By Dr Ajay Chrungoo
There is a perceptible weirdness in the handling of the issue of return of Kashmiri Hindus by the state government. The Relief Commissioner of the state government recently came out with the figures of 1069 employees having joined their jobs in the valley out of the 1800 posts made available from the employment package of 6000 jobs of the Prime Minister’s return and rehabilitation programme. Not far back the state government had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court stating that only around 700 candidates had joined in the Kashmir valley. The government affidavit stated that it had discovered that, “most of the families were not keen to return to the valley.” The affidavit of the state government also categorically mentioned that “till date, no migrant family has returned possibly due to the conditions that prevailed in the state and also in the valley in 2008 because of the Amar Nath land row. During the summer of 2010, the migrants who had already applied to return were yet to take a final decision.” The state government claims that the displaced Kashmiri Hindus are uninterested in returning to the valley and at the same time in the same breath proclaims that they are very much interested to return and have welcomed the new recruitments. The officials in the valley have been giving figures of even around 2300 selected candidates having joined in Kashmir valley knowing very well that the same government had issued notification for only 1800 jobs. The candidates who have chosen to join the jobs in the valley say that the original documents including certificates and state subject proofs which are normally required to be produced before the authorities to verify the credentials and then returned are held back by the authorities as a guarantee for staying put. The PDP leaders who visited the lodging boarding facilities provided by the state government in the valley for the new recruits have confirmed the dismal and poor quality of all these arrangements where the returnees have been huddled into ghetto like accommodations. There are many candidates who have chosen not to continue with their new jobs but are afraid to reveal the reasons and do not want to annoy the authorities. Many of them think that government will eventually shift the jobs to Jammu and by keeping silent about their assessments about the ground situation in the valley they may still have a chance to keep their jobs intact. In the meantime there is a talk doing the rounds in Jammu that the concerned minister in the cabinet is thinking of shifting the women folk amongst the new employees back to Jammu.
The day Omar Abdullah formally released the recruitment orders for the displaced Kashmiri Hindus selected as per the PM’s employment package and took pains to self-pat himself and his government for the bold step, he chose to share an anecdote with the audience invited for the occasion which brings out the weirdness in government’s approach more clearly and conveys that there is much more in the whole process of return than meets the eye. Interestingly the same has not been covered by the media. The audience on the occasion consisted mainly of the government handpicked Kashmiri Hindus constituted into an Apex Committee to oversee the process of return and rehabilitation as the leaders of the community. As per eyewitness reports Omar told the so called KP leaders that his father’s local physician in Kashmir valley was once visited by a group of terrorists at his home. The armed group told the physician that they had come with a marriage proposal of one of their colleagues for his daughter. The physician shocked and terror stricken however did not lose his cool. He humored the visiting terrorist group by showing a willingness to accept the proposal but asked for some time to consult the elders in the family and get their consent for the marriage proposal. The band of terrorists confident of their power readily agreed and left the house. The physician gathered his family and quietly left the state and the country. He has been since living in a foreign country. The CM told his Kashmiri Hindu audience that since then the physician has visited the valley several times but has never asked for the rehabilitation of his family back in Kashmir.
Sharing of such an anecdote on such an occasion carries a lot of meaning. Was the Chief Minister very subtly trying to warn the community leaders of the uncertainty prevailing in Kashmir valley and dissuading the selected candidates from joining their new jobs in the valley? Or was the Chief Minister only adding an escape caveat to the entire process which his own government had employed to lure or coerce the needy and naïve displaced Hindu aspirants so that in case of any eventuality he can escape responsibility for the decision which his government has ruthlessly tried to implement. Public perception is that the close cabinet colleagues of the CM had for quite some time opposed the entire employment package of the Prime Minister. However, the reasons put forward by the CM to convince his colleagues to support the package at least that part of it for which government of India has agreed to bear the financial burden is not in public knowledge.
The anecdote shared by the CM while releasing the recruitment orders for the displaced Kashmiri Hindus is a measure of deep and dangerous uncertainty that has gripped Kashmir. This uncertainty is quite manifest. And his willingness to push the Kashmiri Hindus into this uncertainty is a measure of the insensitivity and hostility for the displaced Hindus in the political class of Kashmir valley. When brother of Faroq Abdullah rebuffed him for apologizing to Kashmiri Hindus for what had befallen upon them it was only a declaration of the ruthless zeal of the order before which all seem to be powerless in Kashmir. The general uncertainty prevailing in Valley is quite manifest. A Kashmiri Hindu boy Susheel Raina S/o Sh. Badri Nath Raina living in Chandugam, Ashmuqam in valley along with his family which stayed put in valley all these years while most of the Kashmiri Hindus were living in exile in Jammu and rest of India, has been missing for days at the time of writing of this article. He is suspected of being kidnapped by the terrorists and his family fears he might have already been killed. Head of the religious order Ahle-Hadis, Maulvi Shaukat was killed the other day in the mosque when a remotely controlled IED was exploded by the terrorists. The deceased had been opposing the stone pelting and hartal campaign lead by the radical Islamist leader Ali Shah Geelani. The pro-Pak and stridency was on display amongst the masses on the day when India –Pak cricket semifinal of the World cup was being played in Mohali on March 30. As per local reports crackers worth crores had been purchased and kept in reserve to celebrate Pakistan’s victory in the match. Wazwaans had been arranged in numerous localities to hold public feasts after Pakistan defeats India. The schools, colleges and government offices saw very thin attendance and the markets assumed a deserted look. Security establishment was so scared that they imposed Section 144 to stop people from gathering on roads. Many areas police prevented shopkeepers to provide TV sets and screens for the telecast of the cricket match. The posters of prominent Pakistani cricketers were being pasted on cars and prominent places and many areas police had to intervene to prevent it. In the evening when it started dawning upon the people that Pakistan was losing the match terrorist outfits issued instructions for a general black out in the entire valley. Terrorists entered the house of a local NC leader Ghulam Mohiuddin Bhat and fired indiscriminately killing him on the spot. Although the killing was interpreted as the beginning of the anti-election campaign by the terrorists many believe that Bhat was killed because he had not put off the lights of his house which had irritated the terrorist commanders of the area. The uncertainty in valley has only deepened after the happenings in Middle East. The slogan in the streets is,” Khoon ka badla June mai lengey… we will take the revenge of the loss of life during stone pelting campaign in June.” So perceptible is the din of this simmering unrest that even the Prime Minister of India and the chief Minister have expressed their apprehensions about the impending trouble in the summer of this year.
Powerlessness of the Victim
But in this whole sordid drama powerlessness of Kashmiri Hindus, the victim of genocide is most glaringly evident. This powerlessness has been primarily because government of India has chosen to abandon them in search of a deal with those who perpetrated the genocide on them. During the meetings of concerned Working Groups created by Prime Minister the existential threat to the Kashmiri Hindus posed by the communal political order in Kashmir valley with all the instruments of violence at its disposal were repeatedly brought to the notice of government of India. Such concerns were meticulously and ruthlessly ignored. Causes which had led to internal displacement, chances of backlash violence in case of repatriation, nature and intensity of instability in Kashmir valley, accountability etc. does not concern those who are at the helms. In fact during last more than two decades successive governments in the state and the center have jointly participated in a campaign to hush up and trivialize the destruction of Kashmiri Hindus. The National Human Rights Commission took the suo moto notice of the backlash massacre of Kashmiri Hindus at Wandhama in Ganderbal district of Kashmir valley during the previous stint in the government of the National Conference and sent an enquiry team to the valley. The findings of the enquiry were never allowed to come to light. After the Nadimarg massacre during Mufti Sayed’s tenure as the Chief Minister, the then Union Home Minister Sh L K Advani publicly displayed his discomfiture to listen to the victims. The alleged connivance of the police in not acting in time to prevent the crime and a deliberate insensitivity of the authorities in the state and the Centre demoralized and frightened the victims that they chose to leave the village and forget the crime. The victims of the Chattisinghpora massacre who were willing to come forward as witnesses had a same experience and chose to remain silent. The government created an Apex committee of the representatives of displaced Kashmiri Hindus to give an impression that they were being taken into confidence with regard to their return and rehabilitation. But in fact everything was decided beforehand and that too in written. Those who objected were forced to walk out and their places were eventually filled with henchmen. The apex Committee, like the Jewish councils created in concentration camps in Europe before the World War 2, has become only an instrument of the government to promote its policy. Everything which comes in the way is being ignored or suppressed. Government has now transformed itself from a bystander into a collaborator. Powerlessness of the victim gives confidence to the perpetrator and the collaborator to continue with their acts. Professor Henry Theriault, a descendent of the survivors of the Armenian Genocide in 1914 captures this viciousness by explaining, “Deniers operate as the agents of the original perpetrators (of the genocide), pursuing and hounding them through time. Through these agents the perpetrators reach once again into the lives of the victim long after their escape from the perpetrators physical grasp.” Recruitment drive of Kashmiri Hindus in valley has nothing to do with rehabilitation because it does not address the issue of rehabilitation at all. Recruitment drive is a cosmetic intervention to disguise the compromises which the governments in the state and the Centre have jointly embarked upon. It is a device to insulate rabidly communal order from criticism and accountability. The willingness to hostage displaced Kashmiri Hindus to a Muslim communal order has widened the reach of the grasp of the perpetrator who subjected them to genocide.
But why are there takers amongst the displaced Kashmiri Hindus for the Prime Minister’s employment package? At least a thousand have agreed to avail of the employment opportunities provided by the package and return to the dangerous uncertainty as is prevailing in the valley. Holocaust expert Joel E Dimsdale says, “In destruction process the perpetrators do not play the only role, the process is shaped by the victim too. It is the interaction of perpetrators and victims that is fate.” To understand the issue one has to understand what happens to the victims when they are abandoned by their own governments in whom they despite all reasons to the contrary continue to repose their trust. Psychological studies on victims of extreme persecution and genocidal destabilization have revealed peculiar behavior which is difficult to comprehend under normal circumstances. Saporta and Van der Kolk make a profound observation in this regard in their seminal work Psychological Consequences of Severe trauma, “In a government sanctioned torture, the betrayal of the victim by its government can be viewed as the loss of an important attachment bond, both real and symbolic. Regardless of one’s conscious attitude about one’s government, there tends to be a hope, or aspiration that will embody parental qualities such as the provision of protection and security. The betrayal of these expectations and thus loss of this form of attachment compounds the impact of torture…. in their attempt to maintain attachment bonds victims turn to the nearest source of hope to regain a state of psychological and physiologic calm. Under situations of sensory and emotional deprivation they may develop strong emotional ties with the tormentors.” This has been called as ‘traumatic bonding’. Traumatic bonding of victims usually is preceded by a state of denial amongst the victims themselves. Ervin Staub refers to a this denial as a defense mechanism. “ Denial is one of the primitive defense mechanisms. It means screening out part of reality or making it unreal in our minds… interpreting events in a way that suits our needs.” This type of denial and traumatic bonding with the perpetrator is manifestly evident when we talk to the returnees.
Three main factors: Destitution, naivety and a suicidal wishfulness, seem to have influenced the Kashmiri Hindus who have decided to join in valley after being selected for the employment package.. There are families who have lived on the meager relief for more than two decades. To withstand the pressures of destitution for more time has almost become unbearable. There are over aged unemployed and unmarried ladies whose parents hope that getting a job will help them finding a partner. There are divorced ladies whose parents want to overcome the fear of what might happen to them in case they are no more. There are village folk who think that a job in Kashmir may help them to reclaim and develop their lands and property. Enforced destitution of the displaced population has been a conscious policy of both the perpetrators and the collaborators within the government and outside it. Systematically different types of coercive influences have been unleashed during their exile to produce anxiety and stress for a protracted period and the destitute displaced Hindus from Kashmir are responding by trying to adapt or conform.
Naivety, lack of understanding and ignorance about the major political happenings which have a bearing on the very survival of victims drives the victim to suicidal actions. Dimsdale writes about the behavior of Jews as they were being pushed towards a holocaust, “the Jews did not always have to be deceived, they were capable of deceiving themselves.” Some of the selected candidates of the employment package and their close kins who were approached by well-wishers to reconsider their decision stubbornly refused any counseling. A somewhat comical anecdote which happened sometime back will reflect the nature of this naivety more than anything else. A married young Kashmiri Hindu who is working as an officer in a central government department accompanied his wife to Kashmir valley. His wife had been selected for a teacher’s post and had decided to join the post. Young man’s father had been killed by Islamist terrorists in valley during 90’s. Young man had told his wife not to remove her Bindi mark on the forehead and flaunt her ‘Dejhaur ‘, the ornament which is a sign of a married woman amongst Kashmiri Pandits and hangs from the ear lobe to the front of the bust. He told her that by doing so he will be able to gauge the reaction of the Muslim officer receiving the joining report and thus will be able to decide whether she would continue with the job or not. The selected lady reached Kashmir valley and went to the school to submit her joining report along with her husband. On reaching the school they found only the peon in the school who told them to sit and wait for the education officer. Another Kashmiri Hindu lady was already sitting in the reception room along with her husband. She had also come to join for a teachers post. The young man asked his wife to sit in the reception room and he himself went out to smoke a cigarette. When he returned to the reception room he found her wife had already removed the bindi mark from her forehead and hidden her ‘Dejhaur’ in the locks of her hair. He asked her why she had done so and his wife told her that the other Kashmiri Hindu lady sitting there had advised her to do so. While he was narrating this episode to his friends in Jammu, one of his friends interjected and said, “Tell me if your wife would not have removed her bindi and continued to flaunt her ‘Dejhaur’ and the education officer and other employees of the school had received her warmly and with respect, would you conclude that everything is hunky dory and keep your young and beautiful wife there to serve as a teacher in a village.”
A scholar who is doing research on the Hindu survivors of the Tribal Raid in Kashmir Valley in 1947-48 reminded me of the viciousness of the naivety of people in situations of emergency and extreme distress and cautioned me not to get surprised by it. He reminded me that Kashmiri Pandits living in Srinagar continued to remain engrossed in performing the marriages in the marriage season, played tumbakhnari and music, while the invaders had almost reached the outskirts of the city in 1947. A survivor of the tribal raid from Baramullah revealed that he was a school student when the raiders entered Baramullah. The Hindu residents of his locality assembled in a village to discuss the issue. Blissfully naïve they came to a conclusion that the best response to the impending raid was to remain a kilometer away from the main roads. They held the view that raiders had mainly 3 not 3 rifles with them and such a rifle had a firing range of not more than a kilometer so if they remained out of the range they will be safe. Cultivating naivety is also a sort of an escape response. There is deliberate inclination of the victims of genocide and protracted persecution to black out inputs, shun out unpleasant inferences and remain in a make believe world to maintain a feel good perception. When confronted by serious life threatening situations, “the victims can react in five ways: by resistance, by an attempt to alleviate or nullify the threat (the undoing reaction), by evasion, by paralysis, or by compliance.”
The suicidal wishfulness or a very perverted cleverness seems to have effected many of the selected candidates who have decided to join. The persons in this category are fully aware of the dangers of returning to the uncertainty of the valley. They are aware of the grim situation there and the sway and dominance of the radical communal forces there. None of them has faith in the government’s capability to protect them. They accept that sooner or later some mishap may happen there. And ironically all of them have a hope that if a mishap happens then they will run back to Jammu and stake their claim as a migrant employees and the government will have no choice but to adjust them in Jammu. And all these clever persons individually think that the impending mishap on which they are laying their hopes to escape and get a redemption will not happen with them.
Looking at the attitude of Government of India, the state government, the political establishment in Jammu and Kashmir as well as New Delhi towards the problem of internal displacement of Kashmiri Hindus, one cannot but be haunted by the lines of holocaust expert Ervin Staub , “ there was a progression of steps along a continuum of destruction.”
*(The writer is chairman Panun Kashmir)