Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley had completely and without any reservations, identified themselves with the aspirations of Indian masses during their long struggle for independence from the British yoke. They had done the same thing against the feudal set-up of the Maharaja.
Pandits had fought shoulder to shoulder with the people of the Indian princely states against the foreign rule. “The first ever conference of the Indian States` People, convened in 1927, was presided over by a firebrand Kashmiri Pandit, Shankar Lal Kaul, who had left Kashmir after having been removed from the State service on the advice of the British Resident.”1
During the conference, Kaul had demanded that the people of the princely states should oppose the princely order and appealed for their unity for a sustained struggle against the British rule. Subsequently, after a decade, this demand became an official part of the ‘Charter of Demands’ of this conference held at Ludhiana, when the conference appealed for repudiation of the paramountcy and the end of the princely rule in the states. During the formative years of the conference, another Kashmiri Pandit, Pandit Dina Nath Kachroo, a close friend of Jawahar Lal Nehru, became the Secretary General of the Conference. It was the same Pandit Kachroo who was arrested along with Pandit Nehru during the Quit Kashmir Movement.
He attended the Working Committee meeting of the NC in October 1947, as All India States People’s Conference representative, when the NC decided to support the State’s accession with India. Some Kashmiri Pandits, like Pandit Kashyap Bandhu, actually joined the revolutionary underground, to achieve these objectives.
The State Subject certification, to which the Kashmiri Muslims are so deeply wedded today, was actually opposed by them when Kashmiri Pandits had launched a movement for its enactment, to forestall the British attempt at acquiring land in the state. On the one hand, Muslims opposed the Maharaja, and on the other, they supported the British.
In the memorandum submitted to the Maharaja in the aftermath of 1931 agitation, they reaffirmed their loyalty to the British Crown. Islamists all along ensured that their struggle against the Maharaja retained its Islamic character. Vested interests, even within the mainstream parties, too allowed pan-Islamism to over-shadow the struggle against the Dogra rule.
Kashmiri Pandits had embraced the secular education in its totality and had, therefore, developed a progressive and liberal outlook, which was visible in their tolerance and forbearance in word and deed. It was they who tried to turn the struggle against the Dogra rule into a non-sectarian mass movement. In 1938, Pandits and Muslims jointly issued a Declaration of National Demand, which later became the basis for the movement of self-government in the state. In its changed ‘avatar’ it became the manifesto of Naya Kashmir of the NC. Many prominent Kashmiri Pandits were in the forefront of the NC.
These included, among other prominent community leaders, the renowned poet and scholar, Dina Nath Nadim. Kashmiri Pandits accepted everything; the snatching away of their landed estates, the confiscation of their properties, their exclusion from the state administration, their being rendered politically irrelevant, primacy of Muslims in politics, their economic marginalisation, Islamisation of all institutions, etc. All these sacrifices were willingly made in the hope that it will usher in genuine secularism in the state.
After independence, no community in India has suffered as much for its commitment to India and its unity, as Kashmiri Pandits have, till their exodus in 1990. They were accused by the anti-Indian segment of Kashmir population as being the principle conspirators of the accession of the State to India in 1947. In addition, Muslim intelligentsia held the Pandits responsible for the split in the MC in 1939, when the party’s majority opted to form NC.
This split, they felt, was engineered by the Pandits to rob the struggle against the Maharaja of its essentially Muslim character. But the truth is that, Pandits joined the NC after the party vowed to be guided by secular values and its membership was thrown open to all communities. Pandits felt that the NC programmes and policies were based on progressive political thinking. Being the most popular party in Kashmir, joining NC also fulfilled Pandits’ desire to be part of the Valley’s mainstream. They had hoped all along that the new political dispensation would maintain and strengthen its secular character with the passage of time.
When Plebiscite Front became a force to reckon with in the Valley, Kashmiri Pandits fought its pernicious separatist and communal ideology. As the propagators of secularism, which Islam held as abhorrent to its ideology, Pandits became the obvious targets of its cadres.
They also fought the Islamic fundamentalists who opposed the 1975 Sheikh-Indira Accord. Such stance adopted by Pandits over a period of time, marked them as enemies of the radical Muslims. To the Islamists, Kashmiri Pandits were also a constant reminder that despite resorting to the latter’s ethnic cleansing on umpteen number of occasions in the past, they continued to come in their way of Islamising the Valley completely.
Therefore, the push delivered to the community in 1990, when insurgency broke out, was meant to uproot the persistent resistance that Muslim communalism in Kashmir met at the hands of Kashmiri Pandits.
Uprooting Pandits; Gains for Islamists
By every reckoning, the Islamists stood to gain by evicting Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley. In their eviction, every segment of Kashmiri Muslim society and its mentor across the LoC, Pakistan, saw only gains accruing to it. At the macro level these were:-
- Eviction of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley would end the much feared secularisation of the Kashmiri Muslim society. With Kashmiri Pandits out of the Valley, the Muslims would now be more open and amenable to fundamentalist Islamic preaching. This, the radical elements felt, would be the first step in Islamising Kashmir; the avowed aim of the Islamists.
- The eviction of Kashmiri Pandits would destroy India’s credibility among Kashmiri Muslims. This would embolden them to become even more belligerent and aggressive in demanding secession of Kashmir from India. This aggressive posture will eventually result in the separation of Kashmir from India. For Pakistan, it will make its task of gobbling up Kashmir easier and would be compensation enough for losing its Eastern Wing in 1971.
- Kashmir, devoid of Pandits, would result in snapping the psychological connect between the Indian State and the Valley. This objective could easily be achieved, as Article 370 had already paved the way for such disconnect. In due course of time, Indian feedback channels would completely dry up.
That the Islamists have succeeded in Islamising the entire Valley by cleansing it of non-Muslims is best illustrated by the census figures given below:
The dwindling population of Kashmiri Pandits, Kashmir’s biggest minority, is even more glaring. According to census figures in 1981, the population of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley was 15 per cent, which fell to 5 per cent in 1991 and to 0.01 per cent further down the years. According to a statement made by Raman Bhalla, a Minister in the State Government, in the State Assembly on March 23, 2010, “Only 808 families of Kashmiri Pandits were living in the Valley and the total number of men, women and children was 3,445… Killing of community members led to fear psychosis in the community.” Such a massive demographic change could not have taken place in Kashmir without detailed planning at the highest level in Pakistan, backed and executed by its proxies in Kashmir.”2
At the micro level, the Islamists hoped to achieve the following:-
- In the long run, the Kashmiri Muslims would get to own all the movable and immovable property left behind by Kashmiri Pandits.
- The Muslims would corner all the jobs vacated by the Pandits.
- The Kashmiri Muslims would become the sole beneficiaries of huge doles given by the central government to Kashmir.
- The Kashmiris would get to own and control all the businesses and commercial activity in the Valley.
In the past two decades after exodus, nearly all the goals already stand achieved by the Islamists.
Between 1989–1992, the militant violence tore the Kashmiri society apart. The spurt in militant violence can be gauged from the fact that whereas the number of terrorist acts reported in 1988 was 390, it went up to 4,971 in 1992. The attacks on security forces also registered a substantial increase in the said period; from just six in 1988 to 3,413 in 1992. Similarly, in 1988, only 36 AK-47 Rifles (or its later versions) were recovered, whereas in 1992, the recoveries were a whopping 3,775. With the Jehadi operations getting more extensive and widespread, as also because of far greater number of Jehadis getting inducted into the Valley, their masters sitting across the LoC, found it increasingly difficult to effectively exercise operational control over the militant cadres, over huge distances. To streamline the complex operational communication for effective control over various militant groups, the ISI set up a number of communication and broadcasting stations in PoK. Besides addressing the problem of effectively communication with various militant commanders in the Valley, these broadcasting stations were also used for psychological operations.
These communication stations dished out communal propaganda in order to create hatred between the civil population and the security forces. One such broadcasting station, Sada-e-Hurriyat (Voice of Hurriyat), churned out mischievous communal propaganda in local language that influenced the gullible and the devout, who would come out on the streets with increased frequency and greater virulence.
The ISI’s propaganda machinery and its handling of the media contributed immensely to the worsening situation in the Valley. Almost the entire press, both Indian and foreign, carried one-sided stories and even suppressed those which were not sympathetic to the militants and their cause. The most important of these was the suppression of the news of violence against Kashmiri Pandits, leading to their ethnic cleansing from the Valley.
1. White Paper on Kashmir, Dr MK Teng and CL Guddu for Joint Human Rights Committee, (Gupta Print Services, Delhi), p. 67.
2. India News, IANS, (Indo-Asian News Service), downloaded from Kashmir Interchange @Yahoogroups.com, March 25, 2010.