Like any other conflict region, Kashmir is a place of contesting narratives about the tragedies that have befallen people of the valley in the last two decades. These narratives are often accompanied by statistics. Different stakeholders to the conflict have different statistics to back up their claims. However, things turn ugly when some elements try to exaggerate or downplay the figures according to their convenience. In the process, they either end up blowing things out of proportion or belittle a grave tragedy.The mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits has been undoubtedly one of the biggest tragedies in the valley’s history. And like other calamities, some elements have used them to further their nefarious designs. They have been using false figures about the killings of Kashmiri Pandits and their “forced” migration from the valley as part of their propaganda. They have been clamouring for a separate homeland in the valley thereby making their intensions clear to divide the state on communal lines.
For many years now, these self-styled representatives of Kashmiri Pandits have been crying hoarse over what they claim as “genocide” of their community in Kashmir. However, they never have had the credible figures to support their claims. They have been busy campaigning against Kashmiri Muslims whom they blame for driving them out of the valley. From websites to photo-exhibitions, these fringe elements in an otherwise tolerant Pandit community have tried to project Kashmiri Muslims as Islamic fundamentalists. In the process, they also try to create irreconcilable fissures between Pandits and Muslims, but the harmony between the two communities has withstood the conspiracies.
Panun Kashmir, an organisation claiming to represent the displaced Pandits, claims that more than 2000 Pandit men, women and children have been killed in the valley. It also claims that more than 350,000 people of the minority community were forcefully displaced from the valley in 1990, again a grossly exaggerated figure.
Now as few days back Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh informed Lok Sabha that 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed during the last 20 years of turmoil, the genocide accusation is very much done and dusted. For the sake of argument even if we agree that 219 killings merit to be called as genocide, one wonders how they would describe the killings of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims. Perhaps, one may have to invent a new term.
Furthermore, Singh revealed that 58,697 Pandit families are reported to have left their homes due to the eruption of militancy in Kashmir.
A cursory look at the website of Panun Kashmir reflects its dangerous tendencies of fostering hatred against Muslims of the valley. This could have had far reaching consequences had the Pandit community not been tolerant and averse to such dangerous tactics.
It believes that Kashmir’s Hindu culture is under threat from Muslim culture and separatists.
“In fact, the history of the valley is being tampered with, redefined and rewritten to give it an Islamic thrust. The Kashmiri Muslims seem to feel contemptuous of their proud Hindu origin and are bent upon defacing and destroying its tradition,” reads the Panun Kashmir website.
The organization also believes that Hindus in Kashmir and Jammu have been discriminated against since 1949, and that Hindus have been neglected at the expense of appeasement of Muslims due to Article 370 and various policies instituted by different Indian governments although the truth is that eruption of armed conflict in 1990 resulted from the deep seated alienation among the Muslim population whose democratic rights were seriously undermined since Maharaja’s rule.
The Panun Kashmir website further reads: “Too much of everything is bad; and that is how pampering and overzealous concern for the Muslims in the Valley of Kashmir have led them to committing wrongs against the nation, its patriotic citizens and the soldiers fighting for her integrity. They (Muslims) have learnt to squeeze the maximum benefits from this nation and yet collude with the secessionists, terrorists and fundamentalists. After committing these wrongs, they conveniently find a clout within the nation, who goes out of the way, not only to blind the truth, but also let loose a blatant disinformation campaign.”
The self-proclaimed guardians of Pandits have also accused Muslims of usurping their jobs. Again the facts and figures contradict their claims. Statistics reveal that Kashmiri Muslims were the ones discriminated and not the Pandits. Infact even after they left Kashmir, Pandits have been provided jobs, reservations and other compensatory benefits while the youth in the valley continue to face the problem of unemployment. Kashmiri Muslims have all along respected the sanctity of Hindu temples and shrines after the migration of Pandits, yet they were accused of vanadalising their religious places by the self-styled saviours of Pandit community. Again their attempts to harm the communal fabric were defeated after members of Pandit community openly appreciated their Muslim brethren for protecting the temples in their absence. The latest disclosure of facts and figures in the Lok Sabha related to the Pandit migrants should serve as an eye-opener to those who have been hitherto misinformed by the propaganda of organizations like Panun Kashmir.