Jammu and Kashmir: 1991 was a gamechanger for my community

Ramesh Tamiri

  • Mere condemnation of cross-border jihadist terrorism in Kashmir is not enough.
  • It is communal Muslim subnationalism that sustains this. That too needs to be condemned.
  • Secularization of society and polity at all levels in Kashmir has to be the objective.

Disowned by country’s political system and the State, despondency gripped the ethnically cleansed Kashmiri Hindus, who were driven out of their homes in the wake of jihadi terror.

National press blacked out the tragedy of ethnic cleansing. Political parties were busy creating ‘migrant cells’, not to help Pandit refugees but to create confusion over critical issues of addressing genocide and resettelment.

In this hostile situation general mass of refugees believed that ethnic cleansing was good deliverance from perpetual religious persecution and saw dispersal and obliteration as a community as salvation.

Most of us too shared this sentiment for we were not superhuman. But our young leaders challenged the old guard and this destructive vision by launching Panun Kashmir.

They laid out three fundamental goals-

  • We will survive as a community and that too in the land of our ancestors.
  • We will never oblige jihadists by accepting ethnic cleansing as a fait accompli.
  • For return, all those structures that facilitated our ethnic cleansing should be dismantled lock,stock and barrel.

This was followed by a brilliant blueprint that ensured strategy for survival.

With full sense of responsibility I call it the first strategic thinking in India on nationalist consolidation of India and Pandits in Kashmir.

  • It linked rise of secessionism and communalism to article 370 and Muslim precedence.Return of durable peace in Kashmir demanded its abolition.
  • It also linked perpetuation of separatist politics in Kashmir to GOI’s wrong Kashmir policy which fed political blackmail by local elites.Changed Kashmir policy was the option to change this.
  • Ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus was as much due to jihadist terrorism and Muslim communalism of NC,Jamaat Islami & Congress as due to GOI’s disastrous Kashmir policy which de-emphasized Kashmiri Hindus as a stake holder.

This was elaborated in historic conference Margdarshan-91 at Jammu.

Today is my Political Birthday, Individually as well as Collectively. 30 years ago, Kashmiri Pandits took a vow thatt hey will not submit to the forces of Jihadism; Indian state’s Kashmir policy which facilitated rise of communal secessionism in Kashmir and led to ethnic cleansing of Hindus has to change; and, Kashmiri Hindus will return as a community and live in a framework where there is no future refoulment.

I cherish the moments of these two days when I was re-born as a Kashmiri Pandit.

My succeeding generations will feel proud that their ancestor was a delegate to this historic conference.

Kudos to Modi Government for addressing the first two issues in a significant measure.

Third remains unaddressed.

Half-nationalist Kashmir policy is no substitute for nationalist recovery in Kashmir.

Political parties accustomed to playing ball with half-separatist parties in Kashmir responded negatively to the agenda of Margdarshan.

  • Their trolls continue to attack Panun Kashmir and its leadership.
  • It is not that they have any personal dislike for Panun Kashmir leadership.
  • It is because they are opposed to end of genocide of Kashmiri Pandits.

Great movements are not judged by what they deliver in a particular timeframe.

These are judged by legacy they live behind for the future generation.

We may or may not live to see Panun Kashmir but there is no other way for Kashmiri Hindus to return and live in Kashmir without fear and discrimination.

Legendary Louis Cabanas once said,“It is not important to see the sapling. What is important is to fertilise the seed.”

Panun Kashmir

As a member of ethnically cleansed Kashmiri Pandit community 28 th December has great meaning for me. It is a solemn occasion – a day to reaffirm commitment to a belief that one day forces of violence and bigotry will be defeated and Kashmir will again be practising democratic and religious pluralism.

On this day 27 years ago, members of Pandit community under aegis of Panun Kashmir met at Abhinav Theatre in Jammu to deliberate options for ensuring return of Kashmiri Pandits under a framework where there will be no future refoulment.
As an ordinary delegate in this august gathering, I listened with rapt attention to speaker after speaker. When the resolutions were passed at the culmination of the deliberations, there was glimmer of hope and enthusiasm too that at long last Kashmiri Pandit leadership had a roadmap to seek an end to continued ethnic cleansing.

Kashmiri Pandits had arrived because they put a seal on politics of defeatism. They now said –Ethnic cleansing is a political act. Its solution can be only political. To put it differently —without political empowerment there can be no durable solution to Pandits’ homelessness.

Movements are identified by the ideas they represent and the historical forces that drive them. Size of an organisation or its support structures are not critical to its success as long as it is based on historically relevant and correct foundations.

Panun Kashmir not only concerned itself with giving a roadmap for sustainable return of Pandit community. It extended its critique to censure GOI’s official Kashmir policy which undermined nationalist forces and secular institutions in the state and only helped forces of disruption to rule the roost.

Panun Kashmir’s critique also drew a dialectical link between perverted communal Kashmiri sub-nationalist discourse and rise of fundamentalist secessionist violence in Kashmir.

Panun Kashmir’s position on Pakistan has been endorsed as the only realistic position consistent with ground- realities by Indian state and its political leadership.

On Kashmir, Panun Kashmir made its position clear by articulating that Kashmiri Pandits can not survive under a dispensation where forces of communalism and radical secessionism call the shots. They can perpetuate only when they have compact rehabilitation with full restoration of all political and social rights snatched away by ethnic cleansing.

Demand for creating a region within Kashmir without fetters of Article 370 is not only a legitimate demand which can help return of Pandit community but it also has potentiality of creating consensus at national level.This view is being increasingly endorsed at national level.

Panun Kashmir’s discourse on bringing peace in Kashmir by retrieving secularism and disincentivising forces of disruption and return of Pandit community by creating two political dispensations in Kashmir give hope that we may not be in a blind alley when it comes to tackling mess in Kashmir.

Panun Kashmir’s position ruffled many feathers and has seen some detractors.

Who are the detractors?

  • People who do not want nationalist consolidation in Kashmir and want it to be kept out of the orbit of nation-building.
  • People who pay lip service but do not want return of Pandits to Kashmir.
  • People in Pandit community who have been/are associated with ruling structures and contribute to wrong non-nationalist perspective on Kashmir.
  • Elements in exiled community who can not think beyond politics of defeatism.
  • Elements in Kashmir who do not want secularist and pluralist framework for Kashmir.

There have been strong attempts to deflect Panun Kashmir from its nationalistic nation-building perspective on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits. Splits were engineered but every split strengthened Panun Kashmir like proverbial Hydra head. It is easy to split movements but difficult to split ideas.Alternate options on Pandits’ return floated by vested interests only led to massacres.

There is increasing acceptance of Panun Kashmir perspective on Kashmir at all levels but million dollar question is when will country’s political leadership muster enough courage to officially review significance of Panun Kashmir’s positions.

Civilisationally, we Hindus have an adequate view when we describe ourselves as seekers, not believers but it is the view of state and politics that has remained problematic for over two millennia. Reason is simple–concept of strategic thinking is alien to Hindu political thought. It required George Tanham to speak out that.

Ramesh Tamiri is a scholar and expert on Kashmir matters and history.

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