11 Questions Answered

  1. We know that there are brahmins all across India but please tell us why is Kashmiri Pundit such a significant Hindu community in history of India?

The significance of any Community has two factors, namely their numbers and their contribution to society or Nation at large.

After 1931 Census, which was the last Census where caste was enumerated, Brahamins accounted for 4.3%of the population (352,837,778). In 1931 the majority of Pandits resided in J&K and an extrapolated number could not exceed 1,35, 000.So you can see, we were insignificant as far as numbers are concerned. The numbers who fell prey to genocide could not exceed 2,50,000. This number is highly contested though.

KP Community is closely linked to their mother land Kashmir like any other.I quote “ Cultural Heritage of Kashmiri Pandits”edited by S S Toshkhani & K Warikoo,

“Kashmir is not merely a geo-space, but it is the geo-cultural matrix from which thoughts and concepts embedded in the depths of consciousness of its people have emanated, giving shape to their civilizational ethos.”

This has been underlined by the consecration by the Kashmiri Pandits of their land as an embodiment of Parvati, the daughter of Himalayas, and her divine consort Shiva. Perhaps that is why their ancient texts repeatedly  call it Kashmir Mandala, a name  that encodes spatial and temporal locus in terms of a sacred geography.

One must also look at the ancientness of this sect by the first historical record of Kingships in Kalhan Pandit’s Rajatarangani , Saptarishi Calendar system – 5056, Vikrami calendar system -2077.I mention only verifiable data. Rajatarangani records as far back as 2448 BC. Brahamins no doubt emerges as dominant and highly respected group of ancient and early medieval Kashmiri society. It was mainly due to their intellectual proclivities and activities. They were known as       ‘ itihasvadis’( knowers of history) and ‘kalavidha’( connoisseurs of the arts)apart as Vedangs( good knowledge of vedas).They were famous for their proficiency of the six schools of philosophy besides astrology, , astronomy ,medicine, grammar, logic and prosody( the study of all the elements of language that contributes toward acoustic and rhythmic effects, chiefly in poetry but also in prose.)

This numerically small but culturally important community has made in core areas of Indian cultural and intellectual enterprises, emphasizing that many of the seminal ideas and concepts that have shaped the   Indian mind over the centuries have originated from their creative impulses, e.g., building blocks of  Indian aesthetical thinking and philosophy of language, enrichment of Sanskrit literary genres, transmission of the holistic doctrines  of Mahayana Buddhism, the life-affirmative philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism, marvels of mural architectural and sculptural art . Their contribution to Sanskrit Literature has been pegged at 80% at some point in time in the past.

In short, the innovative creativity of Kashmiri Pandits has vitally impacted the exciting history of Indian Art & Thought. Some famous contributors are Bharata Pandit (Natyashastra), Bhatta Lolatta, Udhbhatta,, Bhatta Nayaka, Rudratta, Ruyyaka, Mahima Bhatta and Bhatta Tauta,  Abhinavgupta,  Damodargupta,, Jayanta Bhatta, Somdeva, Bilhanna, Kalhana, Kshemendra, Mankha, Bhalatta, Utpaldeva. Later a host of poets in Bhakti, mundane love & Spiritual (Sufi- term used after Muslim rule established) dating back to 14th century starting from Lalleshwari, , Rupabhavani, Arinimal,Parmanand,Prakashram Kurigami, Krishnajoo Razdan.

From 1339 when the Shah Mir dynasty finally took roots, the contribution of Kashmiri Pandits declined a bit as they were engaged more in existential matters for survival. This continued till Sultans era ended in 1588, to be replaced by Mughals up to 1753 when Afgans ruled Kashmir till 1819. The Dogras took over in 1846 till 1947.The decline in intellectual pursuits can be traced to low royal patronage, conversions and strife in general. We have in total faced seven exoduses, the last one in independent India in 1990.

  1. You are a bit young to remember what exactly happened 1989 onwards but what are your memories from what your parents or grandparents went through in Kashmir?

As described above, ours was an existence of perpetual adversity. The current turmoil is dated to 1985 and after, but even before that we had to live with a minority status with the Muslim majority. We always had a choice to further our general well being in mainland India. This had a negative impact as we were labelled as “mukhbirs” (informer, spy) which singled us out at the peak in 1986 onwards. Our forefathers had an advantage of secure employment being educated, which also got diluted later when Muslims started getting educated .It is like  living anywhere as minority in India. The militancy added a fear of life dimension to our struggles.

  1. How many Pandit’s were killed in Kashmir?

The numbers as per our contention is only 343 (Kashmir - Its Aborigines and their exodus by Col Tej Tickoo). As always numbers are contested here also.

  1. Who was killing the Pandit’s and why?

Militant organizations that sprang up in 1986(in Anantnag where first killings took place).

The politics of rigged elections, failure of a government’s handling of militancy aided by a weak Indian Polity who neglected the sensitive area of J&K, global Islamic Jehad and of course soviet retreat from Afghanistan were all the factors responsible for our exodus. In the beginning it was targeting people who had pronounced pro-India stances but later it degenerated into local enmity-based killings resulting in exodus because of genocide.

  1. Why were only Pundits killed? Why didn’t the Kashmiri Muslims not kill other Hindus or communities?

It was not that communities other than Pandits were not killed. A data sheet by Col. Tickoo  in his book gives you the following figures ( Jan 1990- April 2011)      : Militants killed – 21, 323, Civilians killed by militants- 13,226, Civilians killed by security forces- 3642 , Security forces  killed by militants- 5369( includes 1500 Kashmiri Policemen. 

  1. Ordinary Kashmiri Muslims, represented by mainstream parties, plead that they were not responsible for the murder of pundits leave aside the exodus. What do you say about this?

Please note that majority of Muslims can be traced to their Pandit ancestry quickly. Like in Pakistan, where they have obliterated their history as inhabitants of un-divided India, likewise Kashmiri Muslims wanted to erase this link as fast as possible like all converts from an assimilation point of view. Islamism came as a relief to them.

Also note that the Muslims on this count were different. Sufism was one of the powerful tools of proselytizers as they had to convert a difficult intellectual sect and sword was used in many cases.

One could then give them a benefit of doubt. There was a minority of militants and their hard-core civilian supporters as you find in all such situations world over. The Islamism got entangled with Kashmir issue of Azadi or Pakistan politics which a majority started believing in. This “cause” affliction caught them in binds and they stopped behaving as humans. A false hope unbalanced them altogether. Islamism took over this genocide. This had taken roots way back in 70’s when Muslim clerics had descended from mainland India. Governments both at center and state were consciously blind to these developments as they were busy playing politics.

In one of my writings, I asked them, “why didn’t you stop the killers from amongst you, when you could. Surely it was obligation to the solidarity with your co–religionists which outweighed your obligation of natural duty to protect their Kashmiri fellow citizens.”

  1. How is the relation between Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Pandit’s today in Kashmir?

For this you will need to put the community in various categories:

  1. Those who never left Kashmir & Those who have got back on account of old or new jobs. They cannot be more than 10,000. They are in business, agriculture or government service. They are living as minorities and braving the hostility as well as enjoying some good behavior from Majority.
  2. Those who are continuing in camps in Jammu and Delhi areas. They have been provided accommodation in some separate areas. They are living mostly on government doles and some money trickling from overseas Kashmiri Pandits, or doing some odd businesses. Their return at the moment will require a lot of financial incentives by government. Their working members are over aged and find no government jobs on account of age bar. They are segregated and face no hostilities from majority -the Dogras. This section is part of the 60,000-odd figure in GOI’s official records.
  1. What does abrogation of Article 370 mean to you personally and to your family?

To us as Kashmiri Pandits, in reality means nothing as we are not in J&K. We had to go through the process of revalidating our domicile status by getting our State Subject Certificate to a new one post 5-8-2019.

The Art 370 was purged to a large extent (approx. 75% over time, by replacing local legislations by National laws). Yes, Art 35A has given a deserved lease of life to those who were denied citizenship in J&K by erstwhile local governments and Center unjustifiably.

It might amuse you that we did not know much in depth about both these issues till Jammu & Kashmir Study Circle (RSS linked Association) started a nationwide campaign to educate India about these articles. We had got used to living under these as a matter of routine.

My take:

5th Aug. 2019 is not just another date. On this day the stance of Government of India changed. They have seemingly understood the machinations of the so called “main stream politicos” of J&K. They have chosen a “tough love “line it seems, to end the menace of all evil forces which are against the integration of J&K completely and honestly with nation proper – India.

The questions above remain but it does not seem to offer too many choices. Either you fall in line or face the music from a powerful nation. No amount of sympathy will pour in, once curbs are lifted. This time GOI is firm in its resolve to offer straight and sincere choices for Kashmiris. Ladakh is out. Jammu may follow if locals in Kashmir do not see the light. We as Kashmiris have to resolve to join Indian mainstream and care for our future. We have wasted 33years from 1986 to date with no clear goal in mind except borrowed ideology of Aazadi.

  1. Similar to the apology offered to the aboriginals in Australia, do you draw any parallels and believe an apology from Kashmiri government is long overdue?

To bring a closure to this adversity which has percolated to two generations of KP Community at large, this is only one of the elements of Truth & Reconciliation .

We need court verdicts for the felons responsible for the death and displacement.

We need a “ Plan for Return, Rehabilitation & Reconciliation” from the GOI.

Only an apology is not at all sufficient to assuage the KP’s

  1. Will Pandit’s return to Kashmir any sooner?

Once the above issues are resolved or a beginning is made under an overall plan, Yes. We doubt if return en masse is possible without a sincere and comprehensive plan.

Having gone through the pain of genocide and mostly recovered and rehabilitated ourselves, I doubt if KP’s will decide to back soon.

  1. What lessons can we learn from the massacre of Kashmiri Hindus from Kashmir?

As a community we have re-affirmed an age-old adage that KP’s always come out as fighters in the adversities.

We can, though, oddly, thank whoever was responsible for our tragedies, as it has not only affirmed our conviction to fight all odds but it has also provided the community an opportunity to look within and set priorities for the community. We have host of people from the community trying to repair the damage which we had allowed to be caused even prior to the exodus, mainly of our Culture. Language as a Cultural marker is hit hard and we have started tackling it even harder.

As a Nation, we should learn to govern with justice and fairness as true Nationalists. One of the impeding blocks for normalcy in Kashmir is the perception of how we treat minorities. Party agendas are not bigger than Nationalism.

 

Although you have not asked for it but I am posting my article which will give a Non-Kashmiri a flavor of the issue of Muslim position in Kashmir.

My  dear  not so young Muslim brothers and sisters in Kashmir ,

Namaskar

Aadab Araz

What a life you have  chosen for yourself !

Historically you made choices in the past which made sense to the Muslim majority in Kashmir.: Sher-I-Kashmir led two high impact decisions for you,

  1. Education for Muslims & 2) Land Reforms.

You could not make anything out of the education that you received and also the land which was now in your hands.

With Muslims getting educated, made them eligible for jobs which were earlier handed out to more Pandits, perhaps  in out of proportion to their population because of their high education levels. So Pandits had to seek jobs outside J&K.

Pandits who were landed Zamindar's & had to return huge tracts of land they owned on account of land reforms without compensation.

So you can see impact of both these on minorities was greatly negative. So the issue of minorities coming in your way had long been settled.

Why then you chose a path where you found us obstructing your march forward to achieve your goals of progress and prosperity through misplaced notion of “Aazadi.”.

Why didn’t you stop the killers from amongst you ,when you could. Obligation to the solidarity with your co–religionists  perhaps outweighed your obligation of natural duty to protect their Kashmiri fellow citizens.

The Jagmohan theory which has been perpetrated by some of your ideologues as a response & in defense of your guilt ridden behavior, reminds me of a quote by  S.J. Watson, (Before I Go to Sleep)…… “We’re constantly changing facts, rewriting history to make things easier, to make them fit in with our preferred version of events. We do it automatically. We invent memories. Without thinking, if we tell ourselves something happened often enough, we start to believe it, and then we can actually remember it.” 


So existence of KP’s in your midst was never a factor in your struggle. In fact we have been great facilitators in your moves to educate your community .

What then have you achieved as a Majority in last sixty years is a question begging answers.

In a Travelogue which emerged after a visit to Valley in 2014,I made some important and sad observations. A redacted version is reproduced here to give a glimpse of the changes  I observed there.

This piece is not written to discuss the problem of Kashmir and its inhabitants – both residing in it and also outside it. These are my personal observations to see what has changed since & what has remained the same.
Drug Addiction:
I was immensely disturbed by the anti-drug ads popping out on the boulevard. I asked the driver of our vehicle -a local ,who indicated it as a major fall out of the crisis and  turmoil of the last few decades. It further pained me when I saw a de-addiction centre right in the hostel of the Anantnag Degree College …………


Kashmir has contracted a menace confirming that the area is a conflict zone

Youth of Kashmir, faced with the larger issues like, unemployment and corrupt practices in the areas related to recruitment are taking refuge in drugs. The highest number of addicts belongs to the category of youth that were born after 1990s and have seen maximum violence. They are either adult youth or young adults, who needed opportunities and means to realize their dreams. One of the worst fall-outs of the turmoil .

Sale of Beef from shops openly:

I saw vending of Beef openly in Srinagar  for the first time in my life. It was well known that inspite of the Law against it ( one of the first enacted in J&K) ,the availability was never a problem for locals who consumed it . Not selling openly perhaps was on account of the shared sentiments of a sensitive community of Hindus & Sufi Islamists  then. Muslims would never share Beef as a “Tobruk” with their Hindu neighours and friends as a matter of sensitivity. Mutton was shared by many. This aspect is totally lost to complete Islamization in Kashmir with the exit of Hindus. It is not that territorial disputes were non-existent then or feeling for any Islamic nation was absent then. The sensitivity was intact in spite of all the problems in Kashmir.
Army Presence-AFSPA
From a distance and  from the high media  exposure about situation in Kashmir, one would assume and favor the presence of Army. As a tourist ,one may pass it off  as a security measure and no more. I evaluated it from the  resident’s  point of view. I can surly say that the presence is an ugly sight and not pleasing in the mind at all, no matter the cause and effect theories we put forward. You can't have a peace of mind with gun trotting army personnel everywhere you turn your head to……….

Generational Shift
If we were to look for recognition of  our group of Kashmiri Pandits on the streets and Gardens of Kashmir , none was found except with some people from older generation. One of the hawkers visiting us on our House Boat did not know where Tulamula or Kheerbhavani is……………………………..

The youngsters we saw must be those who were born after 1989. They have only seen  the presence of Army as the indicator of the crisis at large ……………………………………………… What with educated Muslims not able to take advantage of jobs outside Kashmir, I found low end jobs in tourist industry taken up by people from outside the state- Muslims and non-Muslims both. The  hoteliers told me that locals are not willing to work ,as they are after govt. jobs as always.

The Menus also list only Tourist Menus and  can you believe – all vegetarian. We had to depend on the grand old Ahdoo’s for an authentic Kashmiri cuisine-Veg. as well Non Veg.

 ……………………………..
Shrines & Temples

It was good to see that both Kheerbhavani and  Hari Parbat are maintained well. Apparently the armed forces have a great hand in it apart from some well meaning KP's who continued to stay in Kashmir inspite of the turmoil. We found Tulamul in much better shape than we had left it. Although it is hemmed by locals all around as is expected with population increase and perhaps because of encroachments.

The same can be said about Hari Parbat. Residences and establishments  have come up close to the steps .It was disappointing to see that no pujari was available for any pujas. ……………………………..Pahalgam Mamleshwar Temple is manned by a Muslim pujari, perhaps an employee of the Archeology deptt under whose care the temple remains.. ……………….
Hazratbal  dome was under repairs and as such we could not enjoy the magnificent view of this Muslim shrine.

Even Baba Reshi near Tangamarg,has now worn a modern look ,more Islamic than the secular and earthly identity it bore many years ago. The “Dhaan” is, there but relegated in the background.

Pahalgam temple was buzzing with activity on account of Yatra &  it was not possible to see if it retains any of the old charm.

Gulmarg Temple wore a clean but deserted look.

Locals

I had a great reunion with my friend - school mate & later as a colleague in the department where I worked for all of 9 years in Kashmir. We had tearful reminisces of the past. He gave me a copy of our school group photo where I did not find myself. It must have been just before I returned to Srinagar from Rajouri where my father was posted.

The affection from people who came in contact with us during our stay was intact. It moved us when we got a call from one of our drivers ,when we returned to Delhi. He was asking us if we had reached safely - the old world charm of Kashmiriyat. Every time we entered or departed from Hotels we stayed in  we could feel a genuine warmth.

Conclusion

I have always maintained that a Kashmiri Pandit has a unique position for a worldview. We have experienced life as a minority .We have also experienced life living with Muslims. The Islam which was  peculiar to Kashmir is what people from up to our generation have seen. Today,  it may be  pure Islam but KP's cannot come to terms with it. People today are fighting for Loudspeakers in mosques and temples, while  we have grown in an environment where Aazan was as musical as the bells in a temple. We were taught and believed that Religion was a matter of faith and not identity. While I was about to do Aarti in Kheerbhavani, I heard a loud Aazan. It did not disturb me to start my own prayer with "GOD IS GREAT". It is very sad to see that youngsters on both side of the divide are today vying with each other to project supremacy of one religion over the other…………………………….


The majority it seems  has squandered the gains from what was initiated by Sher-i -Kashmir ( Education & Land to tiller).

In the name of  progress under your own rulers ( as against the Dogra Kingship) you got divided into two main sections of Kashmiri society over the years – the Elites and the Commoners. Elites – Bureaucrats, Engineers, Govt. Administrators, Doctors & of course the Politician. The rest was all commoners. The only progress one sees in Kashmir is that these  Elites have consistently been  getting richer by means fair and foul and increasing their numbers.

 

Down the years ,primarily after 1947 ,you had rulers of your community in charge of affairs of the government. Admittedly they worked hard to  amass wealth and it did not percolate down to most of you. You got crumbs , e.g., They made a buildings , roads ,power houses – for material the elite business man gained. trickle effect for you ,was perhaps in the form of labour wages only. That is the only extent of benefits coming to masses.

While poverty in J&K is far less than other parts of the country, the disparity is very acute between have's and have not's. ( I am working on this issue to prove this theory by numbers and other facts…Myths of J&K Economy…..keep watching this space) You got misled by hope generated by these scheming elites .You are victims of false hope and hidden agendas of your so called leaders.

There is this African proverb – “No matter how beautiful and well  crafted a coffin might look, it will not make anyone wish for death.” You nevertheless seem to have made your wish.

Let us examine & revisit the choices  you made for yourselves and your progenies.. ….

  • You have made wrong choice of leaders...
    • Barring Sheikh Abdullah , can you name a sincere leader who worked for your benefit. …..[BBC Journalist, Sarwar Kashani: Kashmiris have not produced a single leader of international stature…. Nov 20, 2007 ]
  • Your politicians ( not leaders) found a tool in the  complicated partition and accession issues
    • This tool helped them to whip passions for the masses .It was also used by them to fool the feeding hand of India and make personal gains only.
  • Many of you became accomplices to corruption at government levels.
    • Your sense of Community welfare never crossed your mind when you got busy amassing wealth from whatever sources.
  • You got trapped into schemes of Islamic state of Pakistan
    • You engaged yourself to pursue their agenda when they had no love for you or your welfare.
    • You can now see the tragedy of getting involved in the competing Nationalism of India and Pakistan.
  • You got enamored by global Islamization
    • You started thinking in line with Intefada to achieve Aazadi.
    • You did not realize that Sufi Islam is what you followed from inception of converting to Islam.
  • You never cared on your own to look at India as your own country .
    • You fell in the trap of separatists whose agenda was never going to be your advancement in life…...
  • You took to guns and it resulted in bringing Indian army to counter you .
    • What did you expect from a  Nation State when you declare  war on the state.
  • Is your cause of Aazadi perpetrated by your current leaders genuine ? 
    • Aazadi from what ?
    • Aren’t Poverty alleviation  and better future for your progeny in an Independent Nation called India better alternatives to the illusory vision of Aazadi?
    • We know for sure that your “cause” was based on wrong and illogical reasons.
    • A blind hope given by selfish  politicians with no clarity of a mission.
    • If you are not concerned about your progeny , what cause are you  following. Your so called leaders have secured the future of their progeny. You do not see them joining your cause.

 

You know India is not going to let Kashmir secede now or in future at any cost. It is time to review your choices. Sufi Islam is there in your genes .Recall it and it will be the first step in the right direction. Time to get real and remove these cobwebs of ignorance.

For guiding you all , you have the wrong people in place.

  • Out of work politicians have their own agenda. Do not get carried away by their promise of support at this moment
  • Politicians in power have to toe India’s line & that does not suit your warped cause.
  • Islamists and separatists have made a business out of your cause, if there is one. Extremists from outside or inside are no warriors. They are drugged zombies chasing hoors as indoctrinated by your so called well wishers across the border.

     I would also recommend that you revisit Arvind Gigoo’s letter ,who has  perhaps done a much better job of showing you the reality of  the plight you are in at the moment. I reproduce a few lines from this letter:

…..You are a gullible lot. You believe in false promises. Nobody trusts you. Your tragedy is the result of the politicking of your leaders and of those you consider your well-wishers……

….In the last twenty years you lost hundreds of thousands of people-  young boys, men, women and children. You lost your humanism and your cultural ethos. You lost Pandits. You are living in lies. You are a victim of depression, repentance, sorrow and defeat…….

……Pakistanis have a very poor opinion of you. Indians don’t trust you at all. Your leaders don’t care for you……

…….Answer your own questions. Question your leaders, politicians and think tank. Everything is in your hands. Shifting loyalties and short term plans will lead you nowhere. For sixty-three years your leaders did nothing for you. Pursue only one goal. Politics of doubletalk is bound to fail. And remember what Lancelot Hogben has said: ‘ No society is safe in the hands of its clever people.’……..

Is it not time to make peace with yourself and create a future for yourself and your progeny.

All I can say in the end is quote  Thomas Paine who said, “We have it in our power to begin the world all over  again.” 

In order to do that you have to remember that” You cannot cross the ocean unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore....”

Ashok Dullu ,

Sept 8th ,2018

PS:

5th Aug. 2019 is not just another date . On this day the stance of Government of India changed . They have seemingly understood the machinations of the so called “main stream politicos” of J&K .They have chosen a “ tough love “ line it seems to end the menace of all evil forces which are against the integration of J&K completely and honestly with nation proper – India.

The questions above remain but it does not seem to offer too many choices. Either you fall in line or face the music from a powerful nation. No amount of sympathy will pour in once curbs are lifted. This time GOI is firm in its resolve to offer straight and sincere choices for Kashmiris. Ladakh is out . Jammu may follow if locals in Kashmir do not see the light .We as Kashmiris have to resolve to  join Indian mainstream and care for our future. We have wasted 33years from 1986 to date with no clear goal in mind except borrowed ideology of Aazadi.