This is the latest book on Kashmir after nullification of Article 370 and removal of Article 35A and it is written by Kashmiri Hindu intellectuals. It presents point of view of Kashmiri Hindus on this issue. This book has a wide sweeping gaze that takes the reader through the antiquity of Kashmiri Hindus, advent of Islam, tearing apart of their civilisation, conversions, Jammu Kashmir crises of 1947, radicalisation of Kashmir valley with Wahhabi world view, exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, their deprivations and struggle to keep alive and rise again; and restoration of their hope after nullification of 370. To encapsulate such a wide canvas in a small book is no mean feat. Its easy conversational style makes it eminently readable even as it takes the reader through the most serious crises of our times for Kashmiri Hindus and the nation in free India ruled by Indians vouching for a secular nation.
The book is divided in five sections – The history of Kashmiri Hindus, an insight into Kashmir valley politics of alignments and non-alignments; the problems created due to compulsions of coalition governments in Jammu and Kashmir and the centre, reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir state into Union Territories of Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh; and what he calls the end of the night with nullification of article 370. This book is based on an Urdu monograph , Kashmiri Pandit: Dastan-i-Dar wa Rasan, written by Piaray Lal Koul Budgami published in 2016. It picks up the threads and takes us through the historic changes in next four years that finally brought about path breaking changes in the polity of Jammu and Kashmir.
For students of Jammu and Kashmir, many facts shared in this book are already known. The skill of the authors is in bringing together all the facts of history together in a dispassionate manner. These two scholars manage to surprise you with nuggets of unknown facts. For example, we forget that Mufti Mohammad Syed became the home minister of India as an elected member from Azamgarh, UP, not from the valley which reminds us that situation in the valley was not normal. At one place he quotes Pandit Nehru telling his secretary, a Kashmiri, “The old man (Sir Sapru) was on his death bed, still he talked about Kashmiri Pandits, as if I have no other work?” It was not the first time that he had spoken in such contemptuous manner about the problems of Kashmiri Hindus. They recall that tribesmen how had captured a group of Kashmiri Pandits captive in Baramulla in October 1947, had told a captive Omkar Nath Pandita, “Pray that our Lashkar succeeds in capturing Srinagar city tonight and tomorrow carry the head of sheikh Muhammad Abdullah to Rawalpindi.” They didn’t even know that Sheikh, at behest of Nehru, had shifted his family out of Kashmir in Indore to stay incognito till the crises became controllable. Sheikh Abdulllah who spouted slogan of “Hindu, Muslim, Sikh ittihad”, actually changed names of 2200 villages and towns from their original Hindu names.
They highlight the role Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad played in modernising Jammu Kashmir and taking it out of medieval thinking for its progress. It is sad that he was removed unceremoniously to bring back Sheikh Abdullah and his life and work were simply brushed away from historic narration of Kashmir valley and Jammu. The authors say, “It reveals the cheapness and mediocrity of Nehru’s domestic policies.”
Authors recall the horrible dark nights of January 19-20 of 1990 and total failure of Congress backed Central government, refusal of the then home minister of India, Mufti Muhammad, to send out army sitting in Badami Bagh cantonment. V P Singh was the prime minister. They recall a few painful incidents but avoid milking the tragedy of exodus Kashmiri Hindus from their own land of 5000 years.
Pandita and Koul are unsparing about every character involved in the history of Kashmir valley right from their own ancestors, to the present day politicians. They regret the failure of Kashmiri Pandits to learn from history and reinvent or reform their culture and practices. They call Congress as primarily a Muslim League party with no interest in Kashmiri Hindus’ fate and expose cynical games of valley politicians. We come to know how Sheikh Abdullah fooled Nehru into believing that the house of Mirwaiz Farooq was anti-India while they were actually pro-India and patriotic. They even castigate BJP for lack of clarity about Kashmiri Hindus’ problems. They mention the efforts of RSS and BJP to provide succour to the ‘lost tribe in Jammu and get their details documented.’ The authors mention that coming together of Kashmiri Pandits as ‘Panun Kashmir’ was a critical step but also acknowledge that the leaders had no experience in such a struggle and it split into ineffective groups. They, rightly, suggest that Kashmiri Hindus should move away from individualism and work for collective thinking.
Two eternal regrets of the authors are deliberate surrender of the central government of 1990 to terror groups and not protecting them despite army next door and refusal of all the successive governments at the centre and NHRC to acknowledge the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus and give them the status of ‘Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) that could have helped them resettle much easily under UN human rights conventions. Even the Interlocuters’ team of UPA-II had recommended the nomenclature of IDP for the Pandits in 2014.
The book deals at length, how the coalition politics at the centre and in Jammu and Kashmir were cause of major problems and how valley politicians dominated the state politics due to faulty delimitation of constituencies. It explains how alignments and realignments of political parties and compulsions of coalitions led to ruination of Jammu and Kashmir; and worst sufferers were Kashmiri Pandits. These two are the best parts of the book providing deep insights into the conundrum of the valley.
The authors point out the games being played in power corridors to change the demographics of Jammu region, importance of Jammu in the scheme of things from Pakistan’s as also the attempt to vitiate the atmosphere in Chenab valley. Most of us do not know that huge number of Muslims from UP, Bihar, MP and West Bengal were brought to Kashmir valley to work as farm labour, have settled down silently and none has raised the issue of violation of 370 against them. Similarly, thousands of Rohingyas from Myanmar were helped in settling down in Jammu and not Kashmir with ration cards and Aadhar cards to change the demographics of Jammu region too.
Positive side of the book is that authors have evaluated various measures taken by the new administration, post nullification of Article 370 and central government initiatives. They advocate strongly for development that has been deprived to the state for decades with valley politicians pocketing crores of rupees received for state’s development. They point to possible pitfalls and give many suggestions about how various political and economic initiatives should be taken by the union territory of J& and what could be avoided.
Authors present their prescription for Kashmiri Pandits’ or Hindus’ resettlement in the valley. There is realistic and philosophical acceptance that Kashmiri Hindus have found wings to enjoy freedom after struggling to survive after their exodus. According to them, except 100 years of Dogra rule, they never had tasted freedom for centuries, even after freedom of India in true sense. It was a life of fear, oppression and persecution. The exodus of 1990 was a cataclysmic event that led to their dispersal in India and struggle to build their lives. They left behind the easy going life of the valley, settled in different parts of Bharat and also migrated to various countries, primarily USA, to create a new life for themselves and the community.
They foresee inter-community marriages of Kashmiri Hindus as they disperse further. They go so far as to suggest that nearly half of the Kashmiri Pandits would migrate out of India in a few years from now due to their hard struggle and intellectual achievements. This is a far cry when Kashmiri Pandits would be reluctant to move to even next locality within Srinagar. Unlike many other Kashmiri Hindus, they accept that not many would like to return to the valley. But, suggest that for those who wish to migrate, there should be a secure locality in Srinagar city region. There have been allegations from secular lobby that Kashmiri Hindus did not participate in local elections from Jammu, Delhi and other places where they are settled. However, authors have not touched this incomplete and biased news and fail to mention that the procedure for getting voter registration, for example Form M , was routinely misused by the J&K officials to make their registration very difficult, forcing many to give up in frustration.
On the vexed question of delimitation, they point out that there has been no attempt to provide reserved seats to Kashmiri Hindus in state assembly anytime, nor have they been properly represented in the Jammu Kashmir government. So, they expect reserved constituencies for them in the fresh delimitation. They suggest filling up of atleast a few of the 25 reserved seats for citizens of POJK by the internally displaced people who have come to Jammu Kashmir to avoid persecution by the Pakistani government. This would bring a balance in the political structure of J&K. Koul and Pandit make forceful arguments for ending linguistic, religious and regional imbalances and discriminations.
Here I come to a serious problem in the structure of the book, not the arguments. This book needed better editing, specially, when it discusses the current issues of Kashmiri Hindus. After the first section about the vanishing community, the existential issues facing the community are not presented in proper flow and organised manner. The solutions to their problems are scattered in the book. Some arguments seem contradictory. The problem is that the reader is not sure, if the Kashmiri community wishes to return to their land or only treat it as a land of inspiration, of memories of their glorious past. Solution to the problems of their existence as a community can crystallise better if there is clarity on this count.
The book is neither a breast beating exercise nor an unconditional praise of present policies. On the whole the book ‘Kashmir Pandits through Fire and Brimstone’ is positive and optimistic on a depressing and tragic subject. Writers are sure that the community can now see some rays of hope at the end of the tunnel.
The British put him (Nehru) bhind bars for a total of about 17 years during freedom struggle. At the end of the day, he strongly pleaded to make the very British symbol of royalty as the first Governor General of India. On the other hand, he was detained under the orders of the Maharaja for just one hour at Kohala, and in revenge, he removed the Maharaja ignominiously and handed over the state of Jammu and Kashmir to a Kashmiri leader who would thunder in the rallies that Muslims of the state were not going to accept the authority of a Hindu Maharaja. (Page 108-109)
Now, todays Kashmir has netierh Kashmiriyat, nor Hindustaniyat and nor Pakistaniyat. Kashmir is rife with Arabiyat, Wahhabiyat and Salafiyat. The adam of Kashmiris becomes client of Arabism. Their dress code is an imitation of Arabia, the women’s veil is of Arabia stale, their beard is of Arabian fashion their idiom smacks of Rabism. In short, Kashmir is voluntarily carved out a Saudi Arabian colony. Kashmiris has a history of inviting foreginers to rule over them and serve as their servants. A Kashmiri is at his owrst as a master. Arabism is a repetition of that story. (Page 75)
If there was any hope left for the Pandits, that was shattered by Nehru in 1946 when in a rally of Pandits of Srinagar, he declared that the Panidts had only three options for survival viz mix, get decimated or run away. All three things happened. (Echo of the same slogan of Ralive, stalive, galive raised famously in 1990 and repeated many times) (page 72)
Kashmiri Muslims have adopted a very simple policy viz. arms from Pakistan and money from India. (Page 71)
After meeting Sir Tejnath Saproo on his death bed, on promoting of his personal secretary Dwarkanath Kachroo, Nehru told Kachroo, “Dwarka, did you see? This old man is almost in the grave and he still asks me about the Pandits as if I have no other work to do?” (After kilings of Kashmiri pandits in attack in Baramulla in 1947, he had suggested that they be settled at some other place and taken out of Kashmir. He had offered a sum of rupees three crores for this project and plan was sent to Nehru, who rejected it. (Page 67-68)
Protesting against Article 370, Maulana Hasrat Mohani, a staunch secular Urdu poet from Mohana stood up from his seat in the Constituent Assembly with his bag slinging from his shoulder, went up to Nehru, placed his bag before him on the table and said, “Yeh lijiye apna secularism aur hum chale is aiwan se.”Hasrat Mohani never returned to the Constituent Assembly. (Page 110)