Anaahat Naad

The Unmade Sound

Posts Tagged ‘Kashmiri Pandit

An exercise in futility?

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The Jammu and Kashmir interlocutors’ report – “A New Compact with the People of Jammu and Kashmir”, was made public on May 24, 2012 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). This was despite the report being submitted on October 12, 2011.

The interlocutors widely travelled the state of Jammu and Kashmir, interacted with more than 700 delegations and held three round table conferences while preparing the report. In three mass meetings, thousands of citizens turned up to express their views on wide range of issues.

The J&K state government and the Central government haven’t commented on the interlocutors’ report yet. The main opposition party of India, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has rejected the report altogether. So have the Kashmiri separatists even though they didn’t hold a dialogue with the interlocutors. Also, Kashmiri Pandit organisations have severely criticised the report, alleging that their demands hardly find a mention in it.

When the news of the participation of the two interlocutors in seminars organised by ISI-lobbyists Ghulam Nabi Fai and Abdul Majeed Tramboo emerged, I tried not to be cynical. But my cynicism was reinstated after going through the report.

The interlocutors’ report looks paradoxical many a time. The interlocutors haven’t directly confronted the right of the Indian state over Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK). At the same time, they have termed“Pakistan-occupied Kashmir” as “Pakistan administered Kashmir”. It is a deviation from the official Indian stance on Jammu and Kashmir. It amounts to derision of the Indian Parliament which passed a unanimous resolution on February 22, 1994 declaring that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir (including POK) is and shall be an integral part of India. Moreover, the interlocutors have recommended the harmonisation of relations across the Line of Control (LoC) by setting up joint institutions. This implies giving legitimacy to the illegal control of Pakistan over parts of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which acceded to India in 1947.

While the interlocutors don’t directly recommend returning to the pre-1953 situation, they do suggest a review of all the Central acts and articles post in the 1952 Delhi Agreement by a constitutional committee. In other words, they are recommendinga return to the pre-1953 status of Jammu and Kashmir. Also, the group of interlocutors have stressed upon the resumption of dialogue between the Indian Government and Hurriyat Conference – as if the Hurriyat Conference is the legitimate representative of the people of the valley.

The report suggests that the diverse aspirations of the three regions – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh – must be addressed without giving concrete proposals. There are no proper measures suggested for redressal of grievances of the internally displaced Kashmiri Pandit refugees or West Pakistan/POK refugees. The interlocutors haven’t touched the controversial law passed by the J&K state legislature such as the ban on delimitation till 2026. Further, the suggestion of making Article 370 “special” from the present “temporary”, the gradual reduction of All India services officers in favour of State civil services and the review of Central laws post-1952 is a step towards distancing the state from the nation. The substantial point in the report is the setting up of three regional councils – one each for Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh (with Ladakh no longer a division of Kashmir).

The interlocutors’ report is far from producing any kind of consensus within the state or at the Centre. There seems to be no takers for the report. Also, it hasn’t been discussed in Parliament. While New Delhi is busy in its “Raisina Hill exercise”, Jammu and Kashmir awaits the redressal of grievances and firm resolution of the problems concerning the state.

(Originally published in Newslaundry)


A conversation with an unknown Kashmiri

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On 17th of November 2011, I had an appointment at 1330 hours at a ‘special’ venue in New Delhi. I set out from my place at 0900 hours as the ‘special’ venue was far from my place.

 I reached the venue almost one hour early. I went to the waiting hall and took a seat. After 15-20 minutes, one of the organizing members announced in the hall that the meet was postponed by 90 minutes. Many seemed annoyed by this announcement. I was also. After all, who loves to wait? I was observing things in the waiting hall. A guy sitting adjacent to me enquired about the meet. And soon our conversation started.
Mr. S: So where is your home?
This question has always been a difficult one to answer for an exile no longer has a ‘home’.
I: At present, my place is New Delhi.
Mr. S: Do you belong to Delhi?
I: No. I am from Anantnag, Kashmir.
Mr. S: Oh Great! I am from Srinagar.
And the conversation about ‘home’ has begun…
Mr. S: Kar ousukh tormut Kasheer paetimi lyeat? (When did you go to Kashmir last time?). I haven’t been to ‘home’ for last one year due to very busy schedules.
I: We were forced to leave Kashmir 22 years ago. Bu’ha tchus bhatt’e. (I am Kashmiri Pandit.)
Then we both were silent for 10-15 minutes. May be he was thinking about gloomy 1990s and the tragic story behind it.
Mr. S: Tarun’uk tcha iraad’e? (Do you have any intention of ‘return’?)
I: Aa tarun tchu wapis. Aj, pagah, suli tcheer. Kasheer tchu panun ghar. (Yes, we will ‘return’..Today, tomorrow, sooner or later..Kashmir is our home.)
We talked about almost every ‘Kashmiri’ thing — Pheran, Tcheer Chai, Haakh, Chakker, Telwour, Sheen, Wazwan etc.
The fellow Kashmiri was a bit surprised to see me talking in Kashmiri. May be it was unusual for him to see a person brought up outside the vale speaking in mother tongue.
And how can there be no discussion about politics. Every Kashmiri is a ‘political analyst’.
I: Why majority of the majority community of the valley chant ‘Azaadi’ (secession from India)? It amazes as well as amuses me. More than two decades ago, the same wanted merger with Pakistan.
Mr. S: Yes, many say so. Neither ‘Azaadi’ nor merger with Pakistan is the way forward for Kashmir and Kashmiris. At the same time, many things need to be set right. Justice has been delayed.
I was little surprised to hear that. The fellow has studied in south India and has been to many cities of India.
We agreed on the fact that sooner the justice delivered to the people (living on both sides of the tunnel), better it is for Kashmir. Though on a community level, the majority and the minority differ on several issues. We had lunch in between. He narrated a few distressing stories and how Kashmir has become a lucrative industry.
I: Every Kashmiri has a peculiar story and a poignant one.
Mr. S: I feel sad about the exodus of Pandits. It was dark period in the history of Kashmir. Inshallah, you will return soon.
I: Amen! Return we will on our terms.
We wished each other before we departed.
The meeting was fine. The postponement was blessing in disguise because it resulted in a ‘special’ meeting with an unknown Kashmiri. Was it a mere coincidence or more than a coincidence? I came back to my place and thought of ‘home’.
(Originally published in Hindustan Times)

Written by Varad Sharma

November 20, 2011 at 8:00 am

No big fuss over the win!

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The ongoing Panchayat polls in J&K, which were held after a decade in 2001, have been a success with around 80 percent of people turning out to vote, exceeding the polling percentage in the 2008 Assembly polls which was around 60 percent. The valley people have defied the diktat of Separatists who as always are against democratic process of elections.

Asha Jee, a Kashmiri Pandit woman won the Panchayat elections from north Kashmir’s Wussan Village in Baramulla district, becoming the first KP woman to win a Panchayat election. The population of the village is around 1,000 of which just 11 are KPs.  Asha Jee defeated her lone rival candidate Sarwa Begum by 11 votes. Asha Jee, a mother of two, is basically from Doda district (Jammu Divison) and married Radha Krishan Bhat in 1984. Asha’s elder son, Suresh Kumar, works as a constable in the Jammu & Kashmir police while her younger son, Ashok, helps his father in their grocery store.

Without undermining the victory of minority in the Panchayat elections, the post-victory narration is not appropriate. A minority candidate winning has hardly changed the internal problems of Kashmir valley. Some sections are portraying this victory as change of situation in the valley and it is being depicted as a move towards ‘normalcy’. Projection of this victory as a picture of communal harmony and brotherhood in the entire valley would be naive. Some sections are taking this victory as conducive situation for return of Pandits. The protests in 2008 over temporary allotment of land to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and the summer unrest of 2010 can’t be ignored.

Since 1990, Kashmiri Pandits have hardly been in the political arena of the Kashmir valley. From the last two decades, Kashmiri Pandit votes are scattered. Pandits are unable to cast their votes as they are living in exile at different places in India. And now the situation is that Kashmiri Pandits don’t even know who the elected representatives from their constituencies are whether MLA, MLC or MP.

Kashmiri Pandits who once controlled the destiny of this country have suddenly gone into political oblivion. No political party has thought of giving representation to the intellectual community of Kashmiri Pandits whether Congress or BJP. There used to be Kashmiri Pandits in the parliament – Shiv Narayan Fotedar, Shyam Lal Saraf, Tirath Ram Amla, DP Dhar, and Makhan Lal Fotedar. In present times, there is none. Kashmiri Pandits have been marginalised in the political affairs of the valley also. There was time when Pandits have had their share in the political affairs of the J&K State. At one point of time, Prime Minster of Jammu & Kashmir was Kashmiri Pandit, Ram Chandra Kak. And today there is no minister from Pandit community, not even Pandit MLA in the state government. Political empowerment of Kashmiri Pandits is necessary for bringing the change on ground. As Kashmiri Pandits are living in exile, they would need more representation in Parliament/Assembly now so that their plight can be focused. Mere win by a Pandit woman in Panchayat Election is not a big deal.

Also, elections have never illustrated the clear picture of prevalent scenario in valley though no doubt people have participated in huge numbers in recent times. It would be childish to take this one victory by minority as signs of change in the entire Kashmir valley. It is a welcoming step that majority population of Wussan village elected a candidate irrespective of the religion. But generalizing this trend through the valley may not be appropriate. Congratulations to brave Pandit woman for winning the election and applauds to the people of Wussan village. But don’t make a big fuss over this win!

Written by Varad Sharma

May 15, 2011 at 11:30 am

The Exile Continues!

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21 years ago, on 19th January 1990 started the biggest exodus since partition.  About half a million Kashmiri Hindus, facing the threat of Islamic fundamentalism left their homeland. Every year since that day Kashmiri Pandits observe 19 January as Kashmiri Pandit Holocaust/Exodus Day, hoping to go back to their homes one day.

Why did it happen? Every stakeholder has their own version.  Muslims in Kashmir blame then governor Jagmohan but Pandits seem to have not forgotten the events that took place before the fateful night of January 19, 1990. 

Warnings were shouted from mosques against KAFIRs, threat letters posted on walls of Pandit houses, often processions would shout slogans like Hum Kya Chahte, Azaadi (We want freedom), Yahan Kya Chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa (What will have sway here – Prophet’s governance) etc. Killing of Pandits had become a regular affair. 

Well Pandits, who were a miniscule minority, thought that the situation in valley will improve in few months. They left for the land unknown, hoping that one day when the normalcy returns, they will come back HOME!

What remains an irony is that there was no judicial enquiry for genocide in the valley till date. There are enquiries, probes, commissions for 1993 Mumbai Blasts, Gujarat Riots, Babri Mosque Demolition, 26/11 Mumbai Attack but no fair enquiry as such on exodus of minorities from Kashmir.  The killer of Pandits – Bitta Karate, who claimed to have killed 22 Pandits in an interview, was let go because of lack of evidence!

Who is responsible for Kashmiri Pandit Exile? Well I would say everyone from the terror mastermind sitting across the border to the elected leaders of this country.

Our neighbours from the majority community did nothing to stop our selective murders.  In fact, most of them were driven towards the Azaadi sentiment and openly supported it.  Pandits were detested and many a time the local would turn an informer for the terrorist organization looking for a Kashmiri Pandit.  In 22 years, not a single protest was held to protest against injustice done to Kashmir Pandits. In fact, when killers like Karate were released they were given a HERO’s welcome.

Indian government remained and remains a mute spectator to the exodus. Spokespersons of the political party in power have often ridiculed Kashmiri Pandit cause to attract voters of a particular sect.  The small community of Kashmiri Pandits definitely doesn’t interest the vote-hungry politicians of this country. Today a NATIONALIST community is on verge of extinction and seems no-one cares! The people responsible for the exodus have now become power brokers in Kashmir. Our Government hold parleys with them.

This article is neither for the government nor for our neighbours, because enough has been said to them. But, it’s for the common man of India; please awake before it’s too late.  Kashmir is about to fall and you never know what will be next!

Kashmiri Pandits will keep fighting for their right over their motherland and they will sure return on their own terms!

“If I die in exile, think this of me. There is a corner out there in Kashmir where my soul will come to rest.”

Written by Varad Sharma

January 19, 2011 at 12:30 am

Kashmir – A Train Conversation

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It was 2025 hrs and the “special” train was about to leave the station.  And the conversation picked up as soon as the train left the station.  Mr. A had been stalking Mr. B for long.  I guess he felt some connect.  Or maybe the fairer complexion of Mr. B just made him curious.

Mr. A:  Are you from Kashmir?

Mr. B: Yes. I am a Kashmiri Pandit. (He could feel the pride of being one)

Mr. A:  Where are you from Kashmir?

Mr. B:  Anantnag

This definitely irritated Mr. A.  No-one says Anantnag now.  He was bound to react.

Mr. A:  Okay Islamabad

Anantnag is town in South Kashmir.  The area was land of springs, hence “Anant”- “Infinite” and “Nag” – “Springs”.  The name was changed to Islamabad by Moghuls after the name of a Moghul General Islam Khan.  But most Kashmiris preferred Anantnag, after it was changed back to its original name by the Dogra rulers. 

Mr. B (very firmly): No, Anantnag

Mr. A maybe got irritated but he didn’t press the topic any further. But, he wanted to probe more.

Mr. B:  Where are you from?

Mr. A:  I am from Lal Chowk, Srinagar and do business at Connaught Place, New Delhi.

Mr A:  How old are you?

Mr B:  I am 23 years old. 

He had lied. He was born post the exodus of the Pandits from the valley.

Mr. A:  So you were a toddler in 1990?

Mr. B: Yes

Mr. A:  Are you willing to return to the valley?

Mr. B: Yes, but present conditions aren’t suitable.

Mr. A:  But, you are settled in Jammu (It meant, YOU HAVE MOVED ON!)

Mr. B (very firmly):  Kashmir is in our heart. In every heart-beat, there is Kashmir. We can never ever forget Kashmir.

Mr B ignored him after this question. Maybe he didn’t want to converse with some-one who was living in self denial.  But he kept on thinking did Mr. A forget that Mr B. and his kind had left Kashmir even though they were settled.  And they had left is for the seventh time and have come back each time in the past.  Was Mr. A ignorant of the fact that many KMs are moving out for better future, and many are buying properties in Jammu and “settling” there.

Every time I have a conversation on Kashmir, I get extremely emotional. My mind is full of questions.

When will I return to my home? But bigger question is, will my return be without any fear of attack on my existence. At the same time felt for him – my fellow Kashmiri. I felt for his self denial of many issues. Will he ever accept the truth?

For these questions, I don’t have answers.

But one thing I know for sure, I will RETURN!

Written by Varad Sharma

October 31, 2010 at 11:00 am

Reversal of Exodus: Separate Homeland

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Homeland is one’s native place. Homeland is a place which belongs to a person or an individual or an ethnic community. In broader sense, Homeland means land which is home to a particular community.

 I dedicate the lines of famous Kashmiri Poet, Dina Nath ‘Nadim’ to my homeland –

Yi  Chhu Son Watan Nundbon Watan,           
Lachchi Vuhur Chhu Lachchi Phiri Zamut Nov,       
Path Gomut Beyi Bronth Amut Nov,  
Navi Ayi Pakan Gatshi Pron Watan, 
Yi Chhu Son Watan Nundbon Watan.

(This is our homeland, our beautiful homeland. Our million year old ancient homeland; our homeland has been born anew a million times. It has lagged behind and then again forged ahead. It is like real gold tested on touchstone of time. Our old homeland shall march forward with new gusto.)

Kashmiri Hindus called as Kashmiri Pandits are the original aborigines of Kashmir valley. Kashmiri Pandits existed in Kashmir from the time when civilization started in valley. Kashmiri Pandits have history of 5000 years. Various historical texts/books mention about the presence of Pandits in the valley; the oldest one is ‘Nilamat Purana’. In other words, community of Kashmiri Pandits is 5000 year old and will continue to exist as long as there is life on earth, as long as human beings exist on this planet.

The advent of Islam in Kashmir around 14th century brought a paradigm shift in socio-political, and religious system. They started to spread their religion in the valley by forcing its inhabitants to convert. And the population of Hindus in the valley continued to decrease and they became minorities in their own land where they used to be in majority. But somehow Kashmiri Pandit managed to preserve his religion, culture as well as tradition. Kashmiri Hindus have migrated several times from the valley due to Islamic fundamentalism. There are seven exoduses of Pandits till date. The seventh one (1989-1990) happened in today’s world of democracy, liberalism, secularism, universal brotherhood.

Around half a million Pandits migrated from valley due to terrorism by fundamentalists. Pandits left valley because there was attack on their culture, tradition, religion. Above all, Kashmiri Pandits left valley because there was attack on their existence. Thousands of them were killed in valley during gloomy years of nineties and many lost their lives in exile due to post-exodus trauma which affected the ethnic community of Kashmiri Pandits. And that trauma, especially among elder ones, is still there and will remain until Pandits return.

Kashmir is the idea of ‘home’ among younger generations of Pandits who were born during the period of exodus as well as post-exodus. Twenty years has been passed since this genocide of Hindus in Kashmir. It’s a blot on Indian Secularism and Indian State as well that Kashmiri Pandits are out of home from past 20 years.

Why Homeland? Many talk about ‘Kashmiriyat’ (Kashmiriyat is term coined by historical pundits describing socio-cultural harmony between Hindus and Muslims that existed somewhere in historical period). But in present times it is just a term, actually a misnomer. Whatever brotherhood that existed between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir, that brotherhood died in 1989-1990 with the chanting of slogans like “Yahan Kya Chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa”, “Azaadi Ka Matlab Kya- La Ilah Lil Allah”.

Though most in the majority community want an independent Kashmir but there are saner voices who are truly secular and do not support the movement. But such saner voices are curbed. The ongoing unrest is clear cut example of communal movement in valley. And it brings forth the communal design which is forcing Kashmiri Pandits to demand a separate homeland.

Where homeland? Kashmiri Pandits want separate homeland to North and East of Jhelum River with a status of Union Territory where there is free flow of Indian Constitution without any fetters of Article 370. A separate homeland where there is no fear of attack on distinct culture, tradition and religion of Kashmiri Pandits.

Homeland is my birth-right and I shall have it. I will return to my homeland; to my Panun Kashmir.

Written by Varad Sharma

October 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm