'We can never agree to a solution that weakens India', says Dr. Ajay Chrungoo
In a conversation with Kashmir
Sentinel, Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman Panun Kashmir, talked at length on different
issues concerning Kashmiri Pandits and the Country. Excerpts of the Conversation
on contemporary situation are reproduced below.
KS: What is your assessment about the current situation?
There has been a steep decline in terrorist-related violence in the State.
The steep decline in violence has to be placed in the context of the pattern of
terrorism seen since 1990, otherwise we will miss its significance. At the same
time, the heads of the different Security agencies in the state agree that the
number of terrorists operating in the state has not fallen much. It means two
things. Either the terrorists are lying low, waiting for an opportunity to
strike at some opportune moment or else there is a tactical shift in the
terrorist strategy or both. During the past year more and more linkages of
Kashmiri terrorists with Jihadic activities in Indian heartland are being
Secondly, the focus of the pan-Islamist Jihad at the moment is
Afghanistan and Pakistan, so the intensity of Jihadic violence in J&K state has
gone down. We should not discount the notable successes in counter-insurgency
operations against terrorists, particularly the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Parallel to the decline in violence we are witnessing shifting
of emphasis to consolidation of subversion and leadership symbols of separatism.
Separatists are also looking up to the ongoing 'peace process' as an opportunity
which can deliver substantive concessions to them. So the decline in violence
has a political objective as well.
KS: There have been demands for declaration of de-militarisation
and unilateral ceasefire against terrorists by separatists and some regional
parties. Please comment.
Who are raising the demands for ceasefire and de-militarisation? Their
motivations need to be ascertained. During the past 18 years we have seen
separatists and politicians of different hues raising certain demands to placate
terrorists and Pakistan for varying reasons. At a time when terrorists have
suffered major reverses and ISI's policy of blatant sponsorship of cross border
terrorism remains unchanged declaration of ceasefire by security forces will
only help terrorists to regroup and rebuild their striking potential. We should
not fall in this trap.
So far as the demand for de-militarisation is concerned more
than operational logistic advantage it would provide to
Pakistan the bigger political
game of separatists is to link de-militarisation with sovereignty and project
India as an occupation force. Isn't it strange that the leaders who have been in
the primary beneficiaries of presence of security forces should now be talking
about destabilising demand of de-militarisation. It is reassuring that Governor
Gen. SK Sinha has minced no words in saying that even after return of normality
there will be no de-militarisation but troops will return only to barracks. If
only Indian political leadership sheds its ambivalence on vital issues of
national security the nation would win half the battle against terrorism.
KS: Reports from
Srinagar say that the mood of the
people is changing. Do you attribute it to the 'peace process'?
The 'change of mood' needs to be qualified. On one hand there is greater flow of
actionable intelligence to security forces, while on the other we are witnessing
massive gatherings at funerals of terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen who have
indulged in worse killings against common Kashmiris. Recently, most of the
newspapers carried photographs of such funerals in at least three cases.
Earlier, we witnessed such funerals in case of LeT terrorists. In fact, public
response is being used as the yardstick to determine the source of unclaimed
killings. Where there is no public outcry the killings are attributed to the
terrorists. In his Independence
Day speech State Governor bemoaned that 133 slit-throat killings by terrorists
did not evoke any condemnation from those who were in the habit of raking up
human rights violations. The public response can be explained on the basis that
either they have fear of terrorists or they endorse the terrorist regimes. In
both situations the only inference is that situation is far from normal.
There is one change which needs to be taken note of due to
long years of gun culture which has caused social disorganisation. There is
disorientation and widespread degeneration in Kashmiri separatist movement due
to this. On certain occasions the public is expressing disapproval of this,
mostly in private than in public. 'Peace Process' promoted by Govt. of India,
rather than consolidating this public disapproval for larger rejection of
separatist objectives has only served to catapult rejected separatist leadership
to the centre stage.
KS: Many well-known Strategic Affairs Experts on J&K
even while emphasizing the desirability of smashing terrorist base advocate
granting of meaningful political concessions to Kashmiris. What are your views?
There are two aspects of this issue. One, these experts study terrorism in
Kashmir through usual parameters. Their responses to terrorism are thus okay.
Secondly, Experts on internal turmoil (due to terrorism) have repeatedly
emphasised the need to change the grievance frame. The grievance frame of
Kashmiri separatist movement is communal and fundamentalist. So unless you
demystify this grievance frame how can you identify legitimate aspirations of
average Kashmiri from illegitimate ones. The Indian strategic community you are
talking about is reluctant to change the grievance frame. They are being fed
distorted analysis on Kashmiri alienation and their aspirations by different
actors who are averse to Kashmir's strong links with rest of the country. If you
are holding on to a communal grievance frame you will advocate only communal
solutions. This, is what you say 'politically meaningful concessions'.
These concessions, if granted, would lead to greater destabilisation in future.
Our stakes are that
Kashmir should remain an integral part of India, with an active functioning
secular society. We can never agree to a solution which weakens India or leads
to further destabilisation of Pandits. Alienation of Kashmiris needs to be
qualified - whether it is outcome of denial of genuine aspirations or is it
because communalism and fundamentalism have made deep inroads into Kashmiri
society. When we talk of political concessions in the context of alienation i.e.
autonomy, self-rule, porous borders etc. it has to be ascertained whether these
concessions would consolidate India
or the separatist regimes. Isn't it true that such concessions in the past
strengthened separatist feelings, leading to full blown insurgency later? In
this context a political package should have delegitimisation of communalism and
fundamentalism as its central objective. Intriguingly, these experts who talk
about political concessions are silent on reversal of genocide against Kashmir
Pandits, the frontline victims of terrorism.
KS: How do you see 'Peace Process'-both external and
internal addressing the problem?
What does peace process offer to the country or the Displaced Kashmiri Hindus?
There have been plethora of recommendations made through Working Groups which
are dangerous for country's sovereignty and integrity e.g. Travel on State
Subject documents across LoC, compensation to families of Jihadis, porous
borders, joint management, regional assemblies in Jammu along communal lines, so
on and so forth. This has emboldened some to indulge in loud thinking on 'double
currency'. All these solutions will create conceptual and political space for
forces inimical to India's unity. All recommendations which pertain to broader
nationalist concerns are being brushed aside in the Working Groups. Peace
process in the perception of common people seems to be a creeping process
through which retraction of Indian sovereignty is being envisaged.
KS: Virtually similar recommendations have emanated from
US think-tanks, particularly United States Institute of Peace (USIP).
That is true. The think-tanks at USIP presume that tangible political
concessions to radical Islamists in Kashmir and Kosovo would dilute the
anti-American stridency of Jihadis. That is a very naive understanding.
Proposals floated by USIP either directly or through their people in India will
lead to entrenchment of Jihadis in Himalayas and create destabilisation for
India. Setbacks to Americans, particularly in Middle East and Asia, show how
naive they are. Americans are engaged in palliative action. We must reject all
the advice doled out by US think-tanks, particularly USIP. Europe,
Serbia, Russia and China have already taken a strong line on Kosovo. Autonomous
Kosovo and Kashmir can become launching pads for Jihadi activities elsewhere. We
must prempt that.
KS: Why is
America so naive?
The US has a mindset nurtured during decades of Cold War. Changing global and
regional situation has brought new problems to the fore. USA is
still reluctant to regard Pakistan as the epicentre of global Jihad and Pak army
the most important support structure of this Jihad. So policy of engagement with Pakistan
turns into policy of capitulation to the imperatives of Jihad.
In its growing conflict with the Muslim world Americans
presume and wrongly so that problems in
Palestine, Kosovo and Kashmir
are synonymous. It is a simplistic view.
The inability of
Americans to grasp that Kashmir problem has nothing to do with historical
grievances of Muslims is the root cause of destabilising proposals emanating
from Washington. Kashmiris have no political, economic, cultural or social
discrimination and are so well integrated in the democratic system. Why should
Americans float solutions that would hand over Muslims of Kashmir into hands of
anti-democratic, fundamentalist forces? If two-nation-theory is resurrected in
Kashmir, what will be its impact on India's sizable Muslim minority? How can you
devise a solution for Kashmir without ensuring a strong India?
Where does Panun Kashmir as a movement stand today ?
Panun Kashmir as a movement is more relevant today than it had ever been at any
time during the past 17 years. Infact ,for the first time since independence
Kashmiri Hindu politics is under focus at national & international plane. Panun
Kashmir’s consistent and patient work has started yielding results. Influential
think-tanks at national level, working on Kashmir, are realizing that any
settlement on Kashmir would remain an elusive dream unless Kashmiri Hindus’
issue is settled as per the aspirations of Kashmiri Pandits. This is a major
What are Panun Kashmir’s engagements at the national and state level ?
There are three dimensions of Kashmir problem. One, Indian
sovereignty is being challenged not only by Pakistan /Terrorists (through
crossborder Terrorism and diplomatic bluff) but also by certain vested
interests in the Indian civil society and neo-secessionist political lobbies in
Kashmir. Attempts are being made to create conceptual and political space for
forcing India to dilute its sovereignty over Kashmir through models like
‘shared/ joint sovereignty (Trieste/
Andorra models), ‘Greater Autonomy’, ‘self rule’,
so on and so forth. All this will lead to an autonomous Islamist Kashmir where
there will be no place for nationalist groups and religious minorities.
Secondly, there is the issue of ethnic- cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus and other
Hindu groups in Jammu region. Lastly, Terrorist regimes are trying to hold
Kashmiri civil society hostage to their diktat. Terrorists have suppressed all
forms of political dissent through violence. Those who stood up to the
terrorists have been brutally slaughtered and humiliated in a way that would put
civilized societies to shame. Communalisation and Talibanisation campaigns too
are influencing Kashmiri society and polity.
is trying to sensitise people at the national level to the dangers to Indian
national security from crossborder and ‘homegrown’ terrorism and Islamic
fundamentalism. We are also telling the nation that policy of
‘secularism being divisible’ ( secular policy outside Kashmir and
communal one in Kashmir) will not work. If the only Muslim majority state of
cannot tolerate a small Hindu minority what would be the message for building
secularism as an ideological foundational principle for Indian nation-state.
This argument has started making impact. Kashmiri political leadership which has
never treated Kashmiri Pandits as equal partners in society is feeling jittery.
Attempts to seek ‘Pandit faces’ to counter legitimate aspirations
of Displaced Kashmiris stem from this compulsion.
is succeeding in bringing home the point that the dilution of Indian sovereignty
over Kashmir would not only imperil Indian unity but would also strengthen
communal and secessionist forces in the state. How would Kashmiri Hindus remain
secure in a place where Indian control would be weak and communal-secessionist
forces rule the roost?
are impressing upon that unless we counter communalism and fundamentalism and
eliminate terrorist regimes Kashmiri society would remain handicapped in
formulating genuine aspirations. Any solution which advocates compromise with
communalism and separatism in
Kashmir would be self-defeating.
What has been the impact of Panun Kashmir at the community level?
community thinks that the political visibility on its genocide has been possible
solely because of efforts of Panun Kashmir. There is a Pandit question today
because there is Panun Kashmir movement. Panun Kashmir has made a radical
departure from traditional Pandit politics where leadership settled for few
crumbs or personal favours through compromise with Muslim Communalism.
Social and political awareness in the Pandit community has undergone a sea
change. Today Kashmiri Pandit community is seeking concrete frameworks for
reversal of its genocide. Panun Kashmir perspective is visible even in cultural
and social responses of the community. Even credible NGOs are seeking
opinion of Panun Kashmir. By evolving a survival doctrine that would stand the
test of time Panun Kashmir has helped the community break its isolation and shed
psyche of defeatism. We believe this is vindication of the ideology of Panun
There is a view that Kashmiri Pandits should have their own political party as
all political parties have failed the Pandit Community. Do you endorse the view?
There can be no two views
that all political parties in the state-NC, PDP, Congress, Communists etc. have
publicly shown that interests of Displaced Pandit Community do not count in
their political strategies. We do not agree that floating a political party of
its own is a solution to this political exclusion. ‘Political Party’
slogan is based on a premise that Pandits have a strong vote-bank which can be
translated into legislative strength. This slogan is dubious and aimed to
mislead Pandit community. An illusion is sought to be created that even
without reversal of genocide Displaced Pandits would continue to enjoy political
rights. We have two strong objections against the 'Political Party'
slogan- One, there is no solid votebank of the community. In the past this
votebank was destroyed through political gerrymandering of the electoral
constituencies. After our uprootment this has suffered further through
dispersal and manipulation of our electoral roles. Even in Habbakadal
constituency our voting strength is shown as 11 thousand, way down from 22
thousand. More than 60% of voters in Habbakadal constituency today are shown as
non-Hindus. So, where is the votebank?
attempt is to show that Pandits support democratic process that also sounds a
dubious exercise. Pandits have always cherished the ideals of democracy. We ask
how our electoral participation is going to make a difference to us if our
genocide is not reversed. We believe gimmicks of 'political party' slogan has a
sinister dimension too. It is a diversionary exercise, aimed at trivialising
Kashmiri Pandits' problems and his permanent rehabilitation. The basic objective
of this exercise is to convert 'issues' of the community into 'non
issues' and vice-versa. We would not be surprised if there was connivance of
the local establishment in this. Peddlers of this slogan are those people who
have always been fence-sitters and have no record of doing any credible work in
the community. Their attempts to keep Pandit community's interests hostage to
communal leadership in Valley would not succeed.
the past there was demand for 'constituencies in exile ' also. What are your
Panun Kashmir believes that
political rights for the community will flow from constitutional reorganisation
of the state which would take care of interests of all sections of people in
the state. 'Constituencies in exile' is a communal demand, based on communal
ghettoisation of the community. We reject the demand with the contempt it
deserves. On one hand, the vested interests who raise political party slogans or
demand 'Constituencies in exile' base these on communal principle but dub Panun
Kashmir, which seeks unfettered flow of Indian constitution, as communal.
Jamaat Islami and Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani recently said that
Kashmiri Pandits were welcome to return to Kashmir and have nothing to fear
from. Earlier, he would rant that Pandits would not be allowed to come till they
joined the separatist movement. To what do you attribute this change?
There is no change of heart
so far as Geelani is concerned. His ideological and political views, which
endorse ongoing fundamentalist-secessionist movement, have no place for peaceful
coexistence religious minorities. At the same time of important changes have
taken place during the past two years to which Geelani has to respond by
devising new stratagems to hoodwink public opinion.
internal dialogue process i.e. in Round Table and Working Group meets, different
dimensions of Muslims politics are getting exposed. Kashmiri Pandit perspective
was effectively projected and well received. This has implications for local
Muslim politics vis-a-vis Hindus of state, for country as a whole and for global
peace. Muslim separatist leadership is under international pressure to explain
its stand on Kashmiri Hindus-their ethnic-cleansing and rehabilitation. At the
same time separatist leaders and even sections of mainstream parties do not want
to address problems of Kashmiri Hindus and reject religious pluralism.
international opprobrium they seem to be working on two strategies-one, to say
publicly they are not opposed to Pandits' return, while doing everything to
stall it. Secondly, the separatists and elements friendly to them in the
political establishment are targeting few Hindus still holding on in Srinagar.
During the past 17 years these Kashmiri Pandits in Valley have been pushed to
penury and destitution. Who is facilitating interactions between the separatist
leadership and few hundred Kashmiri Pandits in Valley and to what end? Soon
after this engagement there were demands that "Pandits Temples/Religious
institutions should be put under the care of Auqaf Trust" and "We appeal to the
separatist organisations to help protect our identity and rights". These two
strategies are to be seen in a broader ISI strategy in which there is a shift in
wants to build a strong united political extremist voice in Valley, which is
stridently India. Engagement with Pandits serves many purposes-acquire secular
legitimacy for anti-national platform and countering Pandits interests by
creating 'Pandit faces'. Reports say that lot of money is being spent on this
exercise. This engagement has acquired urgency soon after GOI started internal
dialogue process and recognized Kashmiri Hindu factor as an integral part of the
What has been the response to this 'engagement'?
The Kashmiri Pandit community
sees through this game, which is aimed at creating a strong anti-Indian
platform. Kashmiri Pandits are patriots and would not even remotely support
something that harms country's interests. They also hold fast to the view that
'symbolic tokenism' advocated by Muslim communal establishment can be no
substitute for reversal of genocide. Pandit opinion is more consolidated today
that at any time.
What has been the role of mainstream parties?
The role of mainstream
parties, to say that least, has been disappointing. Soon after GoI recognized
Kashmiri Pandits as s crucial factor in Kashmir problem there was a rat race among different Muslim-dominated
parties to create 'Pandit faces' to counter Panun Kashmir demand. Kashmiri
political leaders have been orchestrating a campaign that Pandit community was
in disarray, with divided
leadership. Round Table meets exposed this campaign as a
farce. During these meets while Pandit leaders spoke in a unified voice Muslim
leadership reflected sharp divisions not only between different parties but
within individual parties also. This was true of NC, PDP, Congress etc. So far
as 'toadies' factor is concerned you can have them in every community. There are
no more than 1-2 dozen such individual among Pandits whole role in the past and
recent past has thoroughly discredited them in the community. It is Panun
Kashmir only which defends community's interests and carries its mandate.
Farooq Abdullah said recently that NC would appoint a high level group to study
'What Pandits want'. He also alleged Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's hand in 1986
communal violence against Pandits. Please comment.
Dr. Farooq Abdullah has never
been consistent in his statements. We would like to ask him if Mufti Mohammad
Sayeed's hand was there what did he and his government do all these years to
initiate probe into it and take action. NC has been making right noises while in
opposition. When it was in power its resolve was not to tackle any of Pandits'
problems. So far as Mr. Omar Abdullah is concerned he did try to address some of
the issues. This has not gone unnoticed. In Geneva Dr. Abdullah blamed Jamaat
Islami for Pandits' religious-cleansing. After Wandhama massacre he said Kashmir
Pandits cannot go back and described massacre 'as an act of ethnic-cleansing'.
Yet on other occasions he blames Jagmohan for it. What else can you call it
other than politicking? Not only NC but other parties as well refuse to accept
the reality of ethnic-cleansing as point of departure for framing policies to
end Pandits' ongoing genocide.
has coalition government responded to Displaced Kashmiri Pandits' problems
during the past 5 years.
The only gesture so far has
been that 250 quarters have been allotted to the refugees. Even this took the
government one year after the quarters were ready. Govt's own officials had been
warning repeatedly that any delay in shifting refugees would be bad in view of
the conditions of the old dilapidated quarters. The government continues to
dither on the issue of 'bifurcation of cards, employment package and other
deprivations. Ethnic-cleansing is an extraordinary situation. It requires
extraordinary responses to address the gamut of genocide. You cannot allow
routine parameters to address these. Lately, there has been blatant
encroachment of Kashmiri Pandits' residential and shrines property. The
government is doing nothing to stop it. Influential politicians-mafia nexus is
also said to be involved in it. Moreover, a new phenomenon is being seen whereby
Kashmiri Pandits' property in particular is being acquired without the consent
of owners for so-called 'public utility purposes'. This is a grave
situation. To rub salts into our wounds the Revenue department claimed that
Pandits' exile was a self-imposed one'. Recently 'leave salary' has been
substituted by 'Idle wages' to further humiliate the frontline victims of
terrorism. Kashmiri Pandits had a feeling that a national level party would
have a national perspective where it would treat all sections of people equally.
Our hopes have been shattered.
govt recently said that it was not averse to setting up a 'Sarda University' in
Kashmir. Isn't it a good augury?
We have to judge this offer
in a broader context. If the government is unwilling to address any of Kashmiri
Pandits' problems why should it go so far as to set up a university of this
type. It is being floated as a trial ballon to hoodwink Kashmiri Pandits that
their aspirations are being met. The bigger game is to use it to justify setting
up of religious universities in the Valley and demands of 'greater autonomy',
'self-rule'. Who are the people in the community floating this demand of Sarda University?
What is their public stand on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits? Answer to all this
would put 'Sarda University'
proposals in perspective. There could be other motivations for the
sponsors-personal benefits that will accrue from this exercise. Ideally, it
would have been a nice thing to have Sarda University which would promote
Kashmir's historical identity. In view of the political overtones such a
university would serve no purpose. Without addressing the issue of return of
Kashmiri Pandits what would be relevance of such a university?
Wajahat Habibullah, a former senior bureaucrat has hinted that Kashmiri Pandits
still in Valley should decide the fate of Kashmiri Pandits. He said "None of the
Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley were invited (to RTC). Will the Pandits who left
the Valley decide on its future or those who are still inside?" Please comment.
By the way how many Kashmiri Pandits continue to live in Valley?
I think you are referring to
Wajahat Habibullah's interview to the Kashmir Affairs (a US
paper). The most liberal estimates put the number of Pandits in Valley to be not
more than 2800. Also, half of the members of these individual families live in
Jammu while others stay put in Kashmir to look after business, property etc.
Every year a number of these families shift permanently to Jammu because of the
attrition they face there. During the past 17 years neither the government nor
others have taken even nominal care of them. Rather, they were being coerced to
issue statements against Kashmiri Pandits and in favour of separatists. All this
has been covered by the press. There have been killings also at regular
intervals-Sangrampora, Wandhama, Telwani, Nai Sarak, that of Hriday Nath Wanchoo.
In fact, latter's family put an advertisement in paper to show how Wanchoo was
betrayed. This will give you an indication of what sort of life they were
Habibullah has to be read with the other part of the interview in which he
enlogises Yaseen Malik and JKLF, which initiated the pogram of ethnic-cleansing
of Kashmiri Hindus. In the situation this nominal presence of Kashmiri Pandits
lives in Valley they can be easily coerced. Is counterposing of these Pandits
to the main body of Displaced Pandits part of a larger game-plan to coerce the
former to support JKLF? It looks Wajahat's own proclivities lie with
exclusivist variants of Kashmiri Muslim subnationalism. In a Working Group in
which he was thrusted from the backdoor he floated a proposal which would lead
to communal balkanisation in Jammu. There was an earlier controversy also when
he wrote a paper 'Political Economy of
It received wide censure in the
Wajahat Habibullah is an official Interlocutor on Kashmir.
unfortunate. India is a great power in the making. A number of our neighbours
and some outside powers are trying to thwart this. We are facing a plethora of
national security problems. There should be Institutional based appraisal of
threats and solutions desired to maximise country's interests. This would
insulate country's national security policy from politicking by individuals and
political parties and also help forge a strong consensus on national security.