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Saturday, January 18, 2020

30 years after exodus and ethnic cleansing ~ the pain of Kashmiri Pandits

Prescript 1:  it was fading light – I met a gentleman who was sitting forlorn in the lawns of Faridabad Staff training college – some Raina, upon talking to him – he said, none can ever understand our plight ! – I had a book library as big as this lawn and one night, we all had to run away fearing our life ! – sorry friend, we did nothing to placate you !
2. in 1990 – a few of us campaigned to collect some money and handed over the same to Relief Fund organised by Indian Express.  The Commie union to which we belonged objected to this  – but a couple of months later, the same leaders came office to office collecting funds for election campaign of CPM.

The beautiful land - Kashmir is associated with Adhi Sankarar.  He  wrote  ‘Saundarya Lahari’, in praise of Shakti, at the top of the hill, known till then as Gopadari Hill.  The Shankaracharya Temple is situated on the top of the Shankaracharya hill, also called Gopadari Hill,  in the Zabarwan Mountain in Srinagar, Kashmir. The temple is on the summit of the same name at a height of 1,000 feet (300 m) above the plain and overlooks the city of Srinagar.  

Kashmir. Temple of Jyeshteswara [Shankaracharya], on the Takht-i-Suliman Hill, near Srinagar. Probable date 220 B.C. 2.  Pic Credit : British Library Online gallery.

Nearly a thousand year ago, our Acaryar Sri Ramanujar on a pilgrimmage visited Srinagar searching for manuscript of Bodhayana-vritti, a commentary  on the Brahmasutra by Bodhyana.  The "boddhAyana vrutti",  was lying somewhere in a royal library of the then king of an obscure Kashmiri state.  The King before granting access wanted proof - Ramanuja not only put forth his exposition of the new VisihtAdvaita but also engaged the royal pundits in debate to show them the inadequacy of their own monism.    His ardent disciple Kuresar was able to memorise it in one glance; the commentary of Udayavar is known as Sri Bashyam ~ Goddess of learning Saraswathi approving Sri Bashyam conferred the title  ‘Bashyakara’ on Sri Ramanujar.  Thus was fulfilled the main desire of Alavandhar – writing of an authoritative and illuminating commentary on Brahma sutra.

From Independence, for decades, we were hearing different story of Kashmir and our perception too was totally different – there was allaying fear that anything done not appeasing the majority religion over there, the valley would burst into flames and life would be paralysed, hence India patronized and pleased them no ends. TV anchors who consider themselves as the nation’s conscience-keepers, its lode-stars, in turn provoked angry reactions from Kashmiris, belying whatever nationalistic motives the channels may have had other than TRP ratings. The strident counter from Kashmiris to scrub out the troubled past from public memory too has a political context. Any  attempt to sanctify the Army would have seemed to Kashmiri activists a conspiracy to whitewash its perceived past misdeeds and to separatists, a serious threat to the popular support to the secessionist movement. Many consequently thought it was vital to deny the Army any credit, rightly or wrongly, for RR operations in Kashmir.  Every Left oriented thinker on TV would speak of absence of plebiscite and ruling against the wishes of people.

STOP.  – the people, WHO ? – and HOW has the Nation done nothing and conveniently ignored one community, most persecuted, subjected to ethnic cleansing, yet has remained calm and resolute – ‘the Kashmiri Pandits’.  Pandits are   Kashmiri Hindus and a part of the larger Saraswat Brahmin community. They belong to the Pancha (five) Gauda Brahmana groups from the Kashmir Valley. Kashmiri Pandits originally lived in the Kashmir Valley before Muslim influence entered the region and were threatened to convert or leave.  The patina of a bygone era continues to haunt their brutalised psyches, as they remember the infamous date – January 19, 1990.

Several crucial instances of targeted ethnic cleansing were used to create a fear psychosis, the brute majority swelled on to the streets shouting slogans.   That was phase one – create a fear psychosis amongst the majority community. With a silenced majority reduced to mute onlookers, the terror network got to phase two, leading advocate and political activist Tika Lal Taploo was first threatened and then gunned down.  Just as Justice Neel Kanth Ganjoo – the man who had delivered the verdict against Maqbool Bhatt – was shot dead. Director General Doordarshan Lassa Kaul was the next victim followed by leading Sanskrit and Persian scholar Sarvanan Kaul Premi.  The Nation of intellectuals and media did not react even  when a nurse Sarla Bhat in the Sher-e-Kashmir Medical Institute in Sohra was abducted, gang-raped and then her mutilated body was thrown into the Habakadal thoroughfare.

Pandits were integral part of the valley.  They celebrated grandly ‘Herath’ festival of Shivratri, a great occasion for families to congregate and worship.  Sadly, now Kashmiri Hindus are a community in exile, and the golden days of Kashmir do not exist in the lives of Kashmiri Hindus anymore.  For centuries they had been integral part and this place had the hub of   many Vedic traditions including Shaivism and Shaktism.  In the Kashmir valley,  there are many places that are of cultural and dharmic importance to Hindus. Over years, by radicalization and media, most Indians are not even aware of these.  Because of the demographics of the religions in Kashmir, people have been brainwashed to  think the name “Kashmir” to be of Islamic origin.

The Kashmir valley evolved from the lake of Satisar (the lake of mother Sati, wife of Lord Shiva). The valley of Kashmir came into existence on the prayers of Kashyapa Muni who was the grandson of Lord Brahma.  Sage Kashyap was one of the seven primal sages Saptarishis, mentioned in Vedas. He was  the author of a systematic work: Kashyap Samhita.  The book consists of 7826 verses, and is divided into eight parts. This book is the earliest and most authentic source of information regarding Kashmir.

During the 15th century, the Islamic invader Sikandar Butshikan, decided to destroy this magnificent places of worship and it took a year to damage and destroy this architectural jewel of India. He went about destroying temples and more importantly all granthas razing down bakthi libraries.  .. .. centuries alter towards the end of 1989, the groups finding themselves to be as harmful and mighty, thanks to arms and ammunitions that kept flowing from Pakistan started murders in cold blood, making blood run on the streets of the valley, the blood of Kashmiri pandits. Pandits in the adjoining Sebdan fled in fear to Jammu at dead of night. Even when the Pandits were massacred in hordes at Sangrampora, Wandhama and Nandimarg, very few stood or stayed back – there were internecine clashes between Islamic groups too.   While the Shias of Bemina trooped into Dooru, the Sunnis of Galwanpora took revenge from the Shias of Sebdan.

The ethnic cleansing that had been brewing reached its peak around Sept 1989, leaving only a few thousand of them behind in the Valley and about seven and a half lakh Kashmiri Pandits were left to live the life of refugees in their own country.  The act of losing something can ensure that you elicit great wisdom. For the hapless Pandit, this wisdom translates into pain.  For how do you think it feels if you are displaced in your own country, ignored by different political parties and in many ways expunged from national discourse?  The departure from Kashmir and lack of rehabilitation constitutes one of the greatest human tragedies since Partition. The Pandits today are a lost community, and perhaps at one level, a lost generation. 30 tearful years later, most of them are still struggling to come to terms with their displacement, trying to subsist in alien conditions.

It is worth asking, then, whether the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A will ensure the safe return of the more than 100,000 Kashmiri Pandits to the idyllic homes they left behind in the 1990s, on their "own terms". So to all sons of India,  5th Aug 2019 will remain a gold lettered day in the annals of Indian Nation.  Everything else was dwarfed by a simple news of strong Govt will – “All the provisions of the Constitution shall apply in relation to the state of Jammu and Kashmir."  For the purpose, a clause 4 has been added to Article 367 which will introduced four changes.

Article 370 of the Indian constitution is an article that gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The article was drafted in Part XXI of the Constitution: Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions.  This article along with Article 35(A) defined that the J&K state's residents lived under a separate set of laws, including those related to citizenship, ownership of property, and fundamental rights, as compared to resident of other Indian states. As a result of this provision, Indian citizens from other states were not allowed to  purchase land or property in Jammu & Kashmir.  .. .. all that changed  with new Presidential Order   revoking the 1954 Order, and making all the provisions of the Indian Constitution applicable to the State.

Not only Imran Khan but even Shahid Afridi were rattled and were voicing insanely .. Our neighbouring country has been trading propaganda war on Kashmir ~ a few years earlier in  UN Conference, then Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing the United Nations General Assembly session, said Pakistan wants peace with India but maintained it is "not possible without resolving the Kashmir issue".  British and later Pakistan have burnt mid-night oil to make false propaganda and keep Kashmir burning, the valley restless and people fight against India.  All that is felled now with the master stroke of the day that came after 72 years annulling the special provisions which were meant to be temporary.

~ and hopefully another day would dawn for those hapless Kashmiri Pandits to get back to their own place, and start their life from what they left ~ though decades have certainly changed their life and put them under duress. Hope is the only virtue

~with deep regrets and hoping for a new dawn
S. Sampathkumar

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