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July 12, 2001
The only solution
As if the failure of the Lahore bus yatra, extension of the Samjhauta Express, the cease-fire and talks with Hurriyat leaders were not humiliation enough, we now have the Indian government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee having a summit with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to find a solution to the Kashmir problem.
By inviting Musharraf, India -- the world's largest democracy -- is providing legitimacy to a dictator. Whereas the Government of India readily constitutes inquiry commissions for relatively minor happenings, the vastly human tragedy of ethno-religious cleansing of the Kashmiri Pandit minority from its 6,000-year-old habitat in the Kashmir valley has been carefully singled out for exclusion from any such process.
In its formal communication to the international non-governmental organisation called the International Commission of Jurists, the Government of India clearly acknowledged that ethno-religious cleansing of the Pandits from the valley has been the reason for their exodus. A judicial confirmation of this fact, from which the Government of India has been shying away for reasons best known to it, would have paved the way for a better understanding and appreciation of the plight of the Pandits and the reason of their political struggle in exile.
Ethno-religious cleansing of the Pandit religious minority community of Kashmir took place when a popularly elected government pledged to democracy, secularism and pluralism was ruling the state. Today when the Pandit community continues to languish in exile outside Kashmir, the same regional political party holds the reins of the government and has not been able to do anything in this regard. This means there is something wrong with the very geopolitical structure of the state of Jammu & Kashmir.
In order to strengthen the democratic and secular process of India as enshrined in the Constitution, there is the unavoidable need of geopolitical restructuring of the state.
The Pandits are very eager to return to their place of origin being the indigenous people of the Valley. But they would not like to live at the mercy of the majority community that worked as accomplices in their ethno-religious cleansing. Today they are a territory-less people. In order to provide them a territory as their birthright with appropriate political empowerment, the Pandits demand a homeland in the Kashmir valley, which they will administer according to their free choice as citizens of India.
The frontline victims of the armed insurgency in Kashmir are the Pandits -- en masse. Being the internally displaced people, being a religious and a "reverse" minority, being the indigenous people of the Valley and being the discriminated people on the basis of faith, the Pandits find the UN Human Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international pronouncements and resolutions on minorities on their side. As such, their participation in any negotiated settlement of Kashmir is of vital importance to the democratic and secular profile of India. The Pandits regret to say that so far they have been deliberately ignored for any talks on Kashmir.
The state and the central governments are making repeated attempts of addressing the symptoms of the Pandit problem, but not its real causes. They try to circumvent the core issues and address the less-urgent or peripheral issues like return and rehabilitation without a proper political resettlement. Unless there is a geopolitical restructuring of the state that provides territory, political authority and conditions of organised civil society to the Pandits, their return in a dark and uncertain situation may not be possible.
If the Indian State desires to sacrifice the Pandits of Kashmir for legitimising its secular character by permitting an Islamised Kashmir as part of the Indian Union, the Pandits are not prepared to reconcile with that dispensation. It would be a betrayal of the Indian Constitution and the founding fathers of the country.
The Pandit community strongly repudiates the hypocrisy of "peaceful coexistence among communities in Kashmir". Likewise, it rejects on historical evidence the rhetoric of "Kashmiriyat" as a diluted form of Islam. The Pandits have suffered innumerable vicissitudes, conversions, persecutions and exoduses during 700 years of Muslim rule in Kashmir in the past. That process, ultimately, culminated in their ethno-religious cleansing in 1990.
Finally, the Pandits are grateful for the sacrifices made by the Indian armed forces and security personnel in protecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Indian Union of which Kashmir is an inseparable part. They believe that bilateral agreements/declarations between India and Pakistan and the unanimous resolve of the Indian Parliament in 1995 to take back the illegally occupied part of J&K State by Pakistan form the basis of a settlement of the Kashmir issue.
Those who demand that people in the state should get their right to self-determination seldom know that if this principle were applied, Partition and the creation of Pakistan would be tantamount to the denial of this right to the people of India. Everybody knows Pakistan was formed on a religious basis.
We blame the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front for killing Pandits that led to the exodus of the community. The JKLF -- which now claims to be a secular organisation -- and swears by a pluralistic society were instrumental in killing the Pandits. Their slogans of complete azadi with secular and socialistic features are nothing but rhetoric.
Islamic jihad is extending itself eastward and threatens the Himalayas and the entire hinterland. The pan-Islamic expansionism chose to hit the Hindus of Jammu & Kashmir because they represent a civilizational frontline.
We do not consider Kashmir a dispute and said there was no question of challenging the accession of Kashmir to India. The present struggle is nothing but a manifestation of Pan-Islamism, Talebanisation and communal temperament. Some people who believe that Talebanisation can usher peace to the trouble-torn state are mistaken. India has failed in protecting its citizens. It has also allowed the creation of virtually an Islamic state in a secular India and nurtured secessionist politics.
Musharraf's invitation will give encouragement to separatism and secessionism.
Filmmaker Ashok Pandit is co-ordinator of Panun Kashmir.
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