‘Yasin Malik’s Verdict Is Balm On Kashmir Pandits’ Wounds’

Deepak Kachru, a Kashmiri Pandit living in Lucknow since early 90s, India must also guard against the sympathisers of terrorists like Yasin Malik

Displaced Kashmiri Pandits, as a community, had lost hope in the system and accepted the life outside their homeland as their fait accompli for three decades. However two decisions – the removal of Article 370 in 2019 by the Union government and life sentence to Yasin Malik by a special court recently – have come as a healing touch to our wounds.

The life sentence awarded to Malik is for terror funding; he is yet to face the trial for killing of innocent Kashmiri Pandits. Anything less than a death sentence for a person who has killed many innocents, including Indian Air Force officers, and raped women and children will not be acceptable to our community.

Nevertheless, there is some progress on the justice front. There are many culprits responsible for the plight of Pandits and we expect this government to hear the cases related to Kashmir in fast-track courts.

Removal of Article 370 has proved to be a relief not only for the Pandits but for the entire region and whole of Kashmiri people. There has been a substantial fall in the terror activities and support from across the border too is dwindling. Tourism and businesses are slowly reviving in the Valley. This year the tourist footfall created a record.  

Kachru says Narendra Modi has reignited hope among Kashmiri Pandits

Earlier (before the abrogation of Article 370) criminals like Yasin Malik were enjoying all kinds of support and hospitality from inside our own territory, under previous governments. In spite of theses concessions, they did not consider themselves as a part of India.

ALSO READ: Kashmir Incomplete Without Pandits, Says Khushboo Mattoo

The Narendra Modi government has taken several bold steps and ignited hope amongst Kashmiri people as a whole. Terror modules are still there but now they are picking up soft targets such as government employees, non-Kashmiris or SPOs; earlier the terrorists would attack security forces too.

The time is ripe for the government to rid the Valley of terrorism and terrorists for once and all. Bringing the guilty to book and awarding them strict punishment will go a long way in setting an example. There are many more of the ilk of Yasin Malik who must be brought to justice for their nefarious actions.

At the same time, I must say that there are many sympathisers of these anti-nationals amongst us only. Indian government and citizens must guard against these elements. The situation is in our favour and we must make the most of it in establishing the rule of law. This will send a strong message to terrorists and their handlers across the border.

As told to Rajat Rai 

‘Kashmir Files Is A Political Ploy To Demonize Muslims’

Majid Maqbool, a senior journalist from Srinagar, saysthe movie seeks to selectively exploit the tragedy of Kashmiri Pandits and promote hatred

The Kashmir Files has been released at a time when Kashmir remains besieged, post August 5, 2019, following the unilateral abrogation of Article 370 by the ruling BJP government in New Delhi and further downgrading of the former state into a Union Territory. This has been followed by a six-month long lockdown and communications shutdown and world’s longest internet shutdown, which, suddenly, disconnected people from each other and the outside world for months.

Since then the Indian State, under the current regime, has tightened its grip and sought to curb all forms of independent media, civil society engagements, and political voices across the spectrum, including the local media. This has virtually compelled them to either remain silent or toe the line of the ruling dispensation.

Draconian laws like the PSA and UAPA continue to be slapped against civil society activists and journalists and anyone who dares to raise his or her voice against the many injustices normalized in the Valley are hounded, punished and put into prison.

Predictably, the film is a brazen attempt to selectively exploit the tragedies of one community – the Kashmiri Pandits of Jammu and Kashmir. This community is shown as the only victim in the state, and the other community, the Kashmiri Muslims, is further demonized and projected as the perpetrators.

ALSO READ: ‘Kashmir Files Is A Farrago Of Disinformation’

The fact is that the film was openly promoted by the ruling party and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and, other BJP ministers and rightwing groups.  This was a clear message to the people of India to watch the film and thereby proves the political intent behind the making of this kind of biased cinema.

The Kashmir Files is a political project to further demonize Kashmiri Muslims and Indian Muslims at a time when they are already politically dispossessed and repressed by the State. Certainly, they are being attacked ritualistically, and are being treated as second class citizens. The assault on Muslims and their religious places during the auspicious occasion of Ram Navami, especially in certain BJP-ruled states, is a transparent pointer.

Contrary to the relentless hate politics and anti-Kashmiri propaganda by certain sections of Kashmiri Pandits in public forums and media, the besieged people in Kashmir, across all communities, Hindus and Muslims, are not consumed by so-called ‘anti-KP’ hatred. They are largely sympathetic to their condition and desire their return home without their pain being politically exploited and used by the rightwing political forces.

While growing up in Kashmir, I have never heard a single Kashmiri Muslim not fervently wanting the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes — however, not in separate, isolated and ghettos protected by security forces. This would only sharpen the divides and disconnects among both the communities and block all forms of meaningful individual and collective engagements. Over the years, the return of the KPs has been politicized and exploited by parties like the BJP to further their political agendas, instead of making genuine efforts for their welfare and rehabilitation. 

The film has intentionally fictionalized and exploited old, simmering wounds of the Pandits. The rightwing groups and parties have tried to further stoke anti-Muslim sentiments by invoking this film in their hate speeches to demonize and marginalize the Muslim community at large in India. Not surprisingly, the film has allegedly done good business at the box office, creating an easy template to replicate in future and a dangerous business and cinematic model of monetizing and marketing hate.

As told to Amit Sengupta

Govt Owes Kashmiris

‘The Kashmir Files is A Farrago of Disinformation; A Propaganda’

Omair Hasan* counters the Bollywood narrative which, he argues, is an attempt to further polarize the country and a disservice to the cause of Kashmiri Pandits

I was about three year old when the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley happened. I have very little memory of the incident. But the story of their migration came in front of me in various forms. As I grew, I realized a couple of houses in my neighbourhood were always deserted. Those were the houses of Pandits who left during the 1990 violence.

I also came across many other stories of violence against them. Nobody can justify the atrocity and violence which happened on them. But weaponising those tragic incidents against Kashmiri Muslims is also not justified.

I saw The Kashmir Files and I seriously doubt the intention of the movie. It is a farrago of disinformation. A complete distortion of facts; a misrepresentation of history and a vicious propaganda.

Every incident has been presented in the movie in a way with an agenda. If we start with the death toll, 89 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in attacks since the inception of militancy in 1990, according to the government data. The movie completely evades the data on the number of killings.

There are various scenes in the movie which show the massacre but never address the number of deaths or what led to the start of killings.

ALSO READ: Kashmir Files Brings Alive Our Pain & Plight

In his book Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, AS Dulat addresses the reason behind the start of killings. He writes that some Pandits were on the payrolls of Intelligence Bureau which he was heading. He also goes on to name some of them who were killed. This vindicates the position taken by militant groups that they were not targeting Pandits in general but had selective targets not linked to their religion but for their affiliations with Indian Intelligence.

This thus debunks and punctures the Indian state’s propaganda to shame Kashmiri resistance movement. I believe that the intention behind hiding the numbers and reason in the movie was to obfuscate people than to make them aware of the event.

Another distorted fact which has been shown in the movie is Kashmiri Pandits demanding removal of Article 370 in 1990. It is laughable. Why were Pandits demanding the removal of Article 370 then, when it also suited them as much as it suits Kashmiri Muslims?

Now let’s talk about slogans used in the movie. Slogan has always been a big part of any movement and so it has been in Kashmir. But the film shows some false slogans that was never a part of the public movement in Kashmir. The film shows Kashmiri crowd raising slogans like “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (convert to Islam, leave the place or perish).” This is completely false. It was never a part of the ‘Kashmir movement’ in its entire history.

According to the movie, all Kashmiri Muslims support Pakistan, including Abdullahs and Muftis. The fun fact for readers of this article is that the so-called nationalist BJP has formed many governments with these so-called Pakistani supporters both at the Centre and in Kashmir.

The movie hails the present government at the Centre as if this is the first time the BJP government has come to power since 1990. I would like to remind people that in these 32 years, the BJP government has remained in power at the Centre for 14 years. We must not forget that it also formed government in Kashmir too. In these years, how many Pandits have been resettled in Kashmir?

Injustice has happened to Pandits but we can’t do justice to them with this kind of propaganda by building anti-Kashmiri narratives. Such kind of movie will further polarise the country and anger of people will be vented out on innocent Kashmiri students who are studying in universities and colleges in different parts of the country. These students have nothing to do with things which happened when they were not even born or were very young and had no say in the politics of the state.

Whether Pandits or Muslims, I think Kashmir is the real victim here. It has been victim for many centuries and still fighting the battle.

As told to Md Tausif Alam

* Hasan declined to share his picture for safety reasons. Respecting his wish, we have used a representational picture

Kashmir is Incomplete Without Kashmiri Pandits

‘Kashmir Will Never Be The Same Without Pandits’

Khushboo Mattoo, displaced from Kashmir in 1990, talks about the hope that abrogation of Article 370 gives to those Kashmiri Pandits who wish to return to their homeland

I can still recall the night of January 19, 1990 when my family, and thousands of other Kashmiri Pandits, packed whatever little we could carry and left for a safe roof. Our lives were at stake. Pandits were being threatened, a lot of them kidnapped and warned to leave the Valley or face consequences. Distraught families left in buses, trucks and Tata Sumos, to live in shanty camps of Jammu and beyond.

Since then, it has been a journey of struggle and survival. A community which was 100 percent literate, never imagined that they would be left in the lurch at one unholy stroke of midnight. The exodus also initiated the process of Islamization of Kashmir. Probably, that was the plan. Thus, as a Kashmiri Pandit, all I want is that my community should be able to return to their homeland and rebuild our lives without a shred of fear. Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits.

The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A brought hope for people throughout the country and particularly to Pandits. The regressive Article debarred women who were domiciles of J&K but got married outside the state from getting property rights. The West Pakistani refugees or the Valmikis who were staying in the state for decades could not be called as domiciles of J&K. But now that problem is resolved too.

No one can compensate Pandits fully for their loss. What the government can do is to make the process of rehabilitation comfortable for Pandits, both in terms of jobs and property. Maybe if we get on a rapid pace of development, the youth in our families will be able to find jobs in Kashmir. The common man of Jammu-Kashmir wants to see food on his plate and a corruption-free administration. It appears to me that the Centre has set the ball rolling.

Mattoo visited the Valley with her husband in Autumn 2020

Having said that, I know the return of Pandits to Kashmir is not easy. Returning to a homogenous Valley where 28- or 30-year-olds have never seen a Hindu in person and where the term secular is alien to public life – will be a challenge. Pandits are understandably afraid to return. Wahan darr kar rahne me kya fayda (What is the point in living under perpetual fear)? We hear news of sarpanchs, political leaders being killed every day. Pandit families will be easy targets. Who would want to return in this environment? There must be social acceptability as well. The process of reverse migration has to be gradual and the Valley citizens have to be welcoming.

In the last 30 years, Kashmir has become a milch cow. Every government and political party has milked it to their benefit. They are clueless about our struggle and how we channelised our anger, with hard work and our learning, to better our lives instead of picking up the gun. This doesn’t make us weak; it makes us stronger. The guns will fall silent, not the pen.

ALSO READ: ‘Pandits Can Return If Kashmiris Ready To Accept Them’

There are people who say that by coming out of a violent Valley, Pandits got better job opportunities and quality of life. I want to tell them that Pandits lost more than they gained. Nobody is happy when one gets uprooted from their homeland. They all remember life back there so vividly. I speak to a lot of Pandits on a daily basis and half of the time we are only talking about Kashmir. Whether a Kashmiri Pandit is staying in America or Australia, he knows everything about Kashmir. He knows when it snows in Kashmir. He celebrates ‘Nausheen’, the first snowfall of the season year after year.

Whenever I get a chance I go to Kashmir, the first thing that strikes me is that everyone is talking in my mother-tongue. It is like homecoming, connecting with the land. This cannot happen anywhere else. A lot of my friends in Kashmir often invite us but it hurts to be treated as a guest on your own land. Who knows if we were in Kashmir, how prosperous it would have been, how healthier our families would have been. Nobody can reverse the tragedy.

I have travelled extensively in the Valley in the past five years. I would like to tell the young Pandits (or youth of any community) to visit the place themselves to know what it is like to be in Kashmir. It is not as bad as one may have imagined. The hospitality and ambience are heartening. I am not saying they should get involved politically but they should at least know about their heritage and culture. It is very important.

– As told to Mamta Sharma