OPED

Politics is a strange game where no holds are barred for electoral advantages. It also expresses, to some extent, the political ideology of those playing these games in addition to the distortion of events, which are done deliberately. Interpretation of the very same events is diametrically different for different political groups. The sad plight of Kashmiri Pundits exodus is no exception to this.

During his election campaign the BJP leader Narendra Modi has been making several statements which at one level are factually inaccurate and at another level they have communal interpretation through and through. He stated that biggest blow to secular fabric of India was delivered from Kashmir from where Kashmiri Pundits were forced out and that Abdullah’s (Sheikh Abdulla, Farooq and Omar) were behind it. (28th April 2014) In response Farooq and Omar shot back that exodus of Pandits took place under the Presidents rule with Jagmohan, a BJP hand, as the Governor of Kashmir. That time it was the V.P.Singh Government at Center and this Government was being supported by BJP from outside. While all three Addullah’s  are not the same, nor is their role a continuum nor all of them secular angels the tragedy of exodus of Pundits is much more complex than being attributed to them. The role which each of the Abdulla’s played cannot be put in the same basket.

As such communalism has been the great bane of the subcontinent and its biggest and most tragic expression was the partition of India in which millions were butchered and a larger number migrated to both sides of the border. Apart from these migrations which took place, forcing people to far off lands, there are local migrations also, which follow the communal violence of mass scale like the one in Mumbai 1992-93 or Gujarat 2002 where the people left their homes, where they were living for decades and had to shift to the other parts of the same city leading to formation of ghettoes, Mumbra in Mumbai and Juhapura in Ahmadabad being two major ones’.The roots of exodus of Kashmiri Pundits lies in the aftermath of the partition, the decision of Maharaja of Kashmir to remain indepe

ndent, the attack of Kabayilis, Tribal, from Pakistan and the Sheikh Abdullah’s strong stance to accede with India and not with Pakistan. This decision was not on religious considerations but was with the hope that in India secularism will flourish with leaders like Gandhi and Nehru. With murder of Gandhi by communal forces and the pressure of communal forces to forcibly abolish article 370, the autonomy of Kashmir started being questioned. Just to recall Article 370 was the basis of accession of Kashmir to India. This Article gave to autonomy to Kashmir Assembly in most matters barring defense, communication, currency and external affairs. With the opposition to this clause and demand for forcible merger of Kashmir to India by communal forces, the Sheikh started feeling jittery. He started reconsidering his decision of accession to India, leading to his arrest and starting of process of alienation in Kashmir. This process of alienation led to militancy in due course and with the encouragement from Pakistan took on dangerous proportions. Still this militancy was centered on the concept of Kashmiriyat. Kashmiriyat is synthesis of Buddhism, Vedanta and Sufi traditions. After the hanging of Maqbool Butt in 1985 and the entry of Al Qaeda type elements in Kashmir in the aftermath of Afghan war, this militancy got transformed to being communal. The result was that the Hindus, Pundits, started being targeted badly.

Even before1990, the first major exodus of Pundits took place after the partition riots and partly due to land reforms introduced by Sheikh Abdullah. Incidentally the Hindu population in Kashmir had gone through a very complex history of conversion to Buddhism and later to Islam through Sufi saints. The Hindus started being referred to as Pundits from 15th Century onwards. This happened after Akbar won over Kashmir and employed the Hindus in his administration. He was impressed by their qualities and conferred the title Pundit on them. 

The process of latest exodus begins with communalization of the militancy, a transition from Kashmiriyat to Islamism. One version a la Modi says that Kashmiri Pandits were driven from Kashmir valley by the Muslim militants and this was a planned move by the Muslim majority Kashmir. The Muslim majority was totally opposed to the harassment of Pundits.

In this militancy while Hindus were targeted in a big way, even Muslims were not spared. We will have a look at the figures of the casualties and destruction of property in Kashmir by the militants. Thousands of Muslims from different parts of the Kashmir valley also had to migrate to the neighboring Himachal Pradesh in search of employment. Over 40.000 Muslims from Kashmir also live in a refugee camp in New Delhi. They have also taken to various jobs like coolies etc in neighboring states. One of the Times of India report (5th Feb.1992) based on official figures reported that militants killed 1585 men and women, including 982 Muslims, 218 Hindus, 23 Sikhs and 363 security personnel between January 1990 and October 1992.

The wholesale migration of Pundits from the valley was a big blow to the traditions of the valley. The damage by militants was to both the communities and not to Hindus alone. The Pundits were intimidated much more and had considered migration first in 1986 but this decision was held in abeyance due to the appeals of a goodwill mission, which was constituted by reputed Kashmiris, steeped in plural culture. As we saw in 1990 the militancy was stepped up. This time around Mr. Jag Mohan, who later became a minister in BJP led NDA Government, was the Governor of Kashmir. Balraj Puri in his book Kashmir (Orient Blackswan, 1993) points out that Jagmohan  ensured dissolution of the goodwill mission to Pundits by pressurizing one of the Pandit members of the team to migrate to Jammu (Puri, 2000, 65).

Balraj Puri in March 1990 stated " I found no hostility among common Muslims in Kashmir against Pundits, and that allegations of gross violations of Human rights by security forces needs to be investigated"(Puri, 2000, 66). At that time Hindu Communal forces took it upon themselves to spread fear amongst Pundits, "Much disinformation is being spread in Jammu and Delhi that scores of Hindu temples and the shrines have been desecrated or destroyed in Kashmir. This is completely untrue and it is baffling that the Government has not thought it fit to ask Doordarshan to do a program on mandirs in Kashmir just to reassure people that they remain unharmed."(Press Council of India, 1991)

All things considered the problem of Pundits migration is unfortunate outcome of the alienation of Kashmiri people resulting in militancy, communalization of militancy in late 1990s, Hindu communalist outfits’ baseless spreading of fear psychosis and pressure of Governor Jag Mohan and not due to the Hindu-Muslim hostility, not due to Abdullah’s.

Poet Kalhan of Kashmir, in his classic Rajtarangini writes that it is only through punya (noble deeds) and not force that Kashmir can be won over. We need to remind ourselves of this profound wisdom of Kalhan while making policies about Kashmir. Rather than putting the blame on one political stream. The role of global politics, the historical baggage of partition and post partition problems, the role of global terrorism propped up by US policy of control over oil resources; its influence on militancy in Kashmir and the role of communal forces in spreading fear also need to be kept in mind while commenting on this tragedy of mammoth proportions.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

The ongoing elections have created turmoil and churning in the society at an unprecedented level. Media, social sites and whatever platforms are there, are full of the intense debate about the so called ‘Gujarat Model’ the failures of the UPA II and related issues. While there may be few who are sitting on the fence, a large numbers has made up their mind one way or the other. To ensure that most people vote Election Commission wrote to all the educational heads to appeal to their students to vote.

In tune with this and also to generate debate around these issues, Fr. Frazer Mascaranhas, Principal of Mumbai’s well known St Xavier’s College, wrote to his students through his official college email, and his letter was also put up on the website of the college. The letter took a subtly nuanced and balanced approach to forthcoming elections and raised doubts about the claims of ‘Gujarat Model’ of development. It criticized the Gujarat growth model for being conducive merely for big businesses and pointed out the slide in the Human Development Index and the poor quality of health and education in Gujarat. This emphasized that where quality of life is concerned, the state has not done well. While initially most of the society through barrage of propaganda started believing in this propaganda, by now most the statistics from Planning Commission and Nationals Sample survey show that this was a mere inflated propaganda for electoral gains and did not reflect the reality of Gujarat.

At the same time the email brought to the notice of students the positive phenomenon which has taken place in the society during last ten years, the schemes and policies of great social significance, which have been undermined and not propagated properly. The email then praises the Rojgar Yojana and the Food Security Act as they enhance the wellbeing of citizens. It also commends the Right to Information act. It concluded ‘"The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a real threat to the future of our secular democracy. Support people who pledge to work to take Human Development Indicators higher and who commit themselves to a pluralistic culture in diverse India." The high point of the mail was “No magic wand or divine miracles will come to the aid of the Indian people. Their reasoned choice of individuals and political parties, who promise to work for a real quality of life for all, will see India prosper or flounder on the precipice. Choose well!”

It can be said that the chief of the institution was not only exhorting the students to vote but also laying bare the issues which are the core one’s in these elections. It is true that Mascaranhas as a good educator outlined the central concerns of the society, the type of development and the needs of the society.

The whole hell broke loose. Many students of the college said that they are not going to be swayed by any opinion, will weigh it on their own and use their own judgment in voting. Some of them also pointed out that their institution has taught them the culture of healthy debate and this mail from their principal is a part of that. But the BJP presented it as a opinion against them, against their Prime Ministerial candidate and complained to the Election Commission, unmindful of the fact that EC cannot advise those who are not in the electoral battle. Still the pressure mounted on the Principal was immense. He was attacked by saying that such a thing should not have gone from Institute’s mail, he could have written from his personal email. They accused that it is like using the official position in expressing one’s political positions. While some faculty upheld what their principal had done, there were few critical voices also. Amongst the academic community also some teachers/principals voiced their opposition to this. The pressure on the principal was so immense that his letter had to be taken off the Institute’s web site.

What is the ethical and moral position in such matters? We have seen all the television channels broadcasting the Sri Ram Memorial Oration at Sri Ram College of Commerce (DU) by Modi live last year. Also one recalls many newspapers had carried full-page ads of the SRM University’s convocation ceremony where Modi was the chief guest. At the same time one has not heard any criticism of the plans by Modi’s to take chopper tours of BHU and Kashi Vidyapeeth. There have been many well publicized endorsements of Modi by prominent personalities. Many a Babas and Matas have been endorsing Modi in public. This group is heading many and educational institutions. Baba Ramdev has Patanjali University and Gurukul in Rewari. Sri Sri Ravishanker’s Vidya Mandir trust runs 44 Vidya Mandirs 39 Bal Mandirs, Institute of Management Studies amongst other. Mata Amritanand Mayi has the National network of Amrita Vidyalayam. Surely many wrongs don’t make a right. As such what should be the norm is very important. While Fr. Frazer has not endorsed any political party, he has merely raised the issues, though one can see that the logic of his argument does go against one party.

In our democracy can we bypass such debates in the academic institutions? While teaching about Nationalism, will we not have to compare and contrast between Democratic Secular Nationalism and religious nationalism, Indian Nationalism versus Hindu nationalism? While talking about issues will we not have to talk about underlying complexities? We do need to nurture our institutions around healthy debate sans the heat and partisanship. We need to go beyond the propaganda and encourage our students to unravel the truth under the heap of propaganda.

There is another interesting aspect of this email. Mascarenhas, being a religious priest is saying that ‘No magic wand or divine miracles will come to the aid of the Indian people’, this at a time when Narendra Modi is claiming that God has chosen him to lead the country. Modi is in line with some of the recent happenings in the world when God was invoked, George Bush invoked God in invasion of Afghanistan and Tony Blair did the same in the context of attacking Iraq!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED