By Dr. M.K. Teng
The ethnic cleansing of the Hindus of Kashmir in 1990, is one of the few episodes, which occurred after the second World War, and in which a whole community of people was subjected to genocide and driven out of its natural habitat. The terrorist violence with which the Muslim Jehad in Kashmir commenced in 1989, was aimed to achieve a number of military objectives which the militant regimes and the Jehadi war groups considered to be essential for the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian occupation. The ethnic extermination of the Hindus was one of the primary objectives, the Jehad aimed to achieve. The Hindus of Kashmir formed the Sanskrit component of the social culture of Kashmir and provided the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir its secular identity. More importantly, the Hindus formed the frontline of the resistance against the separatists movements in the State, which the Muslim separatist forces carried on for decades with the support of Pakistan.
Ever since the commencement of their exile, the Hindus have been waiting for their return to the land of their birth, reiterating from time to time their resolve to return to their homes. The response of the Indian State to their remonstrations was always feeble and continues to be so even now; mainly determined by the inability of the Indian political class to recognise the real import of the terrorist violence and its inaptitude to deal with the Muslim Jehad with any firmness. The Indian political class closed its eyes, like the ostriches do, to the death and devastation, the terrorist violence brought to the Hindus of Kashmir and to the Hindus of the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province.
The Indian leaders never mustered courage to face the Muslim Jehad, without which the return and rehabilitation of the Hindus could not the achieved. Instead the Indian political class adopted a surreptitious policy of compromise with the Muslim separatist flanks. The Indian political class ascribed the terrorist violence to the alienation of the Muslims in the State which it traced to the inability of the Indian political system to recognise the genuineness of the Muslim struggle for a separate freedom in Jammu and Kashmir. Assuming a position in between the Jehad and the Hindus of the State, the Indian political class sat on judgement on who had done what in Jammu and Kashmir, to fix the responsibility for the Muslim alienation and the consequent upheaval in the State. Expectedly, the Jehad triumphed and the Hindus continued to smoulder in exile.
Genocide of Hindus
The genocide, the Hindus in Kashmir, were subjected to and the exodus forced upon them by the terrorist regimes, right from the moment they began their military operations in the State, was undertaken in accordance with a well laid out plan. The plan envisaged the ethnic extermination of the Hindus in the Kashmir province and the Muslim majority regions of the Jammu province to bring about the de-Sanskritisation of the part of the State situated to the west of the river Chenab and prepare the ground for its separation from the Shivalik plains, situated to the east of the river Chenab. The division of the State in between India and Pakistan had been proposed as a basis for settlement of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, by the United Nations mediator on Kashmir Sir Owen Dixon in 1950. When the terrorist regimes, extended their military operations to the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province, they followed the same “scorched earth”, policy there to bring about the ethnic extermination of the Hindus. In Kashmir as well as the Jammu province the first bullets fired by the militants were received by the Hindus.
The Hindus had always formed the frontline of the peoples’ resistance to all forms of Muslim separatism in the State. The Hindus had fought for the freedom of the State from the British rule and when the freedom came, they had paid the heaviest price to defend it against the invading forces of Pakistan in 1947. Not many people in India know that more than thirty eight thousand of Hindus and Sikhs were killed by the invading armies across the territories of the state they over ran.
The first staggering blow which the Jehad delivered to the Hindus in Kashmir was the assassination of Tika Lal Taploo, a Kashmiri Pandit leader, who was widely respected in his community. A member of the National Executive of the Bharatiya, Janata Party, Taploo was an indefatigable man, who had fought untiringly against the marginalisation of the Hindus in the State. Taploo was given a tearful farewell by thousands of the people of his community, who accompanied his funeral procession. While the funeral procession, carrying Taploo on his last journey, wound its way through the streets of Srinagar, stones were pelted on it.
The terrorist violence struck the Hindus in its full fury in January 1990. The death and destruction it brought to the Hindus was widespread. Not much of what happened those days in Kashmir is known in the rest of the country as a concerted campaign of disinformation was carried on to camouflage the ravages the community of the Hindus was subjected to. By the end of the year, the death toll of the Hindus had risen to about eight hundred. The white paper on Kashmir, the Joint Human Rights Committee, Delhi issued in 1996 noted : “A computation of the data of the massacred Hindus on the basis of reports in the local press, news papers published in Srinagar, and the other townships in Kashmir, reveals that the number of the Hindus killed ran into several thousands”. The White Paper notes further “Among the killed were several hundred Hindus who were reported missing. Among the missing were many Hindus whose bodies were never identified and were disposed off by the State Government agencies at their will. Many of the people killed and still to be identified were Hindus.” The chaotic manner in which information about the killings were reported is shown by the following wireless message, transmitting information of the death of two Hindu men, in Srinagar to their kin in Jammu, “To SSP Jammu L.B. No: 13 from Police Control Room Srinagar, 25/6/1990. Please contact Shri Makhan Lal Sumbli H.No: 28 Bhagwati Nagar and inform him about the death of Som Nath S/o Shri Lassa Koul and Chaman Lal S/o Shyam Lal R/o Pattipora Bala, Chattabal, Srinagar, the above dead bodies were lying unidentified at Ali Jan Road. Signature of officer, 1920 ToR, S.P. Police Control Room.”
As the Jehadi war groups and the terrorist regimes settled down to carry on a prolonged war of attrition in Jammu and Kashmir, they changed their tactics. They reduced the frequency of sporadic surprise strikes on specifically identified targets to pre-planned major military strikes on Hindu localities to carry out mass-massacres. The mass massacres were brutal and had s staggering effect on the entire community of the Hindus in the State. The massacres were carried out at different places in the Kashmir province : at Sangrahampora where eight people were killed; at Wandahama in North Kashmir, in January 1998, where twenty three Hindus were killed; at Anantnag in South Kashmir, where twelve Bihari labourers were killed in July 1999; at Chattisinghpora where thirty-six Sikhs were killed in March 2000, at Pahalgam, where thirty-two Hindus, including twenty-nine pilgrims to Amarnath Shrine, were killed in August 2000; and at Nadimarg, where twenty-four Hindus were killed in March 2002.
In the Jammu province, the mass massacres were widespread and the death-toll heavier. Seventeen Hindus were killed in Kishtwar during 13-14 August 1993; sixteen Hindus were killed in Kishtwar in January 1996; Seventeen Hindus were killed in Simber, Doda in May 1996; twenty-nine Hindus were killed in Dakhikot Prankot, Doda in January 1998; Eleven Hindus (defence committee members) were killed in Dessa, Doda in May 1998, twenty nine Hindus were killed in Chapnari Doda, in June 1998; twenty Hindus were killed in separate terrorist attacks in Chinathakuri, and Shrawan, Doda in July 1998; seventeen Hindus were killed in Surankot Poonch in June 1999; fifteen Hindus wee killed in Thatri, Doda, in July 1999; seventeen Hindus were killed in Manjakot Rajouri in March 2001; fifteen Hindus were killed in Cherjimorah, Dodain July 2001’, Sixteen Hindus were killed in Sarothdhar, Doda in August 2001’, Thirty four Hindus were killed in Kaluchak, Jammu in May 2002; twenty-nine Hindus were killed in Rajiv Nagar, Jammu in July 2002; seventeen Hindus were killed in Udhampur in March 2003; twelve Hindus were killed in Surankote, Poonch in June 2004; ten Hindus were killed in Budhal, Rajouri in October 2005; three of a Hindu family were killed in Chaal, Udhampur in April 2006 and thirty Hindus were killed in Thana Kulhand, Doda in April 2006.
The Indian State having failed in its rightful function to protect the Hindus in Kashmir from death and destruction, the terrorist flanks brought to them, they were left with no other course except to leave their homes to save their lives. The massacre of Hindus was aimed to eliminate them physically and at the same time fill their hearts with terror to force them to leave Kashmir. The Hindus, unable to believe that they would be abandoned by the Indian state, to face the Jehad as best they could, offered themselves as easy targets for the terrorist flanks and allowed hundreds of their brothern to be killed. But as the holocaust enveloped them, they left their homes and hearths to save their lives and the lives of their children. The White Paper on Kashmir noted: “A deliberately designed two-pronged plan to dislodge the Hindus from Kashmir was surreptitiously put into operation by the various terrorist organisations. Several hit lists were circulated all over the Valley, in towns as well as villages. The hit lists were accompanied by rumours about the Hindus who were found by the militants to have been involved in ‘Mukhbiri’, complicity, with the Government of India. The rumours were deadly, because they made life uncertain”. The White Paper noted further: “In a number of towns and villages, the local people issued threats from the mosques and spread rumours charging the Kashmiri. Hindus of conspiracy and espionage in order to break their resolve to stay behind. Larger number of prominent men among the Kashmiri Hindus, social workers, leaders and intellectuals were listed for death. Most of them escaped from the Valley, secretly to avoid suspicion and interception.”. The attack was open. The White Paper noted : “In the rural areas of the Valley, cadres of the secessionist organisations and their supporters, almost of every shade and commitment, the supporters of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in the vanguard, did not hide their hostility towards the Hindus. At many places, even in Srinagar and the other townships, Kashmiri, Hindus were openly charged of espionage for India. The indictment spelt death”.
The exodus of the Hindus picked up pace as the summer set in. By the end of the year 1990, the larger part of the Hindu community of Kashmir had left. The rest followed as the terrorist violence intensified.
While the Hindus began to leave Kashmir the Jehadi flanks unfolded their plans to destroy the Sanskrit heritage of the Kashmir. The homes the Hindus left-behind, were ransacked and after their properties were looted, burnt down. Within four years of the onset of the terrorist violence in Kashmir, 18,000, Hindu houses were burnt down, bombed and demolished. The White Paper on Kashmir noted : “Many of the homes were torched and during the last four years about 18,000 were either burnt down or destroyed. Many of the homes, which were not burnt, were occupied by mercenaries serving the militant organisations. The premises of the business establishment, shops and commercial establishments were also taken over by the Muslim activists who supported the militancy. In the rural areas, agricultural lands, orchards, and the lands attached to the burnt Hindu houses, were nibbled away by Muslim activists supporting various terrorist organisatiosn. The cattle and the livestock left behind by the Hindus, were sold for slaughter”. In due course of time as the militancy continued to ravage the province and the Muslim separatists forces and the Jehadi flanks gained an upper hand, the Hindus were dispossessed of whatever they owned, their land, dilapidated structures of their homes, business establishments and other assets by what came to be called the distress sales.
The depredations the terrorist regimes wrought did not end with the destruction of Hindu localities, homes and properties. They attacked the temples and Hindu places of worship with iconoclast zeal. The Minister of State for the Home Department of the Government of India told the Indian Parliament on 12 March 1993, that thirteen temples were desecrated and demolished in 1989, nine temples were damaged and demolished in 1990, and sixteen temples were damaged and demolished in 1991. The White Paper on Kashmir noted : “The actual number of temples demolished and damaged in Kashmir was much larger and vandalism to which the Hindu shrines were exposed was widespread”. In the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Majid, the militants and the Muslim mobs joined to attack the Hindu temples and places of worship. On 7 December, 1992, one day after this demolition of the Babri Majsid, two temples, one in Anantnag and one in Srinagar, were burnt down. During the night of 7-8 December, thirteen temples : one each in Kulgam and Sopore; two in Tangamarg; three in Srinagar and one each in the Anantnag, Uttrasu, Shadipur in Sumbal, Pahalgam and Verinag, were damaged and burnt down. On 9 December, two temples were damaged and burnt down at Trehgam and Pattan. The demolition of the Hindu temples continued after 9 December, for many more days taking the number of the temples, desecrated damaged, demolished and burnt down to thirty-nine. The White Paper on Kashmir noted : “After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the wanton destruction of the temples in Kashmir was reported by the press, though reservedly. Angry demonstrations and protest against the descration and systematic demolitions were held by the Hindu refugees in Jammu and the other parts of the country”. The protest evoked no response from the State Government or the Government of India.
The ancient ruins of the Hindu temples, most of them protected monuments of the Archeological Department of the State and the Archeological Department of the Government of India, were also subject to attack. The archeological remains of the ancient Hindu temples stood as an elequent testimony of the Hindu heritage of Kashmir. The temple ruins were sacred to the Hindus, who visited them as a part of their tradition. At many place the ruins were dug up, in order to obliterate their last traces.
The Hindu religious places where Hindu cultural and social institutions and organisations were located were subjected to bomb attacks or burnt down. The Hindu educational institutions were burnt down or taken over. The entire organisation of Hindu schools and colleges run by the Hindu educational societies including the institutions run by Hindu Educational Society, Dayanand Ayurvedic organisation and the Vishwa Bharti Trust were seized and taken over by the Muslim organisation supported by the militant flanks.
Reversal of Genocide
Genocide of the Hindus in Kashmir and their exile for decades, has changed the geographical alignments of their community in the province of Kashmir and destroyed their social and economic base. The terrorist violence has obliterated the Hindu religious heritage of Kashmir and almost efaced the Hindu cultural identity. The return of Hindus to Kashmir can assume meaning and effect only in case the genocide is reversed.
The issues which form the core of their return are : (a) the reconstruction of their economic and social base; restoration to them of their homes, land, properties, business establishment and institutions and assets; (b) recognition of their right to freedom of which the content is determined by the imperatives of secularism rather than the Muslim majority identity of the State; and (c) acceptance of their territorial claims in Kashmir in case of any settlement with the Muslims of Kashmir to reorganise the the state into a separate Muslim sphere of power on the territories of India, inside India or outside India.
No one can expect the Hindus to return to Kashmir without their sources of livelihood being restored to them and a level of economic security ensured for them. They have lived as refugees in Jammu and the other part of India for two decades. They cannot be sent to live in Kashmir as refugees in improvised camps at the charity of the world.
The Indian political class should realise that the Hindus have lived, almost all over the six decades of the Indian freedom, within the space provided for them by the precarious balance between the commitment of the Indian people to secularism and the Muslim majority identity of the State. The Indian leadership should realise that the Jehad has severely impaired this balance and obliterated the space for the Hindus to live in Kashmir. It must be noted that any attempt to force the Hindus to accept to live in the space earmarked for them by the Muslim identity of the State will prove distasterous for them.
For those who rule India, the return of the Hindus may be a mere change of face, the Muslim identity of the state is given. But for the Hindus of Kashmir, it is a momentous, decision which will determine the future of their generations. The Government of India must apprise the Hindus of Kashmir about the baseline of its approach to any future settlement, it is committed to reach with Pakistan on the one hand and Muslims of the State, on the other. The Hindus do not want their return to be used as a first step towards turning Jammu and Kashmir into a separate Muslim sphere of power, on the territories of India but independent of its constitutional organisation.
The return of the Hindus to Kashmir is a historical necessity, not only for the Unity of Jammu and Kashmir, but for the unity of India. Any cosmetic effort to bring about the return of the Hindus to Kashmir, aimed to provide a secular face to what the Indian political class has brought about in Jammu and Kashmir, during the last two decades, will spell disaster for the Hindus and perhaps lead to developments which do not augur well for the whole country.
After the Hindus were driven out of Kashmir in 1990, their return to their homes was never under the consideration of the people who ruled India. The 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, Pakistan and the Jehadi 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 Jehad wrought in Kashmir and, in fact, spared no efforts to camouflage the genocide of the Hindus and their ethnic cleansing in Kashmir and the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province. The stray references, the Indian leaders made on the return of the Hindus to their homes and hearths, “with honour and dignity” were a part of the propaganda aimed to minimise the impact of the displacement of the Hindus in the State and contain its effect. Behind the scene, the Indian political class tried frantically, to negotiate peace with the Muslim separatist flanks inside the State and their Jehadi mentors outside the State. Negotiations for peace with the Jehadi 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 Jehad 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 by the Jehad. 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 the Hindus to their homes and made no concrete proposals for their rehabilitation.
The Indian political class launched a widespread dis-information campaign to camouflage the portent of the terrorist violence and to 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 the 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 its accession to India. The various forms of the Muslim communalism and separatism which ravaged the 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 the Jehad commenced in Kashmir, a mild goose chase began in search of scapegoats to camouflage the forces which were involved in the upheaval, the State faced. “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 alongwith hundreds of the Indian security personnel and the whole community of the 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 militarised 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 smokescrean to what the Jehad wrought in Kashmir and the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province.
A part of the truth of what had happened in Kashmir was, actually, revealed by the Jehadi regimes themselves and their overground separatist outfits like the Hurriyat Conference. The Indian political class had ascribed the militant violence to alienation of the Muslim youth, brought about by the Indian misrule in the State which had led to the economic deprivation and political oppression of the Muslims. The Jehadi regimes told the Indian people and the world around, that the Muslim Jehad was aimed to liberate the State from the occupation army of India, which was stationed in the State illegally. The Jehadi regimes and the Muslim separatist organisations denied that the militant operations and the Muslim upsurge were in any way related to any political distrust, economic deprivation or the alienation of the Muslims. They made it clear in unmistakable terms that the Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir had commenced the Jehad in Kashmir to liberate 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 the mainstream political parties: the National Conference, and the 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 the Muslim unrest in the State and the Muslim struggle were an expression of the peoples desire to seek a settlement of the Central issue which underlined the Kashmir dispute. They gave ample expression to their opinions stating that so long the Muslim quest for a separate freedom which was not subject to the secular imperatives of the Constitution of India and so long a settlement of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan and the Muslims of the State was not found, Muslim distrust would not end.
A part of the truth, however, is still concealed. The story of the genocide of the Hindus, their ethnic extermination and how they were used as the scapegoats for the failings of the Indian political class in dealing with the Jehad, is yet to be told. The part of the untold truth is closely linked with the return of the Hindus to their homes and hearts. The Indian political class is hiding the truth of what the Jehad has wrought in Kashmir during the last two decades. The Indian Government has never mustered up courage to stand up to the Jehad. The Indian politica class is still following its own plans to use the Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir as a buffer in between the Indian segment and the war of subversion the Jehadi regimes are waging in the State. The double-speak of the Indian political class on the return of the Hindus to Kashmir, is bound to do them more harm.
The truth is that the security environment in the Kashmir province is severely strained and the social culture of the Muslim community has been drastically changed by the Jehad. 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 Jehad 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 overground political outfits of the Jehadi war groups and the militant flanks, including the various factions of the Hurriyat conference, have offered to accept the return of the Hindus and at the same-time expressed their hope that after their return the Hindus will join their Muslim brethren in their struggle for their liberation from India.
The war of liberation, which the Hindus are expected to join on their return apart, the Jehad has upturned the whole social milieu of which the Hindus formed a part, when they were cast overboard. The decades of the religious war has dissolved the mutually accepted rules which ensured the stability of the inter-community relations in the State and brought about imperceptible and drastic changes in the social organisation in Kashmir. First the ethnic cleansing of the Hindus in Kashmir has dissolved the pluri-cultural social organisation of Kashmir. The demographic alignments which existed in Kashmir before the onset of the Jehad formed the basis of its multi-religious social organisation. In the tradition-bound societies of the former colonial peoples, demographic alignments have been found to play a major role in determining the inter-community relations in their social cultures. The social culture of Kashmir has assumed a dominantly Islamic expression. No wonder, therefore, that during the last several years the Kashmiri Pandits who have been going on a 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 the Muslim society in Kashmir-a process which continued for nearly a decade, before the onset of the terrorist violence in the State in 1990, has led to the regimentation of the large sections of the Muslim society in Kashmir on the basis of their ideological commitment to the Islamisation of the State. Most of the regimented sections of the Muslim society are militarily responsive.
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 the Muslim society in Kashmir, which the materialisation of the Muslim separatist movements led to, has 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 Jehadi structures openly reject secularism as a basis of all state activity and governance and instead insist upon the regular reorganisation of the State and society in accordance with the precept and precedent of Islam. The protagonists of the Islamic order of the society and government have claimed that the Islamic religious injunction provided for the protection of the peoples who do not profess Islam and the other minorities. Some of the Hurriyat conference leaders have accepted without hesitation that secularism has no place in the Islamic order of the society and government as it conflicted with the imperatives of authority which draws their sanction from Muslim religion.
It is difficult to conclude that the Indian leaders are not able to realise the risks in sending back the Hindus to Kashmir in a situation of conflict. The truth is that the Indian political class follows a measured policy, in regard to Jammu and Kashmir, which does not underline the return of the Hindu refugees to their homes. The Indian political class seeks to graft the return of the Hindu refugees to their homes to an overall settlement on the Kashmir dispute with Pakistan and the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir. Had it been otherwise, the Indian Government would have opened talks with the Hindu refugees of Kashmir, before they conceived of a settlement with Pakistan or the Muslims of the State.
A discussion on what constitutes the Kashmir dispute is outside the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say here that the Indian political class recognises Kashmir dispute to be what Pakistan and the Muslim separatist flanks in Jammu and Kashmir construe it to be. The Indian Government has, in principle accepted the Kashmir dispute to be the expression of the claim-Pakistan lays to Jammu and Kashmir on the basis of the Muslims majority composition of its population as well as the claim made by the Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir, to a separate freedom, to which the partition of India entitled them on the basis of the ratio of their population in the State. The negotiations for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute, which were originally initiated by the Indian Government and which have now assumed the brand name “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 carried at many levels : between the two governments of India and Pakistan, back-channel diplomacy, third power mediation and the negotiations carried on between the Indian Government and the various Muslim separatist as well as mainstream political organisations and outfits inside the State. Interestingly Pakistan has made its position clear in unmistakable terms, that it will accept a settlement on Kashmir dispute which is approved by the 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 the Jammu province and the Kargil district of the Ladakh region, as a baseline for a settlement of the Kashmir dispute. The two countries came close to the acceptance of the reorganisation 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 a protectorate. The Manmohan Singh-Musharaff proposals, on which the two countries are reported to have come to an agreement, underlined the reorganisation 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 the Hindu refugees to Kashmir to the commitments it has given to Pakistan and the Muslims of the State in respect of the settlement of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir.
The uprootment of the 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 off from its roots. The White Paper on Kashmir notes : “Like the other tradition bound, endogamous and native people, the Hindus in Kashmir 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 civilisation, 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 the Hindus has 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 around the 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 and their return.
The Hindus have as sacrosanct a territorial right in Kashmir as their Muslim compatriots have. The claim made by Pakistan to Jammu and Kashmir State on the basis of the Muslim majority composition of its population and the claim made by the Muslim separatist flanks inside the State for a separate freedom, do not in any respect prejudice the territorial rights, the Hindus claim in Kashmir.
*(The author is the Chairman of Panun Kashmir advisory).