Times have changed. So have inter-communal reflexes in the Indian sub-continent. In 1936 Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in his autobiography, “We were Kashmiris. Over two hundred years ago, early in the eighteenth century, our ancestor came down from that mountain Valley to seek fame and fortune in the rich plains below. Those were the days of the decline of the Moghal Empire after the death of Aurungzeb and Farrukhsiar was the emperor”.
Jawaharlal Nehru wrote his autobiography in 1936 and admitted that his Kashmiri ancestor came to India 200 years ago, that should have been somewhere in 1736. Syed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, Sir Allama Muhammad Iqbal and many others took pride in their Kashmiri ancestry. Nehru in particular courted arrest at Kohala on his way to Srinagar to defend Sheikh Abdullah in the sedition case brought against him by the Maharaja of Kashmir.
Kashmir was hit hard by famine and earthquakes in 17th and 18th centuries. People, in particular those who were able to pay for travel or were able to endure a travel, left Kashmir and spread all over British India. There was a sense of belonging and these migrants continued their longing for the habitat and people left behind. A caring sense and undying longing to return to Kashmir has never died in the lives of these generations.
After the RSS volunteer’s protest on the streets of Lahore on 20 December 1931, in support of Hindu Maharaja and against the Muslims of Kashmir, who had just been slaughtered by Maharaja forces on 13 July 1931, it was in 1990 that Kashmiri Pandits, suddenly changed over from Kashmiri Pandits into Hindus. After leaving Kashmir Valley, Kashmiri Pandit, turned into a lethal communal weapon in Delhi and throughout India. The good neighbourly traditions were dusted on the streets of India and ridiculed on Indian TV screens. Nehru during his Kashmir visit had warned Kashmiri Pandits not to allow anyone to use them as a minority card in politics.
Kashmiri Pandits had control of education, health and administration in Kashmir. The community was so proud and status conscious that the only Kashmiri Pandit tailor in Srinagar was declared an outcaste and subjected to a social boycott. No Kashmiri Pandit would associate with him and he could not marry all his life. It has very recently been revealed by ex-RAW chief A S Dulat in his book “Kashmir The Vajpayee Years” that Kashmiri Pandit has remained the backbone of Indian surveillance apparatus in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandit officers had their input and hand in the preparation of a sedition case against Sheikh Abdullah as well.
My teachers at the Higher Secondary School, College and at the University were Kashmiri Pandits. Men and women of great character and stature. Many close friends were Kashmiri Pandits. They would let me into their homes except their kitchen. It did not bother me. The trusting atmosphere was overwhelming and I did not have time to consider the merits of ‘kitchen’ being a no go area. I felt sorry for their exodus in 1990 and raised the issue of their rights at the UN Human Rights Commission and Sub Commission in Geneva.
I broke ranks with all others and asked Hurriet in January 1996 to say ‘sorry’ to Kashmiri Pandits, for failing to keep their sense of trust and security. As a good human being I was right but times have proved that Kashmiri Pandit has worked hard to malign Kashmiri Muslim in the House of Commons in London, at the UN in Geneva, on the streets of India and throughout the world. Kashmiri Muslims are hunted and hounded all over India and thrashed like banana peel.
Kashmiri Pandits left Kashmiri Muslims, their one time neighbours to the wild lunges of around 700000 and now 900000 Indian soldiers and the blood chilling surveillance apparatus of New Delhi. Muslims are now under curfew from 5th August 2019, locked inside and the only neighbour left is COVID-19.
Kashmir streets are deserted as they were during 1885 earthquake. Only one generation of Kashmiri Pandits has left Kashmir. Muslims have never reconciled with their departure and absence. The sense of glee and emotion is uncontrollable, whenever a Kashmiri Pandit visits his or her home in Kashmir. They are faking insecurity. If Muslims are suspects, Kashmiri Pandits have around 900000 Indian soldiers and a broad spread of surveillance apparatus, to endear them and protect them.
They would not disappear from their homes, would not be slapped with PSA, would not land in detention and torture centres spread all over Kashmir and beyond, would not have to report at the police station, would not languish in jails for years and years and would not suffer more that bites you in the heart. Ramadan has come at a time when the world is experiencing a pain and distress.
However, the pain and distress of a Kashmiri Muslim during Ramadan is very different. Muslims in Kashmir are known for their spiritual glee during Ramadan and how the Kashmiri damsels used to sing in groups at night. The moon would stall its travel to enjoy the human glee pouring out and seen rising high into the sky.
Man, woman, child, sick and old are all locked down. Daily provisions have depleted. Medical supplies are unavailable and badly needed medical intervention is not possible. The soldier sitting outside the house is just given the quota of liquor to fight cold and fatigue. His bacchanalian behaviour puts inmates at risk.
Kashmiri Pandits in high offices in Delhi, all over India and abroad have a duty to look back and see that the air that they breathed and love of Kashmiri mothers and sister that they enjoyed, is without food, without medicine and Indian soldier has been out to disgrace and humiliate them. There are some Kashmiri Pandits like Kapil Kak and Kashmiris like Karan Singh who would not agree to serve as exhibits of hate but serve the habitat and people, with good conscience and sense of duty. Such souls would make a difference.
(The author is President of London based Jammu and Kashmir Council for Human Rights – NGO in Special Consultative Status with the United Nations.)