The debate on the Kashmir files: “Politics will not be useful”
The harmonious relationship between Muslims and Pandits in Kashmir has served as an inspiration to others not only in India but across the subcontinent.
By Farooq Wani
Kashmir is a beautiful region, rich in natural resources and boasts of an enlightened civilization with unique cultural diversity that readily accepts an amalgamation of ideas, beliefs and thoughts. No wonder Kashmir is famous for its pluralistic culture, traditions, heritage and it shows in the hospitality and good nature that has existed here for centuries. The harmonious relationship between Muslims and Pandits in Kashmir has served as an inspiration to others not only in India but across the subcontinent.
With the entry of the Kalashnikov into Kashmir in the late 1980s, things changed and the very heart of Kashmir’s culture and values, often referred to as ‘Kashmiriyat’, was hit hard. Kashmir, which was known for its peaceful environment and revered as a land where Sufis and Rishis were worshiped with equal fervor, sadly turned into a killing ground and members of the majority and minority Muslim communities Kashmiri Pandit ( KP) were targeted.
Repeated threats and rampant killings of their community members forced the KPs out of Kashmir and it was a sad day for the land of Sufis and Rishis. The weapon ended the centuries-old interfaith harmony that had ensured the harmonious fusion of Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits into a cohesive community with a shared language, dress code, food habits and culture. While some say the KP exodus was orchestrated by the then Governor, the late Jagmohan, others argue that no one would leave their homes and lands unless threatened with harm if they remained. was not real and immense.
However, the KPs were not the only targets in Kashmir. Muslims were also murdered and their death toll is much higher than that of KPs. While most were killed on suspicion of working for the security forces as informants, the militants did not even spare separatist leaders like Abdul Gani Lone, Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq, Professor Adul Ahad Wani as HoD Law Deptt Kashmir University, VC Mushir ul Haq and his close associate Abudul Gani Zargar, Dr. Ashie Farooq, founder of Bone and Joint Hospital, Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru and communist leader Satar Ranjoor.
Recently released, ‘The Kashmir Files’ is a film written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri which tells the story of the suffering endured by the KPs in 1990 during the Kashmir uprising. The director only focused on the trauma of the KPs and this became the center of controversy. Many believe that by doing this, this film incites hatred against Muslims. They also believe that by “unilaterally displaying half-truths and unsubstantiated fabrications”, the film has damaged the close Muslim-KP brotherhood bond in Kashmir.
The film’s critics also complain that it provides no historical context and ignores the fact that hundreds of Muslims were also killed by the terrorists, including Lt. Umar Fayaz, police officer Ayaub Pandit and several sarpanchs. The KPs were not the only victims of terrorism and therefore the sacrifices of Muslims and Sikhs who were also targeted with the same weapon should not be overlooked. Although people may continue to debate this issue and leave politics aside, the fact is that the exodus of KPs has been a huge loss for the people of Kashmir.
The KPs have been the backbone of the educational structure in Kashmir for centuries and through their dedicated efforts, people from all communities have been able to benefit from sound education. The absence of PCs has left a void in education and although teachers from other communities have since filled the same void, many say there is a noticeable difference in the quality of teaching. Moreover, with the tendency of individuals and groups with vested interests to burn down school buildings, education in Kashmir continues to suffer.
The exodus of KPs has harmed the cause of Kashmir as the international community, after conducting detailed interaction with KPs living in refugee camps and its own quiet investigations, does not believe that this sudden exodus was orchestrated by the governor or the establishment. Conversely, they view it as “religious persecution” imposed through intimidation by armed groups in Kashmir. Separatist leader Dr. GM Hubbi believes that the KP exodus only ended up giving the Kashmir movement a fundamentalist appearance and thus won New Delhi the sympathy of the international community.
Playing politics on “The Kashmir Files” will serve no purpose and will only create a community divide instead. In recent times, KPs who have traveled to Kashmir to observe their religious rituals and worship at temples like Kheer Bhawani have been warmly welcomed by their Muslim brothers. It is certainly a positive development and a clear signal that Kashmiryat is not dead after all.
Negative attempts to vitiate communal harmony and tear apart the social fabric of Kashmir must be fought with all vigor. A conscious effort must be made to change the negative perceptions some segments hold due to the relentless propaganda of enemy forces. Sensible voices must take the lead in building a progressive Kashmir.
(The author is Editor – Brighter Kashmir, television commentator, political analyst and columnist. The opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the position or official policy of Financial Express Online. Reproduction of this content without permission is prohibited ).