'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
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Thursday, June 16, 2016
SHAKIR MIR - Piercing Kashmir’s Doublethink About the Return of the Pandits
Though we hear terms
like ‘caging’, ‘ghettoisation’, ‘walling off’ etc. to describe the proposed
composite townships, they fall short of adding up to any sort of meaningful
argument against the plan to bring the KPs back to their homeland.
Srinagar: The Pandit question is stupefying. It can
make political activists in the Kashmir valley do two mutually
irreconcilable things at the same time. They can say how their hearts
bleed at the misery of this displaced minority, even as they present their
own set of ‘musts’ and ‘must nots’ for the resettlement of Pandits in what is
their own homeland.
Some 60 years ago
George Orwell coined a term for this sort of absurdity: Doublethink. “To know
and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling
carefully constructed lies,” Orwell wrote is his dystopian masterpiece,1984, “…to
hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be
contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to
repudiate morality while laying claim to it.”
Perhaps that’s why –
despite years of issuing statement after statement about having no hard
feelings for them, about welcoming them with “open arms” and even extending
security – a feeling of mistrust and suspicion has persevered in the
minds of the Pandits. Somehow, they managed to see through the farce. Perhaps there
have been occasions when the Pandits felt they had been too obstinate
or suspicious. Not any more surely.
Last week, a renowned militant leader decreed that if Pandits
sought to live as they wish and not as we decide for them, they shall be attacked.
You heard it right. Attacked! In a 6 minute-long
video, the young militant commander Burhan Wani vowed direct “action” against
those who settle Kashmiri Pandits inside “Israeli-type colonies” – a reference
to the composite townships where the government seeks to rehabilitate migrants
displaced when insurgency reared its head over two decades ago.
The 24-year-old Wani
has infused the sagging insurgency with a new lease of life. His online persona
has generated renewed vigour for seeking azadi – especially among
Kashmir’s alienated lot. It isn’t clear if he has made any substantial
recruitment into his fold, but he seems to have succeeded in whipping up
unprecedented sympathy for the insurgency – often manifested in members
of the public jostling to take part in the funeral rites of
In his latest
video, Wani appears to have taken a leaf from someone else’s book. His voice
quivers and fumbles for coherence as he puts across his thirst for murder
in search of political ends. His words also capture a breathtaking irony:
Even if the townships might not have been intended as ghettos, his
threat is likely to ensure that is what they become.
“He distinctly trains
his guns on those who identify themselves as Indian,” Sanjay Tickoo of the
Kashmiri Pandit Sanghrash Samiti (KPSS), one of the few remaining Pandits who
did not leave the valley, told me, in reaction to the video. “I say I am an
Indian. I openly say it. A policeman who wears the uniform ‘upholding the
Indian law’ may or may not be Indian by heart. He is just doing his job. But I
surely am. So against whom is this threat aimed? I don’t think in this
scenario asking a minuscule minority to come back is going to cut much ice.”
Tickoo seemed visibly upset that no civil society member had issued a statement against Wani’s video. “It would take only one meaningful statement on the part of the separatists to get Pandits coming back in hordes,” he says. He didn’t specify what
the contents of such a statement must be but as soon as I tried getting my mind
around his words, I couldn’t help feeling he was alluding to the list of riders
that secessionist leaders invariably attach while beseeching the Pandits to
come back. Perhaps Tikoo wanted them to stop doing that.
The great game: It is curious to see
the arguments that the opponents of composite townships employ to
galvanise support for their cause. The townships – which will be open to
migrants across the spectrum, be they Muslims, Pandits or otherwise – are
routinely cast as the Indian state’s great stratagem to plant extensions in the
valley that will gradually gain strength and undermine
Kashmir’s Muslim identity.
hear terms like ‘caging’, ‘ghettoisation’, ‘walling off’ etc. to
describe the townships, they fall short of adding up to any sort
of meaningful argument. Rahul Pandita, author of a memoir of Pandit
displacement, recently wrote: “Most of the houses
the Pandits possessed have either been sold in distress or they have been
illegally occupied or destroyed completely. So even if they were to agree
to return to their erstwhile streets, where will they live?
“The Pandits need a
chance to return. And it is only they who can decide how they want to return.
The proposed colony they may return to will not be a ghetto for them. It will
be a foothold. It will not be the ultimate solution; the colony will not be
their New Jerusalem either. But from there, someday, they may return to homes
with window frames of their choice.”
there is practically no other way of incentivising the return of Pandits
to the Valley except by wooing them to the transit camps first. Once there,
they will ultimately decide how to go about their permanent settlement.
There is another
distasteful argument that is shaping the present discourse on migrant
resettlement in the valley: The proposed townships are often likened with the
illegal Israeli occupation of the West bank. This infusion of the
Israel-Palestine dynamic, done on purpose, is ludicrous. It effectively casts
the victims (the Pandits) as perpetrators though they are as displaced as the
Palestinians, besides denying the fact that the Valley is as much the homeland
of Kashmiri Pandits as it is of Kashmiri Muslims. Even if separatists want to
consider Kashmir ‘occupied territory’, how can the Pandits be compared to
Israelis who are settling on Palestinian land to which they have no claim?
The vanity of
opposition: The hollowness of the opponents of
composite colonies and “ghettos” becomes clear when we consider some
other facts: There already exists a separate Tibetan colony in
the Hawal area of Srinagar. The locality is populated by displaced Tibetan
Muslims and is frequented by local Kashmiris who turn up to taste a delicacy or
two at the eateries they have opened. There is a school as well,
meant exclusively for the children of these settlers.
Besides, there has
also been an allotment of over 7,000 kanals of land to displaced Dal dwellers
at the city outskirts near Rakh-i-arth. The separate colony is meant for the
settlement of the uprooted residents who lived illegally around Dal lake and
who where evicted following high court orders prohibiting their stay
within 200 meters of the lake.
All these ‘townships’
do not create a political flutter. Nor do they incense the “conscientious” lot
who appear to have thrown their weight behind the opposition
to townships meant for migrants. Precisely what sends its opponents into
fits of frenzy is quite unclear. To come back to Orwell, “In our society,
those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are
furthest from seeing the world as it is. In general, the greater the
understanding, the greater the delusion ; the more intelligent, the less sane.”