Return of Hindus to Kashmir - II
by Mohan Krishen Teng on 29 Oct 2011 12 Comments

After the Hindus were driven out of Kashmir in 1990, their return to their homes was never under the consideration of the people who have ruled India. Indian leaders never had the courage to deny Pakistan and the Muslim separatist forces the claim they lay to Jammu and Kashmir, on the basis of the Muslim majority composition of its population. Nor did they possess the resolution to fight against the religious war that Pakistan and the Jihadi war-groups operating inside as well as outside the State waged to unite it with Pakistan.

The Indian political class assumed complete silence over the death and devastation the Jihad wrought in Kashmir. In fact, it spared no efforts to camouflage the genocide of the Hindus and their ethnic cleansing in Kashmir and Muslim-majority districts of the Jammu province.

Stray references by Indian leaders on the return of Hindus to their homes and hearths “with honour and dignity” were part of the propaganda to minimise the impact of the displacement of Hindus in the State and contain its effects. Behind the scenes, the Indian political class tried practically to negotiate peace with the Muslim separatist flanks inside the State and their Jihadi mentors outside the State. Negotiations for peace with Jihadi war groups who were later joined by Pakistan, left hardly any space for the return of the Hindus to Kashmir, who had been driven out by the Jihad for having harmed the cause of the freedom of the Muslims of the State.

The Indian Government and the State Government never made their stand clear on the genocide of the Hindus and the exodus forced upon them. They did not make their stand clear on the reversal of the genocide, which formed the precedent condition for the return of the Hindus to their homes. In fact, the Indian Government never made any formal commitment in respect of the return of Hindus to their homes and made no concrete proposals for their rehabilitation.

Disinformation Campaign

The Indian political class launched a widespread dis-information campaign to camouflage the portent of the terrorist violence and conceal the real purpose of the Jihad in Jammu and Kashmir. The White Paper on Kashmir issued by the Joint Human Rights Committee, Delhi, noted: “All over the post-independent era, incessant efforts were always made by the State Government and the Government of India to conceal the ugly face of Muslim communalism in Jammu and Kashmir. Deliberate attempts were always made to provide cover to the growth of the Muslim fundamentalist and secessionist movements in the State, right from the time of its accession to India. The various forms of Muslim communalism and separatism which ravaged life in the State during the last four decades and which imparted to the secessionist movements in the State their ideological content and tactical direction, were camouflaged under the banners of sub-national autonomy, regional identity and even secularism. Largely perceptional aberrations, misplaced notions, and subterfuge characterised the official as well as the non-official responses to the upheavals which rocked the State from time to time. More often, the real issues confronting the State were overlooked by deliberate design and political interest, a policy which in the long run operated to help the secessionist forces to consolidate the ranks and their hold on the people in the State”.

No sooner had the Jihad commenced in Kashmir than a mild goose chase began in search of scapegoats to camouflage the forces involved in the upheaval. “Even after widespread militant violence struck Kashmir in 1989,” the White Paper on Kashmir noted, “and thousands of innocent people were killed in cold blood along with hundreds of Indian security personnel and the whole community of Hindus in Kashmir was driven out of the Valley, the disinformation campaign continued to cloud the real dangers the terrorist violence posed to the nation. Indeed efforts still continue to be made to side track the basic problems of terrorism and secessionism and the role of the militarized Muslim fundamentalist forces in the whole bloody drama enacted in the State and divert the attention of the Indian people to trivial concerns, which have no bearing on the developments there.”

The disinformation campaign succeeded only partially to provide a smokescreen to what the Jihad wrought in Kashmir and the Muslim-majority districts of Jammu province. Yet a part of the truth was revealed by the leaders of the mainstream political parties of the State, the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party, when they admitted that the basic cause of Muslim unrest was the political issue which underlined the Kashmir dispute. The rest of the story of the Jihad which has continued in the State unabated for the last two decades is still to be told. A large part of the truth of what the war of attrition wrought in the State is still not told.

Perhaps, at one time, the Jihadi regimes and their over-ground political outfits found it necessary to tell the Indian people frankly that the Muslim struggle in Kashmir was aimed at the liberation of the State from India.

A part of the truth of what happened in Kashmir was actually revealed by the Jihadi regimes themselves and their over-ground separatist outfits like Hurriyat Conference. The Indian political class had ascribed the militant violence to alienation of Muslim youth wrought by Indian misrule which had led to economic deprivation and political oppression of Muslims. The Jihadi regimes told the Indian people and the world that the Muslim Jihad aimed to liberate the State from the occupation army of India, stationed in the State illegally. The Jihadi regimes and Muslim separatist organisations denied that the militant operations and Muslim upsurge accompanying them were in any way related to political distrust, economic deprivation or alienation of Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir. They made it clear in unmistakable terms that the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir had commenced the Jihad in Kashmir to liberate the J&K State from the “illegal occupation of the Indian army” and unite it with the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

A part of the truth was told by the leaders of mainstream National Conference and Peoples Democratic Party who had ruled the State before the onset of the militant violence as well as after it. Without mincing words, they accepted that Muslim unrest in the State and Muslim struggle were an expression of the peoples’ desire to seek a settlement of the central issue underlying the Kashmir dispute. They gave ample expression to their opinions stating that so long as the Muslim quest for a separate freedom which was not subject to the secular imperatives of the Constitution of India, and so long as a settlement of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan and the Muslims of the State was not found, the distrust would not end.

Yet a part of the truth is still concealed. The story of the genocide of the Hindus, their ethnic extermination and how they were used as scapegoats for the failings of the Indian political class in dealing with the Jihad, is yet to be told. This part of the untold truth is closely linked with the return of the Hindus to their homes and hearths. The Indian political class is hiding the truth of what the Jihad has wrought in Kashmir during the last two decades. Indian Governments have never mustered the courage to stand up to the Jihad. The Indian political class is still following its own plans to use the Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir as a buffer in between them and the war of subversion the Jihadi regimes are waging in the State. The double-speak of the Indian political class on the return of Hindus to Kashmir is bound to do them more harm.

The truth is that the security environment in Kashmir province is severely strained and the social culture of the Muslim community has been drastically changed by the Jihad. The Hindus of Kashmir were driven out on the point of the gun because of their resistance to the Muslim separatist movements in the State. Their opposition to the Muslim Jihad assumed nation-wide proportions during the last two decades of their exile. They will hardly find it easy to come to terms with the conditions that prevail in Kashmir, while the religious war continues unabated.

It may not be out of place to mention here that the over-ground political outfits of the Jihadi war groups and militant flanks, including various factions of Hurriyat Conference, have offered to accept the return of Hindus and at the same time expressed hope that after their return they will join their Muslim brethren in their struggle for liberation from India!

Changed Milieu

The so called war of liberation, which the Hindus are expected to join on their return, has already succeeded in creating a new Kashmir. The Jihad has upturned the whole social milieu of which Hindus formed a part before they were cast overboard. The decades of religious war has dissolved the mutually accepted rules which ensured the stability of inter-community relations in the State, and brought about imperceptible and drastic changes in the social organization in Kashmir.

First, the ethnic cleansing of Hindus has dissolved the pluri-cultural social organization of Kashmir. The demographic alignments which existed in Kashmir before the onset of the Jihad formed the basis of its multi-religious social organization. In the tradition-bound societies of former colonial peoples, demographic alignments have been found to play a major role in determining inter-community relations in their social cultures. The social culture of Kashmir has assumed a dominantly Islamic expression. No wonder that during the last several years, Kashmiri Pandits going on pilgrimage to the shrine of Khir-Bhawani in Tulamulla on the outskirts of Srinagar on Zeshta-Ashtami, have been greeted at the gate of the shrine by a crowd of Tablighi Muslim volunteers who distributed Islamic literature among the pilgrims.

Secondly, the fundamentalisation of Muslim society in Kashmir - a process which began for nearly a decade before the onset of terrorist violence in 1990, has led to the regimentation of large sections of Muslim society on the basis of ideological commitment to the Islamisation of the State. Most of the regimented sections of Muslim society are militarily responsive. The regimentation of Muslim society has already led to the fundamentalisation of the entire social culture of Muslim society in Kashmir. 

Thirdly, the regimentation of the Muslim outlook has severely impaired the secular character of the social and political institutions in the State. Suppression of all dissent in Muslim society in Kashmir by the Muslim separatist movements increased the acceptability of the Islamisation of all political and social institutions in the State. Many of the militant regimes and in fact all the Jihadi structures openly reject secularism as a basis of state activity and governance, and instead insist upon the regular reorganization of State and society in accordance with the precepts and precedents of Islam. Interestingly, the protagonists of the Islamic order of society and government have claimed that the Islamic religious injunction provided for the protection of the peoples who do not profess Islam and other minorities. Some Hurriyat Conference leaders accepted without hesitation that secularism has no place in the Islamic order of society and government as it conflicted with the imperatives of authority which draws sanction from religion.

It is difficult to conclude that the Indian leaders are not able to realize the risks in sending back Hindus to Kashmir in a situation of conflict. The truth is that the Indian political class follows a measured policy in regard to J&K, which does not underline the return of Hindu refugees to their homes. The Indian political class seeks to graft the return of Hindu refugees to an overall settlement of the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan and the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. Had it been otherwise, the Indian Government would have opened talks with Hindu refugees of Kashmir, before they conceived of a settlement with Pakistan or the Muslims of the State.

Peace Process

A discussion on what constitutes the Kashmir dispute is outside the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say that the Indian political class recognizes Kashmir dispute to be what Pakistan and Muslim separatist flanks in J&K construe it to be. The Indian Government has in principle accepted the Kashmir dispute to be the expression of the claim that Pakistan lays to J&K on the basis of the Muslim-majority composition of its population and the claim made by J&K Muslims to a separate freedom to which the Partition of India entitled them on the basis of the ratio of their population in the State. Negotiations for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute, originally initiated by the Indian Government and which have now assumed the brand name of “political process”, underline a quest for an agreement which India seeks to reach with Pakistan and the Muslims of the State.

The “peace-process” has been conducted at many levels: between the governments of India and Pakistan, back-channel diplomacy, third power mediation and negotiations between the Indian Government and various Muslim separatist and mainstream political organisations and outfits inside the State. Interestingly, Pakistan has made its position clear that it will accept a settlement on Kashmir dispute which is approved by Muslims of the State. The Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir have also made their stand clear that they will agree to a settlement on Kashmir which is acceptable to Pakistan.

The “peace-process” has largely revolved round the claim Pakistan has laid to the Muslim majority regions of the State: the province of Kashmir, the Muslim-majority districts of Jammu province, and the Kargil district of Ladakh region, as a baseline for settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The two countries came close to acceptance of the reorganization of the Muslim-majority regions of the State into a separate sphere of Muslim power placed in between the two countries under some form of protectorate. The Manmohan Singh-Musharraf proposals, on which the two countries are reported to have come to an agreement, underlined the reorganization of the Muslim-majority regions of the State into a separate political structure, which was based upon the territory of India, but placed under the political control of both India and Pakistan.

The “peace-process” is still in progress. But the Indian political class has given no indication of how it will graft the return of Hindu refugees to Kashmir to the commitments given to Pakistan and the Muslims of the State in respect of settlement of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.

Road Ahead

The uprooting of Hindus from their homes in Kashmir was one of the major displacements of people in the aftermath of the Second World War, in which a whole community was torn from its roots. The White Paper on Kashmir notes: “Like the other tradition bound, endogamous and native people, the Hindus, with an incredibly long history, extending to pre-historic, proto-Aryan, later Stone Age Culture, formed an independent part of the cultural identity of the State and its personality. Because of their endocrine cultural patterns, local ritual structures, blended with the Vedic religious precept and practice and their pride in Sanskrit civilization, they had a deep sense of attachment and belonging to their land, which they addressed in their worship as the Mother, who had given them birth”. The displacement of Hindus thus snapped their history.

Today, the Hindus of Kashmir are a displaced people, torn from their social and cultural moorings,
scattered in a state of diaspora, which threatens them with the loss of their identity. Nearly half the people of the community are living at subsistence level in refugee camps in various parts of the country.

Ever since the commencement of their exile, the Hindus of Kashmir have been waiting to return to the land of their birth, reiterating their resolve from time to time to go back to their homes and hearths. The Hindus were driven out of their homes by a religious war which brought them death and attacked their faith. The political class of India is yet to accept that the delegitimisation of the religious war is a precedent condition for the reversal of their genocide.

The Hindus have as sacrosanct a territorial right in Kashmir as their Muslim compatriots. The claim made by Pakistan to Jammu and Kashmir State on the basis of the Muslim-majority composition and the claim made by Muslim separatist flanks inside the State for a separate freedom, do not in any respect prejudice the territorial right that Hindus claim in Kashmir.

Prof MK Teng is Political Adviser, Panun Kashmir, and retired Professor & Head of the Political Science Department, Kashmir University, Srinagar 

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