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An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Terrorism and Kashmiri Pandits

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Once we were having a seminar on Kashmiri Language and Literature in New Delhi. As was expected, various aspects of the language, its development, present position and future prospects were discussed. This seminar was of tremendous importance because of the large-scale dispersal of the Kashmiri speaking populace, in view of which the future of this beloved mother tongue of ours was seen as bleak. The participants laid stress on the point that we should find ways and means by which this language continues to be spoken and used by our younger generation. It was, however, recognized that because of the diaspora our children must per necessity learn and use other languages, national and international. During this seminar one of the delegates, a writer friend, raised a very significant question. He asked whether by propagating the cause of our language we were not being language-fundamentalists. He posed a feeler why we should not allow our children to learn and use the language that they have to use in their new environments and not insist on learning their mother tongue. Many delegates reacted to this poser, some even with anger. Intervening in the debate I preferred first to define both fundamentalism and terrorism and then react to his observations.

I pointed out that ever since the man came on this earth, he started living in close-knit tribes, communities, societies and communes. These sectors came to be organized in course of time, administratively, financially, culturally and so on. Over so many millennia with the development and growth of the human society a number of faiths and beliefs, languages and dialects, cultures and civilizations came into existences. As with the species so with these things also, many got extinct and many new came on the horizon. A time came when things started getting institutionalized. What ensued was mutual rivalry, with claims and counter claims for superiority. Conflicts and confrontations brought devastation, distrust, strife and wars. Human being was caught in the vicious circle of his own making. In every sector of human society when a particular group professed that his ideology, faith, language or culture was superior, fundamentalism was born. Specific to the seminar in question I made a point that advocating the cause of the Kashmiri language was in no way a fundamentalist approach unless we claim that our language is superior to all other languages of India and the world at large. We do not propose to claim that even though we love our language and find it sweet, rich and unique in character.

This is true of the faiths as well. If we respect all faiths while adhering to our own, if we profess and propagate our faith without throwing a net of coercion, temptation, compulsion and baits, there will be no fundamentalism in this area either. Fundamentalism is basically a notion of superiority, whereby we feel that our religion and faith, our culture and civilization, our ideology and beliefs and our language and literature are superior to those of the rest. This notion creates a complex in our mind. We become possessive and protective and what ensue are regimentation, groupings, separatism and cessation. These feelings create fear and hatred, fear of getting subsumed by more vibrant civilizations and hatred towards the adherents of different faiths and beliefs. Naturally, therefore, need is felt to put on guards, close all ventilators to external influences and create close-door communities. People are forbidden to challenge, question or try to evaluate the tenets of their faith. They are advised to accept everything prescribed in their own faith as gospel truth and disregard the views of other faiths, considering them as false and untrue. This attitude breeds hatred and malice. We get suspicious of other groups and our mind is enveloped in a threat perception. A strange paradox gets underway. On the one hand we profess that our faith is the only true faith and on the other hand we are afraid that our faith may not be able to stand before other faiths.

There are some sections that not only consider their own faiths and beliefs superior genuine and relevant, but also firmly believe that the adherents of other faiths have no business to be around. They want them either to cross over to their side or get annihilated. They take the views that are contrary to their own views as affront to themselves and to their faith. They believe that God belongs to them alone and no body can be allowed to have any other view of God or worship Him in a different way than the one prescribed in their faith. Therefore they take to arms against them. In the past this situation took the form of inter-faith wars and in the contemporary scene this has taken the shape of terrorism. This is aimed to cause large-scale conversions out of fear and due to the danger to life and existence. Unfortunately due to their own political considerations and self-interests various groups and nations exploit these fascist trends and vulnerable sections of a society get trapped in their net. Right from the 14th century Kashmiri Pandits have become hapless victims to this inhuman phenomenon time and again. They have often been given an ultimatum in three crisp Kashmiri words of ‘Raliv, tsaliv ya galiv’ meaning get converted, leave the place or face death. Consequently a large number of Hindus were forcibly converted in Kashmir and this changed the very demography of the valley. Those who did not succumb to the pressure withstood the tyranny for some time. They were subjected to torture. The sacred thread ‘Yajnopavit’ worn by them was forcibly removed and many many quintals of the sacred thread were burnt in front of them. Bones of slaughtered animals were thrust into their mouths. Even then they did not agree to get converted. They were put into sacs, stones were tied to these sacs and then they were drowned in the Dal Lake. The spot is to this day called ‘Bata mazar’ or the burial ground of Kashmiri Pandits. In this atmosphere of tyranny, fear and cruelty large-scale exodus ensued. This all is the ‘glorious’ history of Kashmir, the Aden of the East.

Kashmiri Pandits fell victim to this gruesome situation time and again during the past seven centuries resulting in large-scale exodus every time. The situation that developed in the year 1989-90 was somewhat different from the previous such occurrences. During the cruel rule of the Pathan and Moghul governors the tyranny was state sponsored and perpetuated by the rulers and sometimes abetted by religious zealots. This time the entire operation was carried out by the people although it was instigated, aided, abetted and organized by the neighbouring state. Kashmiri Pandits were alarmed and dismayed to find their own neighbours, friends and comrades threatening them of dire consequences should they not leave their hearth and home within hours of the threats announced from mosques and through printed bills. Hit lists were drawn earmarking the persons who should be put to death for choosing to stay back in Kashmir. This was an organized and well thought of ethnic cleansing and denying a community the right to live in a place, which was their abode for many a millennium and which belonged to them. The result was an en mass exodus to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country. Even so some people did stay back, though a negligible minority, for one reason or the other. There was a selective killing of intellectuals and prominent persons like Tika Lal Taploo, a public man, Shri Ganju, a jurist, Shri Sarwanand Premi, a literateur and an educationist, Shri Lassa Kaul, a broadcaster, Shri Wanchoo, a social worker and a human rights activist.

This terrorism has political and humanistic ramifications no doubt. The question is whether in this twenty-first century a situation can be allowed to exist wherein some misguided people hold an entire nation to ransom, whether they can be permitted to thrust their opinion and views on others, whether tolerance, mutual trust, brotherhood and co-existence can be sacrificed at the altar of fundamentalism, exclusive-ism and extremism. The question today is not one of tolerance alone because tolerance is fragile unless backed up by acceptance. The question today is not also one of co-existence only because co-existence can be short-lived unless there is mutual respect. We have to accept plurality of faiths, beliefs and approaches and subscribe to the view that all these are valid and, therefore, have every right to exist. Freedom has to be treated as a sacrosanct basic right but it should not be at the cost of other basic rights and should in no way infringe upon the freedom of others.

Some vested interests try to justify or rationalize the gun culture of the terrorists by attributing it to frustration due to unemployment and poverty. Some refer to it as a struggle for freedom. Had that been the case there would be a struggle against the establishment only. History stands testimony that wherever and whenever there has been a struggle for economic reasons it has been non-violent and peaceful, at least in the initial stages. The establishments involved have been forced to generate employment. There have been large-scale migrations on this account. A case in point again is that of our community. When the ‘popular’ rule was established in Kashmir after the Maharaja’s exit, the doors for professional training and employment were closed on them. They had to fan out to other parts of the country to find admissions in professional institutions and employment. They struggled but did not take to arms. As regards the mischievous explanation of categorizing it as ‘freedom struggle’ It has to be observed that Kashmir is ruled by Kashmiri citizens only after due process of election. The question of freedom, therefore, does not arise. The question that does, however, arise is that of making the democratic institutions broad-based by extending the jurisdiction of Vigilance Commission, Human Rights Commission and the like to this state also. This will ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the governance. Thus the terrorism in Kashmir cannot be justified in that part of our country, it cannot be justified anywhere for that matter. By all accounts in Kashmir it is a clear case of ethnic cleansing and terrorism caused by religious fundamentalists in the name of ‘Jehad’. The economy, the infrastructure, trade and commerce have been badly affected making the majority community suffer no doubt but by far the worst sufferers are we the Kashmiri Pandits, who have become refugees in their own country, lost all their properties and whose very identity is in danger of getting extinct. This has to be realized and remedied before it is too late.

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles

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