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Kashmir: The Simmering Dish

Afew years back, I asked Maharajkrishna Rasgotra, ex-Foreign Secretary, as to what he thought would happen to the Kashmir situation 20 years later. “It is simmering today. Twenty years hence, I guess it will still be simmering.”

So far, his forecast has held out. But if Modi is the Masterchef that he claims he is, a dish that has simmered for decades is hardly the Super Royal Delicacy he has promised 125 crore Indians. Imagine some alternative scenarios.

If Kashmir had acceded to Pakistan with 70 per cent Muslims and 30 per cent persons belonging to Other Religions, the percentage figures would have by now changed to 99 per cent Muslims and 1 per cent Other Religions.

Had it been annexed by China, the soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army would have married the Kashmiri girls and created a new, distinctly recognisable, mixed breed that was neither Han Mongoloid nor Caucasian Aryan.

The Hindu rulers of India have, in a spirit of benevolent secularism and non-violent tolerance, been mute witnesses to the conversion of district after district in all the three regions of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to Nizam-e-Mustafa.

The fidayeen of Lashkar-e-Taiba consider this to be a mere opening gambit. Their ambition is nothing less than the conversion of the entire lot of 125 crore Indians to Islam.

That is the challenge. And it has to be squarely met with all the resources at our command.

Ever since Islam came to the region, the Muslim rulers have tried to convert the Kashmiri Pandits, who had been living in the Kashmir Valley for 5,000 years, to their own faith. One of the worst genocidal attempts was made in the reign of Sikander Butshikan. The slogan coined in his time was raliv (convert), chaliv (run away) or galiv (die). The three options were clear and unequivocal. The Pandits could either get converted to Islam, or run away from the Valley or die. Legend has it that all the three options were exercised, leaving just 11 families alive and still practising Hinduism.

SOME historians have claimed that Sikandar’s son was a visionary. He saw that the Pandits contributed much to the intellectual capital, administrative acumen, skills as teachers and medical practitioners and so on. His administration was paralysed. So he called the Pandits back. There are not many details available of the reverse movement, but one can make a fairly shrewd guess of what must have transpired. Although much is made of Budshah’s benevolence, there is little evidence of the Pandits returning to the Valley in large numbers.

Seven exoduses have taken place so far. The lesson of history is clear. Exodus is immediate, sudden and wholesale. If at all there is a reverse movement, it is slow, deliberate and in driblets.

So let Modi try to learn from history. The return of the Kashmiri Pandits is not a financial problem. It is a facet of a larger bundle of issues: how Modi tackles Pakistan; how he punishes the terrorist gangs who bleed India almost on a daily basis; how he treats those Indian Muslims who for whatever reason show a misplaced loyalty to Pakistan and not to India; and so on. It is a tangled web of disparate factors: Wahabi Islam, the Taliban, the balance of power in the SAARC region and the subdued but resurgent forces of Hindutva.

Let us look for practical solutions to this seemingly intractable problem.

The first and foremost step is to tell the whole world what happened in 1989 to cause the Seventh Exodus. Pakistan and its agents have been spreading the canard that then Governor Jagmohan advised the Pandits to leave. We all know the real story. It can be pieced together by assembling the reports of intelligence agencies, newspaper accounts, documentation done by associations of Kashmiri Pandits, judgements of the National Human Rights Commission, and so on. There is enough material available to cull out a credible narrative of what happened and why the government should place this in the form of a White Paper before both Houses of Parliament.

The second step is for the Prime Minister to express his regret at the government not being able to protect its loyal citizens and hold out a credible promise to send them back to the Valley with honour and dignity.

The third step is a little difficult, but not impossible. While making peace overtures to Pakistan and talking of improved relations between the two countries, Modi should hit out at the infrastructure of terror and physically destroy it.

One only hopes that Narendra Modi does not suffer from illusions of greatness and does not sacrifice the few Kashmiri Pandits left at the altar of a misplaced sense of history, so as to be known as the architect of SAARC on the pattern of the European Union

The fourth step is to declare that anyone living in India and giving overt and covert assistance to Pakistan will be construed as engaging in seditious activity and be incarcerated. Or, if diplomacy does not permit such an open declaration, follow this as the undeclared policy.

The fifth step is to nominate two Rajya Sabha members from the Kashmiri Pandit community, create three constituencies in exile for the J&K Legislative Assembly, give a minority status to them and declare them to be Internally Displaced Persons and make them entitled to all the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

The sixth step is to pass the Temples and Shrines Bill as presented by the community through an ordinance.

The seventh step, which is optional, is to abolish Article 370.There is much hoo-ha about this, but there is actually little of Article 370 left. All Indian laws are already applicable to J&K and all Indian institutions have jurisdiction. Contrary to popular belief, it is not Article 370 which stands between demographic colonisation of the State; it is an order issued by the Maharaja in 1927 which defines who a State subject is and what his rights are.  In any case, such restrictions on acquisition of property are also applicable to other hilly, tribal and backward States of the country.

When I place the above steps in an informal discussion forum, my friends accuse me of being too hawkish. Hindus have always had this psychological barrier to realpolitik. Look at how Mohammad Ghori behaved. He attacked India seven times. When he attacked the Rajputs, he lost and out of compassion Prithviraj Chauhan let him go. The next year Ghori returned and won the battle by breaching the rule that there was to be no fighting at night. He made Prithviraj a prisoner and blinded him.

THE other major problem we have is that our top leadership has a misplaced sense of history. Jawaharlal Nehru had written The Discovery of India and was bedazzled by the achievements of Ashoka the Great and Akbar the Great. Somewhere in his mind, he held the ambition to go down in history as Nehru the Great. That is the only credible explanation for his friendship with China, which should have struck him as the natural rival of India in the Asian continent. That is the only explanation for his ordering a ceasefire when the Indian Army was fully poised to throw out the Qabaili raiders and the Pakistan Army from what is now known as Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir and his puerile reference of the Kashmir “dispute” to the UN Security Council.

The moral of the story is that the Central government would have to do it themselves. So we need a National Commissioner for Welfare of Kashmiri Pandits in the Ministry of Home Affairs. We have seen how the meagre sums placed at the disposal of the State government have been surrendered year after year

To a lesser extent, this was Atal Behari Vajpayee’s problem also. When the NDA government took over, many of us expected it to do what the Congress had failed to do – to wit, teach Pakistan a lesson, build the Ram temple at Ayodhya, abolish Article 370, enforce a uniform civil code and take the Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley.

But we had not reckoned with Atalji’s sense of history. So we had Lahore, Kargil and Agra. Had it not been for a Joint Secretary of the MEA , a Kashmiri Pandit bearing the surname of Katju, one doesn’t know what sort of agreement would have been signed at Agra.

One only hopes that Narendra Modi does not suffer from similar illusions of greatness and does not sacrifice the few Kashmiri Pandits left at the altar of a misplaced sense of history, so as to be known as the architect of SAARC on the pattern of the European Union.

So now we can prescribe the kind of revised package Modi should announce:

• 10,000 jobs in the Central and State Governments and their PSUs without upper age limits, affidavits, conditions, to be filled within one year
• Immediate access to transit accommodation at district headquarters, and around tourist and temple complexes
• Construction of multi-storeyed complexes in modern, well-designed residential colonies
• Option of going back to one’s house in town or village if the security situation so allows
• Declaration of all sales as invalid, with suitable compensation to the purchaser
• Settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in their traditional or preferred occupations in agriculture, horticulture, trade, industry, tourism, etc.

What the Central governments should have grasped by now is that the Kashmiri Muslims who are ruling the State since 1947 are very much interested in keeping the Pandits out. They want everyone out. Left to themselves, they would make it a 100 per cent Islamic State. So if you expect them to implement the package, you have another guess coming.

The moral of the story is that the Central government would have to do it themselves. So we need a National Commissioner for Welfare of Kashmiri Pandits in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). We have seen how the meagre sums placed at the disposal of the State government have been surrendered year after year. Then there is the unseemly spectacle of proposals going back and forth between the MHA and the State. The Budget is kept under “Security Related Expenditure”. What is required to be done is to keep budget provisions under suitable heads of development expenditure, to be spent by the MHA.

At the top of the pyramid should be two Monitoring Committees or authorities (we know how allergic the PM is to committees). Let the PMO and the HMO monitor. The Pandits are only interested in the results.

MK Kaw is a former Secretary, Government of India

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