Pandits: Kashmir’s Pariah, Nation’s Compatriot

It is a fact that the Kashmiri Pandits played a key role in convincing the nation about the necessity of abrogating Article 370 and 35A

At theoutset, this author would take this opportunity to thank Hasseb Drabu forcomplimenting, in his recent Article "Pandits: the pariah, legally",my three decade old narrative that Kashmiri Pandits, the Indigenous people ofKashmir, are integral to the land of Kashmir. He has wittingly or unwittingly,opened new vistas for the Kashmiri Pandit political demand and its resolutionie, the establishment of their homeland in Kashmir. He has also raked up, in asubtle way, the "silver lining" for carving out the Jammu state forJammuites, keeping in view their long battle for their existence.

It is a factthat the Kashmiri Pandits played a key role in convincing the nation about thenecessity of abrogation of Article 370 and 35A as victims of their fallout invarious ways. This is also true that they rejoiced the happening once the gutsygovernment in New Delhi went for the kill with determination and resolve inAugust last year. In a larger scheme, a man of the stature of Drabu knows welland surely, that the issue of domicile is peripheral, politically speaking,once the "monster" stands dead and buried for good. However, thehangover of the monster may have its toll, for some time more.

The KashmiriPandits, throughout the last three decades of exile, took their issue/s fromthe small and undeveloped narrow lanes of Jammu city to the sprawling lawns ofIndia Gate in New Delhi, from the Press Club of Jammu to The Hague, the legalcapital of the world, from the Jantar Mantar in Delhi to the extravagantGeneva, from Mumbai small screen to Cansas & London in Europe, from Muthiand Jagti Refugee camps to the politically exorbitant New York and WashingtonDC. It was a political fight of different sorts where not only a state or anation, but the global players and international opinion makers were to beconvinced that they were fed with only a one-sided story about Kashmir tilldate.

Gallantlydid Kashmiri Pandits their job to tell the world that  it was a design to ethnically cleanse theKashmir valley of the "pariah" for good to establish a theocraticstate in or outside the domain of Indian union. The politically marginalised,economically squeezed and socially isolated Pandits, the paraih in Kashmir,became the first targets and victims of their genocide which led to theirextermination from the land that they belonged to from days immemorial. Theywere conscious of the fact that it was not their first exodus, and suchpersecution they had to suffer earlier as well, and so only, because they werethe Hindus of the Kashmir valley they built with their own hands.

The strugglebeyond 1990 was not a fight similar to the struggle led by one of their geniusgreats, Birbal Dhar, who adventurously in 1819, made a political deal in theLahore Darbar with Maharaja Ranjeet Singh to end the Pathan rule in Kashmir.Jabbar Khan, the Afghan governor, had, by then, earned the honour of beingcalled "Jabbar-Jandha" by all sorts of Kashmiris in Kashmir. The Sikhforces under the political leadership of Birbal Dhar forced Jabbar Khan inShopian battle grounds, to escape to a place from where he remained untracedtill date for the last two hundred years.

This timethe battle had to be fought in an entirely different way. Constitution,democracy, elected governments, media glaze, human rights, seminars andconferences with resolutions and documents, processions and parades,sloganeering and speeches, exhibitions and books made the march for KashmiriPandits somewhat easy since they were the victims of all these banners rightfrom 1947 onwards. Having experienced the inevitable, they graduated in the artof struggle in exile, and made the difference with sheer hard labour, wit, pen,determination and character. It was similar to learning while earning, and thestruggle paid off after a long and laborious "fight for right andrights".

This authorhas been consistently saying that there were four factors responsible for themass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, i.e.:

1. Thefundamentalism sponsored and abetted by Pakistan,

2.Connivance and support of J&K government to the crusade against the Panditsin the valley.

3. Failureof successive Governments in New Delhi right from 1947 to discharge theirresponsibilities in Jammu and Kashmir, and

4. Theabject surrender of the Muslim majority community in Kashmir to protect theminuscule minority, the Pandits in 1989-90.

Someimportant public personalities in Kashmir, over the last one decade, expressedtheir unconditional apology to the Pandits for their failure to protect them intheir hour of need. They went to admit that even the Jagmohan theory was aconspiracy against them. Some even talked in terms of "forget andforgive" in this context. With all humility at command, Kashmiri Panditshave ceased to be vengeful right in the womb of their mothers. They mayforgive, but they cannot forget the facts of history since they need to learnfrom them for all times to come. That is the only guarantee not to commit thehistorical mistakes again.

Coming tothe domicile issue, it should not be surprising now why the J&K Bank, thefinancial position of Jammu and Kashmir or the para paraphernalia attached withthem came to such a low recently. The genesis is old and deep rooted and everyFinance Minister of the state and every Chairman of the bank contributed to themess. But here is a man, dear friend Drabu, who was in both the positions todeliver, at different intervals. One example will set the ball rolling. Hisassertion that the Kashmiri Pandits have been left 'high and dry' after therelease of the Domicile Notification is a glaring example as to how thereading, study, research, analysis and development of an issue used to be doneat the highest level in the state now Union Territory of J&K.

TheNotification grants the domicile rights, even after the amendments, to four categoriesof people in Jammu and Kashmir. One category includes specifically, theKashmiri Pandits, in the form and nomenclature of the "RegisteredMigrants" with the Relief Commissioner's office at Jammu. Apoltician-bureaucrat-former minister can commit such a mistake on record isindeed appalling. This author, immediately after the amendments in theNotification, was the first to take up the matter with the relevant quartersabout the fifth catagory of people belonging to Jammu and Kashmir who were notincluded in the Notification. Articles by me in this connection were publishedby all the top three English newspapers of the state in the month of April2020. This fifth category of people includes hereditary residents belonging toall faiths and regions in the UT, Kashmiri Muslims included which Drabu didn'trefer to.

It is anissue of natural justice and so needs to be taken up forthwith. The GazetteNotification is silent about this important and an integral section of theJ&K society. It becomes our moral duty to express our concerns in thisregard and espouse the rightful claim of the people who otherwise should havebeen ordinarily included in the Notification as the fifth category of theDomiciled people of the UT of Jammu & Kashmir. The people of Jammu andKashmir since times immemorial have been going to the regions outside theirstate for education, business, jobs and other assignments. Time to timepersecutions have also led to their exodus from their homestead. Sometimes theywould come back to their state and live and settle there once again. However,since 1947, the time of our independence, this process did not stop.

The originalinhabitants and the hereditary residents who possessed the certificate of statesubject of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state continue to live outside Jammuand Kashmir in many parts of India and the world. Since they are not in aposition to prove their stay of 15 years in the state/UT, hence they are notcovered by the new Notification on Domicile issue. Similarly, most of them arealso not registered as "migrants" with the office of the Relief andRehabilitation Commissioner. In such a situation, this vast chunk of ourbrethren belonging to Jammu and Kashmir state ceases to be the Domicile of theUT of J&K, though they possess the Hereditary State Subject certificates aswell.

I raisedthis issue with the official representative of the PMO and the government ofIndia some days ago and it needed to be pursued further. It would be thetravesty of law of natural justice including the human rights infringement,along with the denial of indigenous people's rights to the hereditary statesubjects to deny their birth right to them to be a part of their birth-land,both physically and legally. The new law can't be arbitrary in this regard atany cost.

As per arough estimate, there are half a million of such people living all round theworld since 1947 and they originally belong to the divisions of Jammu, Kashmir,Ladakh and parts of the occupied land of Jammu and Kashmir. All such peopleamong them who possess valid state subject certificates of J&K, the progenyof their blood and the daughters-in-law in their families have a natural andlegal right to claim the Domicile status, irrespective of whether they areincluded in the Notification or not.

It would bein the fitness of things that the government of India, at both the levels,Prime Minister's Office & Ministry of Home Affairs reviews the new law inthis perspective and takes the concerned into confidence before taking the lastcall. Interpretation, rules and by laws for the recruitments are yet to come,but this Gazette notification will have an overriding effect on the land lawsand rules in the UT, eventually. Therefore, it becomes important to make itsure that the fifth category of the residents of Jammu and Kashmir are grantedhearing and justice in time and the government makes amends before it is toolate.

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