Are Muslims to be blamed for Pandit Migration?

Muslims need to stop being apologetic for a crime which we didn’t commit

The Kashmiri Pandit“trump” card is often employed not only by the right wing parties but also by the mainstream media and the general masses of India to justify the wanton acts of brutality and oppression inflicted upon the hapless people of Kashmir. This card is also used to deny us our basic right the right to self-determination.

In general the Kashmiri Muslims are held culpable for the “ethnic cleansing” and so called “genocide” of Pandits which later resulted in the mass migration of Pandits.

It is generally assumed that this so called “exodus” happened in this month of January, to be more precise and specific according to many Pandit bodies it happened on the 19th of January 1990.

So are we really to be blamed for this crime? Are we really responsible for this? To analyse let us see the context in which the mass migration happened.

In January 1990, the simmering rebellion of 1988-89 came to boil in mass resistance against the Indian rule in the Kashmir Valley. The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF’s) campaign of selective assassination of spies and political collaborator in the Valley escalated sharply in the final months of 1989 which was started according to Professor Sumantra Bose’s research by the shooting of a prominent National Conference (NC) functionary, a Muslim on a Srinagar street in August 1989.

Over the next six months more than one hundred such killings occurred effectively paralyzing the governments administrative machinery and severely damaging its surveillance and intelligence apparatus.

Interestingly three-fourths of the victims -a mix of officials of the local political hierarchy,alleged spies and intelligent agents and prominent citizens accused of pro-India leanings were Muslims and the rest were Pandits.

The high profile Pandit victims included the President of the Kashmir valley unit of Hindu nationalist BharatiyaJanata Party in September 1989,the retired judge who a decade previously had sentenced the JKLF co-founder MaqboolBhat to death in November 1989 and the Director of Srinagar station of government run television network in February 1990.

These highly publicized killings may well have contributed to the spread of fear in Pandit community but the question here to be asked is where these killings communal or political?

Infact, the total number of Pandits died or killed remain at 219 only.

Even more dramatic testimony is available from a prominent Pandit couple kidnapped in Srinagar in November 1991 by members of an armed group calling itself Hezbollah who were released after 45 days in captivity:

“During this time we lived for varying periods in 57 (Muslim) homes. All those people showered love and hospitality on us. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. With their sympathy we were better able to cope.

“We met a cross section of people in the villages and a sizeable number of youth belonging to militant organizations. We talked with them about education, religion, social life, politics, Kashmiriyat, human emotions and above all ways of building bridges and winning hearts.

“The interactions reinforced our faith in the values of love and goodness which are still deeply ingrained in the Kashmiri ethos,” the couple said.

Furthermore, when it all started, a hit list was prepared by the JKLF who were served with a warning to relinquish their pro-India activity. If it were to be “Pandit killing” why come up with a hit list? It is just that Pandits being an educated in the Valley occupied higher administrative positions and some were even members of organizations like the RSS.

Till date about 10,000 Muslim political workers have been killed. Why don’t we hear of a term “Muslim killing”. The stark proof of our non-communal psyche are those Pandits and Sikhs who never left Kashmir and co-exist with us.

The fact is that Muslims as a community never had any role in Pandit migration and there is no need to be guilty. How could a populace which was then and still is facing the wrath of the state could help Pandits not to migrate. How could they assure them of their safety when their own safety was in peril and was jeopardized? When the mighty state could not prevent it, how on earth could we do it? This is an open secret that this mass migration was orchestrated by New Delhi itself with three objectives in mind:

To paint the struggle as communal.
To crush the struggle with an iron hand and in that they did not want to harm the Pandits.
They also became the “trump card” for government in India and abroad. Whenever pressure mounts on India for its human rights violations or to resolve Kashmir issue, they bring to play this trump card and side-line the issue.
Pandit exodus myth has been so much repeated that even we have come to believe it as true and so have many of our intellectuals. Whereas the fact remains even Supreme Court does not want to investigate Panditkillings.

To quote PanditPremNathBazaz about Pandits he writes in “Inside Kashmir”:“Kashmiri Pandits have a knack of presenting their case in such a way as to attract attention and create sympathy.

“Individual cases can become communal matters and communal matters assume national importance when Pandits are involved. Many a time the purpose of putting the Muslims in a wrong by this method has been successfully achieved,” he wrote.

The need of the hour is to change this discourse and replace myths with facts.

We need to stop being apologetic for a crime which we didn’t commit and at the same time we should be ready to welcome Pandits back to Valley if they desire so with open arms.

Syed Hammad Mehraj
syedhammadmehraj@gmail.com