Homeland Security

Future of Kashmiri Pandits?
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By B Raman
Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Jan , 2012

It is 23 years today since Jammu & Kashmir saw the beginning of the ethnic-cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandits, the original inhabitants of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), from their homeland at the instigation of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) by a group of Kashmiri jihadi elements trained, armed and motivated by the ISI.

The Pandits have been waiting for 23 years hoping that the day of their return with honour and security to their homeland would come. It has not so far despite the considerable improvement in the ground situation.

The lead in this act of ethnic-cleansing was initially taken by the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Other jihadi organisations, which subsequently came into existence after having been trained and armed by the ISI, kept the ethnic-cleansing going till practically all the Kashmiri Pandits were driven out after having been subjected to numerous indignities and brutalities such as rape of women, torture, forcible seizure of property belonging to the Pandits etc.

The Pandits, who survived these acts of indignities and brutalities, were forced to leave their homeland and seek shelter in camps for refugees set up in Jammu and Delhi. Within a few weeks of the outbreak of the ethnic cleansing, a majority of the Pandits found themselves reduced to the miserable status of refugees in their own country.

As the Pandits and their wifes and children were subjected to indignities and brutalities and driven out of their homeland, the State of India totally caught by surprise watched helplessly and pusillanimously, as the plans of the ISI to change the demographic composition of the Kashmir Valley in order to make it a predominantly Muslim area were sought to be implements by the jihadis trained by the ISI.

The other option was to train and arm the Pandits and ask them to go back and re-occupy their property and fight against the ISI-trained jihadis.

Neither V.P.Singh, who was the Prime Minister when the ethnic-cleansing was carried out nor any of his successors had the least idea of how to deal with the situation. There were various options available. I would cite only two. The first option was to direct the Army to re-establish Indian sovereignty over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan as a punitive measure. Pakistan had by then acquired a military nuclear capability, but not a nuclear arsenal. It did not have a satisfactory delivery capability. We could have, therefore, easily re-taken the POK and Gilgit-Baltistan without fear of provoking a nuclear war. The V.P.Singh Government did not exercise this option.

The other option was to train and arm the Pandits and ask them to go back and re-occupy their property and fight against the ISI-trained jihadis. This option was carefully examined and given up as not advisable. There were legitimate fears that this option could polarise for ever the relations between the Muslims and the Hindus and play into the hands of the jihadis who wanted such polarisation.

Since Kaos death in 2002, the Kashmiri Pandits find themselves orphaned. There is no one at the political or bureaucratic level, who is prepared to come to the forefront, stick his neck out and demand action to restore the dignity and honour of the Pandits.

The option finally chosen was to look after the Pandits in the refugee camps and other areas where they had settled down with their relatives and wait for the restoration of normalcy in the Valley so that these refugees could be helped to go back, re-establish their ownership of their property and resume a life of dignity as the residents of their traditional homeland.

The Pandits have been waiting for 23 years hoping that the day of their return with honour and security to their homeland would come. It has not so far despite the considerable improvement in the ground situation. In the meanwhile, the plight of the Pandits has been slowly forgotten. Everybody sheds crocodile tears over their sufferings, but there is nothing more by way of action. The future of the Kashmiri Pandits as an important dimension of the Kashmir problem is less and less talked about.

There was one man, who spent his years of retirement in attempts to ensure that the promises made by the nation to restore the honour and dignity of the Pandits was not forgotten. He took a lively interest in their future and interacted vigorously with leaders of the Government and opposition political parties to see that this dimension of the Kashmir problem was not forgotten.

His name was R.N.Kao, a Kashmiri himself, who was the legendary founding father of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW). The Kashmir tragedy broke out five years after he finally retired from public service in 1984. From 1989 onwards till his death in 2002, he devoted a lot of his time to his self-assumed task of restoring the honour and dignity of the Pandits.

The Government of India has a moral responsibility for working towards such a consensus. Presently, it has not been doing so.

Since Kao’s death in 2002, the Kashmiri Pandits find themselves orphaned. There is no one at the political or bureaucratic level, who is prepared to come to the forefront, stick his neck out and demand action to restore the dignity and honour of the Pandits. Hopes that the BJP-led Government would pay lively attention to the future of the Pandits were sadly belied. The BJP-led Government was as confused and as inactive as any of the other Governments that had held office since 1989.

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How to move forward? Two realities have to be kept in mind. Firstly, it is too late in the day to think of identifying and punishing those who were responsible for the ethnic-cleansing. Any ill-advised attempt to do so would complicate the situation further.

Secondly, the return of the Pandits to their homeland cannot be enforced unilaterally by the Governments of India and the State. It has to be the outcome of a consensus among different political parties of the State and leaders of different communities. The Government of India has a moral responsibility for working towards such a consensus. Presently, it has not been doing so. It should be made to do so through public pressure. It is time to stop meaningless breast-beating on the plight of the Pandits and their future. It is time to work for concrete ways of enabling their return to their homeland in dignity and honour.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

B Raman

Former, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai & Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat. He is the author of The Kaoboys of R&AW, A Terrorist State as a Frontline Ally,  INTELLIGENCE, PAST, PRESENT & FUTUREMumbai 26/11: A Day of Infamy and Terrorism: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.

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10 thoughts on “Future of Kashmiri Pandits?

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  2. Isnt it idiotic of the Indian govt to permit people from other states to settle anywhere in this country yet not permit others to do so in such states??? Either we are one or we are not …. the logic of Indian politicians and bureaucrats is slowly but steadily taking this nation on the path of self destruction … can we check it in time????

  3. Being citizens of this great country,every one of us have a right to choose where to live. if thousands of people every year can migrate to various places why not in j&k.times have changed the govt needs to be assertive and not only kashmeri pandits but any one wanting to migrate to j&k should be helped by the govt. to do so.

  4. Refugees in our own country… It is really a shame, pro pakis are enjoying in kashmir and we are talking about secularism but pro pakis are taking clear advantage of our stupid secular policies…

  5. The problem with Hindus is their weakness covered under the garb of ‘tolerance’ which is convenient for all …. i was there from 90 to 97 … what action did they take to protect themselves from being anhilated and thrown out? What did the Indian govt do to get them back? In 1971 a genocide in East Pakistan led to the creation of Bangladesh in a matter of 9 months !!! And nothing was done to reinstate the Kashmiri pandits in their homes in 26 years??? Was it against a well equipped Army of Pak that we were fighting? When elections were held in 96 some Kashmiri Pandits had been encouraged to return and survey their land and homes and settle down. Their feedback was that their land and orchards had been usurped by their neighbours, who only paid lip service for their return. Was it not possible to move the Kashmiri pandits back into their homes once the Army had established the counter insurgency grid? Violence would have reared its head, lives would have been sacrificed, but maybe it would have been more permanent a move to get them back then wait indecisively for 26 years … Nothing comes for free in this life, least of all freedom. “Israel will be born, with or without your help. Blood will be shed; its natural in every birth. How much she bleeds is upto you.” – Golda Meir addressing the US Jewish community in America.

  6. Why force pundits into ghettos and alienate them from their former friends and neighbors. Why give enmass target to militants. Let them settle down where they want. Help them by giving monetary help. I’m sure they would prefer their old homes if government can provide adequate security

  7. THE MOST BIGGEST WAS COMMITTED BY NEHRU WHO HIMSELF WAS A KASHMIRI PANDIT, HE GOT UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MOUNTBATTEN WHO MISLEAD WE ALL INDIANS INTO BELIEVING THAT HE WAS A FRIEND & WELL WISHER OF WE INDIANS, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND HE GAVE PAKISTAN A GOOD STICK TO CREATE PROBLEMS FOR WE INDIANS & TODAY WE ALL INDIANS ARE PAYING VERY DEARLY FOR IT. IT WAS MOUNTBATTEN WHO ADVISE NEHRU TO TAKE THE KASHMIR MATTER TO THE UNO & FROM THAT TIME ONWARDS THE COUNTRY IS PAYING DEARLY FOR THE CRIMES OF NEHRU & MOUNTBATTEN. ONLY IF OUR FATHER OF THE NATION GANDHIJI WOULD HAD MADE LATE SARDAR PATEL AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE CONGRESS THAN HE WOULD HAD BEEN OUR FIRST PRIME MINISTER IN PLACE OF THAT BLUNDER MISTAKE MAKER NEHRU. I DO REGARD NEHRU AS THE MAIN TRAITOR TO OUR COUNTRY, EVEN IN 1962 HE COMMITTED THE MOST BLUNDER MISTAKE OF UNDER MINING CHINA, OR WHICH THE NATION I PAYING DEARLY EVEN TODAY. THE BIGGEST MISTAKE NEHRU MADE WAS OF BRINGING HIS DAUGHTER INTO POLITICS & PAVED THE WAY FOR DYNASTIC RULE IN INDIA, WHICH IS NOW CREATING ALL ROUND BIGGEST PROBLEMS FOR WE ALL INDIANS

  8. Separate cluster for Kashmiri Hindus in Kashmir valley and they must be fully armed with proper Army training is the only solution for their rehabilitation in their ancestor’s land. A separate Parliamentary constituency must be carved out for them too to reflect their aspiration in Indian Parliament and their problems. Kashmiri youths should get age relaxation and preferential treatment in Govt. of India service in J & K to encourage them to live in Kashmir.Any dissent must be controlled with stern hand.All major important nations should be informed diplomatically regarding the plight of these original inhabitants of Kashmir and take their support well in advance albeit secretly so that no nation including Pakistan can create any fissure .

  9. Pakistan doesn’t want Kashmir to be an entity, that is in conflict with Pakistan, and neither does Pakistan want to be identified as a national state, that caused the partition of the Indian sub-continent more than twice, being a party to it twice over, because it could not be avoided. The first time the Indian sub continent was divided, Pakistan was seen as the reason for rioting in India, and also there was the situation where Pakistani civilians were seen to be in conflict with the Indian Army. It seems, that the issue of Kashmir was raised, when the L. O. C., seemed to be respected by the armed forces. The situation seems to be, that if there was no need to keep the international border sacrosanct, the border would not be sacrosanct. If there are voices in Balochistan wanting the Pakistan govt. to engage in talks, it seems that the idea of a more relevant Kashmir, than Balochistan is a very vexation for Balochistan, and Pakistan. I really feel that India should make the Pakistan govt. realize, that the border is as sacrosanct for India as it is for Pakistan. It seems, Gujarat has close proximity to Balochistan, and it seems the Gujarat govt. can do nothing, if people from Pakistan come into India, in Gujarat. What if Narendra Modi feels that Gujarati’s are said to foster disharmony in Balochistan? Can the Pakistan govt. claim this? Would Gujarati’s want to go into Pakistan, and I mean Muslim Gujarati’s, and foster misunderstanding in Balochistan? Is the U. P. A. govt. in parliament, in connivance with Narendra Modi for the same cause and effect? It seems, during the Congress rule in Gujarat, the govt., at the state and center could not defend a similar accusation, if it was directed at India.
    Pakistan is aware, that Narendra Modi has not mentioned Balochistan and the fact that Pakistan does not disallow Muslims to enter the Indian border, as this is impossible. The nations must come to a solution.

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