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, January 5, 2012

The Return

Adfar reminisces regarding the return of Kashmir's indigenous people - Pandits on the International Migrants Day

The Political Sociology of Pandit Return

(Mr. Syed Adfar Rashid Shah, 28, was born in Watlar, Ganderbal. He did his basic schooling at the Government High School in Watlar, and then went to the Government Higher Secondary School, Ganderbal, for 11th and 12th grades. He completed a diploma in computers through The Industrial Training Institute (ITI) Ganderbal, followed by a diploma in the urdu language through the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language in India (NCPUL). Mr. Shah completed B.Ed in 2009, his Masters in sociology from the University of Kashmir, and enrolled in M.Phil at the Center of Central Asian Studies (CCAS), University of Kashmir when he accepted admission to the Ph.D. program in social sciences at the Jamia Millia Islamia Central University in New Delhi, where he is currently enrolled. He is interested in diaspora studies, and sociology of religion, change and
development. He loves interactions with people of all religions and creeds, and enjoys writing.)

Every year since 2000, December 18 is observed as International Migrants Day around the world. The aim of this day is the dissemination of information on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants through the sharing of experiences and the design of actions to ensure their protection. On 4th of December 2000, the General Assembly, took into account the increasing number of migrants in the world and proclaimed 18th of December as International Migrants Day. On that day, in 1990, the Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. Migration has transformed the world (e.g. the prehistoric and historic settlements of Australia and America). Modern populations have opened a window into the historical patterns of migrations. India as a nation has seen a high migration rate in recent years. Over 98 million people migrated from one place to another in 1990s, the highest for any decade since independence according to the 2001 census details. The number of migrants during 1991-2001 increased by about 22% over the previous decade an increase since 1951. Different types of migration include daily human commuting, seasonal human migration mainly related to agriculture, permanent migration, international migration, local migration, rural to urban migration (which is more common in developing countries as industrialization is on the rise) and urban to rural migration as well (which is more common in developed countries due to higher cost of urban living).

Causes of migrations have modified over hundreds of years. Some cases are constant while some of them do not carry the same importance as years ago (for example: in 18th and 19th centuries labor migration did not have the same character like today). In general we can divide factors causing migrations into two groups of factors: Push and Pull factors, which are economic, political, cultural, and environmentally based. On the macro level, the causes of migration can be distilled into two main categories: security dimension of migration (natural disasters, conflicts, threats to individual safety, poor political prospects) and economic dimension of migration (poor economic situation, poor situation of national market, etc). Estimates based on industry sectors mainly employing migrants suggest that there are around 100 million circular migrants in India. Caste, social networks and historical precedents play a powerful role in shaping patterns of migration. Illegal immigration is a serious political problem in India, with widely differing estimates of the number of such migrants. In places this has led to outbreaks of xenophobic violence. Migrant groups, organizations, and communities from around the world need to be supported by highlighting the concerns of migrants worldwide. The International Migrants Day is seen firstly as an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries, and secondly to promote respect for their basic human rights. But this process of migration has also some negative aspects like the issue of illegal migration and forced infiltration. The Issue of illegal immigration is nothing new for the Indian government. With increase in population and lack of job opportunities, this matter has now reached its zenith point. Besides, immigration harbors causes for more unlawful activities. The large-scale influx of Bangladeshis and several others into Assam and from other points of the country has been continuing from the pre-independence times. This unprecedented migration gave rise to a historic movement, the Assam Agitation (sometimes referred to as the Assam Movement) between 1979 and 1985 to force the government to identify and expel the illegal migrants. Similarly natives in many states face problems by illegal migrants and our Kashmir is not the exception. Tibetans and other non-native ethnic and racial communities though claiming ancestral links and legitimate residence, for instance, the Tibetan community settled in Kashmir since decades is and Kashmiri origin and hence demanding permanent domicile but still the actual facts lie in black in white. The large-scale immigration and also out-migration has led to an acute unemployment problems, adjusmental issues and dysfunctional demographic engineering, besides having a disastrous effect on the environment with the denudation of forests and killing of endangered wildlife as well. The plight of Kashmiri Pandit exodus is worthy of mention here.

On Pandit Migration and Return:

Kashmiri Pandits (Hindu’s of Kashmir) who till recent past shared a pluralistic ethos developed a different outlook after migration. There prevail myriad schools of thought regarding their causes and forces of exodus. Most of the Kashmiri youth argue that Pandits being the vulnerable minority by then fell prey to hate-mongers and various unknown agencies that exploited them and later indoctrinated them for petty political gains. While many of the Pandits hold Kashmiri Muslims responsible, others feel separatists or militants responsible. However, Kashmiri Muslims argue that it was by then a chaotic situation and who did what was hardly apparent.

On one hand, Pandits blame their Muslim neighbors for not saving them and on the other, the majority of the Muslims argue that, who would have dared to stand against guns and bullets. Also it is pertinent to say that by then only Pandits were not killed but everybody faced the brunt of turbulence. Many of the Kashmiri Muslims treat the then government responsible especially the Governor of the State of the time. The Governor was accused of creating misunderstandings among the Kashmiri Pandits of having a threat to their lives at the hands of the majority community.

Despite government’s welfare and Pandit’s return rehabilitative schemes, Pandits have hardly shown any interest to return, probably because of certain social factors like their adjustment outside the state, their inter-marriages with other groups, the education and their new job orientations and of their kids as well. Talking of their new generation who hardly are now aware of Kashmiri culture as many of them are born out of Kashmiri father’s and non-Kashmiri mothers or vice versa hardly feel about Kashmir in terms of their absolute return. However, it is true that the community of Pandits, who actually faced the pain of forced migration, still crave for Kashmir. For younger Pandit generation Kashmir can be the choicest and dearest summer and winter vacation destination. Rather it has remained a picnic spot not just exclusively for the Pandits but for all those who had migrated long before, either due to conflict situation since 90’s or due to other reasons. But new settings of life style, new job orientations, relationships, security issues, unceasing social and political tensions in Kashmir, future prospects and education of their children stop them from returning to the state. Probably such social factors are now a big hindrance in their return. It can also be a reason that certain agencies for their vested political interests are playing politics with the sentiments of the Pandits and create unforeseen fear/panic in their minds. They have not returned despite being welcomed by the separatist leadership and lot many efforts by the centre and the state government itself. This fact cannot be ignored that even at present a good number of non-Muslims including non-state subject Hindus are living in the valley without any fear or threat to their lives. Even some Kashmiri Pandits who were offered jobs by the state government in the valley, after joining, preferred to live in Muslim houses as tenants instead of putting up in government housing colonies established exclusively for them.

There are certain instances where Kashmiri Muslims have even performed last rites of those Kashmiri Pandits who died in Kashmir during all these years. Besides, the holy shrines/temples of Pandits were also taken care of by the Kashmiri Muslim community. The glaring example of communal attitude of Kashmiri Muslims can be also observed through their living in harmony with non-Muslim community of Sikhs who have not migrated from the valley, despite their population being less than Kashmiri Pandits.

It remains to be seen whether Pandits will ever return to their mother land or it is just government’s lack of foreseeing vision by luring Pandits by settlements and job offers who have already mentally settled outside forever. But in the first place we should be adamant that if the Pandits want to return and assimilate themselves, they shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it would be an offend to discriminate against such persons. In the given circumstances one can safely conclude that common people have suffered at large during the turmoil whether it is the Kashmiri Pandits or Muslims or other communities. Hence, it is the duty of all the stake holders to look in their grievances with a sincere heart cutting across their ideological, religious, regional and political differences.

Tail Piece:

Fear cannot be without reason,so we need to see even after invitations by all sections of Kashmiri Society along with the Centre,why Pandits seem reluctant to is not that they donot love their motherland but still they feel alienated and unless and untill their alienation especially within the political framework is not addressed,they will not return probably.aalso it cannot be argued at all that their reverse migration is not possible now because of their settlement outside.The plight of Kashmiri migrants, the historical wrong that has been committed against them needs to be addressed properly.

The forced displacement of about two and a half lakh Kashmiri Hindus from the Valley has caused a number of psychological and behavioral problems in them. Majority of them felt as if they had been thrown away by a strong volcano, a storm of immense magnitude into a state of wilderness and their roots almost cut off.The plight of Kashmiri Pandits has been so far foolishly compensated by economic packages and jobs only,forgetting that actual political scenario and their sense of insecurity needs to be adressed and they need to be given their rights in full and truely empowered without making much ado and politicising their return for petty political gains.Government has to understand that their migration or exodus has not taken place due to any economic reasons and hence government of India should not hope possible return in economic packages only. Therefore some hard decision will have to be taken,involving pandit leaders with due respect and heratfully listening to their woes. Government of India must set return of migrants to Kashmir Valley as priority for the welfare of all be that Kashmiri pandits,sikhs or muslims.

It is also worth mentioning that Pandits want to return to their mother land despite their adjusment outside and we cannot at all infer that reverse migration of pandits is not possible because Pandits have not forgot their roots which lie in their Motherland.Delay in their return is causing more and more damage to the people of Jammu and Kashmir as a whole as every muslim believes that pandit are the part and parcel of our society and without them Kashmiriyat and Kashmir's pluralistic ethos is incomplete.Also their contribution towards their motherland(Mouj Kasheer)cannot be ignored. it is therefore high time to think in terms of their safe,secure and respectful return.

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