Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus
Two very powerful books on Kashmiri Pandit (KPs) have hit the book stores recently – each complete with detailed historical, emotional and social accounts of the uprooting of a minority community without much succor by the state. South Asian Idea is analysing both the books to explain what they bring to the table. Thus far all accounts of reporting on this issue have been by journalists and authors from afar. These two books, Kashmir:Its Aborigines and their Exodus by Colonel Tej K Tikoo and Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita, both written by Kashmiri Pandits of great scholarly credentials and both having left their homes to the violence in the aftermath of the seventh exodus of KPs from the valley post 1989 mayhem, are by far the most well researched and authentic accounts on the subject. Both these would provide the reference points for any further research and direction to scholars, policy makers and students of Kashmir. Both the books make a strong emotional appeal about the “genocide” leading to the exodus and the apparent lack of interest by successive governments in finding a solution due to poor vote bank politics. This post endeavours to review Col Tikoo’s “Aborigines” while we shall take on “Our Moon” in a subsequent post as the two cannot be given a short shift.
Kashmir its Aborigines and their Exodus by Colnel Tej K Tikoo (Lancer publishers pp 679 Rs 895) traces the repeated historical exodus of KPs from Kashmir since the arrival of Islam in Kashmir in the fourteen century. The book has painstaking chronicled the saga of each of these while spending a great deal of effort on the exodus of over 3,50,000 KPs who were forced to flee en mass leaving their home and hearth. Rightly labeling this as the single largest forced displacement of people of a community after India’s partition, Tikoo laments the indifference of the centre and state apparatus in ameliorating the condition of KPs since 1989. It is here that he questions the Nation’s multi cultural Liberal and secular democracy .
The book spends over 180 pages in tracing the History of Kashmir, its transition to Islam including the Mugal, Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rules. His historical narrative establishes the KPs history to be over 5000 years old almost contemporaneous to the vedic civilization of India. Originally, they were and continue to be called “Bhattas” which means doctor, scholar or intellectual. Pandit of course traditionally means a learned person. Tikoo classifies the KPs as Shiva devotees with the Kashmiri Shavism deeply influenced by tantric thought as the central concept of their religious tradition. He reinforces this with accounts of Lalleshwari (Lal Ded, 1335-1376CE) who inspired Kashmiri Shaivism.
His other chapters on the land and its people and on the aspect of ‘Kashmiriyat’ are exhaustive and illuminating. There is no better explanation and account of this term Kashmiriyat than in the pages of this book -the common and shared identity of the two main communities of the valley - the Pandits and the Muslims. His Painstaking research must have taken him through numerous libraries, heaps of material, accounts from scholars and his experience of serving as on army officer in Kashmir.
The detailed research and account of genesis and how the situation kept getting complicated since 1931, post 1947 and the implementation of Article 370, which in the author’s view set the stage for alienation of the KPs, is exhaustive and praiseworthy. His narration of Pakistan’s fatal attraction to Kashmir resulting in three wars with India is incisive and well researched. As per him, vested interests in Kashmir, be these politicians, bureaucracy, business, judiciary etc, have misused Article 370 for their nefarious purposes. This law, he argues, is a ploy to prevent assimilation of Kashmiris into the National mainstream by starving Kashmir of the opportunity to cross fertilise with rest of India.
Col Tikoo has demolished many myths and exposed many lies with facts and figures. He has also mercilessly exposed the ‘Janus-faced’ secularism in Kashmir. He has painstakingly explained how successive governments, continued to squeeze the rights of KPs till 1989. This made the subsequent ethnic cleaning perpetrated by Pakistan an easy task.
He has deft fully presented the emotional side of the ‘genocide’ and the exodus through personal accounts, interviews and well documented stories of individuals who were, as historically given only three choices – either convert to Islam, or to flee or to die. He has presented enough evidence to articulate his views on the “ethnic cleaning” carried out by the Islamists from Pakistan where the local muslims also participated with varying degree of vigor in search of Azaadi.
His personal account of the mob attack on his home during the January 1990 genocidal wave is a bone chilling reminder of what the KPs went through on their way to exercise one or other of the three choices. The narration enables a peek into the enormity of the traumas and the intensity of pain that a minuscule minority was subjected to in its own country with the state and the Central government literally watching as mute spectators.
In the last chapter, Col Tikoo examines same critical issues which confront the KPs today. His examination of contentious issues such as whether violence against KPs was a genocide, their status as internally displaced people, on the issue of minority status being granted to them and ultimately the possibility of return of KPs to Kashmir are issues that face a secular India. Finding answers to these questions is not easy but not impossible either.
The author has rendered a yeoman service to his community- nay, the civil society, by bringing out the apathy and indifference of a modern democratic society and govt to the plight of its citizens simply because of their non-vocal suffering and marginal impact as a vote bank. The sheer magnitude of the tragedy of our times has found support from UN as well as USA, but little has been done at national level to mitigate the hardships of the community.
The book is a collector’s item and a must have for any student yearning to understand the dynamics at play in our inept handling of the vexed Kashmir issue. Putting the book down becomes increasingly difficult as the history unfolds itself at a rapid pace in an impartial and clear manner. The personal experiences recounted by people give an insight into the chilling reality of the security situation of Kashmir valley for the reader.
The author could have, perhaps made an endeavour to bring out the constraints and limitations under which the political leadership maneuvered in addressing the Kashmir issue from both sides but he more than makes up for it in analysing its implications on ground for the common man. Similarly, the recommendations to address the problem could have been more elaborate drawing on the experience of some European countries.
This book would serve as one of the best researched account of the travails of Kashmiri Pandits and their struggle to find a home in Kashmir. Historically, it would serve as one of the most authentic accounts which poses one basic question to secular India-can it provide justice to Kashmiri Pandits?
(Comment): The genocide against Pandits of Kashmir, which has happened under our own eyes, is a very sad commentary against not only our political class as a whole but also those who pride themselves as Human Rights Organisations.
The Central Government in particular failed miserably to check it.
Sadly the Pandits themselves seem to have not done much firstly at the time the ethnic cleansing started in 1990 and subsequently. They just accepted their fate!!