Where Did Pandits Fail?
by Dr. Ajay Chrangoo
Yardsticks of Judgment
The community struggle during a decade of its
exiled existence should be viewed in the light of its social personality prior
to the present exodus and the contemporary socio-political environment around
it. The displaced Pandit had inherited a 'dishelved personality' with a marked
desensitisation to its rights. It for years had been reconciled to a state of
'passive existence' and had got used to speaking in terms of gratitude besides
extolling the virtues of its adversary. It was 'politically imbecile' with an
irresponsible attitude to its collective historical destiny.
The socio-political environment in which the Kashmiri Pandit was placed at
the time of exodus was one of extreme isolation. For Pakistan and its
international support structures the Pandit presence in the Valley constituted
the vital element for secularisation and democratisation of Kashmiri polity.
The Pandit also constituted the civilisational front-line. Its destruction had
become a pre-requisite for the thrust of Muslim power towards the east. For the
forces dominating Indian political scene, the Pandit constitutes the apex of the
pyramid of the so called 'Brahminical order' which they are seeking to
dismantle. Kashmiri Pandit also constitutes a very insignificant social group
in terms of vote Politics last but not the least the type of Hindu response
which emerged in India during last decade and a half considered Kashmiri Pandit
as an extension of Nehru and his political creed. When Bal Thackery commented
sometime back that 'Kashmiri Pandits have to fight both with Pakistan as well as
Government of India," he was only underlining the nature of Pandit isolation.
Perspective of Failure
Judging from such a perspective, the Pandits' failure as a social group
during last 10 years of exile do not at all fall in the realm of its responses
to the militarised fundamentalism and other challenges to the national integrity
or the multidimensional genocidal attrition against the Hindus of the state. On
all these accounts Kashmiri Pandits have fared commendably.
The failures of this community lie primarily on two scores. One that it has
failed to appreciate its own efforts and their impact in relation to its
isolation and the nature and reach of the forces which unleashed the genocidal
war on it. Secondly the community has not been able to overcome the obsession
over the 'paradigm of community unity' which over the years has nurtured only
disunity and caused disfigurement of its personality.
Uprooted from its territory without any credible institutional support
structure and with an overwhelming isolation engulfing it, the Kashmiri Pandit
had to wage a struggle at many fronts. It had to secure, an honourable survival
in exile, evolve a perspective of survival for the future and assume a dominant
civilian role to fight challenges to the national integrity and unity as a
whole. In fact, the Pandits have performed better than many social groups
anywhere in similar circumstances.
The eminent journalist and writer Arun Shourie while complimenting the
Kashmiri Hindus on their efforts confessed during the World Conference of
Kashmiri Pandits, "You have done far better than we Punjabis in responding to
the challenges posed by terrorism and fundamentalism. The outbursts of Dr. Gh.
Nabi Fai the leader of Kashmir American Council in front of Pandit delegates in
Geneva after Pakistan was forced to withdraw the crucial resolution against
India in NHRC was, only a compliment to Pandits. "We were defeated by Kashmiri
Pandits and not by the Government of India", he said.
A few years back four Kashmiri Pandits were brought down from the bus at the
outskirts of Gool and three of them were gunned down. The terrorists were very
selective in these killings and had spared
the lives of all other local Hindus traveling in the bus. The scrutiny into the
causes of this selectiveness revealed that the terrorist mind considered
Kashmiri Pandit as a cohesive, articulate and unrelenting social group. It
viewed their presence in Jammu with alarm in relation to their future operatives
in the province. One reason for the killing was to create an atmosphere of
insecurity for, Pandits even in Jammu. However, more motivating objective was
that they believed that Pandit killing had a more publicity potential. The
terrorists had gunned down more than half a dozen local Hindus including a
doctor in the area without any significant media attention.
The entire spectrum of the separatists, think tank in the state which
includes a section of Kashmiri Bureaucracy take Pandit factor more seriously as
impediment to their designs. They openly confess about it and rely on their
subversive reach within Govt. of India to neutralise this factor. The Pandit
factor is the only factor other than the Kashmiri Muslims, which has got
registered on the international mind amongst the totality issues involved in the
Kashmir crisis. Leading US expert on Indian subcontinent Stephen Cohen once
described the future of Kashmiri Pandits' as an 'acid test' to any solution to
We have a pardoxical appreciation of Pandit response. It has a better
external recognition and a worse internal appreciation. This is a major failure
of the community mind. If only the 'Pandit' could see his struggle and its
impact in a broader national and international perspective his persecuted
personality will emerge from the inertia created by 'internalisation of his
crisis'. He would fix his - external enemy. He would realise that for last 10
years, he was and continues to be in a leadership role spearheading the national
response against expansion of Muslim fundamentalism and international intrigue
in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmiri Pandits are yet to transcend and rise above their existing
'paradigm of unity'. On the surface and in common parlance such pespective of
community unity underlines simplistic expectations. If groups are controlled or
dissolved through a common platform, community action will assume a decisive
punch; the government and the political establishment will consider community as
important negotiating partner. So bringing groups or leaders together has
become our foremost concern. We continue to invest lots of energy in such
But do such unity efforts even when they succeed fulfill even these
preliminary expectations? The results of 1997 unity experiment in London are
revealing. This experiment did lead to the emergence of a common platform-The
Kashmiri Pandit political Steering Committee. Most of the functional and
credible Pandit organisations which included All State Kashmiri Pandit
Conference, Kashmiri Pandit Sabha Jammu, Kashmiri Samiti Delhi, two groups of
Panun Kashmir and Overseas Pandit Organisations constituted the committee. But
neither did such a unity lead to any new thrust in the commtmity action nor did
it bring about factorial recognition to the Pandits. The Government did not
give it any negotiating legitimacy. In fact, while efforts were on for the
creation of the 'Steering Committee' to be the sole representative of the
Pandits, the government had already started talking to new organisations which
had sprung up from nowhere. Scores of Pandit delegations were encouraged by the
Government to visit Kashmir by offering allurements, The 'Steering Committee'
became just one more group for the Government.
And we were back to square one. The emergence of new groups readily
recognised by the Government created a need for a, bigger umbrella. With the
existing paradigm we continue to be in a vicious cycle chasing a mirage of
unity. Our adversary within and outside has kept us bogged down. He cultivates
new individuals and keeps us busycoopting them.
The 'London' experiment also brought out an interesting phenomenon. In any
consensual exercise between various groups there should be emergence of a more
pronounced stand on such points of view which are common to all the groups as
per the simple logic. There were many common areas in the positions taken
separately by the constituting units of the Steering Committee. However, this
comrnonaliy did not get more pronounced through the new formation.
For example, most of the India based functional groups of the Steering
Committee had rejected the proposal of the Government's sub-committee on return
and rehabilitation. Yet the joint proposal by the Steering Committee on-the
same tended to come closer to the Government position. During the presentation
to the US ambassador to India, Panun Kashmir, All State Kashmiri Pandit
Conference and Kashmir Pandit Sabha Amphalla had jointly taken the political
position seeking politico-administrative restructuring of the state'. Other
India based constituents of the Steering Committee had also taken similar
positions from time to time. The Steering Committee even diluted this
commonalty in political approach which otherwise should have become more,
forceful and discreet through the joint venture.
When the senior advisor of the Indo American Kashmir Forum visited Jammu
sometime after the creation of 'The Steering Committee' he got very concerned
and upset about the all pervading feeling of disunity within the community. A
community representative who met him questioned his state of appreciation by
commenting, "You say that all the leaders with whom you have interacted
expressed a commonality of ideas in front of you, You have brought almost 90% of
them on a common platform. The remaining 10% have not opposed your experiment.
Why are you still encountering disunity?"
In the mid-eighties, 33 Pandit organisations formed a joint front Hindu Ekta
Manch. The inaugural session of the only convention held by the Hindu Ekta
Manch witnessed pro-RSS representatives eulogising their efforts in bringing so
many groups on a common platform. Towards the end of the convention, while the
leader of the All India Pandit conference was making its concluding remarks the
banner of Hindu Ekta Manch was silently brought down and replaced by the banner
of the same Organisation which had taken the dias. The more comical part of
this unity experiment was that none of the individual constituents had any
pronounced political position. They agreed with one another so much that they
could have neither justified their separate existence nor the need to come
together. The entire unity exercise was perhaps to disrupt one another when
they were doing better individually. The 1997 unity experiment also caused big
disruption. It demobilised all its constituent units which otherwise had done
well within their respective perspectives.
Our unity paradigm below the surface is more vicious and our major failure is
that we have not been able to see through it. It seeks 'unity of heads' and
relegates issues and opinions to secondary importance. Through such a
perspective, we try to arrive at consensus before crystallisation of the
issues. Here the vision of survival becomes a consequence of herding of
individuals rather than thinking of minds.
This paradigm has also created a sociological myth that all other social
groups have better cohesiveness than us. It has created a monster of an
internal enemy. For it external enemy does not either exist or exists only as
an alibi to fight the inner enemy. It nurtures a perpetual state of self blame
and self negation. It has created a state of helplessness as if we have some
sort of genetic disability which has caused our misery.
And above all this paradigm ultimately strives at rendering us in a state of
non-opinion. Such a state suits only our enemy. This unity paradigm is only a
disunity trap which our adversary has imposed on us. A close observation of the
nature of efforts to keep us in a state of non-opinion does reveal that the
paradigm is more externally imposed through subtle processes of suggestion and
sabotage than the consequence of our own persecuted personality.
Salvation for persecuted groups does not come from external support. It
comes through irmovative approaches aimed at breaking or circumventing the
defeatism of their persecuted personality. Appreciating our own accomplishments
and breaking the gordian knot of inertia is the only way to our