Friday, 20 January 2012

The Future of Kashmiri Pandits

Jammu & Kashmir has always remained a land of politics, internal turmoil, conflict for nationhood and many more. The controversy over where does Jammu & Kashmir belongs to is not a problem of today’s but is an age-old. History says the land was a place of peace, advancement of culture and religious diversity. It was since the time of Independence that the problem of where does Kashmir in particular belongs to.  The wars between nations, the right to prove Kashmir to be a Muslim dominated state, the want of freedom in the minds of the people, the support to India in the initial days after freedom and declining to annex with Pakistan, Kashmir remains a place refusing to settle down in peace. In the middle of all these, a small portion of the state’s population, the minority Kashmiri Pandits face violent attacks on them by the militant backed Muslim Fundamentalists.
Jammu & Kashmir is a Muslim dominated state in India but Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs have a large community in the valley. The proof that Jammu & Kashmir was essentially a Hindu dominated state is the presence of Kashmiri Pandits. The Kashmiri Pandits are the original natives of the valley. In the 18th & 19th century most of the Kashmiri Hindus were converted to Muslims. They were converted by the Afghans. Although knowing that the Pandits are the original settlers and inhabitants of the state, they still face siege and attack. There are many reasons for the above cause. 

Initially a Hindu state, Kashmiris had to convert to Islam under the Afghans. Later on, when the Dogras came into power many of these Muslims faced injustice and inequality. While under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah and the Muslim Conference (which later change its name to National Conference when it decided to support the secular nation idea and annexation to India), Jammu & Kashmir were asked to choose between Pakistan and India. Abdullah chose to support Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru (Nehru was also a Kashmiri), the Indian National Congress rather than Jinnah’s idea of Muslim country. The reason behind such a decision came after he was imprisoned and found many people retreating from supporting him because he was found to preach religious beliefs rather than rights and freedom. Abdullah already was a favorite figure in the valley and his changed ideology of secularism won.

However later Pakistan invaded Kashmir. Afraid and without any army to protect themselves, the then Maharaja of Kashmir sent Abdullah as his representative to the Delhi to get help and stop the invaders from making Kashmir annex to Pakistan in fear. Finally Abdullah agreed to the idea of accession of Kashmir to the Indian Government much against his previous intentions of having a free Kashmir and becoming its sole leader.

Although nothing changed, Pakistan continued its invasion of Kashmir. From 1950s a change came into the state, with Urdu becoming the official language rather than Kashmiri. Many say the reason behind such a decision was to brand Kashmir different from Indian. The elite, learned came to be known as Pro-Pakistani and the locals as Indian Agents. Thus began a separation between the locals and the elites. Even after the 1965 war, where the Kashmiris helped the Indian army to fight back the Pakistani army, there seem to grow three separate groups, one pro-Pakistan, one loyal to the Indian government and one wanting Free Kashmir.

Pakistan continued its struggle to win Kashmir. Prime Minister Bhutto in the 1979, pledged to fight for the “oppressed Kashmiris”. Finally in 1980 the Islamization of Kashmir started. According to historians, under the Abdullah regime 2500 villages names were changed, like the city of Anantnag was changed to Islamabad, same as the capital of Pakistan. Abdullah returned to his previous behaviour of preaching Islam and started referring to Kashmiri Pandits as Mukhbirs or Informers to the Indian Government. After Abdullah’s death, a pro-Islam, communalism and radical Kashmir emerged. Many say it’s due to the significance of Saudi Arabia from where huge amount of donations were coming. People were asked to fight for Islam, slogans were raised against Pandits – “Batta chu Maran” which meant “Kill the non-Muslims”.

In the year 1986 violence against the Kashmiri Pandits started. Many Pandits were killed and 24-25 Hindu Temples were destroyed. Attacks were lead in the name of Islam. Many of the Kashmiris from that period suggests the people who were preaching such acts were trained “mullahs” from Pakistan who entered Kashmir with the help of Saudi influence. 

The concept of violence is totally against the concept of peace-loving Kashmiris. This can prove by the cultural history of Kashmir which says Kashmiris were originally taught to be non-violent under the Rishi Orders. 

All these come up through the process of change between years 1300-1800 during the Afghan rule. Even before 1980s there was less discrimination between Islam and Hinduism. Much of Kashmiri Islam comes from the influence of Sufism and Hindu Vedanta. The Kashmiri Rishis were originally Hindus and they preached a peaceful Islam in the valley until the mullahs entered the valley, sent by Pakistan. Although after Mast Gul burned down Sufi shrine of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani many Kashmiris gave up their weapons. Many large no of Muslims after that came out of their militant groups who previously believed that they needed Shariat Law to become true Muslims and followers of Islam. But Delhi’s lack of support and Pakistan’s continuous manipulations raised criticisms in the valley. The fall of the Soviet Nations, the insurgence of Indian Army in the valley made the Kashmiris turn away from the Indian government. Jihad became the new way of living for the youth; Jamaat-i-Islami came into the political scene preaching Shariat laws and disapproval of non-Muslims. An estimated 10,000 youths went to Pakistan to undergo militant, jihad training. The economic condition of Kashmir started detoriating, with many not paying taxes to the Indian Government as they were against them.

All these resulted in the largest killing of Pandits on January 19, 1990. The only way of keeping Kashmir a Muslim state was to clear the land of Hindus, the Kashmiri Pandits. Pakistan supported it totally because then the accession of Kashmir to Pakistan will be easier. Pamphlets started spreading during the 1990s preaching the killing of the Pandits or asking them to leave the valley. This way many left fearing the death. Thousands were killed, women raped, the wiping out of Pandits underwent with the help of militants backed by Pakistan. Indian Government did nothing to stop. Large grandstand play chanting “Asi gachi Pakistan, batni rosin batta gatssin” were carried out in many cities. This meant – “We will become a part of Pakistan, Pandit women can stay with us but Pandit men must leave.”

Slowly the Pandits left Kashmir and settled down in different parts of the country. Kashmir turned into a militant hub of Pakistan who continued to pursue and annex Kashmir to their soil. Around three hundred thousand Kashmiri Pandits has been displaced from their own land since 1990s. The internal violence in Kashmir continues and the political games of the two nations also. All the conversion, the radicalism, the influence of freedom and mullahs changed a peace-loving state into a battlefield.

The only way the original natives of the valley can return to their place is when Kashmir returns to its peaceful identity which is a thought and idea seen and desired by many. The conflict in Kashmir displaced the Pandits from their homeland, many of them died unable to adjust to different region, many homeless. The solution to this problem remains a question which the Pakistan and Indian Government can only solve.

[The post was written almost a year back for NewsGram blogs. Reposting it after reading

Kashmiri Pandit Exodus: Beyond Rhetoric by Shehla Rashid Shora]

1 comment:

prakhar asthana said...

is it justified as a fact that whatever mistakes we made we always find some way to either blame pakistan or British rule?for instance here we are actually saying that all this hatred was pakistan sponsored,and when it comes to ayodhya we say all those rumors were spread by Britishers.
aren't we really hiding under the shield of foreign conspiracy?
do you thing by not accepting the that we made mistake and not blame anyone else we can really avoid these kinds of incidents in the future?