Crowdfunding Countercurrents

Submission Policy

Popularise CC

Join News Letter

Defend Indian Constitution




CC Youtube Channel

Editor's Picks

Press Releases

Action Alert

Feed Burner

Read CC In Your
Own Language

Bradley Manning

India Burning

Mumbai Terror

Financial Crisis


AfPak War

Peak Oil



Alternative Energy

Climate Change

US Imperialism

US Elections


Latin America









Book Review

Gujarat Pogrom

Kandhamal Violence


India Elections



About Us


Fair Use Notice

Contact Us

Subscribe To Our
News Letter


Search Our Archive

Our Site



Order the book

A Publication
on The Status of
Adivasi Populations
of India




Composite Townships: Cantonments Of The Other Sort

By Sheikh Shahid

27 April, 2015

Ever since the partition of British India, Kashmir has been growing
into a conflict of international stature & with each passing day an
acceptable resolution seems to elude with the new problems only adding
up to the conflict. However, the most stirring of the events was the
genesis of the armed resistance in 1989 that saw the Kashmir conflict
born again in the eyes of the world community. With the culture of
guns & grenades setting in, Kashmir witnessed the renaissance of the
Aazadi sentiment, anew. Deafening slogans of Aazadi could be heard
from every corner & street of the valley. Mosques provided a good
medium to mobilize people against the state occupation & Aazadi seemed
only the matter of some weeks then.

In this context, some scholars have argued that Kashmiri resistance
always moved along the ethnoreligious lines, but that's a mere
fleeting response to a much deeper complexity. The truth, however, is
that the resistance, if charged sporadically with religious impulses,
has largely been characterised by its religious accomodation all
through its progression & It was & still is a clear manifestation of
the dicontentment among the people struggling for their right to
self-determination promised to them by India's first Prime Minister
while adressing at the historic Lal Chowk & accorded with the UN
resolutions of 1948, 1949 & 57.

For more than six decades peace in Kashmir has been overshadowed by
the perpetual strife with killings, of mostly teenaged boys, being a
regular spectacle. This year has already claimed two young innocent
lives of Khalid & Suhail. Killings in Kashmir have always been the
leitmotives of the music of Indian bullets. However, even in this
charged atmosphere, minorities continued to live a life without any
aversion from the muslim majority. It would be hard to find an
instance in the history of Kashmiri resistance where the religious
sentiments of the minorities were debased. Even at the zenith of
militancy, not a single Temple, Church or a Gurduwara was ever
destroyed, unlike countless mosques razed to the ground by Indian
troops during encounters. Muslims have celebrated the festivals of
their non-muslim neighbours like Sikhs & Pandits with the equal zest
of their own festivals like Eid. Walter Lawrence, deputed to Kashmir
as settlement commissioner in 1889, has also lent credence to the
communal harmony present then in Kashmir. He also writes about many
sacred sites where Muslims & Pandits worshipped together,
notwithstanding their respective beliefs.

Nevertheless, the armed struggle too had its bitter consequences & one
among them was the fearful circumstances it generated all over the
valley, especially for the minorities who, as a natural corollary of a
major upsurge, were fearful of their existence. Although, the exact
reason is disputed between Kashmiri Muslims & Pandits as much as it
stands debatable among the scholars, the all-pervading fear can't be
negated for the fateful exile of Kashmiri pandits from the valley in
the 90s, as their political affiliations didn't relate with that of
the majority. As the historian Mridu Rai notes 'While it is true that
Kashmiri Muslims & Pandits shared many links of common cultural
practice & overlapping religious beliefs, this did not prevent them
from seeing their political interests as widely divergent.' As no
formal probe was ordered into the exile, resons seem to only grow into
a clutter of assertions & refutations.

Nevertheless, the question that has been overhanging since their exile
is their safe reintegration back into the valley. Successive govts.
have been attempting to work upon the issue, but every time it proves
to be a damp squib, with not a good number of Pandits returing back. A
good example would be the KP housing complex at Sheikhpora in district
Budgam where at least 200 apartments were made in 2008 but only few
families showed up & those who did show up were only tempted by the
Job reservations alloted to them by the government. Now, with the BJP
at the centre & state (in coalition with PDP), the rehabilitaion issue
was likely to get some new air & it in fact did when after meeting the
J&K CM, Mufti Syed, the Home minister Rajnath Singh sought land for
the construction of 'Composite townships' for KP rehabilitation. As it
was expected, the separatists took no time in likening the plan to
that of Israeli settlements in Palestine & it was seen as the Balfour
declaration of 1917 which provided Zionists an opening for Jewish
settlements in Palestine & thus strike calls were issued, forthwith.
An interesting point is that even some Pandit representatives like the
head of Kashmiri Pandit Sangrash Samithi, Sanjay Tickoo also objected
to the proposal. The issue is likely to get more attention as the
Sangh parivar's agenda on Kashmir is obvious to everyone, hence these
townships are likely to be seen askance at. For efforts could be made
to change the muslim majority character of Kashmir, for instance by
settling thousands of west Pakistan refugees in these townships & that
would certainly be a threat especially to the cause of Plebiscite
promised by the UN.

The rehabilitaion of KPs is not the issue of mere physical
integration, but rather the integration of the entire life. It should
be aimed at social, political & cultural integration as it used to be
before their migration. If today they're physically separated from
their muslim brothers in Kashmir, the proposed townships would further
alienate them psychologically. Also, Pandits, if they return to these
townships, would have to be secured againt the fear of perpetual
militant attacks & hence they'll be guarded with layers of concentrina
wires & the gun-wielding troops on the watch towers. So they've to
live in cantonements of the other sort. They would be seen as simply
the vulnerable appendages of the security grid present in Kashmir &
we'd see some elite & alien men visiting our world, but not our
brothers & neighbours who once left us. A common Kashmiri would look
at these townships like he looks at the Cantonments at Badamibagh or
somewhere else in Kashmir- a sign of colonialism & suppression. They'd
be seen as agents of India furthering their grip on Kashmir & hence as
an enemy to the long cherished sentiment of Azaadi. If talked about in
the words of Oscar Wilde, Kashmiri Pandits might keep on exisiting in
these townships, but they'd cease to live. For living is so much
different than mere existing. KPs would miss their muslim brothers
while celebrating Heirath & other festivals & so will their Muslim
neighbours.They'll feel like aliens in their own home. So,
rehabilitation ought to be the reintegration of life back into the
exiled veins & not just a fulfilment of official formalities.
On the part of the KPs themselves, it's unfortunate that they've not
been able to shun the fear which was the primary cause of their
migration, as they say. And one thing is clear that until they don't
believe their Kashmiri muslim brothers, no one can help them to get
reintegrated back into their homes. This is a fact, undeniable. So,
it's mainly upto them to help themselves to make a new beginning by
recognising their muslim brothers as their well-wishers rather than
blaming them for the migration & thereby only augmenting the mutual
mistrust, that will go against the very grain of reintegration.
Further, while the fate of countless probes ordered by the Indian
government into the innocent killings, fake encounters, enforced
disappearnces & extra-judicial killings is well known to everyone, a
renewed cry for another probe, this time into the KP migration is
being heard from different quarters. However, if investigated fairly
in a time-bound frame, the results can settle a melange of muddled
perspectives. Since the migration, both sides - KPs & KMs - have been
voicing their respective perspectives about the migration. The
majority community blames the then Governor Jagmohan Malhotra of
hatching a conspiracy to ensure migration of the KPs, while the KPs on
the other hand blame the majority community (not the militants) for
triggering their migration. However, the KP version doesn't stand
quite well on facts. As 'Kashmir Reader' in one of its editorials
notes :

''The KPs observe January 19 as a `holocaust day’. While it is a sheer
exaggeration of facts by the KPs, the truth remains to be dug out.
Surprisingly and contrary to the claims of the KPs, nothing happened
on January 19. A very important person, who now heads the Kashmiri
Pandit Sangrash Samithi, was in Mumbai in February 1990. He wanted to
celebrate Shivratri with his family in Srinagar. The festival fell in
the last week, most probably 26 or 27 of February. He reaches Jammu
and hears about the registration office for migrants. He goes there to
register himself as a migrant and he is registered at a serial No 46.
This means only 46 persons had migrated up to February 26.''
Also, the fact that only KP community migrated while the other
minorities like Sikhs stayed back makes for yet another element of

So, a probe into the migration can help set the facts straight & bring
the two conflicting perspectives to an appreciable convergence which
in turn would help in the rehabilitaion of KPs.

Sheikh Shahid from Thammuna Pulwama is a student of English literature & Philosophy.
On twitter @TheValeBoy


Sheikh Shahid


Kashmiri Pandits






Share on Tumblr



Comments are moderated