Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Return of the Pandits

There are no more than 4000 Kashmiri Pandits left in the Kashmir Valley now. Going by the declining figures of this microscopic community we may soon have lesser Pandits than the “protected Hangul-the endangered Kashmiri Deer” in the valley.
The government has made a spectacle of those Pandits who had fled the valley in the face of selective killings and terror unleashed on them by militants. They have put them up in camps, which lack basic amenities like water, power, drains etc. forget toilets and schools. To give the reader an index of how bad the things are, here it is, there is one toilet per hundred families in the Muthi Camp. A camp that lodges more than 10000 exiled Kashmiri Pandits has less than 25 toilets. The Pandits are used by the “State” as visible victims of Pakistan Sponsored terrorism. Every fact finding mission on Kashmir makes a customary visit to these camps and the government of the day parrots ” See what Islamic terror has done to us”. It is thus in the interest of the government to keep Pandits in pitiful conditions. Three cheers for the art of Statecraft.
More than half a million Pandits had to flee from their homes in Kashmir at the outbreak of insurgency in Kashmir, thus making it the largest forced exodus in the modern history. The ethnic cleansing of Pandits was complete sans a few who resiliently chose to stay back. The ones who did show the courage to stay back had to face seven massacres in which more than 250 Pandits lost their lives. They also were a witness to large scale destruction of their places of worship. According to a Statesman report published recently, more than 600 temples have been desecrated and destroyed.
When the Prime Minister recently announced a slew of measures for the Exiled Pandit Community and the kin of the terrorists (the prey and predator’s kin), the Pandits back in the valley felt left out. One of my Pandit friends living back in the valley wrote to me ” So I have to either kill someone or flee the valley to get anything from the government” Satire it was ,but truth too. One could feel these were words written in abject hurt and desperation.
The government in arms with some of its cahoots encouraged the celebration of Janam-Asthami and Dusshera in the valley. Both events were hugely covered by both the National as well as International Media. Good news for everyone. The government reiterated “Things are returning back to normal”.The militants got a much needed shade of saffron to press home” the minorities are safe here” the press had a great story-one of brotherhood, peace and glorious traditions of the much hyped Kashmiriyat !!!
It wasn’t after all a minor event that these festivals were celebrated in the valley after a gap of 17 years. So while everyone was glued on to the good story, something sinister was underway. Temples were being sold and their properties given away to unscrupulous elements in the society. Obviously this wasn’t a great story, so no one of any consequence whatsoever reported. What it however did was that it prompted Pandit organizations to push government to pass the much delayed “temple bill”. This bill if passed by the State Legislature would have paved the way forward for the Pandits to manage and maintain their temples in Kashmir. But then it was not to be. The Bill was delayed yet again for the fourth time in a row. Even the much damned government of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has a better score card on this. They allow Sikhs to maintain and manage Gurudwaras in Pakistan. This Is India-a secular multicultural democracy. Put it into your hookahs and smoke it out.
My friend sent me an account of two temples which have been recently sold in the valley. The Sales are as fresh as Jan,08.
1. Location – Mohalla Ashraf Khan (Mom Khan) inside Kathi Darwaza, land measuring approximately 90 Kanals pertaining to Baba Dharam Dass Trust, Barbar Shah has been sold out to one Syed Dilawar, Retired Teacher, (Son-in-Law present Municipal Councillor – Raja) and Shakeel Ahmad Ganai. Fencing of the property is going on. The complex houses a temple and Dharamshalla.
2. Location – Zevan, Near BSF Camp. Land measuring approximately 70 Kanals pertaining to Dharmarth Trust, this land was used for religious congregations on the religious functions .The land has been converted into plots and plots are ready for sale.
For those who may not be aware of the geography of Kashmir, both the places are in Srinagar. One can very well imagine the fate of temples in the countryside. When the writer of this piece went with a complaint to the Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama (in 2006) regarding a hugely revered and now desecrated shrine, his reply was curt. There is no one to look after the temples. Well right! Since the Gods did not have anyone to look after them, in a fit of anger they must have broken themselves and then emptied their bellies right on their own faces. Such is the apathy of the powers to be with regard to Kashmiri Pandits. In the presence of the media, this very Deputy Commissioner would rue the exile of Pandits as a loss to Kashmir and Kashmiriyat.

The Greater Kashmir (a separatist leaning English Newspaper published from the valley) reported that the Pandits of the valley demand re-opening of massacre related cases which the government has closed citing lack of evidence and further progress in the cases. They have also asked the government to handover these cases to CBI. Noble intentions! Little do these poor souls know that CBI’s record as an investigating agency is pathetic to say the least. It has been more 17 years now that it was given to investigate cases related to killing of 4 IAF officers and kidnapping of Rubaiya Sayeed(the then Home Minister’s daughter) in Kashmir. There has been little or no progress in either of the cases. If this is the fate of high profile cases what can the poor Pandits expect from CBI.

In the past one week we have heard a lot of significant and not so significant inviting Pandits to come back. Even the otherwise reluctant believer in co-existence Syed Ali Shah Geelani also sent out invitations to Pandits to “return and live alongside their Muslim brethren”. Good words, now can we see some action on the ground. Do we next see Mr.Geelani holding a Dharna or a strike to protest killings of Pandits at the hands of “his boys with toys”. Shall one soon see him asking the government to re-open cases related to Pandit massacres? Will he issue a public appeal asking people to refrain from buying temple and shrine lands? Unless words are backed by actions, they remain mere words. Mr.Geelani, I know you are the only Kashmiri separatist leader who hasn’t sold his soul but on the Kashmiri Pandit issue you have always either been reticent or played to the gallery. Unless the “appeals” and “invitations” for return are preceded by visible and tangible work on the ground they will remain what in Kashmiri is called “A lol ros Nalamot”, An embrace without love.
Before the government, separatists and the other political parties in the valley send out calls, invites and mushy messages to “their exiled brethren” it would be best that they attend to the ones who are already living a marginalized life almost bereft of an identity. These people are like a microcosm of the larger Pandit community. The treatment meted out to them would reflect the commitment of the majority community to the return of Pandits.If the separatists and the government is really serious about the return of Pandits to the valley it is time they heed to the calls of the Pandits living in the valley. The exiled Pandits would need no beckoning to their land once they feel that their microcosm is blossoming.

4 comments:

nerd said...

Very good article! Very well written!

Bhavya Ketan said...

Secularism, in Bharatiya context, means anti-Hinduism.

The present Constitution of our country gives special privileges to Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. It must be amended.

And Kashmiri Muslims (bloody traitors) are one of the most pampered community in Bharatvarsh. The Bharatiya Army is shedding blood for them and the central government is emptying its coffers. Just to keep them happy and friendly.

Why can't the union government spend the same amount of money on the rehabilitation and protection of patriotic and peace-loving Kashmiri Hindus?

Anonymous said...

Secularism, in Bharatiya context, means anti-Hinduism
Proove it

anoop said...

"Secularism, in Bharatiya context, means anti-Hinduism...."

YUP

and "Nationalism, in Indian Context means serving only brahman interest.."

Dead End

Dead End
The road to what was once my home in Kashmir....zuv chum bramaan ghare gachehae..