Homeland For Kashmiri Pandits Print
Written by Dr. Vijay K. Sazawal   
Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:00

Fourth International Symposium on
Minorities and Human Rights

Kashmir of today is not the same that Pandit Kalhan described in the historical document, "Rajtarangni". The wondrous years of King Lalitaditya and King Avantiverman are now merely passages from the ancient history, usurped by numerous invasions that brought foreign cultures and religions to the valleywhich ravaged the native way of life.?

To understand Kashmir and the remants of its ancient Vedic culture, one has to learn about its history and by its history only then can one understand the forces of change that are shaping the events of the day. Most well meaning people have come to believe that the current situation in Kashmir is a result of the decisions made at the time of the partition of the subcontinent. Yet others are tempted to fault one political party or the other, implying that the problem is only a few generations old. This incorrect comprehension of the situation is perhaps the most cruel aspect of the Kashmir problem. Kashmir's history, unlike many other regions in India, is well documented. As the saying goes, "Those who do not learn from the history are condemned to repeat it!". So goes Kashmir.?

Kashmir's conversion to Islam began with Shah Mir's regime in 1339. Today Kashmir is Islamized. If one looks at the Islamic crescent from Xinjiang province in China to the far reaches of northern Africa, Kashmir is a geographical part of this Muslim belt. On top of it the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism in nations surrounding Kashmir, and the determination by the enemies of India to extend the pan Islamlc hegemony to Kashmir and to other non-slavic states of the former Soviet empire puts Kashmir in the vortex of this religious crusade. This paradigm is 650 years old, and it is important to realize that while armies can be won over, faith and belief are a different matter.?

Thal is why the Kashmir problem can not be solved by piecemeal solutions that merely overcome the tactical concerns without approaching the strategic goals. For Kashmiri Pandits, the strategic goal is to ensure that they survive as a distinct ethno-religious group in the mosaic of cultures and subcultures that exist in India. As the indigenous people of Kashmir, they have every right to live in their land of birth with dignity and in safety. For India, the strategic goal is to ensure that Kashmir stays an integral part of the country. Equally important, India must ensure that Kashmiri Pandits, who have maintained an outpost of Vedic culture and Indian nationalism in the land of Mohammedans for the last 650 years against the most severe odds and at great personal sacrifice, do indeed survive in their ancient lands to protect not only the nation's integrity, but also its ideals as a pluralistic society.?

Today Kashmiri Pandits are on the verge of extinction. Even as late as 1947 they constituted 15% of the valley population. Today that number is down to virtually zero, as almost all have either fled or were brutally murdered in the last few years. The main problems facing the community are not just humanitarian, but also political. The so called Azadi movement in Kashmir is merely a convenient cover for ethnic cleansing, and Pandits are being forced out of their ancestral lands to disperse into the vastness of India so that they will cease to exist as a distinct culture. Ethnic cleansing in Kashmir started a long time ago. It started subtly at first when Hindu religious places and properties were appropriated under one pretext or the other. It was followed by name changes of townS and monulllents. Anantnag, the second largest city in the valley (after Srinagar) came to be called Islamabad. Subsequently, Pandit youth were denied admissions to various professional institutions inspite of their merit and employment was denied to the Pandit community even when the Supreme Court of India ruled in their favor. And finally, it culminated in an open hunting season which emboldened militant leaders like Bitta 'karate' (JKLF cadre) to openly express their joy and pleasure after killing Kashmiri Pandits. Today the refugees are living in squalid camps devoid of any human decency, dying a thousand deaths every day.?

The real tragedy in Kashmir is that the history keeps repeating itself over and over again. For example, reading of the community journal from 1840's indicates a similar set of concerns as expressed today, 150 years later. The holocaust of the early 1400's, when only eleven Pandit families survived the Muslim onslaught in the valley, is not only a grim reminder of the past but also a warning for the future.?

The homeland is an expression of the innermost hopes and urges of the Kashmiris displaced from the Kashmir valley. It is a natural and instinctive desire of the community to seek its roots, to preserve its identity, and to assert its historical, political and legal rights. Today, more than ever, Kashmiri Pandits need a place, a piece of their valley of dreams, where they can settle down confident that generations to follow can practice the way of life of their forerfathers without fear, servitude or retribution. Just as a home gives a sense of belonging to an individual, so a homeland generates a feeling of roots, a sense of identity and an umbrella of security to its people.?

The homeland provides a choice never before made available to Kashmiris, and in particular to Pandits who have lived a life of subjugation and second class citizenry for nearly 650 years. The choice is between the theocratic elements on one side, who pay lip service to secularism but promote religious bigotry that led to the current mayhem, and on the other side the nationalistic elements who would like Kashmir to be treated like any other part of India, where every peace loving citizen can enjoy the fruits of true democracy and true secularism. Homeland will be a Union Territory governed by the provisions of the Indian Constitution without fetters of the Article 370. It will be open to all who wish to live in a secular democractic homeland.?

It is important to understand that the demand for a homeland is not an expression of ethnic or regional chauvinism, but one of survival of a community on the verge of extinction. This demand is essential in breaking the paradigm that exists today not only in lhe geopolitical sense, but also in the mind set of Kashmiri Pandits who are resigned to their fate and unable to think or act boldly. The homeland will provide a safe haven for the minorities traumatized by the loss and abuse of their human rights.?

A call for the homeland is a reinforcement to the Indian claim to Kashmir which has been the crown of India ever since the Vedic times and the cradle of civilization of which the Kashmiri Pandits are true heirs, defenders and inheritors.?

A call for a homeland is a cry for survival among the loyal Indian citizens from Kashmir who have guarded this Indian oputpost of secularism and democracy against the march of pan-Islamic hegemony that has already humbled much larger and more martial communities than theirs.?

This is their call. It needs to be understood properly. It needs your support.?



Last Updated on Thursday, 23 September 2010 02:17