Once again the blood of Hindus has been spilt on the soil of Kashmir. This cycle has been going on since 1986 when famous Hakim of Tangwar Srikanth Pandita was murdered in mysterious circumstances. Why was inquiry officer suddenly transferred and at whose behest we were never told. Next followed the killing of the custodian of the historic Vicharnag shrine in Srinagar, Keshav Nath Pandita. He was shot dead by the security guard posted at the shrine for his security. The protector becoming the killer.
Around same time two Kashmiri Pandits went missing and were never traced. One hailed from Bandipore town. He had gone to distribute invitation cards for his wedding and was probably kidnapped from Batmaloo Bus stand. Second one hailed from Habba Kadal area. He had left for his office as usual in the morning and never returned. We do not know if any inquiry was conducted into the two disappearances and what were its results. READ & WATCH: ‘You Can Only Kill His Body, Not The Spirit’: Daughter Of Slain Kashmiri Pandit ML Bindroo Dares Terrorists For Open Debate
These killings and disappearances were not isolated instances and were link in the chain that claimed the life of Makhan Lal Bindroo yesterday.Bindroo had stayed back in 1990 and had been very helpful to the local Muslims.But then kindness and humanity are not virtues when ethnic cleansing is on the agenda. GOI took no serious cognisance of the killings and disappearances in 1986. Probably it would forget the killing of Makhan Lal Bindroo too after a routine condemnation and warning to the terrorists.
A normal state is one that apprehends security challenges to the state and earnestly devises appropriate strategies to provide safety to its citizens. The state behaviour was not normal in 1980s. Ethnic cleansing of Pandit community in 1990 became inevitable. Had Pandits dithered they would have been caught in a situation similar to Bosnia as noted well by Major General Arjun Ray in his well-researched book Kashmir Dairy.
After being forced out the attitude of successive governments were apathetic as well as inhuman. Directions were given to the newspapers to underplay ethnic cleansing with a perverted claim that it would disturb communal harmony in the country. Vested interests in political parties, media and academia engaged in denial over ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus and supported anti-national political agendas on Kashmir.
The government had failed to give protection to the Pandits in Kashmir for continued stay. It also abdicated its role in securing their left over property. Inept political leadership that ruled the country was never serious about holistic and durable return of Kashmiri Hindus. This is the reason why community based leadership is not engaged on the issue nor any serious framework for return of Pandits evolved. Creation of counterfeit groups and spurious statements that Pandits are divided are an extension of this flawed and dishonest approach.
Half-hearted measures are taken to enact a tokenist return. This only invites massacres and killings. Sangrampora, Nadimarg, Wandhama, Telwani,Gool etc. are just few instances. From time to time empty slogans of Kashmiriyat are raised to impress upon Pandits that they can live as before ,notwithstanding talibanisation of the local society. This is to convey that they should forget about secured rehabilitation. Many senior BJP and RSS leaders have been actively opposing secured rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus. It is they who put lives of Hindus to risk by exposing them to talibanised entrepreneurs.
Government’s policies have certainly made decisive assaults on terrorist infrastructure and their support structures. But nothing has changed so far as Kashmiri Hindus are concerned. Safe and secured return of Kashmiri Hindus is the real test of complete normalcy.
Killings of Hindus in Kashmir have to stop. These are unacceptable. If Govt. is really interested in return of Hindus it has to abandon half-hearted measures and devise a framework for sustainable return. This means involving community based leadership and abandon dismissive approach towards suggestions from Pandits.
Challenge in Kashmir is two-fold. One, the terrorism sponsored by Pakistan and international jihadi groups. Two, the terrorist mindset fed by long incubation of communalism and Salafisation. It is the latter that continues to breed new crops of jihadis. Unless counter-insurgency measures factorise terrorist mindset in counter-insurgency strategies mere killings of terrorists will not deliver peace. Identifying processes through which jihadist mindset perpetuates is important to smash it.
Government takes much needed measures but fails to visualise backlash from terrorist entrepreneurs. It leaves soft targets undefended. This happened when proprietor of Krishna Dhaba was gunned down in heart of Srinagar after the decision on Domicile certificates. Killing of Bindroo followed strong directions by the Govt. to free Pandit property from encroachment. Recent killings are a failure of political as well as security strategies.
Government should send a strong message to terrorists and their sponsors that it will not abandon the measures meant for granting domicile to non-Kashmiris and facilitating return of Pandits.
It is time for Pandits to do plain-speaking and speak truth to power. Government should take three measures urgently. One, declare all sales of Pandit property since 1990 as distress sales. Two, take immediate measures for providing security to Hindus living in Kashmir. Three, open dialogue with community based leadership of Pandits to evolve modalities for creation of Panun Kashmir.
(Dr Ramesh Tamiri is a researcher on the history, politics and culture of Kashmir.)
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