Kashmiri Pundits and Kashmiriyat
Of language, ethos and a tradition KPs are rooted in
SOCIETY BY AMIT KUSHARI
Quite often people request me to write articles on Kashmiri pandits. "Why do you write only on the problems of Kashmiri muslims? Aren't the pundits citizens of Kashmir also?"- they ask me often. I usually write about the Kashmir imbroglio and its various possible solutions. The key to any solution of this imbroglio basically lies in a just and fair division of land and assets between the Kashmiri Muslims, the Dogra Hindus, the Sikhs, the Ladakhis and the nomads. Since the Kashmiri Hindus have become a landless community after being driven out of their land, they will not be a significant player in this issue. It is because of this reason I had maintained silence on this issue although in a few places here and there I did mention that at the appropriate time the authorities of Kashmir will have to make reservations for Kashmiri pundits in government jobs and in the parliament of Kashmir.
Recently, I watched an NDTV programme on Kashmiri Pundits and this programme has inspired me to write this article on Kashmiri Pundits. Yes, indeed Kashmiriat or Kashmiriness could be a common point for Kashmiri Muslims and Pundits to get together.The chief pillar of Kashmiriat is the Kashmiri language which binds the two communities. Both Muslims and Pundits, like to speak in this language although they have not given this language any significant recognition in official work or in education. Kashmiri is not the official language of Kashmir. The educated Muslims speak to their children in Urdu or English and Pundits speak in Hindi or English. If this trend continues in the next century Kashmiri will be a dead language. In Pakistan, similar is the position for Pushtu, Punjabi and Sindhi where Urdu overshadows the local languages. In India, however, this is not the situation. Local languages like Tamil, Telegu, Bengali, Gujrati etc. are very powerful languages and Hindi could never dream of overpowering these languages. These languages are used in government, in courts, in universities and educated people speak to their children in these languages only. The people of West Bengal are tied to the people of Bangla Desh through the Bengali language in which every year hundreds of books and newspapers are published, hundreds of movies are released. The more rich and developed the language is, closer is the bond between Muslims and Hindus. In Kashmir, is the Kashmiri language so developed that it can bring back the Pundits to the Kashmir valley by a strong magnetic attraction? Perhaps, no.
Nevertheless, Kashmiri language indeed provides a bond (however weak) between the two communities. A Kashmiri Muslim businessman opened a shop in a busy Chennai market. He was sick and tired of hearing Tamil all the time and he yearned to speak in Kashmiri. Nobody could understand his language. While sitting in his shop one day he spotted a woman in the crowd with dejur in her ears. Dejur is a traditional earring that is worn by Kashmiri Pundit women. The businessman ran after her and requested her to come to his shop for a few minutes. He told her " Please speak to me in Kashmiri for a few minutes. I have not heard my mother tongue for ages." The woman came to his shop and chatted with him for a few minutes in Kashmiri. The businessman was overjoyed. The lady said that she would be a sister for him in Chennai and she would tie a rakhi around his wrist.
However, unfortunately, in Kashmir the Pundits cannot share their deep feelings with Muslims. For Muslims 90% of Kashmiriat consists of only Islam which is the overpowering force every where...in every bond. The remaining 10% is not made up of sophisticated things like music and literature and movies- but more trivial things like kangri, pheran, samovar, wazwaan, kashmiri vegetables like haakh and nadroo. Even in these day to day trivial items of use there is a distinction between Pundits and Muslims. The pheran used by Pundits has a wide border below the knees. The Samovar of Muslims is made of copper whereas the "batta"( Hindu) samovar is usually made of brass. The Hindus do not prepare "gushtaba" and "rista" in their weddings although these two are the prime items in a waazwaan (special Kashmiri feast). Kashmiri Muslims have "harissa" for breakfast in cold winter mornings-whereas many Pundits have not even heard what it is. 'Harissa" is a sort of mutton halwa prepared by boiling the meat overnight. It is somewhat like the "Haleem" of Hyderabad.
Frankly speaking, I feel amused when I hear people discussing on television the prospects of Pundits returning to the valley. We never discuss the prospects of Sindhis of India going back to Sindh, Punjabis going back to Lahore or Bengalis going back to Dhaka. The case of the Kashmiri Pundits is very similar to that of the Punjabis of Lahore, the Bengalis of Dhaka or the Sindhis of Karachi who have made India their home. The Kashmiri Pundits are surely not living in exile--they are living in their own homeland i.e. India. The Bengalis, Sindhis and Punjabis of India do not have any illusions about this because their original homelands are at present not within the map of India. The Pundits still suffer from illusions because Kashmir is still within the map of India.
( Amit Kushari is former Financial Commissioner of J&K. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 09748635185)
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 May 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 27 May 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 28 May 2011 00:00:00 IST
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