Thirty years after the mass exodus from Kashmir and living in exile for all these three difficult decades, Kashmiri Pandits are coming across some narratives worth discussion, debate and consideration. The most important among the current narratives pertain to their experiences of the last three decades and a possible resettlement in the valley of Kashmir. The upcoming Bollywood film "Shikara" based on Kashmiri Pandit mass exodus has generated a debate within and outside the displaced community about certain very important issues incidental to the resettlement of the community in the valley.
Though abrogation of Article 370, 35A, reorganisation of the state and the formation of Jammu and Kashmir into a Union Territory have paved way for a serious thinking in this regard yet certain questions and issues remain unanswered and unresolved. One of such issues that attained the position on the top of such list of questions and issues pertain to the recognition of the mass exodus of the Pandits as the ethnic cleansing. Simultaneously, the other issue pertains to their response to the outcry by some serious quarters that the Pandits need to consider the advice or a suggestion to take the whole issue as a "small fightover between the two brothers". Accordingly, a more palatable way of putting the same idea would be to tell the Pandits, "Come on Kashmiri Pandits, forget and forgive. Let us move forward".
Kashmiri Pandits during their exile have nurtured certain important features as a part of their life and one of them is their sense to remember the facts of history as they are. It doesn't take too much of a labour and persuation to remember uncomfortable situations during the period of difficult days of one's life. In fact the visual effects create more and more concern for situations that one undergoes during his/her own lifetime. However, sense of forgiveness is not alien to the Kashmiri Pandits as the Indegenous people of Kashmir who underwent six exoduses earlier as well due to their religious persecution and genocide in the valley for the last seven hundred years.
There are some very horrible and horrendous facts and events of history the remembrance and commemoration of which eventually got institutionalized with the flow of history around the world. The most prominent or glaring among them include the tragic massacre of the grandsons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), gruesome and barbaric killings of Sikh gurus, their disciples and four sons of tenth Guru Gobind Singh Ji and the holocaust of Jews during the 2nd World war.
The Shia sect in the Muslim socio-religious order throughout the globe finds its existence due to the historical facts of history of Karbala. The events and followup for the last about fourteen hundred years have not only strengthened the sense of historical facts in this regard but have created foundations for the religious beliefs and social order in the Muslim society and particularly in the Shia community.
The commemoration of the tragic killings and the other stories connected with the horrible crimes against humanity comprise the yearly pilgrimage of Shias to Karbala, ten-day celebration of Moharram, Aashura procession and doing things that give the same pain and anguish that Imam Hassan and Imam Hussain underwent one thousand and four hundred years ago. Wailing and weeping, crying and screaming, organising religious discourses and singing songs in the memory of those who got martyred in Karbala form an inseparable part of the legacy of Shias throughout the world both during the Moharram and thereafter. The Shia socio-religious order recognises its existence due to the commemmoration of the martyrdom of the immediate family and grandsons of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Likewise, the Sikhs have a terrible history beginning with the martyrdom of 5th Guru ArjunDevJi who was tortured to death at the orders of Jahangir, the Mughal king four hundred years ago. Later, beheading the 9th Guru TegBahadurJi at ChandniChowk, Delhi on the orders of Aurangzeb after torture and brutal killing of his disciples; and martyrdom of four grandsons including burying two kids of them alive in a concrete wall is an essential part of Sikh history, religion, legacy and daily prayer.
Sikhs around the world call remembrance of those horrible crimes as a part of their daily Ardas in Gurudwaras enabling their generations to remember the facts of history and take inspiration from them. Anandpur Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib and Sirhind in Punjab are the areas which are called the holy-land due to these sacred events of struggle and sacrifice on the part of Sikh gurus and warriors. There are museums established in AnandpurSaheb, Sirhind, Amritsar and at various places in and outside Punjab which depict and exhibit the crimes committed against the humanity in regard to the sacrifices of the Sikhs. Religious code of Sikhs including the 'Maryada' comprises obesience to the martyrdom of Sikh Gurus and Sahebzadas so that the socio-religious order recognises the facts of history as an essential part of Sikh religion, social tradition and daily routine of life.
The Jews underwent the worst holocaust of the 20th century during the 2nd World War in and outside Germany. They were selectively put in the Gas chambers, tortured to death and exploited as slaves by the Nazi regime of Hitler. Their women folk was mercilessly put to heinous crimes after using them as sex slaves for the Nazi and Fascist soldiers within the barracks and on the battlefields. The children were not spared keeping in view that the race of Jews was annihilated for ever from the surface of the earth.
The world, after the war, felt ashamed of what was done to the six million Jews by the Nazis and it resolved to rectify some of the horrible mistakes of history. It was on 9th December 1948 that the UN General Assembly passed a historical resolution giving shape to the Convention on Prevention & Punishment of Crime of Genocide followed by adoption of Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10th December 1948. Nuremberg Trials were initiated followed by the establishment of the Auschwitz Concentration camp called Konzentrationslager Auschwitz as museums depicting human tragedies inflicted by another set of humans for whom their own felt grossly ashamed.
But eventually, Germans and Jews were friends again once the Germans felt ashamed of Nazi atrocities against the Jews; cut off all relationship with Nazism, got prepared for Nuremberg Genocide Trials and agreed to compensation to Jews. It was a huge judgement, but that never lowered the prestige of Germans. In fact it opened up new channels of communication, rebuilding and development of relations among the people who considered each other persona-non-grata only a few years ago. Besides the Jews, the comity of nations have been observing the International Holocaust Day on 27th January every year for the last more than seven decades continuously and consistently.
In the backdrop of what history and practice teach us, asking Kashmiri Pandits to 'forget and forgive' is not only unjust and unkind but is also an attempt to brush aside the brutalities that made them refugees in their own land. It is the only instance after the unfortunate division of the country in 1947 that such a mass-exodus of a religio-ethnic group was enforced consequent upon attempts at physical annihilation of a full-fledged race of indigenous people having a written history of more than five thousand years. It is an issue that requires resolution far beyond the contours of a 'conflict between the two brothers'.
The return and resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley of Kashmir has two important ingredients involved that is the sense of security and practical sense of belonging to the land of Kashmir. Both these issues need deep thought and solution of a historic nature in which filmsy connotations like 'security', 'goodwill' and 'trust' are kept at bay and practical approach is evolved. The actual sense of security can be evolved only in case the displaced community is resettled at one place in the valley as per their geopolitical aspirations. The practical sense of belonging to the land of Kashmir can be created only by ensuring participation in political, social and administrative mechanism of the state. This can be achieved, initially, by reserving five seats in the Assembly of the UT for Hindu-Sikh minorities of the valley followed by making them a party to the administrative machinery at all possible levels.
There are a few intellectuals in the valley who have been expressing regrets for being unable to save and stop the exodus of Pandits from the valley in 1989-90. A few have also rubbished the Jagmohan theory while the senior editor of a daily in Kashmir called the exodus of Pandits a conspiracy to ethnically and religiously cleanse the valley. But all such expressions are few and far to cope up with the need of the time. A solid, rational and balanced view about Kashmiri Pandits is yet to evolve in Kashmir valley among it's current natives. It might take some more time to consolidate an opinion; but sidelining the issue of genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass exodus of the Pandit community in Kashmir can never instill a confidence in the belief that mistakes could be rectified.
The Pandits have risen from the grave once again, with a resolve to have their rights restored to them. For them, the responsibilities rest upon the government of India, government of Jammu and Kashmir and their own representative leaders to initiate the process to give them that is overdue to them, politically and practically speaking. This time history will not be allowed to repeat itself. The great learning from history is not to repeat the mistakes committed earlier, thus taking the measures though, may be seemingly unpleasant, but would prove beneficial in the long run. Emotions and sentiments aside, let us be practical in our approach. It is time to think afresh to achieve the achievable, unachievable, worthy and desirable.
We can begin with the establishment of a board through an Ordinance to protect, promote and manage thousands of temples and shrines of Hindus in Kashmir. Simultaneously, a special crimes tribunal need to be instituted to go into the atrocities committed against the Pandits and Sikhs in the Kashmir valley for the last three decades on the basis of the decision of the National Human Rights Commission which said that "acts akin to genocide were committed against the Kashmiri Pandits". These two important steps as the confidence building measures will prove as a prelude to return and resettlement of the Pandits in the valley with promise of future for the whole Union Territory and the nation. Time has come to take the big decisions.