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An appeal to Kashmiri Pandits
By Dr. Abdul Majid Siraj
This is an impassioned plea to my compatriot Kashmiri pundits to once and for all make a stark choice of settling down to their organic roots or else remain on the fringes of their homeland seeking a way to restore their identity. I have to beg indulgence and dare say that the whole community is symbolic of exploitation and unwary players of the role of the gambits in all political games played on Kashmir.

I find the campaigns for reverse migration launched by the leaders of Pandits and in response the State rhetoric of inducements to provide security cover, employment and housing to exhort them to uproot their new moorings in India and elsewhere in the world as unrealistic measures.

These efforts are not conducive to irredentism that in political language would mean integrations of nations and nations denoting Muslims and Hindus of Kashmir. Irredentism was the underlying principle responsible for unification of Germany. These Nations (or the Volk in German ) become the ethical and moral basis for integration.

I am in no way an authority in judging the merits of the comparative life styles Pandits live outside their ancestral land and their new homes, but I can speak for myself and vouch support for my choice of home. I lived half my life with complete job satisfaction and luxury outside but I find a lot more of the same in my home in Kashmir.

There are no written pages anywhere in the history of Kashmir where the pivotal role of the Pandit community is not central to life people lived, either as suffering subjects or as flourishing communities. Albeit I have to admit that there have been hidden anxious moments in the lives of Pandits where a sense of insecurity became a hallmark. The famous writer Shiv Narayan Raina (Shamim) writes in Safri-Kashmir (1892) 'The Kashmiri Pandit follows all traditions for maximum protection, Kashmiri, provincial and local. The result is that nothing is his own'. I dare say Shamim may have some truth in his statement. Is it sense of insecurity lurking in their minds that makes them restive ? Is there a role for isolated cantons ? As the saying goes 'good fences do not make good neighbors ' it may not be the best help they get to offer them make shift enclaves, zones , sliced off territories or high cordons of armed security behind which they will live.

Kashmiri Pandits have a history full of flourish that they can be proud of. You only want to remind yourself of the empire Lalityaditya (724 - 761 AD) built from deep south India to Central Asia with his base in Kashmir and his incarnate image as a Kashmiri hero. His role in emancipation of all people in Kashmir is remarkable. These same people became the ancestors of Muslims and Hindus of today and tell tale signs of similarities in the two communities are there to see.

Pandits must keep the legacy of the great people alive and dovetail the crusade and revival of the spirit of Shanker Lal Kaul who pioneered 'Kashmiricus' or 'Kashmir for Kashmiris' slogan. It is his effort that made the 'State Subject Law' a reality , a law that is the last thread for survival of the nations of Kashmir even today. If Kashmiricus was a gospel then, why can it not be voiced by the descendents of that slogan now. They must never forget the role Fotedar played in drafting of the Constitution (1939) the first time ever written document that gave people an identity. This document written by an autocrat nevertheless introduced franchise, assembly, representation and a timid version of democracy. This document became the basis of the proclamation that Maharaja Hari Singh made on 5th March 1948 in pursuance of its Article ACT XIV appointed the interim government.

Pandits and Muslims have realized that they as well as others in Kashmir have grown into a new nation away from the old worshippers of tyranny and tyrants. It is now possible to build a Mazzini's moral conception of a nation, which is prosperous and happy with obligatory loyalties, patriotism and identity and governance based on the paradigm of consociational democracy. In this political modality there is a grand coalition of all groups including minorities combined with a mutual veto system in place, and all parties with proportional representation and segmental autonomy. This is an established mode of governance described vividly by Arend Lijphart in his masterpiece 'Majority Rule versus Democracy in Deeply Divided Societies' (1977), Politcon.

All peoples of the world want to live in a democracy and have an identity. In modern world you have an international personality as soon as you are born. There are other actions that follow. A birth certificate makes a basis for admission in schools and later a passport etc. Pandits have tried to merge with their adopted society in India and abroad. Their children get married locally and new customs are shared. I spoke to this youth in USA and Europe and found manifest signs of dilution in their root culture. I am convinced that their blood of Kashmiri nationality shines through their skin. There is an important caveat in adopted nationalities. The good things of new culture are sweet and easily embraced, but the harsher responsibilities and quarks of the new civilization become very unpalatable. Some incisive moments experienced remind people of the old soft touches of mother Earth they left behind back home.

It may be I sound pedantic in offering advice but my emphasis is and will always be to rationalize the concept of reverse migration of Pandits on the basis of fairness and dignity. It follows that ways and means be found to integrate the communities and build mutual trust. One way is for Pandits to voice concerns with the world about wrongs done to Kashmir and all its inhabitants. A comprehensive appraisal of legal and historical genesis of the turmoil could be collectively made in a putative and unbiased manner. It may be possible collective efforts will make the difficult task feasible.

(The author can be contacted at or www.
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News Updated at : Monday, October 8, 2012
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