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.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pandits and Kashmir's Civil Society: Lot of Slip Between the Cup and the Lip

Zahir speaks about displaced (non-valley based) Pandits and suggests a dialogue between Pandits and Kashmir's civil society even though it has conveniently ignored the plight of valley based Pandits so far. As a displaced Pandit, Sanjay offers a counterpoint by narrating his personal experience of forced exile and a new sense of exhilaration since

(Mr. Zahir-ud-Din, 46, was born in Srinagar. He received his schooling from the DAV School Magarmal Bagh/Jawahar Nagar. He graduated from the Government Degree College in Bemina, and completed a bachelor's degree in law from the University of Kashmir. In 1992, he again joined the Universiy of Kashmir to do complete his Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. He has worked as Associate Editor/Executive Editor with the Greater Kashmir from 1995-2007. In 2007 he joined daily Etalaa't as editor, and is currently a columnist for the Kashmir Times.

Mr. Sanjay Raina, 42, was born in Khardori Lane, Habba Kadal, Srinagar. He matriculated from the Tyndale Biscoe School and passed his 12th grade from the Amar Singh College, both based in Srinagar. He graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Electronics from the University of Pune, and earned an MBA degree from the same University in 1992. He has a career in media/TV broadcasting industry and is currently based in Jakarta, Indonesia, working for a TV company in the field of Strategy, Brand Management, Marketing and Consumer Insights. During leisure time he plays Golf and Tennis in addition to reading books.)

Point by Zahir-ud-Din: Options with Migrant Pandits

The exodus of Pandits from the Valley in 1990 added yet another unfortunate chapter to the beleaguered history of Jammu Kashmir. Much has been written and said about the exodus. The Pandits have been blaming the Kashmiri Muslims of triggering the exodus. However, the Muslims accuse the then governor, Jag Mohan of facilitating the exodus for political reasons. The issue was politicized by vested interests and so has been the return of the migrants. And while this political drama goes on, a community is fast losing its identity in the huge human ocean called India. The resident Pandits have their own problems. Besides being an eye sore for the government, they have problems at the social front to address.

Around three thousand Pandits still live in the Valley. Like the majority community they also want the migrant back. But, the way government has been trying to lure the migrants to return to the Valley lowers their metabolism. The president of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangrash Samiti, Sanjay Tickoo says: "The way return of the migrants has been planned is not going to help the resident Pandits. In order to protect and preserve our identity, we have to find boys from the community for our girls. This is not possible unless the migrants return to the Valley and stay here for ever. Return of an individual for a short span of time is useless. It may project a rosy picture of otherwise explosive situation in the Valley but the problems we have been facing will remain unaddressed."

Tickoo's argument is good but not strong enough to effect a change in the mindset of a host of actors connected directly or indirectly with the issue. Nobody can force the migrants to return to the Valley along with their home and hearth to preserve the identity of a small group of people who happen to be their co-religionists. The problem can be addressed if the state and non-state actors and the leaders of the Pandits play their part well without politicizing the sufferings of an entire community. A question arises. Why should a migrant put himself and his family to risk for the sake of three thousand resident Pandits?

But have the migrants other options? The Kashmiri Pandits held a conference at New Delhi last year. Around 2500 persons attended the conference. All of them were in tears. They did not weep for government jobs. They did not weep for their security either. They moistened their eyes for a single reason. All of them were concerned about their identity. The new generation has not seen Kashmir. They are neither nostalgic about their roots nor concerned about their identity. In fact the exodus has solved many of their problems. But the people who have lived in Kashmir, shared moments of joy and grief with their Muslim brethren are not only nostalgic but want to protect and preserve their identity any how. And, the time unfortunately is slipping from their hands. After three generations, the services of a Bhan may be needed to remind Kashmiris that thousands of Kashmiris had migrated to various parts of India and settled at such and such places.

Kashmiris cannot live peacefully and with dignity outside Kashmir. History has proved it time and again. Professor BL Bhan writes in his Paradise Lost: Seven exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits that Pandits had to migrate from the Valley seven times. He accuses Bulbul Shah of scripting the exodus of Pundits. He has not spared the Chaks, the Sultans and the Afghans. All of them, according to him, persecuted the community and forced its migration. Not to speak of Aurangzeb, he does not spare Jehangir and Shah-e-Jehan as well. The irony is that he accuses Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, GM Sadiq, Ghulam Muhammad Shah and even Dr Farooq Abdullah of engineering what he calls exodus of Pandits during their respective regimes. However, he fails to mention how many Pandits left the Valley from 1947-1989 and where in India did they settle. The only place he has mentioned is the one where Nehru's marriage was solemnized.

Professor Bhan has probably written the book in haste and without undertaking any serious research if not with ulterior motives. In 1947 Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference workers stood guard outside the houses of the Pandits. This has been acknowledged by the Pandits themselves. The people of Kashmir have always been tolerant. The revival of Muslim Conference in mid 40s saw Muslims fighting each other. But nobody ever touched any Pandit. The former chief conservator of forests, Noorul Hasan narrates his experiences. "We lived in down town. One day when I left for college, I was intercepted by a group of hooligans near Bohri Kadal. I was asked whether I was a Sher (supporter of Sher-e-Kashmr) or a Bakra (Supporter of Mirwaiz Moulvi Yusuf Shah). I said Bakra and the hooligans gave me a sound thrashing. Somehow I managed escape but was again caught near Khankah-e-Moula. This time I again made a mistake. I was beaten, this time for being a supporter of Sher-e-Kashmir. Again I gave them a slip but only to be caught again near Narparistaan. This time I told the hooligans that I was a Kashmiri Pandit. On hearing this, I was given safe passage. Some one from the crowd said, `Oh! Leave him; he is our revered Pandit brother'."

This is how the Muslims treated the Pandits during those fateful days. When Muslims were not safe, nobody would touch a Pandit. But for paucity of space, hundreds of examples could be cited here to nullify the malicious propaganda unleashed against Kashmiri Muslims by the vested interests. And see how Pandits have acknowledged it. Professor Sheikh Showkat, in an article for Greater Kashmir dated May 27, 1999 writes: "A day before Shivratri I boarded Malva Express at Jammu railway station. After a few minutes, a Kashmiri Pandit along with his sister and two kids boarded he same compartment. The Pandit was having a problem. He had to drop his sister in Delhi and celebrate Shivratri at his home next day in Jammu. For a while he looked around, after noticing me he straight away came to my seat confirming that I was a Kashmiri Muslim, asked two passengers next to me for exchange of seats so that his sister and the two kids could share my company. After some persuasion the passengers agreed to exchange the seats. Kashmiri Pandit, his sister and the two kids came and occupied the seats next to me. After sitting for a while, the Pandit stepped out of the train. He told me that since you are here now to accompany my sister, I do not need to travel with her. He did not know me, nor did he know my whereabouts. He trusted me merely because I happened to be Kashmiri Muslim. He did not trust any other passenger in the compartment although all of them happened to be Hindus."

This happened after the exodus. Even the migration has not changed the psyche of the Pandits. Ignoring their co-religionists in India, they entrust the duty of protecting the honour of their daughters to a Kashmiri Muslim. Why? Another incident merits special mention here. A day after the Chttisinghpora massacre, I left for Jammu in connection with a defamation case. After leaving my baggage in the Circuit House, I called on a Pandit friend. Meanwhile, the authorities imposed curfew in the city. I had to say with him for three days. In the evening he looked at me surprisingly. "What is the matter? You have not offered Nimaaz today", he asked. I told him there were a number of pictures of Hindu gods in the room. He stood up and tried to remove the pictures. I stopped him. Jokingly I said: "Your wife will throw you out of the house if you remove the pictures. Do not worry, I will somehow manage", I said. What a special relationship Pandits and Muslims have shared in the Valley. The vested interests by creating a wedge between the two communities are not doing any favour to anybody.

The migrants are perceived as intruders notwithstanding the packages offered by Maharashtra, Gujarat and some other states. Slowly but surely the community is getting diluted. A human being cannot survive on reservations in technical institutions, jobs in big business houses and hollow slogans alone. Some thing else is also needed. The Pandits have to understand that they are being used in the name of employment, residential plots and economic packages. This is where Tickoo's argument holds good. A migrant is appointed and posted in a remote corner of the Valley. He joins his duties but in a month or so his officer engineers and facilitates his exit from what he calls Valley of ghosts. The migrant gets his pay but the vacancy created by his exit goes to the kith and kin of the officer. The migrants have become a gold mine for the bureaucrats. They do not want honourable and dignified return of the migrants for obvious reasons. It, therefore, is high time when the Pandit leadership, the dissident leadership and civil society in Kashmir must initiate a serious dialogue. Together they can make a difference.

Counterpoint by Sanjay Raina:

Dear Mr. Zahir - ud -din,

I read with interest your article in the online version of Kashmir Times today. I too happen to be a so called migrant and must empathize with what happened with us during the fateful years especially in the early 90's.

Zahir (i hope you permit me to call you by that name), what you have articulated is a real fact. Any of us who were born and lived in Kashmir will certainly agree with your comments and your assessment. In fact one could write volumes about the bonnie homie that existed between the two communities. I have a friend by the name Masood Hussain Qureshi and I must tell you that even after having migrated from the valley I still have only one friend and he is Masood. That relationship can only be understood by the two of us and nobody. But so is that case with a whole of Kashmiri Pandits. So that cannot be the talking point of any discussion.

However your article fails to provide the exact reasons that made us leave. You may blame Jagmohan or the central government or anybody else. The mute fact is we were failed by the same people who we thought shall protect us. The same Ghulam Qadir, the same Manzoor Wani, the same Zahir ud din, never rose to the occasion and simply vanished when we were being tormented. Did you hear the loud speakers blaring on those fateful nights? Did you know what was being spoken through those loud speakers? Did you know all the "elements" who suddenly were seen as freedom fighters were the same people who we played cricket with in the narrow lanes and by lanes? And who was there to protect us? Is there a single instance where some Kashmiri Muslims stopped KP's from migrating? No Zahir not at all.

I lived in Pamposh Colony, Natipora. My friend, it is beyond words to describe the fear that we had. And it was not due to Jagmohan. Poor guy became a scape goat. It was what was being blarred out of the mosques. Who would stay there if some one said 'aisse gasse kashir batav ros te batnev saan'. I have heard it brother and no not through some one else.What about the selective killings of Kashmiri Pandits? Who can explain that? Were they all Mukhbirs? What about Satish Galdar? What about Naveen Sapru? What about Justice Ganjoo? What about RK Raina, the same one who Bitta Karate shot dead inside a rice container. Will you still blame Jagmohan for that.

However this all has no relevance now. On hind sight we did the right thing. Why? Because we saved our honour. We suddenly found freedom. Our kids are today securing seats in professional colleges without having to depend on some moronic clerk in the GA department of the J&K secretariat. You may call this by whatever name but we call it the real freedom. There came a time when getting an admission into the least preferred courses in Kashmir University was a challenge for Kashmiri Pandits, a community whose only showcase was education. How does one explain this?

Zahir, migration was a wake up call for all of us. And we woke fine. We do not face any discrimination now. Our kids are getting jobs and our kids are getting educated too. We live a dignified life and are proud of it

The fact is KP's are Indians. We believe in the sovereignty and integrity of India and that is the reason why we were forced out. A large population, in fact majority, of Kashmiri Muslims do not toe this line. And now some of them are singing the tune of an independent state. This is at cross roads with what we believe in and the twain shall never meet. History has proven this time and again. Two co religionists are never at peace if their political idealogies are different.

We miss our kushur Hakh, our revered temples, our Khir Bhawani, Our Khrew and our various points of confluence. But we will live without it. We have done that for last 20 years atleast and shall do so for many more years to come. Yes, our leaders are theives and chors. But that's what leaders are like. One faction talks of Panun Kashmir and the other talks none. Atleast they do not have double standards of the kind exhibited by Mufti and his daughter and lately Omar with his speech in the parliament. If KM's were so protective of us, what would have it taken to have issued statements in favour of the Amarnath land. Buddy, if we can reserve Haj Terminals in airports all over india what problem is there if some small piece of land is reserved for our pilgrimage

We certainly miss Kashmir. Who won't? And certainly we will go back someday. Shall we settle there? My personal answer is no. But isn't that a better price to pay than losing our freedom? Think over it!!


Sanjay Raina

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