Dr. Ajay Chrungoo 

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Where Did Pandits Fail?

by Dr. Ajay Chrangoo

Yardsticks of Judgment

The community struggle during a decade of its exiled existence should be viewed in the light of its social personality prior to the present exodus and the contemporary socio-political environment around it.  The displaced Pandit had inherited a 'dishelved personality' with a marked desensitisation to its rights.  It for years had been reconciled to a state of  'passive existence' and had got used to speaking in terms of gratitude besides extolling the virtues of its adversary.  It was 'politically imbecile' with an irresponsible attitude to its collective historical destiny.

The socio-political environment in which the Kashmiri Pandit was placed at the time of exodus was one of extreme isolation.  For Pakistan and its international support structures the Pandit presence in the Valley constituted the vital element for secularisation and democratisation of Kashmiri polity.  The Pandit also constituted the civilisational front-line.  Its destruction had become a pre-requisite for the thrust of Muslim power towards the east.  For the forces dominating Indian political scene, the Pandit constitutes the apex of the pyramid of the so called 'Brahminical order' which they are seeking to dismantle.  Kashmiri Pandit also constitutes a very insignificant social group in terms of vote Politics last but not the least the type of Hindu response which emerged in India during last decade and a half considered Kashmiri Pandit as an extension of Nehru and his political creed.  When Bal Thackery commented sometime back that 'Kashmiri Pandits have to fight both with Pakistan as well as Government of India," he was only underlining the nature of Pandit isolation.

Perspective of Failure

Judging from such a perspective, the Pandits' failure as a social group during last 10 years of exile do not at all fall in the realm of its responses to the militarised fundamentalism and other challenges to the national integrity or the multidimensional genocidal attrition against the Hindus of the state.  On all these accounts Kashmiri Pandits have fared commendably.

The failures of this community lie primarily on two scores.  One that it has failed to appreciate its own efforts and their impact in relation to its isolation and the nature and reach of the forces which unleashed the genocidal war on it.  Secondly the community has not been able to overcome the obsession over the 'paradigm of community unity' which over the years has nurtured only disunity and caused disfigurement of its personality.

Ist Failure

Uprooted from its territory without any credible institutional support structure and with an overwhelming isolation engulfing it, the Kashmiri Pandit had to wage a struggle at many fronts.  It had to secure, an honourable survival in exile, evolve a perspective of survival for the future and assume a dominant civilian role to fight challenges to the national integrity and unity as a whole.  In fact, the Pandits have performed better than many social groups anywhere in similar circumstances.

The eminent journalist and writer Arun Shourie while complimenting the Kashmiri Hindus on their efforts confessed during the World Conference of Kashmiri Pandits, "You have done far better than we Punjabis in responding to the challenges posed by terrorism and fundamentalism.  The outbursts of Dr. Gh.  Nabi Fai the leader of Kashmir American Council in front of Pandit delegates in Geneva after Pakistan was forced to withdraw the crucial resolution against India in NHRC was, only a compliment to Pandits.  "We were defeated by Kashmiri Pandits and not by the Government of India", he said.

A few years back four Kashmiri Pandits were brought down from the bus at the outskirts of Gool and three of them were gunned down.  The terrorists were very selective in these killings and had spared
the lives of all other local Hindus traveling in the bus.  The scrutiny into the causes of this selectiveness revealed that the terrorist mind considered Kashmiri Pandit as a cohesive, articulate and unrelenting social group.  It viewed their presence in Jammu with alarm in relation to their future operatives in the province.  One reason for the killing was to create an atmosphere of insecurity for, Pandits even in Jammu.  However, more motivating objective was that they believed that Pandit killing had a more publicity potential.  The terrorists had gunned down more than half a dozen local Hindus including a doctor in the area without any significant media attention.

The entire spectrum of the separatists, think tank in the state which includes a section of Kashmiri Bureaucracy take Pandit factor more seriously as impediment to their designs.  They openly confess about it and rely on their subversive reach within Govt. of India to neutralise this factor.  The Pandit factor is the only factor other than the Kashmiri Muslims, which has got registered on the international mind amongst the totality issues involved in the Kashmir crisis.  Leading US expert on Indian subcontinent Stephen Cohen once described the future of Kashmiri Pandits' as an 'acid test' to any solution to Kashmir crisis.

We have a pardoxical appreciation of Pandit response.  It has a better external recognition and a worse internal appreciation.  This is a major failure of the community mind.  If only the 'Pandit' could see his struggle and its impact in a broader national and international perspective his persecuted personality will emerge from the inertia created by 'internalisation of his crisis'.  He would fix his - external enemy.  He would realise that for last 10 years, he was and continues to be in a leadership role spearheading the national response against expansion of Muslim fundamentalism and international intrigue in Jammu and Kashmir.

IInd failure

The Kashmiri Pandits are yet to transcend and rise above their existing 'paradigm of unity'.  On the surface and in common parlance such pespective of community unity underlines simplistic expectations.  If groups are controlled or dissolved through a common platform, community action will assume a decisive punch; the government and the political establishment will consider community as important negotiating partner.  So bringing groups or leaders together has become our foremost concern.  We continue to invest lots of energy in such efforts.

But do such unity efforts even when they succeed fulfill even these preliminary expectations?  The results of 1997 unity experiment in London are revealing.  This experiment did lead to the emergence of a common platform-The Kashmiri Pandit political Steering Committee.  Most of the functional and credible Pandit organisations which included All State Kashmiri Pandit Conference, Kashmiri Pandit Sabha Jammu, Kashmiri Samiti Delhi, two groups of Panun Kashmir and Overseas Pandit Organisations constituted the committee.  But neither did such a unity lead to any new thrust in the commtmity action nor did it bring about factorial recognition to the Pandits.  The Government did not give it any negotiating legitimacy.  In fact, while efforts were on for the creation of the 'Steering Committee' to be the sole representative of the Pandits, the government had already started talking to new organisations which had sprung up from nowhere.  Scores of Pandit delegations were encouraged by the Government to visit Kashmir by offering allurements, The 'Steering Committee' became just one more group for the Government.

And we were back to square one.  The emergence of new groups readily recognised by the Government created a need for a, bigger umbrella.  With the existing paradigm we continue to be in a vicious cycle chasing a mirage of unity.  Our adversary within and outside has kept us bogged down.  He cultivates new individuals and keeps us busycoopting them.

The 'London' experiment also brought out an interesting phenomenon.  In any consensual exercise between various groups there should be emergence of a more pronounced stand on such points of view which are common to all the groups as per the simple logic.  There were many common areas in the positions taken separately by the constituting units of the Steering Committee.  However, this comrnonaliy did not get more pronounced through the new formation.

For example, most of the India based functional groups of the Steering Committee had rejected the proposal of the Government's sub-committee on return and rehabilitation.  Yet the joint proposal by the Steering Committee on-the same tended to come closer to the Government position.  During the presentation to the US ambassador to India, Panun Kashmir, All State Kashmiri Pandit Conference and Kashmir Pandit Sabha Amphalla had jointly taken the political position seeking politico-administrative restructuring of the state'.  Other India based constituents of the Steering Committee had also taken similar positions from time to time.  The Steering Committee even diluted this commonalty in political approach which otherwise should have become more, forceful and discreet through the joint venture.

When the senior advisor of the Indo American Kashmir Forum visited Jammu sometime after the creation of  'The Steering Committee' he got very concerned and upset about the all pervading feeling of disunity within the community.  A community representative who met him questioned his state of appreciation by commenting, "You say that all the leaders with whom you have interacted expressed a commonality of ideas in front of you, You have brought almost 90% of them on a common platform.  The remaining 10% have not opposed your experiment.  Why are you still encountering disunity?"

In the mid-eighties, 33 Pandit organisations formed a joint front Hindu Ekta Manch.  The inaugural session of the only convention held by the Hindu Ekta Manch witnessed pro-RSS representatives eulogising their efforts in bringing so many groups on a common platform.  Towards the end of the convention, while the leader of the All India Pandit conference was making its concluding remarks the banner of Hindu Ekta Manch was silently brought down and replaced by the banner of the same Organisation which had taken the dias.  The more comical part of this unity experiment was that none of the individual constituents had any pronounced political position.  They agreed with one another so much that they could have neither justified their separate existence nor the need to come together.  The entire unity exercise was perhaps to disrupt one another when they were doing better individually.  The 1997 unity experiment also caused big disruption.  It demobilised all its constituent units which otherwise had done well within their respective perspectives.

Our unity paradigm below the surface is more vicious and our major failure is that we have not been able to see through it.  It seeks 'unity of heads' and relegates issues and opinions to secondary importance.  Through such a perspective, we try to arrive at consensus before crystallisation of the issues.  Here the vision of survival becomes a consequence of herding of individuals rather than thinking of minds.

This paradigm has also created a sociological myth that all other social groups have better cohesiveness than us.  It has created a monster of an internal enemy.  For it external enemy does not either exist or exists only as an alibi to fight the inner enemy.  It nurtures a perpetual state of self blame and self negation.  It has created a state of helplessness as if we have some sort of genetic disability which has caused our misery.

And above all this paradigm ultimately strives at rendering us in a state of non-opinion.  Such a state suits only our enemy.  This unity paradigm is only a disunity trap which our adversary has imposed on us. A close observation of the nature of efforts to keep us in a state of non-opinion does reveal that the paradigm is more externally imposed through subtle processes of suggestion and sabotage than the consequence of our own persecuted personality.

Salvation for persecuted groups does not come from external support.  It comes through irmovative approaches aimed at breaking or circumventing the defeatism of their persecuted personality.  Appreciating our own accomplishments and breaking the gordian knot of inertia is the only way to our Auto-emancipation.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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