Dr. Ajay Chrungoo 

Table of Contents

   Kashmiri Writers

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri




'We can never agree to a solution that weakens India', says Dr. Ajay Chrungoo


In a conversation with Kashmir Sentinel, Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman Panun Kashmir, talked at length on different issues concerning Kashmiri Pandits and the Country. Excerpts of the Conversation on contemporary situation are reproduced below.

--The Editor

KS: What is your assessment about the current situation? There has been a steep decline in terrorist-related violence in the State.

AC: The steep decline in violence has to be placed in the context of the pattern of terrorism seen since 1990, otherwise we will miss its significance. At the same time, the heads of the different Security agencies in the state agree that the number of terrorists operating in the state has not fallen much. It means two things. Either the terrorists are lying low, waiting for an opportunity to strike at some opportune moment or else there is a tactical shift in the terrorist strategy or both. During the past year more and more linkages of Kashmiri terrorists with Jihadic activities in Indian heartland are being unearthed.

Secondly, the focus of the pan-Islamist Jihad at the moment is Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, so the intensity of Jihadic violence in J&K state has gone down. We should not discount the notable successes in counter-insurgency operations against terrorists, particularly the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Parallel to the decline in violence we are witnessing shifting of emphasis to consolidation of subversion and leadership symbols of separatism. Separatists are also looking up to the ongoing 'peace process' as an opportunity which can deliver substantive concessions to them. So the decline in violence has a political objective as well.

KS: There have been demands for declaration of de-militarisation and unilateral ceasefire against terrorists by separatists and some regional parties. Please comment.

AC: Who are raising the demands for ceasefire and de-militarisation? Their motivations need to be ascertained. During the past 18 years we have seen separatists and politicians of different hues raising certain demands to placate terrorists and Pakistan for varying reasons. At a time when terrorists have suffered major reverses and ISI's policy of blatant sponsorship of cross border terrorism remains unchanged declaration of ceasefire by security forces will only help terrorists to regroup and rebuild their striking potential. We should not fall in this trap.

So far as the demand for de-militarisation is concerned more than operational logistic advantage it would provide to Pakistan the bigger political game of separatists is to link de-militarisation with sovereignty and project India as an occupation force. Isn't it strange that the leaders who have been in the primary beneficiaries of presence of security forces should now be talking about destabilising demand of de-militarisation. It is reassuring that Governor Gen. SK Sinha has minced no words in saying that even after return of normality there will be no de-militarisation but troops will return only to barracks. If only Indian political leadership sheds its ambivalence on vital issues of national security the nation would win half the battle against terrorism.

KS: Reports from Srinagar say that the mood of the people is changing. Do you attribute it to the 'peace process'?

AC: The 'change of mood' needs to be qualified. On one hand there is greater flow of actionable intelligence to security forces, while on the other we are witnessing massive gatherings at funerals of terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen who have indulged in worse killings against common Kashmiris. Recently, most of the newspapers carried photographs of such funerals in at least three cases. Earlier, we witnessed such funerals in case of LeT terrorists. In fact, public response is being used as the yardstick to determine the source of unclaimed killings. Where there is no public outcry the killings are attributed to the terrorists. In his Independence Day speech State Governor bemoaned that 133 slit-throat killings by terrorists did not evoke any condemnation from those who were in the habit of raking up human rights violations. The public response can be explained on the basis that either they have fear of terrorists or they endorse the terrorist regimes. In both situations the only inference is that situation is far from normal.

There is one change which needs to be taken note of due to long years of gun culture which has caused social disorganisation. There is disorientation and widespread degeneration in Kashmiri separatist movement due to this. On certain occasions the public is expressing disapproval of this, mostly in private than in public. 'Peace Process' promoted by Govt. of India, rather than consolidating this public disapproval for larger rejection of separatist objectives has only served to catapult rejected separatist leadership to the centre stage.

KS: Many well-known Strategic Affairs Experts on J&K even while emphasizing the desirability of smashing terrorist base advocate granting of meaningful political concessions to Kashmiris. What are your views?

AC: There are two aspects of this issue. One, these experts study terrorism in Kashmir through usual parameters. Their responses to terrorism are thus okay. Secondly, Experts on internal turmoil (due to terrorism) have repeatedly emphasised the need to change the grievance frame. The grievance frame of Kashmiri separatist movement is communal and fundamentalist. So unless you demystify this grievance frame how can you identify legitimate aspirations of average Kashmiri from illegitimate ones. The Indian strategic community you are talking about is reluctant to change the grievance frame. They are being fed distorted analysis on Kashmiri alienation and their aspirations by different actors who are averse to Kashmir's strong links with rest of the country. If you are holding on to a communal grievance frame you will advocate only communal solutions. This, is what you say 'politically meaningful concessions'. These concessions, if granted, would lead to greater destabilisation in future.

Our stakes are that Kashmir should remain an integral part of India, with an active functioning secular society. We can never agree to a solution which weakens India or leads to further destabilisation of Pandits. Alienation of Kashmiris needs to be qualified - whether it is outcome of denial of genuine aspirations or is it because communalism and fundamentalism have made deep inroads into Kashmiri society. When we talk of political concessions in the context of alienation i.e. autonomy, self-rule, porous borders etc. it has to be ascertained whether these concessions would consolidate India or the separatist regimes. Isn't it true that such concessions in the past strengthened separatist feelings, leading to full blown insurgency later? In this context a political package should have delegitimisation of communalism and fundamentalism as its central objective. Intriguingly, these experts who talk about political concessions are silent on reversal of genocide against Kashmir Pandits, the frontline victims of terrorism.

KS: How do you see 'Peace Process'-both external and internal addressing the problem?

AC: What does peace process offer to the country or the Displaced Kashmiri Hindus? There have been plethora of recommendations made through Working Groups which are dangerous for country's sovereignty and integrity e.g. Travel on State Subject documents across LoC, compensation to families of Jihadis, porous borders, joint management, regional assemblies in Jammu along communal lines, so on and so forth. This has emboldened some to indulge in loud thinking on 'double currency'. All these solutions will create conceptual and political space for forces inimical to India's unity. All recommendations which pertain to broader nationalist concerns are being brushed aside in the Working Groups. Peace process in the perception of common people seems to be a creeping process through which retraction of Indian sovereignty is being envisaged.

KS: Virtually similar recommendations have emanated from US think-tanks, particularly United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

AC: That is true. The think-tanks at USIP presume that tangible political concessions to radical Islamists in Kashmir and Kosovo would dilute the anti-American stridency of Jihadis. That is a very naive understanding. Proposals floated by USIP either directly or through their people in India will lead to entrenchment of Jihadis in Himalayas and create destabilisation for India. Setbacks to Americans, particularly in Middle East and Asia, show how naive they are. Americans are engaged in palliative action. We must reject all the advice doled out by US think-tanks, particularly USIP. Europe, Serbia, Russia and China have already taken a strong line on Kosovo. Autonomous Kosovo and Kashmir can become launching pads for Jihadi activities elsewhere. We must prempt that.

KS: Why is America so naive?

AC: The US has a mindset nurtured during decades of Cold War. Changing global and regional situation has brought new problems to the fore. USA is still reluctant to regard Pakistan as the epicentre of global Jihad and Pak army the most important support structure of this Jihad. So policy of engagement with Pakistan turns into policy of capitulation to the imperatives of Jihad.

In its growing conflict with the Muslim world Americans presume and wrongly so that problems in Palestine, Kosovo and Kashmir are  synonymous. It is a simplistic view.

The inability of Americans to grasp that Kashmir problem has nothing to do with historical grievances of Muslims is the root cause of destabilising proposals emanating from Washington. Kashmiris have no political, economic, cultural or social discrimination and are so well integrated in the democratic system. Why should Americans float solutions that would hand over Muslims of Kashmir into hands of anti-democratic, fundamentalist forces? If two-nation-theory is resurrected in Kashmir, what will be its impact on India's sizable Muslim minority? How can you devise a solution for Kashmir without ensuring a strong India?

KS : Where does Panun Kashmir as a movement stand today ?

AC: Panun Kashmir as a movement is more relevant today than it had ever been at any time during the past 17 years. Infact ,for the first time since independence Kashmiri Hindu politics is under focus at national & international plane. Panun Kashmir’s consistent and patient work has started yielding results. Influential think-tanks at national level, working on Kashmir, are realizing that any settlement on Kashmir would remain an elusive dream unless Kashmiri Hindus’ issue is settled as per the aspirations of Kashmiri Pandits. This is a  major achievement.

KS:  What are Panun Kashmir’s engagements at the national and state level ?

AC: There are three dimensions of Kashmir problem. One, Indian sovereignty is being challenged not only by Pakistan /Terrorists (through crossborder Terrorism and diplomatic bluff) but  also by certain vested interests in the Indian civil society and neo-secessionist political lobbies in Kashmir. Attempts are being made to create conceptual and political space for forcing India to dilute its sovereignty over Kashmir through models like ‘shared/ joint sovereignty (Trieste/ Andorra models), ‘Greater Autonomy’, ‘self rule’, so on and so forth. All this will lead to an autonomous Islamist Kashmir where there will be no place for nationalist groups and religious minorities. Secondly, there is the issue of  ethnic- cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus and other Hindu groups in Jammu region. Lastly, Terrorist regimes are trying to hold Kashmiri civil society hostage to their diktat. Terrorists have suppressed all forms of political dissent through violence. Those who stood up to the terrorists have been brutally slaughtered and humiliated in a way that would put civilized societies to shame. Communalisation and Talibanisation campaigns too are influencing Kashmiri society and polity.

Panun Kashmir is trying to sensitise people at the national level to the dangers to Indian national security from crossborder and ‘homegrown’ terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. We are  also telling the nation that  policy of ‘secularism being divisible’ ( secular policy outside Kashmir and communal one in Kashmir) will not work. If the only Muslim majority state of India cannot tolerate a small Hindu minority what would be the message for building secularism as an ideological foundational principle for Indian nation-state. This argument has started making impact. Kashmiri political leadership which has never treated Kashmiri Pandits as equal partners in society is feeling jittery. Attempts to seek ‘Pandit faces’ to counter  legitimate aspirations of Displaced Kashmiris stem from this compulsion.

Panun Kashmir is succeeding in bringing home the point that the dilution of Indian sovereignty over Kashmir would not only imperil Indian unity but would also strengthen communal and secessionist forces in the state. How would Kashmiri Hindus remain secure in a place where Indian control would be weak and  communal-secessionist forces rule the roost?

Lastly, we are impressing upon that unless we counter communalism and fundamentalism and eliminate terrorist regimes Kashmiri society would remain handicapped in formulating genuine aspirations. Any solution which advocates compromise with communalism and separatism in Kashmir would be self-defeating.

KS: What has been the impact of Panun Kashmir at the community level?

AC: Kashmiri Pandit community thinks that the political visibility on its genocide has been possible solely because of efforts of Panun Kashmir. There is a Pandit question today because there is Panun Kashmir movement. Panun Kashmir has made a radical departure from traditional Pandit politics where leadership settled for few crumbs or personal favours through compromise with Muslim Communalism. Social and political awareness in the Pandit community has undergone a sea change. Today Kashmiri Pandit community is seeking concrete frameworks for reversal of its genocide. Panun Kashmir perspective is visible even in cultural and social responses of the community. Even credible NGOs are seeking opinion of Panun Kashmir. By evolving a survival doctrine that would stand the test of time Panun Kashmir has helped the community break its isolation and shed psyche of defeatism. We believe this is vindication of the ideology of Panun Kashmir.

KS: There is a view that Kashmiri Pandits should have their own political party as all political parties have failed the Pandit Community. Do you endorse the view?

AC: There can be no two views that all political parties in the state-NC, PDP, Congress, Communists etc. have publicly shown that interests of Displaced Pandit Community do not count in their political strategies. We do not agree that floating a political party of its own is a solution to this political exclusion. ‘Political Party’ slogan is based on a premise that Pandits have a strong vote-bank which can be translated into legislative strength. This slogan is dubious and aimed to mislead Pandit community. An illusion is sought to be created that even without reversal of genocide Displaced Pandits would continue to enjoy political rights. We have two strong objections against the 'Political Party' slogan- One, there is no solid votebank of the community. In the past this votebank was destroyed through political gerrymandering of the electoral constituencies. After our uprootment this has suffered further through dispersal and manipulation of our electoral roles. Even in Habbakadal constituency our voting strength is shown as 11 thousand, way down from 22 thousand. More than 60% of voters in Habbakadal constituency today are shown as non-Hindus. So, where is the votebank?

If the attempt is to show that Pandits support democratic process that also sounds a dubious exercise. Pandits have always cherished the ideals of democracy. We ask how our electoral participation is going to make a difference to us if our genocide is not reversed. We believe gimmicks of 'political party' slogan has a sinister dimension too. It is a diversionary exercise, aimed at trivialising Kashmiri Pandits' problems and his permanent rehabilitation. The basic objective of this exercise is to convert 'issues' of the community into 'non issues' and vice-versa. We would not be surprised if there was connivance of the local establishment in this. Peddlers of this slogan are those people who have always been fence-sitters and have no record of doing any credible work in the community. Their attempts to keep Pandit community's interests hostage to communal leadership in Valley would not succeed.

KS:  In the past there was demand for 'constituencies in exile ' also. What are your views?

AC: Panun Kashmir believes that political rights for the community will flow from constitutional reorganisation of the state which would take care of interests of  all sections of people in the state. 'Constituencies in exile' is a communal demand, based on communal ghettoisation of the community. We reject the demand with the contempt it deserves. On one hand, the vested interests who raise political party slogans or demand 'Constituencies in exile' base these on communal principle but dub Panun Kashmir, which seeks unfettered flow of Indian constitution, as communal.

KS: Jamaat Islami and Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani recently said that Kashmiri Pandits were welcome to return to Kashmir and have nothing to fear from. Earlier, he would rant that Pandits would not be allowed to come till they joined the separatist movement. To what do you attribute this change?

AC: There is no change of heart so far as Geelani is concerned. His ideological and political views, which endorse ongoing fundamentalist-secessionist movement, have no place for peaceful coexistence religious minorities. At the same time of important changes have taken place during the past two years to which Geelani has to respond by devising new stratagems to hoodwink public opinion.

In the internal dialogue process i.e. in Round Table and Working Group meets, different dimensions of Muslims politics are getting exposed. Kashmiri Pandit perspective was effectively projected and well received. This has implications for local Muslim politics vis-a-vis Hindus of state, for country as a whole and for global peace. Muslim separatist leadership is under international pressure to explain its stand on Kashmiri Hindus-their ethnic-cleansing and rehabilitation. At the same time separatist leaders and even sections of mainstream parties do not want to address problems of Kashmiri Hindus and reject religious pluralism.

To escape international opprobrium they seem to be working on two strategies-one, to say publicly they are not opposed to Pandits' return, while doing everything to stall it. Secondly, the separatists and elements friendly to them in the political establishment are targeting few Hindus still holding on in Srinagar. During the past 17 years these Kashmiri Pandits in Valley have been pushed to penury and destitution. Who is facilitating interactions between the separatist leadership and few hundred Kashmiri Pandits in Valley and to what end? Soon after this engagement there were demands that "Pandits Temples/Religious institutions should be put under the care of Auqaf Trust" and "We appeal to the separatist organisations to help protect our identity and rights". These two strategies are to be seen in a broader ISI strategy in which there is a shift in thrust. Pakistan wants to build a strong united political extremist voice in Valley, which is stridently India. Engagement with Pandits serves many purposes-acquire secular legitimacy for anti-national platform and countering Pandits interests by creating 'Pandit faces'. Reports say that lot of money is being spent on this exercise. This engagement has acquired urgency soon after GOI started internal dialogue process and recognized Kashmiri Hindu factor as an integral part of the problem.

KS: What has been the response to this 'engagement'?

AC: The Kashmiri Pandit community sees through this game, which is aimed at creating a strong anti-Indian platform. Kashmiri Pandits are patriots and would not even remotely support something that harms country's interests. They also hold fast to the view that 'symbolic tokenism' advocated by Muslim communal establishment can be no substitute for reversal of genocide. Pandit opinion is more consolidated today that at any time.

KS: What has been the role of mainstream parties?

AC: The role of mainstream parties, to say that least, has been disappointing. Soon after GoI recognized Kashmiri Pandits as s crucial factor in Kashmir problem there was a rat race among different Muslim-dominated parties to create 'Pandit faces' to counter Panun Kashmir demand. Kashmiri political leaders have been orchestrating a campaign that Pandit community was in disarray, with divided

leadership. Round Table meets exposed this campaign as a farce. During these meets while Pandit leaders spoke in a unified voice Muslim leadership reflected sharp divisions not only between different parties but within individual parties also. This was true of NC, PDP, Congress etc. So far as 'toadies' factor is concerned you can have them in every community. There are no more than 1-2 dozen such individual among Pandits whole role in the past and recent past has thoroughly discredited them in the community. It is Panun Kashmir only which defends community's interests and carries its mandate.

KS: Dr. Farooq Abdullah said recently that NC would appoint a high level group to study 'What Pandits want'. He also alleged Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's hand in 1986 communal violence against Pandits. Please comment.

AC: Dr. Farooq Abdullah has never been consistent in his statements. We would like to ask him if Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's hand was there what did he and his government do all these years to initiate probe into it and take action. NC has been making right noises while in opposition. When it was in power its resolve was not to tackle any of Pandits' problems. So far as Mr. Omar Abdullah is concerned he did try to address some of the issues. This has not gone unnoticed. In Geneva Dr. Abdullah blamed Jamaat Islami for Pandits' religious-cleansing. After Wandhama massacre he said Kashmir Pandits cannot go back and described massacre 'as an act of ethnic-cleansing'. Yet on other occasions he blames Jagmohan for it. What else can you call it other than politicking? Not only NC but other parties as well refuse to accept the reality of ethnic-cleansing as point of departure for framing policies to end Pandits' ongoing genocide.

KS: How has coalition government responded to Displaced Kashmiri Pandits' problems during the past 5 years.

AC: The only gesture so far has been that 250 quarters have been allotted to the refugees. Even this took the government one year after the quarters were ready. Govt's own officials had been warning repeatedly that any delay in shifting refugees would be bad in view of the conditions of the old dilapidated quarters. The government continues to dither on the issue of 'bifurcation of cards, employment package and other deprivations. Ethnic-cleansing is an extraordinary situation. It requires extraordinary responses to address the gamut of genocide. You cannot allow routine parameters to address these. Lately, there has been blatant encroachment of Kashmiri Pandits' residential and shrines property. The government is doing nothing to stop it. Influential politicians-mafia nexus is also said to be involved in it. Moreover, a new phenomenon is being seen whereby Kashmiri Pandits' property in particular is being acquired without the consent of owners for so-called 'public utility purposes'. This is a grave situation. To rub salts into our wounds the Revenue department claimed that Pandits' exile was a self-imposed one'. Recently 'leave salary' has been substituted by 'Idle wages' to further humiliate the frontline victims of terrorism. Kashmiri Pandits had a feeling that a national level party would have a national perspective where it would treat all sections of people equally. Our hopes have been shattered.

KS: The govt recently said that it was not averse to setting up a 'Sarda University' in Kashmir. Isn't it a good augury?

AC: We have to judge this offer in a broader context. If the government is unwilling to address any of Kashmiri Pandits' problems why should it go so far as to set up a university of this type. It is being floated as a trial ballon to hoodwink Kashmiri Pandits that their aspirations are being met. The bigger game is to use it to justify setting up of religious universities in the Valley and demands of 'greater autonomy', 'self-rule'. Who are the people in the community floating this demand of Sarda University? What is their public stand on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits? Answer to all this would put 'Sarda University' proposals in perspective. There could be other motivations for the sponsors-personal benefits that will accrue from this exercise. Ideally, it would have been a nice thing to have Sarda University which would promote Kashmir's historical identity. In view of the political overtones such a university would serve no purpose. Without addressing the issue of return of Kashmiri Pandits what would be relevance of such a university?

KS: Wajahat Habibullah, a former senior bureaucrat has hinted that Kashmiri Pandits still in Valley should decide the fate of Kashmiri Pandits. He said "None of the Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley were invited (to RTC). Will the Pandits who left the Valley decide on its future or those who are still inside?" Please comment. By the way how many Kashmiri Pandits continue to live in Valley?

AC: I think you are referring to Wajahat Habibullah's interview to the Kashmir Affairs (a US paper). The most liberal estimates put the number of Pandits in Valley to be not more than 2800. Also, half of the members of these individual families live in Jammu while others stay put in Kashmir to look after business, property etc. Every year a number of these families shift permanently to Jammu because of the attrition they face there. During the past 17 years neither the government nor others have taken even nominal care of them. Rather, they were being coerced to issue statements against Kashmiri Pandits and in favour of separatists. All this has been covered by the press. There have been killings also at regular intervals-Sangrampora, Wandhama, Telwani, Nai Sarak, that of Hriday Nath Wanchoo. In fact, latter's family put an advertisement in paper to show how Wanchoo was betrayed. This will give you an indication of what sort of life they were leading.

This statement of Wajahat Habibullah has to be read with the other part of the interview in which he enlogises Yaseen Malik and JKLF, which initiated the pogram of ethnic-cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus. In the situation this nominal presence of Kashmiri Pandits lives in Valley they can be easily coerced. Is counterposing of these Pandits to the main body of Displaced Pandits part of a larger game-plan to coerce the former to support JKLF? It looks Wajahat's own proclivities lie with exclusivist variants of Kashmiri Muslim subnationalism. In a Working Group in which he was thrusted from the backdoor he floated a proposal which would lead to communal balkanisation in Jammu. There was an earlier controversy also when he wrote a paper 'Political Economy of Kashmir Conflict'. It received wide censure in the country.

KS: Wajahat Habibullah is an official Interlocutor on Kashmir.

AC: That is unfortunate. India is a great power in the making. A number of our neighbours and some outside powers are trying to thwart this. We are facing a plethora of national security problems. There should be Institutional based appraisal of threats and solutions desired to maximise country's interests. This would insulate country's national security policy from politicking by individuals and political parties and also help forge a strong consensus on national security.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



Facebook Account Follow us and get Koshur Updates Youtube.com Video clips Image Gallery
Kashmiri Overseas Association, Inc. (KOA) is a 501c(3) non-profit, tax-exempt socio-cultural organization registered in Maryland, USA. Its purpose is to protect, preserve, and promote Kashmiri ethnic and socio-cultural heritage, to promote and celebrate festivals, and to provide financial assistance to the needy and deserving.

 | Home | Culture & Heritage | Copyrights Policy | Disclaimer | Privacy Statement | Credits | Contact Us |

Any content available on this site should NOT be copied or reproduced

in any form or context without the written permission of KOA.