Fifth column: Remember Kashmiri Pandits?

More than two decades later, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits continue to be unable to go home.

Updated: January 18, 2014 11:44 pm
More than two decades later, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits continue to be unable to go home. (Photo: Reuters) More than two decades later, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits continue to be unable to go home. (Photo: Reuters)

Let me begin by admitting that I would not be writing about the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits today if I had not been shamed into doing so. I would have written about the flip-flop currently going on in the Congress over whether Rahul Gandhi should be declared their future prime minister or not. The whole debate is pointless because we all know that whether he is officially anointed heir apparent or not, he is, and will continue to be, the most powerful Congress leader after his Mummy. Nobody else matters. Not even the prime minister. There really is almost nothing more to be said on the subject.
So when a young man called Rashneek Kher called to remind me that today (January 19) was the anniversary of the Pandit exodus from Kashmir and asked if I would write something, I started off by making excuses. Then I thought about what he had asked and felt ashamed that I had never written about something as important as the only instance of ethnic cleansing in the history of India.  I happened to be in Srinagar around the time this happened and, like a lot of others, thought then that the overnight exodus was simply a cynical move by the hated Governor Jagmohan to clear the way for aerial attacks on the mass protests in the Valley.
Jagmohan had been so brutal in the manner he dealt with unarmed protesters that the worst rumours about him were believed. But, more than two decades later, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits continue to be unable to go home, and somehow this bothers hardly anyone except those who are victims of the tragedy. When Rashneek called me, he told me that his own home had been burned and that he had lost relatives in the violence and that the hostility of ordinary Kashmiri Muslims to their Hindu brethren made it impossible for even those living in pitiful conditions in camps in Jammu to go home.
So why does nobody speak for the Kashmiri Pandits? Where are those noisy human rights types who shriek nightly on national television about ‘internally displaced’ people in Muzaffarnagar? Where are the Hindutva wallahs and why did a Bharatiya Janata Party government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee make no effort to rehabilitate the Pandits? As for us in the media, why have we done no more about this horrible tragedy than write token remembrance articles every anniversary?
When I thought about these questions, I found myself wondering if this was not of a piece with the false secularism that our political parties have propagated ever since Partition. Under this ‘secular’ worldview, the only victims of communal violence can be Muslims. And, even here, some victims are more equal than others. So if the refugee camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli had been in Gujarat, there would have been much greater outrage. Can you imagine the names that Narendra Modi would have been called if his government had allowed 40 children to die of cold? But, Akhilesh Yadav is a ‘secular’ chief minister, so he is treated more indulgently.
Ever since Modi burst upon the national political stage, ‘secular’ politicians and journalists have fallen over themselves trying to have him disqualified as a possible prime minister on the grounds that he is a ‘mass murderer’. But, if you so much as try to say that Rajiv Gandhi was for a while a very popular prime minister despite being a ‘mass murderer’, you will find yourself shouted down and reviled.
Has something not gone very seriously wrong with the Indian idea of secularism? Has it not become a tool that is used mostly to perpetuate a sense of grievance among Indian Muslims? I have written before in this column that if we stop thinking of Muslims as an aggrieved minority community and start thinking of them instead as India’s second most powerful majority community, some of the distortions in our secularism may begin to disappear. Instead of thinking along these lines, we have in the rule of Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi spent the past decade convincing Muslims that they really have every reason to be constantly aggrieved. First, there was that very dodgy Sachar report, and now we have the Home Minister order state governments to ensure that Muslim youths are not detained wrongly in prison. Are all India’s 2.41 lakh undertrials Muslim?
Kashmir is India’s only Muslim-majority state, and it happens to be the only state that has been responsible for ethnic cleansing. So today, on this tragic anniversary, can we stop thinking of Indian Muslims as an oppressed minority and think of them instead as our second most powerful majority community? India has the second largest Muslim population in the world. It has been ghettoised and handicapped by fake secularism.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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  1. C
    Jan 19, 2014 at 5:47 am
    Madam hats of to you and your courage to speak out the truth. God bless.
    1. A
      Jan 19, 2014 at 11:01 am
      Only Tavleen Singh could have written this piece. People like u are rare to find in today's journalism.
      1. P
        Jan 19, 2014 at 2:56 pm
        It saddens me that Pandits are unable return to their homeland, but to put things in perspective Pandits have been one of the most benefited lot in terms of getting the opportunities to progress in life. To name a few they have reservations in the colleges, PSU banks and other arenas, Pandits today have reached higher echelons in our country and abroad due to these and other advantages and Pandits will vouch for this. I have a lot of friends from Kashmir who will agree with this. Besides when was the last time when we had a similar discourse,or a similar feeling of injustice with regards to other cuted minorities? I don't remember reading a pionate article on the Nellie, bhagalpur,1984 etc riots. On their rehabilitation, on the opportunities of education, work that their kids got. etc. Though I fully agree that secularism as an idea needs redefining. But in our failures to deliver on the secularism front we all, and not only the politicians or human rights activists, are to be blamed. Things are broken, but we need an impionate, objective, unbiased and accommodative discourse to actually solve issues. What AAP has shown that it is easy to blame and rather difficult to make things work..
        1. A
          Jan 19, 2014 at 1:47 pm
          Shame on Indian fake secularists and even faker human rightists and media. How USA never blacklisted Nehru for presiding over parion genocide, and Rajiv hi for 1984 macre? Shame on fake secularism, human rightists and compromised media.
          1. A
            Jan 19, 2014 at 12:32 pm
            Finally...came across a very true article!Bravo...madam!
            1. S
              Jan 19, 2014 at 1:32 pm
              God bless you Tavleen for giving voice to the thoughts that are banned from public debate in India..
              1. G
                Jan 21, 2014 at 11:02 am
                Hindus are destined to become a minority in India, be tortured like Pak/Bangladeshi Hindus and then become extinct....after all these years of denial I have finally accepted this
                1. A
                  Jan 19, 2014 at 9:29 am
                  More articles for this cause, the media keeps going Gungho about every other human right violation in the country, but to suit their TRP's. The cause of Kashmiri Pandits remains a lost case for them. Please write more, highlight the plight more..a request to our media. Average Indian like me cares for them and wants justice.
                  1. B
                    Jan 19, 2014 at 10:00 am
                    Felt pain after reading about the sufferings of our Brothersand Sisters, Who were ethnically cleansed in J&K. What can be the pain ofthose who are living as refugees after getting ethnically cleansed from theirown Motherland? They have suffered a lot since last 24 Years. This is an uglystain on the so called secularism practiced in India and exposes the hypocrisyof those, who preach in the name of Secularism day and night, but never utter asingle word for the Sufferings of Hindus who were ethnically cleansed fromtheir own Motherland .These So called Seculars should feel shame and stopcalling them Secular till they do not deliver Justice to the Hindu Minority ofJ&K.
                    1. B
                      Jan 20, 2014 at 3:22 am
                      I agree with the writer of article "Fifth Column". None of so called "SECULARIST LEADERS AND SECULAR PARTIES" ever have shed fake tears about Kashamiri Pundits exodus from a Muslim Majority State J& K. None among these parties have ever proposed or asked the State or Central Government to rehabilitate these Kashmiri pundits at the places where they belong to.. Had large numbers of Muslims unfortunately would have been forced to leave their houses, all these so called "Secularists and Secular Parties" would have been shouted full throat about this not only in Lok Sabha or State Legislative embly but in all their streets meetings. Congress had all along been dubious in their secular ideals even during when they were agitating against British Colonialism. Mahatma hi too was no exception. He refused to accept the candidature of Moh Ali Jinnah as proposed by swarajist leaders headed by Moti Lal Nehru, because to Mahatma hi, Jinnah besides being arrogant was Muslim. Had RSS , Arya Samaj, Shrimoni Akali Dal workers, not come forward to help more ten millions Hindu and Sikh refugees expelled from stan in 1947, most of them would starved to death. I was a fourteen years old kid and vividly remember at ATARI STATION we were offered a cup of tea and home made biscuits. When our train reached Amritsar we were served hot poorie and allo sabzi by workers of RSS with their symbolic Khaki half pant and Sikhs. I did not witness a single congress seva dal worker hi cap clad at any station on our journey to Delhi. Such was the character of Congress workers at that time, why we should blame them now. Hindus are fools who have tolerated and voted for this party ever since 1947. Rightly said with second largest religious group in India why Muslims are considered "Minority"Why this second largest group of India have allowed themselves to be exploited bythese "PSEUDO SECULAR PARTIES" My personal appeals to all Muslim Brothers and Sisters, so long you look towards STAN as your "Savior" and these "PSEUDO SECULAR PARTIES" as your Protectors, you shall always remain victims. Rise and say too all these "PSEUDO SECULAR PARTIES" we are neither your vote bank nor we need any protections from you. Now is the time all Citizens of India irrespective of any religious faith, irrespective of any caste or creed should discard these "PSEUDO SECULAR PARTIES" All Citizens of India from every state should declare and solemnly declare that we are INDIAN for ONE INDIA. No one shall be displaced or victimized from any part of India because of linguistic, ethnic , religious, caste or creed ideny. It is the duty of the New Central Govt who so ever comes to power to solemnly declare Kashmiri Pundits shall be rehablitated at the place where they were born and lived.
                      1. C
                        Cee kay
                        Jan 19, 2014 at 5:15 pm
                        Secularism takes on altogether meaning when the ball comes in the court of the Congress! I am surprised that how the people and that section of media that continuously berate Mr Narendra Modi for m murder during Godhra riots forget the carnage unleashed by Congress during 1984 Sikh riots!
                        1. U
                          Urchin Spock
                          Jan 19, 2014 at 5:47 pm
                          It is a pity that barring one like you no one in the media even care abt this... only votes count.. nowhere in the world this kind of apathy can b seen... we r a weak nation
                          1. G
                            Gautam Majumdar
                            Jan 19, 2014 at 2:01 pm
                            If we really want secularism we should separate the state from religion . How do we do this ? By enacting the uniform civil code and by dissolving minorities commission. All subjects will be equal in from of law. No appeat.
                            1. H
                              Jan 19, 2014 at 10:32 am
                              It is high time we give up on fake secularism.
                              1. N
                                Never Again
                                Jan 19, 2014 at 10:27 pm
                                She started off with Kashmiri Pundits.........and ended up talking about Rahul hi, Rajiv hi, Sonia hi, Narendra Modi, Gujarat, Akhilesh Yadav and Muslims. No interview, No mention of any Kashmiri Pundit family living in Delhi or even her 'friend' who asked her for a piece. Nothing about what happened that night, why it happened, and how the Pundits are faring. Just her regular comparison of Modi and Rajiv hi.Yes Ms. Singh - We already know that both men are m-murderers. Why are YOU siding with one of them?
                                1. T
                                  Jan 19, 2014 at 6:38 am
                                  Very true. Secularism is a mantra to secure votes from the minorities or a stick to beat the Opposition.Muslim mullahs and their political masters are responsible for Muslims' conditions today, and their role in ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Kashmir the least talked about subject in today's political dialogue by any of the parties - Congress, or BJP or NC or AAP. Muslim votes are more precious than pitiable state of Hindu refugees' lives. Does anyone care? Journalists, that includes the live media, know it is a wise policy not to bite the 'hand' that feeds them.
                                  1. A
                                    Jan 20, 2014 at 3:23 am
                                    I really wish all our political reads this article and stop their "minority" appeasing once for all!
                                    1. K
                                      Jan 20, 2014 at 4:21 am
                                      Message to All Hindus are the bravest people on earth your scriptures.You have given birth to fearless sects ( Gorkhas, Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs) whose name would send the shiver down the spines of enemies! Know yourself. Read your history. Unite and fight this evil which wants to finish us by conversions, jihad and secularism.
                                      1. N
                                        Jan 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm
                                        After 2 decades my fellow indian men and women and their innocent children are not treated with human rights. What more could be sorry state than that? Why is north busy celebrating qoutub minar and lodhi gardens I fail to understand where we spend Crores of rupees to maintain those monuments. Where is the protection to all in the most spirituall valley of kashmir?
                                        1. R
                                          Jan 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm
                                          Glad to see somebody raising these questions about Indian secularism and communal violence. We need to see more articles like this in the media.
                                          1. T
                                            Jan 19, 2014 at 6:31 pm
                                            I do not trust Ms. Tavleen Singh's journalism about stan / Kashmir at all. More so after her turnaround from her book on Kashmir in which first she extolls the mujahids and does not account for the reasons for Pandit ethnic cleansing as she does now. To talk about her opinion of Kashmir of today, she needs first to explain where she got the misimpression in her book from. Talk about your book on Kashmir first. Put things in perspective because most of your readers unlike you have long memory, Tavleen Ji. Pls do respond.
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