Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The State of Denial

Razdan recounts ground realities in the present day valley that are conveniently ignored by the Kashmiri intelligentsia

(Mr. P. N. Razdan, 69, was born and raised in Srinagar. He completed his master's degree in Statistics from the Patna university and joined the J&K state service. He rose through the ranks to the post of Special Secretary, Department of Planning and Development, Government of Jammu and Kashmir. After his retirement in 1997, he was appointed as Advisor, Planning and Development. In his leisure time, Mr. Razdan stays engaged by doing consulting and social work, and by writing occasional commentaries on Kashmir for various newspapers.)

Pandits’ migration - in retrospect

I find it obligatory to add my opinion to the debate on Pandits started by Dr Rumana Hamid, both for her sincerity and bold expression of facts. This issue haunts both Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits alike and shall continue to do so, till at least the present generation lasts. While Dr Hamid’s article is basically a response to observations made by some readers in response to her earlier article on the subject, I shall expand the ambit of discussions a little wider.

While discussing Kashmiri Muslim-Pandit relationship, we must differentiate between personal and community relationships. If we are talking of personal relationships, I must say with all confidence that these continue to be strong, cordial and sincere. These can’t be otherwise since involved are two humans - by nature affectionate, responsive and civilized. I live in Delhi. My dentist is a Kashmiri Muslim, my cardiologist is a Kashmiri Muslim, and I have several Kashmiri Muslim friends here. I am sure that is the case with so many other Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims too. On visits to Kashmir after their migration including my own, one has only to narrate the stories of bonhomie, warmth and respect the locals have shown to them. Besides, Kashmiri whether a Muslim or a Pandit is emotional by nature and emotion flows out of him at the first salutation itself.

But when it comes to community relationships, it touches a historical and political ethos. After independence, community interests between Muslims and Pandits have clashed in areas like jobs, promotions, contracts, business, agrarian reforms, admission to professional colleges etc. and Pandits were discriminated on the basis of their numbers. This however was expected as a logical sequence of more and more native Muslims getting education and awareness. But what happened additionally in the case of Kashmir was that the community interests were seen as co-terminus with the interests of Muslims as a faith. In Islam, the governance, development and public relationships are part of the Shariat and therefore inability of the elected and secular governments to meet the community requirements was seen as its failure and the demand for an alternative form of Islamic governance was the next step. Kashmir has seen many bouts of such rules by tyrant Muslim rulers where rights, privileges and even existence of non-Muslims were denied.

Had outsiders not supported this, it is possible the fury would have been resolved internally. Both support from neighboring Islamic country and the violence compounded the problem. What could prevent a situation like this to take fundamentalist overtones was the emergence of a leader, who would be above human fragilities, progressive, read the religious scriptures correctly and see human being as a special creation of God and not religious molecules. We have had Badshah and Sheikh Abdullah in Kashmir, and Akbar, Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan, Maulana Azad in India. The absence of such a leader was the failure of Kashmir in 1989, which turned out to be a crucial point in its history. When it put paid to all its values of syncretic culture, Kashmiriyat as was known the world over.

Once you put this background in place, everything falls in line. Exodus of Pandits, effort for introduction of an Islamic code of conduct, refusal of place for Amarnath pilgrims etc. were all actions towards furtherance of this demand which has now assumed the shape of a total separation from India. Dr Hamid calls it alienation. Sure it is, but not against subjugation but for a faith based form of governance as opposed to Indian system of plural democracy.

Dr Hamid is also not absolutely right when she says that unlike Muslims, for Pandits Indian rule was comforting and like a dream state. It may be true now but it was not so before their migration. Pandits were equally frustrated, if not more. They had the experiences of the alienation of their land holdings without compensation in 1950, the refusal of handing over the abducted girl Parmeshawri Handoo by the Central government in 1968, refusal to maintain their job prospects in central government establishments in Kashmir when their chances of state employment had receded and many other issues on which the central government mostly took a stand in favor of the majority population. Had the movement not been faith based and violent, it is likely that Pandits would have opted for azadi like their fellow citizens. After all who gave the first clarion call for an independent Kashmir. None other than R.C.Kak, the Pandit Prime Minister of Kashmir. But things to day are different. Pandits are obliged to Government of India, Jammu people and Shiv Sena for coming to their rescue in their troubled times after their migration from Kashmir.

Again, the justification that in the mayhem of 1990’s everybody became a victim, so Pandits need not crib at it, is not fair. One has to imagine the atmosphere of that time. It was a mass movement with fanatic religious slogans and Pandit was considered as a symbol of Indian rule in Kashmir. Nobody in those dark days could speak about the killers, not even in a close knit family. To-day Dr Hamid can freely say that the militants killed Muslim intellectuals but that was not the case then. We are to day in a relatively free atmosphere discussing things coolly and I admire Dr Hamid’s frankness to do so.

Pandits outside Kashmir today are much better economically and socially. Yes the biggest tragedy has been the loss of home and identity. But that is a pain for our generation only since the youth of to day think differently. So we shall continue to refresh our memories of home by visiting Kashmir and interacting with our Muslim brethren as and when possible. The possibility of Pandits’ return to Kashmir is interlinked with the issue of Kashmir, the form of political system and governance, the Kashmiris would like for themselves. Till then history will record the happenings of 1990 as yet another migration of Pandits from Kashmir leaving the banner of the community with the handful of Pandits that continue to live in the valley.

(Greater Kashmir)

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