Among the many hypocrisies of the public intellectual space in India today is the inability to talk about the forced migration and murder of Kashmiri Pandits without being personally labeled as a right-wing Hindutva nutjob. Anyone who brings this up in a media discussion is met with a roll of the eyes—-Oooh they bring that up again, again and again.
The tragedy in this case stems from the supreme irony inherent in this “again and again”.
Because the problem for Kashmiri Pandits is not that they are everywhere. It is that they are nowhere.
So while copious amount of newsprint will be spent giving vent-space to “soft Jihadi” Kashmiri activists who inform us how they grew up with anti-India feeling or to “normal” Indians who became stone-throwers for a day, so while movie-reels will expended telling us about the “Indian occupation of Kashmir” (immediate foreign-award-bait and “sensitive” adjective worthy), very little space will be given to the victims of the anti-Hindu pogrom of the late 80s and early 90s. Which is why one has to rely on first-person testimonials and blogs of victims available online to piece together the exact nature of what happened in those years.
And why dont they receive attention, one may ask? Because they are the living counter-argument to the great tag-line of the “Kashmiri azaadi movement”, namely that Kashmiris are fighting for independence from the Indian yoke. Well that tag-line…it’s not totally accurate. They are fighting. That part is true. What they are fighting to establish however is an archetypal “Islamic state” on the model of Pakistan, with a very clear demarcation between who is pure and who is not, which citizen deserves “independence” and which citizen does not. For those of us who try to push this great lie of azaadi down your throat, every Kashmiri Pandit and their experiences of having been made to flee their homes to a crescendo of “Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-o-Akbar kehna hai” is a spanner in the works, a glaring plot hole in that comforting narrative of a secular Kashmariyat-driven spontaneous movement of the stone-throwing Davids against the Goliath of the Indian state.
Kashmiri independence supporters realize the need to plug this hole of course. So they deal with the Kashmiri Pandit problem in two ways. One is the passive-aggressive route where the Pandits are blamed for having left due to a “fear psychosis” , supposedly an over-reaction to the targeted killing, rape and looting so as if it were. The second is the more conciliatory gambit wherein Pandits are told that “galti se mistake ho gya”, that “both sides made mistakes” , that they are “free to return” to join their brethren in a game of ring-a-ring-a-roses.
Only one problem in this “Aa aab laut chalein” sentiment. As of today, the government there cannot allow even a single Indian flag to be hoisted in a densely populated place, for fear of riots. Think about it. A fluttering piece of cloth. And even that the government cannot secure.Now imagine if Kashmiri Pandits, lacs of them, actually came back. Creatures of flesh and blood who will be searching for their old houses, now captured by their neighbors, and trying to get their jobs and businesses back.
Can you imagine the sheer carnage that will be let loose should that happen? Can you imagine the kind of security that would need to be in place to keep these people safe?
Can you imagine how much hot air would be expended on the channels and by our Resident Dissident on how the Indians are ethnically altering the demographics of the Valley by sending in Hindus, Israeli style?
The Pandits know they cannot go back. And the so-called angels of reconciliation know that too. They just need to make the noise so that their bluff is not called.
As the Pandits observe two decades of their exile, Kasuri today outlined in detail the “solution to the Kashmir problem” our lovely Jihadi General and our Man Dr. Singh almost inked in 2006. In it, India had agreed to “self-rule” in Indian Kashmir as long as Pakistan gave their side “self-rule”. Of course, the “self rule” here means “Islamic rule” since that’s the only kind of rule acceptable to the people of Kashmir. The very fact that this agreement had the full backing of Jihadi General, whose commitment to South Asian peace can be gauged by the fact that he gave Ilyas Kashmiri Rs.1 lac for bringing him back the head of an Indian army officer, and then ISI chief and now grand-Pak-poobah Kayani, known the world over to be even more rabidly anti-Indian than General Mush, shows exactly what an absolute win this was for Pakistan. As it is, they call their side Azaad Kashmir. Now there would be another Hum Bhi Azaad Kashmir right next to it, both Islamic vassals to the state of Pakistan. And our government was willing to give them that, had it not been for Pakistan’s internal problems derailing the General around that time.
What’s relevant in the video interview is that Kasuri says that he had the confidence of the Kashmiri people and that without this endorsement, politicians on both sides would all fall on their faces. Of course when Kasuri says “Kashmiri people”, the Pandits are excluded from the descriptor.
There lies the final blow.
Not only have these hapless people lost their homes and livelihood, they have even had the “Kashmiri” part of their Kashmiri Pandit identity taken away from them.
Politicians in Pakistan and India, aided by the media, have made sure they no longer matter. The amputation from their homeland is now complete.