Former Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah has added salt to the injury of Kashmiri Pandits by taunting them that nobody would beg them to return to the Valley. The message to the persecuted, expelled community is loud and clear: we don’t give a damn about you. This was the reason that ethnic cleansing was carried out in the first place; Kashmir is only for Muslims. Of course, ‘mainstream’ and ‘moderate’ Muslim leaders of the Valley don’t spell out the truth in such stark terms, but their complicity in the forced exodus of the Pandits is too evident to be overlooked by anybody save liberals.
Abdullah’s statement, during his interaction with NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, was unambiguous, though: “They [the Pandits] have to realize one thing—nobody is going to come with a begging bowl and say ‘come and stay with us.’ They have to make the move.” The “onus,” he asserted, was on them. The victim is the villain.
Apparently, Abdullah is dispassionate about what happened 26 years ago, but Kashmiri Hindus can scarcely forget those days. In January 1990, mobs started gathering in mosques all over the Valley. Anti-India and anti-Pandit slogans were openly hostile:
“Kashmir mein agar rehna hai, Allah-ho-Akbar kahna hoga” (Anyone wanting to live in Kashmir will have to convert to Islam).
“Musalmano jago, Kafiro bhago” (O! Muslims, O! Muslims, Arise, O! Kafirs, get lost).
“Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, jihad hamara Rasta hai” (Islam is our objective, Koran is our constitution, Jihad is our way of our life).
“Kashmir banega Pakistan” (Kashmir will become Pakistan)
“Pakistan se kya Rishta? La Ilah-e- Illalah” (Islam defines our relationship with Pakistan)
A reign of terror began, leading to the torture, rape, and murder of hundreds of innocent Pandits over the months. By the end of the year, over 350,000 Pandits were driven out of the Valley, taking refuge in Jammu and elsewhere in the country.
On the face of it, Kashmiri politicians like Abdullah have expressed solicitude for the displaced Hindus; often they are asked to come back to their native place. But the invitation is invariably insincere, as evident from the opposition of all Valley politicians to the demand of separate enclaves for the Hindus.
Security expert and former Punjab Police chief K.P.S. Gill wrote 13 years ago, “The Pandits have rejected rehabilitation proposals that envision provision of jobs if the displaced people returned to the Valley, indicating that they were not willing to become ‘cannon-fodder’ for politicians who cannot guarantee their security. The Pandits insist that they will return to the Valley only when they—and not these ‘others’—are able to determine that the situation is conducive to their safety… The Pandits appear fully justified in their reluctance to fall for the succession of ‘rehabilitation schemes’ that are periodically announced.”
It is not just a question of the security of Pandits in Kashmir; there is also, and the bigger, issue of Islamization. As I wrote last year (http://thehinduchronicle.com/article-details.aspx?id=63), “the ultimate objective of Kashmiri separatism is an Islamic state; it has always been. Priyanka Bakaya and Sumeet Bhatti of Stanford University wrote in Kashmir Conflict: A Study of What Led to the Insurgency in Kashmir Valley & Proposed Future Solutions, ‘In 1980, the Islamization of Kashmir began with full force. The [Sheikh] Abdullah Government changed the names of about 2,500 villages from their original names to new Islamic names. For example, the major city of Anantnag was to be known as Islamabad (same name as the Pakistani Capital)’… Kashmiri leaders also spewed venom against the Hindus. The Sheikh began giving communal speeches in mosques as he used to in the 1930s. Further, in his autobiography he referred to Kashmiri Pandits as ‘mukhbir’ or informers of the Indian government… The Islamization pattern in Kashmir had a familiar trajectory. The Saudi money established facilities such as madrassahs… The denouement was the expulsion of three lakh Pandits from their native place.”
Ethnic cleansing never stopped in Kashmir. On March 20, 2000, three dozen Sikhs were massacred at Chittisinghpura in the Anantnag district. Ten years later, in August 2010, they received anonymous letters from Islamic militants asking them to either quit the Valley or embrace Islam.
Christians have fared little better. Four years ago, a Christian priest was accused of forced conversion in Jammu & Kashmir by the state’s grand mufti. Imagine the tempest that would follow if the chief minister of a state ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party were to appoint a Shankaracharya and seek direction for social and cultural policies. Rank communalism, vile regression, beginning of theocracy, assault on secularism—this is how our liberals would greet the move. They would vehemently campaign for the status quo. But when it comes to Kashmir, all the grand notions about keeping the state and religion apart are given a silent burial; a conspiracy of silence entrenches itself. But the J&K government, in which the super-secular Congress was a partner, actually appointed a Grand Mufti.
The motive was obvious: to implement Shariat, which is the antithesis of all that the Indian Constitution and modernity stand for. The grand mufti is no titular figure; he is an activist. He has a court, in which he summoned Pastor C.M. Khanna following allegations of his involvement in forced conversions. Khanna has denied the allegations. In a state where jihad is writ large, one has to be immensely credulous to believe that Muslims can be forcibly converted to Christianity or, for that matter, any other faith. The same grand mufti forced Pragaash, an all-girl rock group from Kashmir, to be disbanded in February 2013. Typically, he had denounced their music as “un-Islamic.”
In short, Abdullah and his ilk have, to borrow Churchill’s words used in an entirely different context, “nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” The people of Britain believed and followed Churchill because he was sincere. Kashmiri Pandits, on the other hand, can ill afford to trust the Abdullahs and the Muftis.