(Mr. Bhushan Lal Saraf, 65, was born in Batapora, Shopian. He finished his schooling from the Government Higher Secondary School in Shopian, and completed his professional degrees in B.Sc. (Hons.), Diploma L.L.B., and KCS (Judicial) from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and from the University of Lucknow. Mr. Saraf retired as a Principal District & Sessions Judge. He is presently an Honorary Member of the J&K State Consumer Commission. He has authored a book, "New Lexicon for the Kashmiris," published by UPS in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Judge Saraf, provides complimentary legal counselling, campaigns for legal awareness, and enjoys reading and writing.)
KP's: Beyond Despair and Extinction
“More than any other time in history mankind faces a crossroad. One path leads to despair and utter helplessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” Woody Allen – Side Effects.
The scenario has ungainly moved towards a denouement. The stated positions may not hold good for long. Therefore, it is time for Kashmiri Pandits to look politically incorrect and bid good bye to the academic jargon and politician’s rhetoric. Both have brought them no dividends. Contrarily, they worked to their disadvantage. Some kind of rethinking is required. Or else, let them be ready to face collapse.
A Kashmiri Pandit had a country –a home, which no doubt still exists in the map but he can not go there. Why? Twenty years forced exile is sufficient for him to ponder over and explore the possibilities of going home. Because, there is no home like a home. Alas the task is uphill! Has he to choose from despair and extinction only? Should path to his home lead him to helplessness and finally to his extinction?. Isn’t there a better way out? As the events unfold in the Valley, two possible situations confront a Kashmiri migrant. One, the continuation of the status quo and present political stalemate, and the other that some degree of autonomy/self rule is granted to meet aspirations of a section of the Valley populace . One may, though, assume a 3rd scenario, as well, where the Indian State cover is completely withdrawn. A good number of Kashmiris want so. However, there is a perceptible difference in approach of the Kashmiris who want to opt out of India. Votaries of accession to Pakistan, although substantial in number, are fewer than supporters of independent Kashmir .Latter include those who previously were the followers of Sheikh Abdullah. There may be many a contradiction in the mind of a Kashmiri Pandit as to how he should come out of the present, unfortunate, predicament. But he can not conceive of a situation where he is asked to live in the Valley, beyond the ambit of Constitution of India.
In case Kashmiri Pandits hope to live in Kashmir under umbrella of the Indian State and be ruled by the Constitution of India, then there is no escape from a mutual co-existence with the Kashmiri Muslims-whether liked or not. Apart from that, they will have to submit to the Doctrine of Democracy, which encompasses in itself an idea of rule by the majority. It cannot ignore majority votes as part of its total structure. Well, the Kashmiri Pandits can hope and demand that the Kashmiri Muslims and the State Rulers see democracy in terms of capacity to enrich reasoned engagement and, as said, “judge it by the extent to which different sections of the people can actually be heard “.
Kashmiri Pandit must be given a statutorily assured share in the political executive and the state legislature Next, the Kashmiri Pandits will do better to remember that the undercurrent of sub- nationalism exists in every province of the country. Be it emphasis on Marathi Manus, Gujrati Asmita, Andhra Bida or claimed cultural supremacy of the Tamils- not to speak of peculiar North Eastern assertion. It just can not be wished away. So, we cannot turn a blind eye to the Kashmiri sub- nationalism. There is none other than a KP to know it better. For, what is he if not a Kashmiri Pandit He feels pride in prefixing the word ‘Kashmiri’ to his religious denomination to assert his unique identity, which he claims to be protected.
George Bernard Shaw and E M Forester included, many have their own definitions of the patriotism. It could not be straitjacketed. Patriotism, sometimes, is a collective responsibility. One may discharge it by refraining from floating unsolvable ideas. The principles of federalism and democracy are embedded in the Constitution of India. Article 1 recognizes the States as units and not mere administrative divisions. The normal rule of the democracy is self –governance, according to the wishes of the people. In S.R Bommai case ( A I R 1994 SC 1918) the Apex Court observed, “ Our society is, among other things, multilingual, multi-ethnic and multicultural …. It is in keeping with said promises, that the States eventually have come to be organized, broadly, on linguistic, ethnic and cultural basis. The people in every State desire to fulfill there own aspirations through self- governance within the frame work of the Constitution .” (paras 65&68). Nevertheless, the Apex Court has a lesson for the separatists to learn. It says, “Federalism envisaged in the Constitution of India is a basic feature in which Union of India is permanent within the territorial limits set in Article 1 of the Constitution and is indestructible ……. The status qua the Constitution is federal in structure and independent in exercise of legislative and executive power. However, being the creature of the Constitution the State has no right to secede or claim sovereignty ….” ( para 182) . Analyze this legal position in juxtaposition with the present day globally held thought, which abhors change of the boarders by force, the writing is on the wall for the separatists to read.
This has to be understood in proper perspective and a particular background that it will not pay us to bear the cross of Indian nationalism at the cost of local psyche. Nor is it advisable for the KPs to be the standard bearers of all that may not be good in the Indian state policies and practices. On the positive side, they will be free of suspicion of being Indian agents. Though, Indian citizen they will always prefer to be. Let us think for a while what are the KPs in the eyes of India and where do they figure in country’s permutations and combinations.
History of the past 62 years tells that they have been, mainly, treated as a captive vote base- with out granting the benefits of vote bank- by the so called national parties and, sometimes, as tools to bargain peace with the non conformist elements ,or to counter them whenever a need arose. At times the KPs were showcased as victims of the rabid religiosity. Often, they were politically and emotionally blackmailed to suffer the cause of the ‘Nation’. Never did the Indian state or the national political parties genuinely care for this miniscule minority. To them, the community was a foot- ball to be kicked here and there to score a political goal against the opponents and use it for their narrow political conveniences.
Then we come to a scenario where the State of J &K won’t have the Indian cover. KPs claim to his place of birth will, in no case, lapse. He can ask for his geographic and political share in the Valley as being the aborigine. The KPs may not choose to live in a geo political set up which is woven in a particular theological matrix. A cry is heard rising from the Valley “go back India - quit India “ . A parallel is drawn between the freedom movement of India against the Britishers and the present agitation in the Valley. The British left India.
But divided the sub continent on the diabolical principle of “Two Nation Theory “ on a flawed premise that the Muslims cannot co- exist with the Hindus . ( Creation of Bangladesh nailed the theory ) The decision to divide India owed its origin to the fostered discord between Hindus and the Muslims. Indian Muslims were given a homeland in the shape of Pakistan. For many, the agitation in the Kashmir is religion driven and is a repeat of what Jinnah did before independence in 1947 . (Some honorable exceptions may be there).
Logically, a distinction stands drawn between the two communities. If the Kashmiri Muslims don’t prefer to live in coexistence with the Indians -who are mostly non- Muslims -- the non -Muslim Kashmiri minority could feel justified in adopting the demand of Mr Jinnah raised at the departure of the British. If Jinnah could say about undivided India, “ It is a sub continent composed of nationalities “ and demand a separate homeland for Muslim Indians, same could be said about Kashmir . Unfortunately, a stage would then seem to have been reached from where the KPs shall be compelled to bid good bye to the Kashmiriat. How can one hold on to it when there is a failure of trust between Hindus and the Muslims . In that event, there is no alternative for the KPs except a separate homeland . More so, if the Kashmiri Muslims insist on looking to West Asia rather to South Asia. KPs claim is more than justified as being the aborigines of the land.