Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo
“Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits”…This oft-repeated narrative we have been listening, reading and seen discussing for the last three decades unabatedly. The ‘intent’ expressed by the successive Governments, political parties, important public figures and even the Muslim majority community of Kashmir that “Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits” gains more currency at the time of electoral processes. In fact, this kind of a narrative smoothens the tough path of the Governments and the politicians so far as the issue of accountability and responsibility in context of the exiled Pandits are concerned. They find themselves on a better pitch to bat on when they use this narrative in their assertions, speeches, statements and discourses. The exiled community of Kashmiri Pandits also finds this narrative as a “soothing relief” to their hurt psyche without raising any doubt about the intent contained in the statement. The fact of the matter is that there is no need to raise doubts about the intent of the statement since the statement is a ‘statement of fact’ though used for different purposes on different occasions with different motivations.
The history, cultural tradition, civilization and languages of Kashmir have a long history of evolution. The ancient most almanac of Kashmir is contemporary to the ancient Sanatan, Chinese and Egyptian calendars. The Saptrishi Samvat denotes the time calculation of the civilization and the people connected with it. The current Saptrishi Samvat-5094 (initiated by the Kashmiri Pandits in ancient Kashmir) follows closely the Sanatan Yugabd Samvat-5120. The Neelmatapurana and Rajtarangini and the other ancient chronicles of Kashmir confirm that the Kashmiri Pandits are core to the Kashmir’s natural and historical flow of its civilizational legacy.
Dr. Ved Kumari Ghai, the great Sanskrit scholar and an expert on Kashmir history and culture, describe the contribution of Kashmir to the Sanskrit literature as unparallel. She goes further ahead and records that Sanskrit literature and history is incomplete without the contribution of Kashmir. The role played by the historical Kashmiri Pandit greats in various fields of life in ancient and modern times is an essential part of the history of Kashmir. Right from Maharani Yashomati down to Kota Rani, it is the Kashmiri Pandits who represented Kashmir in all walks of life and made Kashmir the centre of global attention. Medieval period of history of Kashmir has more pain than any kind of relief for the historical processes of Kashmir. However, the modern history once again gave a limited role to the Kashmiri Pandits who had, by then, turned into a miniscule minority in their own land from an overwhelming majority during the medieval times.
It is a recognized fact (at regional, national and international level) that Kashmiri Pandits are currently living as refugees in their own country due to their ethnic cleansing in Kashmir at the hands of the Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist elements. Their genocide forced them to live as the displaced and scattered people throughout the globe. The mass exodus and the consequent dispersal made them a subject of near extinction as a community, ethnic group and race. Their forced exile and the dispersal thereafter throughout the globe is tantamount to their continuous genocide as per the ‘Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide’ as all these factors are a threat to finish them in part or in whole as a distinct social and ethnic group. The homogeneity and collective character are at stake due to their exodus from Kashmir and the forced dispersal thereafter.
Three decades of exile is a huge time for everyone to realize that the exiled community needs special attention and support to regain what it has lost. The Governments and the political parties have undoubtedly failed in their duties to think beyond relief and temporary rehabilitation of the Pandit community. The aspirations of the community have taken a back seat, unfortunately, in their priorities about Kashmir. Three decades of time changes generations and the generational shift should also be followed by a rethinking on the subject. The Kashmiri Pandits are supposed to take fresh initiatives keeping in view their aspirations in context of Kashmir. The political parties also as well as the governments can play a very positive role to bring back Kashmiri Pandits into the mainstream of political and electoral processes by taking some bold and unconventional decisions on the subject. The election time is the most suited period to bring in positive changes in this regard.
In order to accommodate the aspirations of the neglected sections of the society, our constitution has paved a way in terms of ‘Reservations’. But reservations in electoral scheme in respect of a religious and ethnic group are not constitutionally possible. The idea of ‘constituency in exile’ is not also practicable since the electoral constituency is a territorial constituency and thus a constituency cannot be created in geographical vacuum. Next, the Election Commission of India is not also empowered by the constitution to take any effective step in this regard that could bring some kind of relief to the exiled community. The truth is that the founding fathers of the constitution could not visualize a situation where the citizens of the country could be turned into refugees in their own country for decades of their life. In such a situation, the political parties and the government have a primary and fundamental role to usher in a formidable scheme or a format which could take care of the aspirations of the community as well as enable the political parties to perform their role in this context. The political parties of the state can play a positive role to get the original inhabitants of the Kashmir valley back into the socio-political spectrum as an integral part of the political and electoral processes in the J&K State.
It is in this particular context that the political parties and the social arena need rethinking and review. The intent expressed in the oft-repeated statement over the last three decades of exile of the Kashmiri Pandits that “Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits” need to be translated into reality in the political terms. As a first major step in this direction, the Kashmiri Pandits are required to be made an integral and important part of the political and electoral process. This can be achieved by ensuring that the Pandits, the indigenous people of the Kashmir valley, are represented in the Parliament and the Assembly of the State. Therefore, all political parties in the state have been appealed to give their mandate in respect of the ‘Srinagar Parliamentary constituency’ to the Kashmiri Pandit alone which will ensure the representation of the displaced community in the Lok Sabha. This will also work as a big confidence building measure in political terms and can pave a way for the elected candidate to work with the government to take the aspirations of the community to the appropriate level. All major political parties are required to review to convert their “sacred intent” expressed all these three decades by them through the oft-repeated statement into a Reality. This will also send a strong message that the displaced and exile community belongs to the socio-political milieu of the Kashmir valley.
The Pandit community needs to be provided a clear way to enter the Representative Houses as the representative of the people. After all they are seven lakh state subject people of the state. Appeal to the political parties to give their mandate for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency to a deserving Kashmiri Pandit is also tantamount to testing their sincerity and seriousness in this regard. Next, Assembly elections this time are also round the corner. The same formula may be applied to two Assembly constituencies where the political parties may give their mandate to the Kashmiri Pandit only. These constituencies may be Habbakadal, Baramulla, Anantnag, Jammu West and Raipur Dumana. Two out of these five constituencies may be selected by the political parties to consider giving their mandate only to the members of the Kashmiri Pandit community. The next processes in this regard will also test the seriousness and truthfulness of the Muslim majority community of Kashmir towards the original inhabitants of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits. The Kashmiri Pandits are believers of peace, brotherhood and forgiveness though they do not forget the facts of history as a part of their DNA trait. More so, forgetting history is committing to repeat it.
This time, for practical purposes, the Governments, political parties and the Muslim majority community may not be able to take a slip through a safety-valve in this regard. I hope and expect that they all play their role very well in order to think in terms of inclusiveness and accommodation in pure political terms to the ‘well deserved due’ in respect of the exiled and dispersed community of Kashmiri Pandits whom they all consider as an ‘integral part of Kashmir’ and about whom they have been always saying that “Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits”.
Ashwani Kumar Chrungoo