by Mohan Krishen Teng
Reports appearing in the Indian press, emanating from the statement made by the Home Ministry in Parliament, on the eve of the 22nd anniversary of the exodus of the community of Hindus from Kashmir, that not a single family living in exile had availed of the Prime Minister’s Package, should give no cause for any surprise. What should cause surprise is the belief that the Indian Prime Minister and the men around him harboured the thought that the Hindus of Kashmir living in refugee camps in Jammu and other parts of India should have returned to Kashmir to live in refugee camps there at the charity of the Muslims and the mercy of separatist flanks who are leading the so-called struggle for freedom of Kashmir from the ‘occupation’ of the Indian army.
Not only the Indian Prime Minister, the whole Indian political class knew the inherent conflict between the return of Hindus to Kashmir and the Muslim separatist and secessionist struggle, and the rumbling underground of the Muslim Jihad. The leaders of the Jihad and the Muslim separatist regimes never changed their stand that the Hindus had been driven out of Kashmir because they had always opposed the Muslim struggle in Jammu and Kashmir, and that they had been dealt with as they deserved.
At no point during the last two decades were Muslim separatist regimes prepared to abandon the strategic advantage of the demographic change in Kashmir, created by the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in 1990. The pretentious acceptance of the return of the Hindus by some Jihadi war groups, Muslim separatist regimes, and their over ground mentors in the Hurriyat conglomerates, with the rider that the Hindus would join the Muslim struggle against India, was a well-planned move aimed more to silence their protest in exile than open the way for their rehabilitation.
The ethnic extermination of Hindus was the first objective of the religious war, the Jihad unleashed in Kashmir. The Hindus had through the crucial days which followed the partition, offered stubborn resistance to the secessionist movements in the State and the Muslimisation of the government and society in Kashmir. The ethnic extermination of Hindus was therefore, the first strategic objective of the militant flanks which formed the vanguard of Jihad for the secession of Jammu and Kashmir from India.
After the war of separation triumphed, Jammu and Kashmir would, as part of the fundamental unity of the Muslim brotherhood, join the commonwealth of Pakistan. The terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir, as it spread, unfolded several aspects which were characteristically original to it. The terrorist violence had a wider portent: the expansion of pan-Islamic fundamentalism and the achievement of the Muslimisation of Jammu and Kashmir. The extermination of Hindus in Kashmir was a part of the Islamic revolution which the armed struggle aimed to accomplish.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the people around him could not have been unaware of the conditions the return package would push Hindu refugees into. It would be an irony of history if Indian leaders believed that Kashmiri Hindus would return to their homes and hearths to join the Muslim struggle against India. The sociology of the exodus of the Hindus of Kashmir needs to be studied in order to understand the impact of genocide on them, and the upturning their exodus brought about in their lives.
The Sociology of Exodus
The Hindus of Kashmir had fought shoulder to shoulder with the people of the Princely States for India’s freedom from British Paramountacy as also from princely rule. In fact, the first Plenary of the All India States’ Peoples’ Conference, held in Kathiawad, was presided over by a Kashmiri Pandit, Shanker Lal Koul, who, along with Lalla Muluk Raj Saraf of Jammu, represented the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir in the Conference. Shanker Lal Koul sounded the bugle of revolt against the Princes and their British mentors.
The Hindus of Kashmir fought alongside their Muslim compatriots against the princely rule. They were also at the center-stage of the Khilafat Movement launched by Gandhi, which took Jammu and Kashmir by storm and which shook the British, who were secretly conspiring to colonise more temperate regions of the north of India, including Jammu and Kashmir. In fact, the Hindus of Kashmir provided the main thrust to the State-subject movement, which was aimed to frustrate British efforts to colonise Jammu and Kashmir and convert it into a white enclave in India.
The Muslims of Jammu and Kashmir opposed the State-subject movement and in collaboration with the Muslims of Punjab beseeched the British to merge the State with British India. In spite of Muslim intransigence and singed by the anti-Hindu riots of 1931, the Hindus of Kashmir joined their Muslim compatriots to initiate a secular peoples’ movement for the freedom of the State. The leaders of the Hindu community of Kashmir alone dared to openly question Gandhi’s decision to refuse the request of the President of All India States’ People Conference, Shri N.C. Kelkar, to integrate the State peoples’ struggle in the princely states with the liberation struggle of India.
In 1946, during the turmoil that followed the Quit Kashmir agitation, the Secretary General of the All India States Peoples’ Conference, Dwarika Nath Kachroo, a Kashmiri Pandit, played a historic role to prevent a split between the National Conference and the Indian National Congress which was still committed to cooperation with the princely rulers. Meanwhile, the left flanks of the National Conference, predominantly Kashmir Pandit, who formed the core of the War Council the National Conference had constituted, carried on the agitation from its underground quarters under the leadership of Mohi-u-Din Qarra. The man second to Qarra in the War Council was Niranjan Nath Raina Saraf, a veteran communist and an intellectual, who turned to academics later and became one among the first nuclear scientists of post-independent India.
In the aftermath of the June 3 Declaration, which envisaged the creation of Pakistan, the Hindus of Kashmir lost no time to declare their commitment to the accession of the State to India. It is not a widely known fact that during those fateful days, while the National Conference maintained complete silence on the issue of accession, the leaders of the Yuvak Sabha, the premier organisation representing the Hindus of Kashmir, had a secret meeting with Congress president Acharya Kriplani, who had come to Srinagar, at the residence of Bal Kak Dhar. The next day, Shiv Narayan Fotedar, Professor Laxmi Narayan Dhar and Pandit Gana Koul, moved a resolution in the General Council of the Yuvak Sabha, calling upon the ruler of the State to prepare ground for the accession of the State to India and bring to a close the existing distrust in the State. The resolution was adopted unanimously by the Sabha and given to the press the same day.
Dwarika Nath Kachroo participated in the crucial Working Committee meeting of the National Conference in early October 1947, which took the historic decision to support the accession of the State to India. He cabled the minutes of the meeting to Nehru. The decision of the Working Committee of the National Conference was a determining moment in the unification of Jammu and Kashmir with India.
In the aftermath of the invasion of the State by Pakistan in October 1947, the Hindus of Kashmir joined the resistance the people offered to the invading columns. After the accession of the State to India, the Hindus put themselves into the forefront of the resistance against the long war of subversion that Pakistan and the pro- Pakistan Muslim flanks carried on in the state.
They gave ideological content to the political and economic reforms the Interim Government, constituted by the National Conference, embarked upon. They accepted the political and economic reforms with the hope that Indian Secularism would eventually triumph, though they knew that the reforms underlined Muslim precedence in the government and society of the State. They did not oppose the exclusion of the State from the constitutional organisation of India mainly because they were aware of the pressures the Indian government faced in the Security Council.
However, they threw away their caution and stormed the streets of Srinagar after the disintegration of the National Conference in 1953, in support of the second Interim Government, headed by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad. Indeed the Hindus formed the main flanks of resistance against the long struggle for self-determination that the All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front spearheaded for more than two decades. For their audacity in opposing the Front, they earned their wrath and were branded as “unpaid agents of Indian imperialism”. The condemnation pursued them even after the conclusion of the Indira-Abdullah accord which restored the Front leaders to power in the State in 1975.
The dissolution of the Plebiscite Front and withdrawal of the movement for self-determination that the Indira-Abdullah Accord envisaged, did little to contain Muslim separatist movements in the State. On the contrary, the Accord broke up the plank on which the resistance to Muslim separatist movements was based.
The Front leaders reconstituted the National Conference after they dissolved the Front. In order to consolidate their hold on State power, they adopted a two pronged strategy. First, they put the National Conference on the right side of Muslim separatist movements to assuage the ruffled tempers of large sections of Muslim society which did not approve of the abandonment of the movement for self-determination.
Second, the National Conference leaders launched a surreptitious campaign to: (a) neutralize the Muslim flanks which had given support to the National Conference faction lead by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, State Congress party led by Ghulam Mohammad Sadiq and Syed Mir Qasim, and drive them out of State politics; (b) eliminate the left flanks, which had played a decisive role in the dismissal of the first Interim Government headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1953; (c) isolate the Hindus and other minorities to eliminate whatever influence they still exercised on the ongoing political process in the State; and (d) subvert the institutional framework which formed the basis of the support structures India had in the State.
The Accord broke up the main plank on which the resistance to Muslim separatist movements was based. During the days which followed the Accord, the Indian political class bent so low to seek compromise with Muslim separatist and secessionist forces that Hindus were pushed out of the frame.
The involvement of Pakistan in Afghanistan gave that country fresh ground and a new ideological plank for intervention in Jammu and Kashmir. The Islamic Revolution in Pakistan provided a new thrust to the fundamentalisation of Muslim society in Kashmir, a serious development which successive state governments chose to ignore. As Soviet power declined, Pakistan began the militarization of the separatist and the secessionist forces in the State. Not unexpectedly, Pakistan launched the Jihad in Kashmir towards the close of 1989. By that time the disintegration of Soviet power had become imminent.
Hindus of Kashmir were a witness to what happened around them. They cried in the wilderness. The Indian political class gloated over its dependence on Muslim support structures it claimed to have built on the basis of the recognition of the right of Muslims in the State to a separate freedom which placed them outside the secular political organisation of the Constitution of India.
Jihad struck Kashmir in January 1990. The support structures the Indian political class boasted to have built in the State vanished overnight. Hindus were left alone on the frontline. Indian security forces remained in the rear.
Hindus bore the brunt of the first assault mounted by the Jihad. In the midst of the holocaust, as death and destruction enveloped them, Hriday Nath Jattu, Chairman of the All India Kashmiri Pandit Conference, and his close associate Jagar Nath Sapru, waited upon State Governor Jagmohan. With tears rolling down their cheeks, they beseeched him to save the Hindu community. A few days later, Sapru was kidnapped by the militants. He survived the torture he was subjected to, dragged himself out of a gutter he had been thrown into, and crawled to a nearby house where from he was taken to the Military Hospital at Badami Bagh.
The Indian political class refused to recognize the real import of the jihad because it did not possess the courage to fight the religious war Jihad waged in the State. For a long time the Indian political class took recourse to subterfuge. When it could not hide its face any longer, it withdrew into the traditional trappings of its colonial past and offered to reach a compromise with the Muslim separatist flanks and their military regimes. The Hindus were hurled into oblivion.
In the sordid drama enacted by the Indian political class as Jihad engulfed the state, the Hindus of Kashmir were the “dramatis personae” who fought on the battlefront, from where the nation of which they were “unpaid agents” had withdrawn without giving a fight. For more than four decades, they had borne servitude in the hope that history would set right the wrong done to them. They faced the Jihad with the fortitude of a people who refused to surrender after their defeat.
The veterans of the freedom movement in Jammu and Kashmir, Omkar Nath Trisal, Pran Nath Jalali, Reshi Dev, who had given the freedom struggle in Jammu and Kashmir its ideological content and imparted direction to the resistance against Muslim separatist movements and foreign intervention, met this author in their exile. A sob was stuck in their throats. They gave expression to their remorse and the hurt exile had caused them. A decade later, Makhan Lal Sher, who enlisted himself in the defence of Srinagar in 1947, and later played a key role in the resistance against Muslim separatism in the state, met this author in Jammu. He said in resigned tomes: “We have done our duty. If the people of India failed to fulfill their pledge, they will pay a heavier price than we have.”
The Prime Minister’s Return Package came as an affront to the hopes nurtured by the Hindus in exile. It did not seek to set right the wrong done to them. It did not envisage the reversal of the genocide. It did not promise the Hindus the restoration of their homes, their temples and the sources of livelihood lost in the holocaust that enveloped them. Nor did it promise them protection in a social environment which was politically unstable, ideologically regimented, and exposed to subversion.
The Hindus of Kashmir acted as “unpaid agents” for their commitment to the unity of their country. They could not be prepared to allow the Indian political class to use them as its errand boys. They gave the Prime Minister’s Return Package the consideration it deserved.