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Is revenge the only answer in Jammu and Kashmir?

Kashmiris ride on a scooter past the closed shops painted with graffiti during restrictions in Srinagar, on August 20, 2019.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

A refrain that plays out like a background score whenever anyone speaks up against the government’s actions in the Valley is this: “But where were you when the Pandits…?”

On the surface, this sounds very legitimate, a humanitarian cry from the heart. Only, how to handle so much milk of human kindness when it flows from people who think the lynchings of Pehlu and Tabrez and Akhlaq are just stray ‘incidents’ on the path to Ram Rajya?

How to attribute compassion behind this sudden Pandit love when the victims bleeding to death after a lynching are invariably the first to be arrested by our humanitarian cops even as the mob is felicitated by ministers?

Clearly, brutality doesn’t really faze us. The Pandits then are merely a convenient peg on which one can hang a bunch of policy decisions that are fundamentally inhuman, unconstitutional and undemocratic.

The forced exodus of the Pandits from the Valley is one of the most shameful chapters in the sub-continent’s history, as shameful as the Sikh pogrom of 1984. People spoke up then, people are speaking up now. If many of us were in school at the time or if there was no amplifying social media or TV shouting matches then, it doesn’t reduce the horror those incidents attracted.

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In 1990, resurgent Islamic militancy, the then Governor Jagmohan’s aggressive machinations, and a complicit New Delhi forced almost a lakh or more Pandits to leave the Valley. They have not yet returned. This is a tragedy.

The tragedy needs a solution. And the solution isn’t revenge. This facile, crowd-pleasing idea that traumatising the Valley’s Muslim citizens, taking away their rights of communication and movement, jailing them and treating them like criminals will somehow right the wrongs done to Pandits is just a sinister idea this government has carefully embedded in a gullible populace.

In fact, it’s been a masterclass in propaganda convincing people that their immediate need is not jobs or economic growth but the seeking of revenge. Not just are Pandits to be avenged but India must go back in history and dig up Mughal emperors and southern Sultans and extract suitable payback for the past today. Since nobody is quite sure where to find the descendants of all these ‘villains’, we are encouraged to do a general spring cleaning, make life miserable for all Muslims, and get a discount ticket to moksha.

Everyone knows the Congress and various other stakeholders have failed the Kashmiri people abysmally over the decades. What stops this government from looking for imaginative and empathetic solutions now? Peace is not hard to broker if there’s a will.

I would have loved to hear of a South Africa style Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to restore confidence among Kashmiris of both religions. Of lands and property returned, of reparations, of Pandits resettled, of open hearings where a modicum of justice and dignity is returned to both sides. Of the Valley being allowed to make its own decisions, free of Delhi’s greedy grasp. If the Valley’s people, just like the people of Ladakh, want to preserve the pristinity of their land by choosing what livelihoods to allow, how much industrialisation, and how many mainland immigrants, it does not sound criminal to me. The Valley is a unique and fragile biosphere. There’s no great value in turning every place into Bollywood’s backyard.

Instead, we see the exact opposite. We see a sharp wedge being deliberately driven between two communities in the name of “solution”. We see a people being systematically demonised and crushed in a way that’s calculatedly provocative, as if meant to goad impressionable, hurt and humiliated young people into becoming violent, after which it would become legitimate to mow them down.

What began as a claim to ‘correct’ decades of what is popularly decried as Muslim ‘appeasement’ — for instance, financial assistance for the Haj or for madrassas — has now morphed into an openly hostile and communal stance that borrows heavily from the Zionist imagination (in itself deeply flawed) and with hardly a comparable history of oppression.

What a pity. Imagine frittering away such an overwhelming mandate on dismantling the fragile unity, diversity and democracy that’s served us so well, and replacing it with an embittered, angry, suspicious people who will sacrifice their own progress and wellbeing to tilt at imaginary enemies.


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Printable version | Jul 18, 2021 2:31:58 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/vaishna-roy-reimagines-many-solutions-in-kashmir-but-says-we-seem-interested-only-in-vengeance/article29351368.ece

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