Sualeh Keen on the exodus of Kashmir's Pandits
The tenure of Jagmohan did oversee brutal repression of Muslims. Coincidently, around the time of his appointment, the Pandits had started fleeing the Valley in droves. However, coincidence does not establish correlation. The night of 19 January 1990 sounded the death knell for Pandits, when the Muslims celebrated Azadi in mosques and, in many places, shouted anti-Kafir and anti-Pandit slogans on loudspeakers. But Jagmohan had yet to set his foot in the Valley. Some Pandits had been murdered in 1989 and many had left their homes before Jagmohan’s arrival. Threatening “Quit Kashmir” eviction notices had been served to Pandit families as early as 1 January 1990. Valley-based newspapers published ultimatums from militant organisations for Pandits. Even so, many Pandits left as late as the autumn of 1990 and in the years to come. Ergo, the “exodus” did not happen overnight in a well-planned flash-mob fashion “to clear the ground”. Pandits were abandoning their homes in duress to escape persecution.
The pre- and post-Jagmohan terror attacks on Pandits belie the notion that Pandits gleefully abandoned their homes for a sojourn in the hot and dusty southern plains in refugee camps with inhuman living conditions. Where is the survey in which Pandits say that they left on Jagmohan’s behest? Other than the unanimity of their claim, the Deniers have no proof.
Reviews as a Tool for Denial:
Using the modus operandi of the Deniers, Bhasin suggests that Pandita is lying and says “the memoir (is) open to challenge”. She informs the readers that Pandita has misread the subtext of the murder of Ravi, who, as per Bhasin, was murdered because he was Hindu, not because of his Pandit ethnicity. But she neglects to enlighten the readers on precisely how Muslim hatred for Hindus is different from Muslim hatred for Pandits. In any case, Bhasin herself is misreading or telling a lie here. Ravi and two other Pandits were murdered at Gool by the Mujahideen for being Pandits, not just for being Hindu, since all the non-Pandit Hindus on that bus were spared. Thus, Bhasin misrepresents the subtext to establish Pandita as an “unreliable narrator”. This in itself makes Bhasin’s review unreliable.
Bhasin uses the backdrop of the erstwhile harmony between Muslims and Pandits to discredit the Pandit version of the exodus. By that token, the Gujarati Muslims’ version of post-Godhra riots cannot be right either, for there were no riots before that. Bhasin accuses Pandita of drawing a seamless link between the Tribal Raid of 1947 and the terrorism of 1990, when Pandita has publicly taken a stand against holding historical grudges. That Pandita’s maternal family had to flee from Baramulla to Srinagar to escape the advancing tribals is a fact. Should he, in his personal memoir, not talk of the two migrations that occurred since 1947 within his family?
Bhasin says she wishes Pandita had embraced “complexity” in his account. Such calls for complexity attempt to marginalise the Pandit experience. One sees a pattern: a deliberate attempt to misrepresent Pandita. Such reviews conveniently disregard the declaration that the book’s sole purpose is to counter the denial, and is not intended as a comprehensive history of conflict of the peoples of Jammu and Kashmir. Bhasin further tries to frame Pandita as being indifferent to the suffering of Muslims, conveniently ignoring that before this book was published, he had been writing about human rights violations of Kashmiri Muslims more than he had of Pandits. Bhasin’s review too attempts to recast Pandita’s personality ex nihilo to prejudice potential readers.
It is telling that Bhasin’s review devotes so much space to Jagmohan. Even if Jagmohan had uttered those anti-Muslim words, what does that have to do with the Pandit experience? What of the threats issued from mosques, the threat letters, the ultimatums in newspapers, and the murders of Pandits in 1989, before Jagmohan? And what were the myriad Mujahideen groups up to? Tellingly, Bhasin’s moon does not use shades from that palette.
Rahul Pandita’s book is not history; it is but a tiny dot that will connect histories. But, this tiny dot is an indelible blot on the immaculate moon of the Deniers. Thus, the vigorous attempts to erase it.
Conclusion: A wrong had been committed against a religious minority that needs to be admitted and acknowledged. The very denial or an obscure admission leaves a big question mark on the justness of the Azadi dream and the character of the Muslim majority. Circa 1990, when the Mujahideen roamed the streets of Kashmir, the Pandits were the inconvenient people, and therefore expendable. In 2013 when there are no Mujahideen around, Pandits are still the inconvenient people, for they are repositories of an inconvenient truth.
High Court of Jammu & Kashmir upholds Sanjay Tickoo's petition for protection of religious places and castigates communal versions of nationalism.