Beyond Kashmir Files: Historical wrongs cannot be undone by poisoning the minds

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

I have not seen the film Kashmir Files but there is enough debate in social media, in TV channels and elsewhere regarding it. Many people are so ‘proud’ of it that the governments in states are asking their ’employees’ to watch it. The Prime Minister of India too has been deeply ‘influenced’ by the film and his party, leaders, and cadres are going overboard to promote the film. State governments have already made it tax-free.

Many people now say ‘what is the issue if people are watching Kashmir files. It is about Kashmiri Pandits who faced ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the Pakistan sponsored Islamic terrorists and it is said that ‘the rest’ of the country ‘except’ the Sanghis and BJP, did not speak for them’. 

Rather than making Pakistan accountable for its act and misadventure in Kashmir, the Sanghis and their ilk have made the entire Muslim community in India the main villain on the issue.

For BJP, the purpose is clear that they want to keep the pot boiling and given the inability of the ‘secular’ forces to respond to these issues with courage and conviction, the Hindutva gains ultimately.

We are told that the film does not refer to VP Singh, under whose regime the Pandits were displaced from Kashmir.

Congress and ‘liberals’ are bringing V P Singh into the picture blaming him for the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits but the incidents of 1989-90 will have to be seen in the broader atmosphere prevailing in the valley by the inept handling of the situation by Rajiv Gandhi.

There is one unanimity related to the villain which both the Congress and liberals are now speaking about is V P Singh, who was the prime minister of India.

Despite being one of India’s most honest and secular political leaders, V P Singh remains the target of this calumny and slander by India’s Brahmanical liberal seculars who find it easier to target him because of his ‘Mandal sin’. That implementation of Mandal commission report providing 27% quota in the government services to backward communities was the biggest challenge to Brahmanical hegemony both in Politics and governance which is now openly accepted by all the political parties.

Let us discuss some of these issues and the hypocrisy of the political elite and liberal seculars.

Is VP Singh responsible for Kashmiri crisis?

Let us discuss whether V P Singh is responsible for what happened with Kashmiri Pandits.

The Kashmir issue is historical and one cannot deny the fact that the roots of it lie in our denial of the situation there and the imposition of the puppet regimes there.  So, let us discuss something about what happened in Kashmir when V P Singh was in power from December 1989 to November 1990, for nearly 11 months.

Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, a former Congressman from Jammu and Kashmir contested Muzaffarnagar and won his elections. V P Singh government assumed office on December 2nd, 1989 in which Mufti Sayeed was made the Home Minister.  Within 48 hours after taking charge of the government, VP Singh made a historic visit to Golden Temple, along with his cabinet that included Devi Lal, Inder Kumar Gujral and Mufti Sayeed.

Unfortunately, the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was turning volatile due to the highly unpopular government of Farooq Abdullah which came to power due to allegedly high rigging during the elections.

Jagmohan was made the governor not only on the pressure of BJP but it has now come into the limelight in the biographical work on V P Singh, that Mufti Sayeed appointed him the governor due to local politics of Jammu and Kashmir.

On December 8th, 1989, home minister Mufti Sayeed’s daughter Rubaiya Sayeed was kidnapped by the terrorists of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front. It was a big blow to the government as just on the assumption of office things were looking out of control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah is said to be holidaying in London during that period when his state was burning. It needed to be asked as to how the daughter of the union home minister got kidnapped? Was threat perception not taken into account for the same.

It is strange that General K V Krishna Rao was the governor and yet he could do little to handle the situation. When Jag Mohan was appointed the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest and the state was placed under the president’s rule.

Jag Mohan was ‘well respected by the Hindus but considered a villain by the Muslims for his highhandedness in dealing with the situation in which a large number of Muslim youths were arrested by the police and kept in jail.

One must not ignore the historical facts of the Jammu Kashmir problem lies in Hindu resentment against the 1950 law entitled Land Estate Abolition Act’ which was responsible for ending Zamindari in the state which hurt the ‘interests’ of Kashmiri Pandits and Dogras who benefited under Maharaja Hari Singh’s rule.

The ‘Hindus’ could not accept this though one is sure not all Hindus were Zamindars it is a fact the powerful Hindu Zamindar lobby which was the opinion maker and political elite converted the entire issue into a Hindu Muslim issue.

Therefore, Jammu and Kashmir’s issues cannot be made an excuse to settle the political score and need honest introspection on behalf of all. The Indian leadership wanted Jammu and Kashmir as their ‘secular tag’ while the militants in the valley wanted to eliminate Hindus and Muslims who were pro Indian.

Still, under the dynamic leadership of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Jammu and Kashmir were solidly behind India and we had a leader who had a huge influence on the Kashmiri masses.

In the Eighties, Sheikh Saheb was not in good health and slowly his son Farooq Abdullah was being seen as his legitimate heir but the situation in the valley was getting out of control. So various political as well as ‘national’ events in the early 1980s can be said to be the cause behind the unrest in Kashmir which compelled the Kashmiri Pandits as well as Muslims to migrate the valley and settle in either the Jammu region or other parts of the country.

Indira Gandhi’s dominant politics and looking for a puppet regime

So, it can be said that the roots of migration of the Pandits from Kashmir actually started after Mrs Indira Gandhi returned as Prime Minister again in 1980. Jammu and Kashmir at that time was being ruled by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the undisputed leader of the Kashmiri nationalist movement. At the far end of his life, Sheikh got his son Farooq appointed as President of the National Conference in 1981.

After the death of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in 1982, Farooq Abdullah became the chief minister of the state. He was a different man, full of ideas and wanted to be part of the broader coalition that was emerging in India against Indira Gandhi, particularly on the issue of state and their autonomy. The initiative started with Andhra Pradesh chief minister N T Rama Rao and involved many other non-Congress chief ministers including Rama Krishna Hegde and those from left parties.

Indira Gandhi wanted to have an alliance with National Conference but under Farooq, it was not ready to do so.

In 1983 when the West Indian Cricket team came to India to play a full series of six one day and six test match series, one of the one day international was held at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar but the atmosphere in the stadium was absolutely hostile to India.

Various anti-India groups were active in the valley and it was a concern for the then government Mrs Indira Gandhi. As Farooq was new in politics and trying to ally with the opposition parties, particularly various chief ministers who were not comfortable with Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Centre wanted to dismiss Farooq Abdullah but governor B K Nehru refused to oblige and the result was he was removed.

Jag Mohan, an old loyalist who was famous for his ‘excesses’ during emergency, particularly the famous Turkman gate slum demolition case, was made the governor in April 1984. Indira had full trust in him and acknowledged it in the form of Padma Shri in 1971 and Padma Bhushan in 1977 for his ‘services’ to the nation.  Within a short period of time, he was at loggerheads with the chief minister who enjoyed a majority in the house. How do you remove a Chief minister who enjoyed a majority in the house?

The old congress model came in handy for Jag Mohan to create a rival group in the party. The result was a split in the National Conference with Farooq’s brother-in-law Ghulam Muhammad Shah was made chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in August 1984. 

This was a sad story of a leader who was determined to topple the governments that had enough majority in the Vidhan Sabha.

In October 1984, Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated.  Jammu and Kashmir was witnessing many upheavals during the period. Under G.M Shah, Kashmir began to polarise again.

Rajiv Gandhi’s Hindutva politics alienated Kashmiris further

The impact of unlocking the doors of Ram Temple became the turning point for this polarisation in the Kashmir valley. There were riots in Kashmir in which homes of Hindus were attacked and their properties were targeted. Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister and frankly speaking the 1984 mandate to Congress was totally communal. Rajiv followed his mother’s footsteps.

With the mischief of opening locks of Ram Janam Bhumi at Ayodhya in February 1986 and mishandling of the Shah Bano case, his government was being seen in the valley as trying to push the Muslims to the wall. That helped the anti-Indian Pakistani supporter groups who targeted Hindus and Kashmiri Pandits.

Riots in Anantnag were the last straw. As the atmosphere continued to be frightening for the Hindus and pro-Indian Muslims, many of them had started migrating to safer districts in the Jammu region. Rajiv Gandhi was worried about the repercussion of anti-Hindu sentiments in the valley and got dismissed by the government of Ghulam Muhammad Shah in 1986.

There is no doubt that Delhi wanted puppet leadership most of the time in Jammu and Kashmir. Later the relationship between Farooq and Rajiv improved resulting in an alliance between the National Conference and Congress Party.

New Elections were called out in 1987 which brought back Farooq Abdullah to power. These elections were actually considered thoroughly rigged and had no acceptability in the valley where militancy was returning.

It is a well-known fact that the democratic deficit ultimately gives rise to dissension and violence. When Jawahar Lal Nehru went to the UN against Pakistan’s invasion of Jammu and Kashmir and then promised a plebiscite, it was the thought of winning over the people through democratic means.

Jawahar Lal Nehru’s policy was called a blunder by many and subsequently, his daughter Indira Gandhi started dealing with the issue more and more administratively after the demise of the tallest leader of Jammu Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, the centre played different ball games in Jammu Kashmir.

It also made the ‘National Conference’ led by Dr Farooq Abdullah realise that they can’t do anything without being part of New Delhi’s establishment. Confrontation with the centre was not useful for a border state but then Farooq Abdullah was considered as the ‘stooge’ of India by many in the valley yet he continued to defend the Indian flag and constitution in Jammu and Kashmir.

Turmoil in Kashmir and the absence of Farooq Abdullah

General K V Krishna Rao succeeded Jag Mohan as governor of Jammu Kashmir between July 1989 to January 1990 when the situation in Jammu Kashmir was extremely difficult and deteriorating. It was thought that the veteran General would be able to handle it both administratively and politically but after the Rajiv Gandhi government lost the election and V P Singh assumed office, the anti-India sentiment continued.

In fact, for the first time, the rest of the country saw the protest in Kashmir on their TV set. The mishandling of Rubaiyya Sayeed’s case and the release of terrorists to protect her life was a dark chapter but then as an individual, she had a right to be protected.

In political negotiations, such things happen. It was clear that Farooq Abdullah had no understanding of the issue at that time and was accused of inept handling. Sadly, he was not even there in the state for over a month when the crisis happened. It was reported that he was in the UK and USA for nearly one month under the pretext of getting medical treatment. 

No doubt, Farooq Abdullah is a secular leader but at that time completely disconnected from the Kashmir population. Most of the people felt that he was the spokesperson of the government of India.

When the Union government made Jag Mohan again and as a protest, Farooq Abdullah resigned and the state was placed under the President’s Rule. But on December 8th, 1989, the kidnapping of the Union Home Minister’s daughter changed everything. Were the Indian security agencies unable to provide security to the family of the union home minister who hailed from the valley? While the release of terrorists was not a good idea but why is VP alone be blamed for it. That was a coalition government and the prime minister had just assumed charge. He sent a team of senior leaders including Arif Mohammad Khan and Inder Kumar Gujral to negotiate and do the needful. The questions should be asked to Arif Khan, now governor of Kerala as to what was his role in the release of the militants. If he was unhappy with it then why didn’t he resign or protest? We never heard that he protested or resigned.

It is clear that Kashmiri separatists could not digest a Kashmiri leader as India’s home minister and V P Singh’s choice of the home minister made Muslims in the rest of the country.

This case of the kidnapping of his daughter was an absolute failure of the government as it allowed the terrorists and anti-India people to dictate terms and conditions. A goodwill gesture by a man who is now being vilified would have made a soothing effect in the psyche of the people of the state. 

V P Singh making a Kashmiri Muslim as union Home Minister was historic but it failed because of the inept handling of the situation by Farooq led administration which collapsed completely. 

When Farooq and Jagmohan became part of NDA under Vajpayee

The Kashmir story does not end here. It exposes more hypocrisy of those in power. In 1996, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister of India and he ran his government till 2002. Farooq Abdullah was the Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir and his son Omar Abdullah was Minister of State, External Affairs in the same government.

In fact, Omar went to the historic Durban Summit against racism and xenophobia and claimed that there is no caste discrimination in India.  Now, the most ‘fascinating’ part of the story is that Mr Jag Mohan too was a Minister in the Vajpayee cabinet. So, Farooq was part of the NDA which had Jag Mohan as Minister and he did not oppose the inclusion of his son in the same cabinet.

Look at Farooq in 1990 when he resigned as soon as Jag Mohan was sent as the governor of J & K. Now the main question is why have all these worthies done nothing and no questions asked?

What efforts were made by BJP or NDA or UPA to rehabilitate the displaced Kashmiris, many of them were Kashmiri Muslims.

The fact is many people blame Jag Mohan for instigating Kashmiri Pandits to migrate to polarise the situation and take the strongest possible action against the ‘militants’.

Let us speak about some other facts in the valley.

As per reports from 1989-2004, a total number of 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed though the Sangh Parivar makes the story look in thousands.  Secondly, the total number of internally displaced people is still not clearly known but it could be between 70,000 to one lakh families. It could be more.

It can be easily said that Jag Mohan was part of the problem who played the Hindu Card and was the darling of not merely the Hindutva forces, who celebrate him today but the Gandhis too.

In fact, all the legitimacy to Jag Mohan was provided by the Gandhis and he acted at his whims.

Jammu and Kashmir is a political problem and not really an administrative one. Definitely, Kashmiri Pandits faced trauma as nobody would like to leave their place of birth and not return. That pain is like those who faced it during the partition of India. This is the biggest one.

Kashmir files do not resolve the issue but put the blame of the migration of the Kashmiri Pandits on Muslims as well as non-BJP leadership. It is disturbing, to say the least.

It is the story of Indian leadership’s political and administrative failure. Kashmiri Pandits’ story can only be resolved through a political process where Kashmiri people matter.

The current regime has made all those who stood by India and felt pride in being Indian, anti-national.

Farooq Abdullah might have been a failure but he remained a die-hard Indian. Mufti Sayeed’s daughter Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party was in alliance with BJP. Why did these issues never got resolved?

Using Kashmiri Pandit’s story to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments will not solve the issue but it reflects the dirty tricks.

There is nothing wrong with making a film and portraying the condition of a community but the Kashmir crisis is not between Hindus and Muslims but between Pakistani sponsored terrorism and the idea of India. An issue cannot be made a tool to spread poison and spread hatred.

Historical facts shouldn’t be used selectively to spread poison and hatred

The creative community must work with sensitivity on the issues of human rights and oppression but if it becomes a propaganda tool of the ruling establishment then it will only poison the minds of the people. If Kashmiri Pandits were forced to exile by those who had a vision of Islamic Kashmir, then how could they be the agent of those who want to do the same with Muslim minorities in Hindutva India. If historical wrongs can be undone by poisoning the minds of the people, then why are you hiding your face in cover when somebody speaks about caste problems and Brahmanical privileges. India has witnessed numerous hatreds based on caste against Dalits by the dominant caste Hindus and the people keep quiet on the same. Shankar Bigha, Tsundur, Karmchedu, Bharatpur, Lakshman Pur Bathe are well known to be documented. Nobody can forget what happened to Nellie and Maliana.

Of course, everywhere, the victims were Dalits and minorities.

It is also a fact that the majority community did not support the perpetrators of the crime but might have kept quiet because of fear or political compulsions. 

It is a fact that in any conflict not all people participate but it helps in creating binaries and that helps all those who don’t want people to come together whether this side of the boundary or the other side of it.

If Muzaffarnagar happened then we can’t blame all the Hindus for the violence perpetrated on Muslims. As I explain, many of them might have kept quiet or not spoken due to fear of violence or getting isolated.

It also brings us to the fact to understand that we all have to live in harmony as there is no other answer. Every community is a majority somewhere and a minority elsewhere. 

All of us migrate at some point in time to other places to better our lives and seek equal rights for all. We need to look at every issue with greater sensitivity towards resolving it and learning lessons from it so that such incidents do not happen again but using historical wrongs to perpetrate another wrong will always be counterproductive and will not take us anywhere.

Kashmiri Pandits were wronged and so were Kashmiri Dalits too particularly the Balmikis or Wattals who were manual scavengers or Safai Karmcharis. They did not have any right under any regime but how many raised their plight.

We must fight against institutional violation and make our laws so that such things are not repeated. Kashmiri Pandits should not allow themselves to be used as a political tool by the Hindutva propagandists to vitiate the atmosphere by vilifying the Muslim community in the rest of the country.


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