Dr. Ajay Chrungoo 

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Return Plan - An act of refoulement and Denial

by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo

On 14th September this year (2009), during a series of commemoration programmes,   the displaced Kashmiri Hindus once again remembered their martyrs- mostly the victims who fell to the terrorist bullets; they remembered events and incidents which underlined the growth of communalism, intolerance and terrorism ; they reflected upon the collapse of the authority of the government , demise of their elemental rights and the failure of the state to come to their rescue; they reflected upon the fundamentalisation and militarization of the social milieu in Kashmir and the systematic  destruction of their habitat-the burning of their houses, plunder of their temples, grab of their properties and the distress sales; they pondered about their exile, the camps, the Diaspora and dispersal; they discussed the government’s law to prevent the distress sales without addressing their distress and they tried to comprehend their state of being a ‘migrant’, not even an ‘internally displaced’, not to speak of being a ‘refugee’ in one’s own country. Barely a day after, on 15th September, the state government, by declaring The Apex Cmmittee to oversee their return to Kashmir in essence declared that communalism, fundamentalism, terrorism and the politics which breeds them is not relevant to their return and rehabilitation in the Valley. The government once again underlined its commitment to an approach which reduces the entire issue of religious cleansing to merely an economic dimension. The approach at its core seeks to reverse genocide of Kashmiri Hindus by a process of 'Denial'.

For Kashmiri Hindus the implications of such a state of affairs is very grave. This is so because the reason of this ‘Denial’ is not just political expediency. Lying in its bosom is an intent of ‘refoulement’. The genocidal attrition of Kashmiri Hindus never stopped even in exile and the forces responsible for it have used their reach to perpetuate it. Return of Kashmiri Hindus to Kashmir Valley as the government envisages it means a return to an order which brought about their expulsion. It signifies a state of total abandonment of the victims by those who have a responsibility to protect them. And it also means subjecting them to a fate of total submission and surrender to the prevailing order in the valley. Erind D. Mooney who was a special advisor to the Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally displaced Persons and has a long experience of working in the Office of United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva emphatically states, “Simply providing aid to persons whose physical security is under threat not only neglects their protection needs but can actually exacerbate and perpetuate their plight, for instance by providing a false sense of security, shoring up repressive regimes, fostering long term dependency, and even resulting in so-called ‘well-fed dead’.” 

Why has the State Government embarked upon a policy on return which resulted in bloody backlash massacres at Sangrampora, Wandhama and Nadimarg in the past? The political parties at the helm in the successive governments in the state have shared many an ideological objectives with the separatists and terrorist regimes in the state. They support the strengthening of the religious based identity politics in the state. They support weakening and impairing of the National sovereignty in the state. Their view of Kashmiri Hindu as the ‘other’ is the same as that of the separatists. Denying the genocide and delegitimising the issue of internal displacement of Kashmiri Hindus is a goal they share with the armed separatists with more intensity than recognized. Displacement of Hindus has only exposed the ruthlessly communal and exclusivist nature of the political culture in the state. It has brought to the fore such issues which the mainstream parties in the valley as well as the separatists want to fudge and push under the carpet. An approach which treats the issue of return as if it is an issue akin to those of fire, earthquake or flood victims serves the political class in the Valley well. A symbolic return of the Kashmiri Hindus helps this class to purchase a secular credibility without having to pay any price. Last but not the least a symbolic return may help to make the solutions of greater autonomy- self rule as palatable to the people of India and camouflage their disruptive and balkanizing content.

More important question however is as to why does government of India endorse this approach of the state government on the issue of return of Kashmiri Hindus? If the whispers in the corridors of power in the state are true then the sudden activism on the return issue has emanated more at the Centre than in the State. The Union Home Minister has done well by visiting Jagati construction site for new upgraded facilities for the inmates of the camps in Jammu and tried to assuage the simmering apprehensions of the displaced community. His visit has brought some reassurance to the displaced Hindus   but the questions have not died down. The relief and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Hindus falls within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Revenue headed by a Congress man and it is this Ministry which is overlooking the implementation of Prime Minister’s package for the displaced Kashmiri Hindus.

There is no evidence to suggest that Government of India is so confident about the ground situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that it is ready to take the risks which are inherent in the return of Kashmiri Hindus to the Valley. Democratic experiment in the valley has somewhat stabilized after the initiation of democratic process in the state in 1996. But the discourse of the two main parties NC and PDP as well as the civil society in the Valley has become brazenly more communal anti-India and pro-secessionist. The violence graph has shown a downward inclination. But the infrastructure of the terrorists and their reach and support in many areas has grown.

The GOC-in-C Northern command recently talked about ‘agitational terrorism’ which caused a lot of uproar in the Valley.  The new coinage infact refers to the increased reach of the terrorist regimes operating in the state to effect massive public mobilizations on the issues determined by them. It is an admission about the strength of the instruments of indoctrination and opinion building as well as coercion at the disposal of terrorist operatives in the state. The Prime Minister’s statement expressing concern over the deteriorating security situation in the state was flashed prominently by the print media the same day when the State Government declared the appointment of The Apex committee to oversee the return and rehabilitation of the displaced Kashmiri Hindus to Valley.

It seems that a section of government of India is in some haste to clinch a deal with Pakistan at this juncture. In its eagerness to push forward the agreements arrived with the Musharaff government this section seems to be working hard to create an internal logic to exert pressures to force consensus on the deal already worked out. One of the building blocks of this logic has already been created during the two campaigns of India Ragdo- Intifada in the state during last two years—the separatists are disowning and abandoning violence and militancy and rediscovering their non-violent moorings, so this is the appropriate time to settle issues with them.

And the second and more crucial aspect the structure of this internal logic is being sought to be created by somehow pushing a segment of displaced Kashmiri Hindus back to valley by stratagem, allurement or coercion. This will impart a secular legitimacy to the separatist cause there by facilitating a proactive engagement with the separatist leaders and eventually a deal with them.

The displaced Kashmiri Hindus realize fully well that this time the talk of their return to Kashmir is basically a talk about return to a new dispensation and not even the Kashmir as exists today.

There is, however, a deeper pathology involved in the denial of the Indian State with regard to the genocide and cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus than in the Turkish attitude in denying the genocide of Armenian Christians around1914-15 or the attitude of the Christian world and even the state of Israel who have sided with Turkey.

Donald Bloxham writes, “Turkish nationalist denial has at its heart the agenda of Turkish territorial integrity and specter of some form of compensation to the Armenians….. International accommodation of denial (of Armenian Genocide) also dates back to the crime itself. Indeed the Powers had long been prepared to distort the truth of Ottoman Atrocities on their own initiative, so it is of little surprise that they were later prepared to concur with Ankara’s denial agenda if their interests coincide with those of Turkey”.

The attitude of Indian State to deny what has happened to Kashmiri Hindus is not determined by its concern to preserve territorial integrity or sovereignty of India or some nationalist agenda in Kashmir. It is driven by a sick psychological proclivity which seeks the success of Indian secular vision in its capacity to compromise and accommodate with Muslim communalism. This perversion is seen in an influential segment of the rank and file of both the major parties Congress and BJP at the national level.

Professor Henry Therault, a descendent of the Armenian genocide survivors while discussing denial of genocide explains, “Deniers operate as agents of the original perpetrators, pursuing and hounding victims through time. Through them the perpetrators reach once again into the lives of the victims long after their escape from the perpetrators physical grasp.” The overwhelming rejection of the return perspective of the government by the Displaced Kashmiri Hindus is aimed at keeping themselves out of the physical grasp of those who perpetuated genocide on them and are alive, kicking, more numerous and stronger than they were in 1990.    

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

 
 

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