Refouling Kashmiri Hindus
by Ajay Chrungoo on 22 Nov 2009 5 Comments

Creating Well-Fed Dead

On Kashmiri Hindu Martyrs’ Day on 14 September this year, the displaced Kashmiri Hindus once again remembered their martyrs - mostly the victims who fell to the terrorists’ bullets. In a series of commemoration programmes they remembered events and incidents which underlined the growth of communalism, intolerance and terrorism in the Kashmir Valley; they reflected upon the demise of the authority of the government; the stifling of their elemental rights; the failure of the State to come to their rescue and their eventual expulsion from the Valley.


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, and the grab of their properties; they pondered about the state of their exile, the camps, the Diaspora and dispersal; they discussed the government’s law to prevent distress sales without addressing their distress, and they tried to comprehend their state of being ‘migrants’, not even ‘internally displaced’, not to speak of being ‘refugees’ in one’s own country.


Barely a day after, on 15 September, the state government, by declaring the Apex Committee to oversee their return to Kashmir through a process of distribution of some crumbs to those amongst the displaced who are willing to return, in essence, declared that communalism, fundamentalism, terrorism and the politics which unleashes religious cleansing 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 of Genocide”.


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 intention 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’.”


Politics behind the Return Policy


Why has the State Government embarked upon the same policy on return which resulted in bloody backlash massacres at Sangrampora, Wandhama and Nadimarg in the recent past?


Political parties at the helm in successive governments have shared many ideological objectives with the separatists and terrorist regimes in the state. They support strengthening the religion-based identity politics in the state. They support weakening or impairing of national sovereignty in the state. Their view of Kashmiri Hindus 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 Kashmiri Hindus helps this class to get 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 palatable to the people of India and camouflage their disruptive and balkanizing content.


The more important question, however, is why the Government of India endorses this approach of the state government on the issue of return of Kashmiri Hindus? If whispers in State corridors of power are true, 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 the 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 Kashmiri Hindus falls within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Revenue headed by a Congressman, and it is this Ministry which is overlooking the implementation of the Prime Minister’s package for the displaced Kashmiri Hindus.


There is no evidence to suggest that the Government of India is so confident about the ground situation in the state of Jammu & Kashmir that it is ready to take the risks inherent in the return of Kashmiri Hindus to the Valley. The democratic experiment in the Valley has somewhat stabilized after the initiation of the democratic process in 1996. But the discourse of the two main parties, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, as well as civil society, 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 an uproar in the Valley. The new coinage infact refers to the increased reach of 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, opinion building, coercion, as well as public mobilisation 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 that the State Government declared the appointment of the Apex Committee to oversee the return and rehabilitation of displaced Kashmiri Hindus to the Valley.


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


The second and more crucial aspect 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, thereby 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.


The Pathology


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 around 1914-15, 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 the Indian State, to deny what has happened to Kashmiri Hindus, is not determined by its concern to preserve the territorial integrity or sovereignty of India or some nationalist agenda in Kashmir. It is driven by a 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.     


Dr. Ajay Chrungoo is chairman, Panun Kashmir

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