from the mainland are visiting Kashmir and thus the connect lives on. It frustrates them to no end but at the same time they cannot openly oppose the Yatra because they do not want to be seen as foot-soldiers of the ideology of Islamic Hate that their mentors like Syed Sallaudhin, Hafiz Saeed and others stand for.
At the same time Pakistan and other donors ask for some performance for the money that they are giving the separatists so here we are.
The other reason for stone throwing is that Pakistan and its cronies in Kashmir have realized that is simply impossible to beat India by force of Kalaishnikovs. So this route of Intifada (the Palestinian model) looks more real. In all this Kashmiri Muslims do not understand the damage they are doing to themselves. Imagine a young man in teens or even younger who is made to believe that a solution to a problem lies in throwing petrol bombs and stones. What kind a society are we creating. We have already seen effects of violence in Kashmir when one Kashmiri Muslim boy killed another simply because he thought that his friend was wooing his girlfriend. It is this belief that violence is answer or a solution that is dangerous and fraught with problems.
As a fellow Kashmiri I would request with folded hands to all Kashmiri Muslims not to give their children a stone or a petrol bomb but a book. Don't let them get used by mobsters like Geelani. Ask him where are his children and grand children. Are they throwing stones too?
It is time Kashmiri Muslims realize the enemy within. It is time the people like Shabnam Hashmi do not just lecture the state on being humane but also tells these Islamic mobs not to lynch security personnel, not to burn temples, not to encroach on properties of Kafirs and not to think of a stone as a solution.
PS: I will today re-read Wazoo-i-khoon of Mansur bin hallaj who too was stoned to death at the directions of someone who was a Geelani of those days. The Stone throwers live on......
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
The New Stone Age
The Other side of the story in Kashmir: Blame it on Police
Sunday, June 27, 2010
The deserted look of Taploo Market just adjacent to the famous INA Market and right opposite Dilli Haat is terrible. It might not matter to us, demolition might be a daily routine in
This tragedy is a grim reminder of the exodus of 1990 to these 36 families. In this hour of pain, we as a community need to support and stand hand in hand with our brothers in need.
The shop owners have all legal documents to prove their right over their ownership of these 6 by 7 area shops. Intrestingly, the honorable Courts have almost always favoured these shop owners and even called them Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), instead of the usual tag of 'Migrants' by the Government agencies.
No relocation plan or compensation has been promised for the victims who lie helpless on the pavements
Two people stand around demolished shops.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Govt Ignored us, Kashmiri Pandits allege
Protest on World Refugees Day
Ruchika Rai - The Times of India
Photograph by Reuters
Displaced Kashmiri Pandits seek special status
Over 150 Kashmiri Pandits, along with members of civil society, held a silent protest at the Jantar Mantar here Sunday and demanded that the government recognise them as internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The protesters, including children, students and professionals, were dressed in their traditional firhan attire and wore headbands. The children wore dresses with 'Born in exile' written on them.
'We wore white firhans which signified the death of this (Kashmiri Pandit) community and headbands on which was written 'Ignored'. This is how we feel, ignored and left out,' said Rashneek Kher, one of the organisers from Roots in Kashmir, a global youth initiative of Kashmiri Pandits.
The group demanded that they be recognised not as migrants but as IDP's citing the fact that they were forced to leave their homes and did not come to Delhi or other cities willingly.
'The IDP recognition will help us get international attention and our rehabilitation and relief work will then be taken care by the United Nation Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and not the government of India, which has not done much for us since the last 21 years of our forced exile,' added Kher.
'We want to be identified,' was written on many placards amongst others held by the protesters.
Amal Magazine, a protester, said that by terming them migrants, the Indian government was robbing them of their identity.
'We are refugees not migrants. Give us that identity. If the prime minister can ask the Sri Lankan government to give the Tamils in the island country IDP status, then why not us? We were thrown out of our own homes just because we called ourselves Indians,' Magazine told IANS.
'I am very worried about the new generation. Using guns to do the talking is not a part of our culture. The impression that the young get now is that our silent protests is of no use. When there is violence, people wake up. If the government doesn't pay attention to us, there may be serious repercussions,' said Veerji Wangoo, another protester.
There are around 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits in the Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).
'According to government figures, there were approximately 4.5 lakh who were displaced during the exodus in the early 1990s from the Valley. Some were not registered, so I asume there are more,' said Kher.
The protesters also demanded setting up of a commission to probe the exodus, its reasons and the exact number of 'refugees'.
Kashmiri pandits stage protest demanding IDP status
New Delhi, Jun 20 (PTI) Kashmiri Pandits today staged a demonstration here to demand status of Internally Displaced People (IDP) claiming that they were forced to flee the Kashmir Valley in 1990s in the aftermath of insurgency.
Clad in white firhans and sporting head bands, over 100 Kashmiri Pandits staged a protest march here against the"treatment meted out"to them by the Government."Today being the World Refugees Day, a lot of attention will be paid to plight of refugees in the country. Our main aim is to bring to public focus the circumstances Kashmiri Pandits live in today,"said Rashneek Kher, the founder member of Roots In Kashmir, a global youth initiative of Kashmiri Pandits living in exile, that spear-headed the protest march.
He said that among other things, his team sought to push the government to grant IDP status. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley in the 1990s when insurgency was at its peak."In 1989, about 14,000 Pandits were in government job in the state and today their number is only 1500. These figures reflect the sad state of the community,"said Rashneek.
The protesters expressed their disappointment over the Government's"apathy"to their cause."We are still classified as migrants by the Government which is a gross violation of the UN Charter for Refugees,"alleged Amal Magazine, a Pandit residing in Faridabad.
"A migrant is someone who has willingly come out of a place but the truth is that we have been pushed out of the state. The administration should show a little more consideration,"he added.
Many of the protestors also pointed to"disparity in the differential treatment"by the Government to the refugees in the country."Sri Lankan Tamils were given refugee status within six months, while we are being ignored for the last two decades. It was the Government's duty to protect the Pandits in Kashmir. Since they failed to do that, the least they can do is grant us the refugee status,"said Sincad Kachroo, a member of Roots In Kashmir.
making the rounds of Washington DC wonks and writers, lawmakers and
legislative aides, just as he did before World Human Rights Day on December
10 and the Kashmiri Pandits’ Exodus Day on January 19. In a city where every
cause has a proponent, every émigré and exile has an advocate, “we are
nobody’s children,” he complains. He can’t even rustle up a decent
demonstration on the Hill or in front of the White House. The best he can do
is drum up an occasional letter of support from a Congressman or schedule
the screening of a documentary to highlight his community’s plight. It has
an eloquent title: “...And the world remained silent.”
Some two decades after nearly half a million Kashmiri Pandits were
expelled from what were their homes for millennia, Koul and a small band of
his activist colleagues are fighting to keep world attention alive to their
cause. It’s hard; seemingly hopeless. In a city where Palestinians, Kurds,
Tibetans, Armenians, Burmese and dozens of other ethnic nationalities and
sub-nationalities are fighting for attention, the Pandit cause is just
another blip on the human rights radar. “We don’t have the backing of
Pakistan nor the funding of petrodollars,” says Koul, an info-tech
professional who heads the Indian-American Kashmir Forum, referring
obliquely to the support Kashmiri Muslims get from Islamabad and elsewhere,
“We are just falling through the cracks.”
Indeed, for the 1,500-strong Pandit community scattered across the
United States, it’s not so galling that they have no traction in America as
much as the neglect they say they suffer in India. When India itself is not
moved by half a million Pandits expelled from their homes and turns its back
on 50,000 lodged in refugee camps in the capital, why blame America — or
expats here, they say. It’s like Bhopal: when the people of
India, and their political and judicial representatives, sold them cheap,
why blame others? They rage against Indian civil society, which they say is
all a-bleeding about Kashmiri Muslims, but is unmoved by the plight of the
Pandits. And they note with more than a hint of bitterness that the
government of the day is pressing for rehabilitation of Tamil refugees in
Sri Lanka while concern for Pandits fades.
Their one hope is that like Palestine and Bhopal, the issue will
re-ignite somehow, catch world attention, and activists will pick up their
cause with renewed energy. The genocide of Kashmiri Pandits happened before
the internet age or instant 24/7 television. There were no TV cameras when
the judges and academics were murdered by Islamic militants with the stark
message — get out of Kashmir. There was no Facebook and Twitter and no viral
Now technologies and techniques are available, but they lack benefactors
and big name support. The 1,500 Pandits in the US came mostly as students
and professionals, not as political refugees, and so lacked the voice and
the drama that asylum seekers bring. Most of them are too busy making a
career and home to spare time and bandwidth for their homeland.
In fact, some years back there was a poignant situation when a certain
Vikram Pandit became the top honcho of Citibank. Initial joy that finally
one of their own had risen to top of the corporate ladder and might be the
benefactor (in terms of face and voice if not with finance) they were
looking for was followed by dismay when they discovered that he was not from
Kashmir, but from Nagpur; “a Pandit by name, not by blood.”
Indeed, there is a sense of irony that even as the Pandit issue is
fading from the world’s conscience, the term Pandit is more in use than ever
before in the US — where it is spelt “Pundit”. If Koul and his fellow
activists could collect a dollar for every time the term was bandied about,
they would be lolling in lolly. TV talking heads and op-ed columnists are
now routinely referred to as Pundits, and there is a whole new media
subculture of Punditocracy, a term used to describe a group of powerful and
influential political commentators. From a book titled Sound and Fury: The
Making of Punditocracy to the website punditicracywatch.com, it is a much
overused term. Not a day passes without the tribe pontificating on issues
ranging from Obama and the BP oil spill to the Gores’ divorce to World Cup
soccer. Everything, except the plight of the people who gave them the word.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
We the original inhabitants of the Kashmir valley are now in the 21st year of our being refugees in our nation.Pity we dont even get the lip service that the Tamils of a different nation get from our Prime Minister and our politicians.
20th June marks the World Refugee Day and brings to focus the plight of refugees across the globe.On that day newspapers in our country would be full of heart rending stories of people who are refugees from Waziristan,Serbia,Iraq and even Albanians but alas there will be no mention of us.
The silence that marks our being refugees actually is an iconvenient truth that our politicians our media and our secular polity are unable to come to terms with hence they push it under the carpet.
Let us all on this day register our being refugees in our own land,the forgotten refugees,the inconvienent truth and the shame of our nation.
Roots in Kashmir requests you to be there at Jantar Mantar on 20th June,2010,Sunday at 4 PM.
Be there...let this nation know we exist.
Sinead Kachroo- 9717058747
Sanjay Peshin - 9910394999
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
May 25th 2010
New Delhi: Roots in Kashmir, a frontline initiative of Kashmiri Pandits in exile came down heavily upon the Government of India today to allow a tainted organization and a known Jihadi collaborator for ignoring the plight of half a million Kashmiri Pandits living in forced exile due to their human rights violation at the hands of the very people who Amnesty International met on their six-day visit to Kashmir.
The recent visit of a two member team of Amnesty International to "assess human rights situation" in
While there is definitely a need to assess human rights situation in
“And if they really did want to know about human rights of Kashmiris why did they not meet Kashmiri Pandit leadership or for that matter visit camps of Kashmiri Pandits in
“Such attitude where only Pak backed Muslim separatist leadership is attended to simply goes on to show which side of Amnesty International's bread is buttered” said an angry Mr. Piyush Kaul of the group. To escape persecution, more than 500,000 Kashmiri Pandits had to leave their home and hearths back in the Valley of which more than 50,000 refugees are still languishing in uninhabitable refugee camps in
It simply doesn’t matter what report they give because as an organization its credibility is already eroded but the very fact that government allows such kite flying missions makes light of what is a very important matter.
Monday, March 22, 2010
The writer is faculty in the Delhi College of Art. She can be reached email@example.com
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Roots in Kashmir invites all our readers to the launch of the first literary-cultural magazine on Kashmir.
Praznath is the idiom of the discourse, a reflection of the self in the mirror of conscious.Together we shall write, rewrite, delve, learn, unlearn, work, enrich ourselves and the world around us with our focus on Art, Culture and Thought of and from Kashmir and Kashmiris. This shall be "the forum" for interactions and one day shall be the reference archive for anyone wanting to know Kashmir
We request your presence at the launch of the quarterly - PRAZNATH at India Habitat Centre. Praznath will document Kashmiri art, culture, literature, tradition and history.
A panel discussion on - IDENTIFYING IDENTITY IN KASHMIR - will mark the occasion. The PANELISTS are:
Dr. Kapila Vatsayan (Eminent Scholar)
MP, Rajya Sabha & Member, Amarnath Shrine Board
Sir Mark Tully (Eminent Journalist)
Padma Bhushan, formerly BBC Correspondent in India
Dr. Swapan Dasgupta (Eminent Columnist)
Mr. Francois Gautier (Founder, FACT India)
Editor-in-Chief, La Revue de l’Inde
Dr. Khema Kaul (Eminent Writer)
Awarded ‘Hindi Writers Award’ by the President of India, 1997.
Her published works include Samay ke Baad, Baadalon Mein Aag (poetry) and Dardpur (novel).
Date: Thursday, March 18, 2010
Time: 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi
Monday, February 22, 2010
The 400,000 Hindus driven out by Muslim extremists 20 years ago hope talks beginning this week will bring them a step closer to going home. But does it suit the Indian government to prolong their misery?
By Andrew Buncombe
Like all the others, Mharaj Kak remembers the date and he remembers the threat that changed their lives forever. He had been living with his extended family in Srinagar, their city-centre home, a five-storey wooden house in the centre of the city built by his great-grandfather.
"It was the night of 19 January 1990 when the mullahs told us all to leave the valley," he said. "We had to leave everything. There was a mass exodus. From all the mosques, there was this message sent throughout the valley that the Kashmiri Pandits had to leave immediately, or we would be killed."
So the Hindus of Kashmir, better known as the Kashmiri Pandits, were forced to flee the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountains in which their families had lived for centuries, driven out by Muslim extremists, and sometimes the Muslim neighbours they had lived alongside for generations. In just three months, more than 400,000 Hindus were scattered across India and beyond. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed, and only about 60,000 stayed behind.
Two decades later, the government of India says it is determined to help those who want to return to the homes they were forced to leave. But the Pandits say the government does little but talk. It has provided no security, no homes, no livelihoods and put in place none of the confidence-building measures vital for them to feel able to make the journey back to Kashmir, they say. Even now, many are still enduring lives of quiet misery in inadequate refugee camps.
They believe that while the plight of the Muslim population of Kashmir, living in one of the most heavily militarised places on earth, continues to garner international attention, they have become the forgotten, overlooked people of history. Some even believe the Indian government has deliberately kept them impoverished to allow it to claim it is not just Muslims who have suffered in the struggle over Kashmir.
Ramesh Kumarana hung on until October 1990. By then, the threats and violence by militant groups such as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen came almost daily. One of his brothers was killed. He and his family had no alternative but to flee south. Today, the college-trained pharmacist who once ran his own business in Srinagar is among the Pandits who run tiny clothes-shops at a scruffy market in the centre of Delhi. To supplement his income, he sells bags of Kashmiri walnuts. He shrugs helplessly as he points to the way in which he is now forced to support his wife and two children.
"I am ready to go back to Kashmir, my heart is there," he said, standing next to his shop with his smiling 12-year-old son, Mohit. "It is my birthplace and I want to go back there. But my son was born in Delhi, it's my responsibility to take care of him. I visited Kashmir in 2003. They said, 'You can come but you are a tourist and you must then go back to India'. They called us 'Indian dogs'."
More than 60 years after Partition, the issue of Kashmir still burns like spilt acid, an enduring irritant to peace inside India and beyond. In 1947, Kashmir's Hindu ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, surprised most observers when he decided that his Muslim-majority state should join the Hindu-majority India rather than the new state of Pakistan. And still the competing claims on the region continue to pull at the geopolitical fabric of South Asia. When Indian and Pakistani officials meet this week for resumption of talks halted after the Mumbai attacks of 2008, Kashmir will be among the first subjects raised.
Yet the issue that has largely dominated talk of Kashmir for the past two decades, since the Indian government responded to the militancy with one of the largest counter-insurgency operations in history, has been what sort of autonomy the valley could be afforded. During two decades of violence that has claimed at least 70,000 lives and created a population that suffers from record levels of anxiety and mental health problems, little thought appears to have been given to how the Pandits might fit in. Even now, much of the energy of the authorities appears to be taken up by an amnesty plan to allow militants who have crossed the de facto border, the Line of Control (LoC), into Pakistan-administered Kashmir, to return to their families.
The Indian authorities, which pay grants of about £50 a month to those forced to leave, insist they are working to help the Pandits. A spokesman for the federal Home Minister, P Chidambaram, said he was too busy to speak on the issue, but last November, while visiting new flats built for Pandit refugees in Jammu, he vowed: "Kashmiri Pandit migrants will be consulted on every issue regarding their return to the valley."
The attitude of the state government, headed by an energetic Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, may be more forward-leaning. In an interview, he outlined several steps already taken to help Pandits return; 3,000 government jobs had been set aside and temporary accommodation built at two locations in the valley.
"I don't think my administration sees this issue any differently than the rest of the right-thinking people in the valley," he said. "We think the valley is incomplete without the Hindu Kashmiris. It has been the endeavour of governments since 1996 to create the circumstances to bring them back."
Asked whether the security existed for them to return, he added: "The proof of the pie is in the eating. There are still Kashmiri Pandits who never migrated and who have lived alongside the majority population."
Indeed, the antagonism between the Hindu and Muslim population that forced the Pandits to flee did not always exist, and few could have imagined the nature of the violence that erupted after the summer of 1989. Certainly, the two communities did not inter-marry, but they shared customs and traditions and were largely tolerant of each other.
The British writer, Justine Hardy, notes in her recent memoir on Kashmir's descent into violence, In the Valley of Mist: "The poetry of the valley's past is that it was heaven on earth, a place of such gentleness that those who lived there did so in harmony, most particularly the Muslims and Hindus, the doors of their homes open to each other, their festivals shared, some of their saints interchangeable."
Today, if it ever thus existed, such a relationship has been destroyed. But there are positive signs: in recent months, several long-closed Hindu temples have been restored and reopened, with the help of the Muslim community, and a key Hindu festival was celebrated in Srinagar for the first time 20 years. A Pandit organisation in the city hopes to reopen 60 more temples in the valley this year. Muslim leaders admit more needs to be done, both in providing homes and jobs and in building sufficient trust to persuade Hindus to return.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of a coalition of separatist organisations, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, said: "The issue of the return of the Pandits is very important. We cannot deny that they had to leave the valley in very difficult circumstances at a time when there was a lot of chaos."
Yet Mr Farooq rejected the idea made by some Pandits that a specially designated area for Hindus ought to be created. "[This is not] a religious issue," he said. "It's not Hindu India versus Muslim Kashmir. And their return to the valley should not be linked to the resolution of the broader issue of Kashmir's future."
Yet for the Pandits, a return to the valley is inextricably linked to the future of Kashmir. Why, they ask, would they return if they felt the future of Kashmir was not safe? SK Dudha, a leading member of the Pandit community in Delhi, said: "The changes have to be made. How else will people go back. There has to be the political will on the part of the government."
In the apparent stalemate, the Pandits feel lost, dreaming of the Kashmir they left and juggling with the challenges of the new lives they have made elsewhere. One of the toughest, they say, is to maintain their culture and language. Their children may be encouraged to speak Kashmiri in the home, but elsewhere they are bombarded with other tongues, other dialects. Already the diaspora has had to forgo its tradition of marrying only within the Pandit caste, such was the concern about the threat to the future of the community.
Occasions at which the community comes together include the religious festivals it has traditionally marked. On a recent afternoon in the Lajpat Nagar neighbourhood of Delhi, scores of Kashmiri Hindus gathered to celebrate perhaps the most important, Shivatri, or the "long night of Shiva". In the centre of the temple, a fire had been built and prayers were said as people placed offerings of rice, barley, walnuts and butter into the flames. Amid the heat and the smoke was Mharaj Kak, the businessman who had pushed his family into a taxi and fled from Kashmir 20 years earlier.
In all that time, he had never returned to Kashmir, to the home his great-grandfather had built which had been taken from him. "What I miss the most," he said, "is that old house and all the memories associated with it".
A valley divided
*For hundreds of years the Kashmiri Pandits lived peacefully as a minority in the Kashmir valley alongside the Muslim majority. Often well-educated, they were regarded as the elite of the region – the name "Pandit" means learned person and Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, was one of them.
*However, in 1989 Muslim extremists intensified their armed struggle against Indian rule in Kashmir and violence broke out against the Hindu Pandits. As a result the vast majority of the Pandit population in the area were forced to flee, with hundreds killed in the conflict. In a space of three months, 400,000 were displaced and many ended up in refugee camps around Jammu.
*Only about 60,000 Kashmiri Pandits stayed behind in the region, and many of them have been the victims of violence. In 1998, 23 were massacred by militants in the village of Wanhama, north of Srinagar, and 24 Pandits were killed in their village in 2006 by gunmen disguised as members of the Indian army.