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Thinking Kashmir and Kashmiris

Thinking Kashmir and Kashmiris

As much as it is established and even acknowledged in quieter tones that the strategic importance of Kashmir makes it unaffordable for India to allow any compromise, expressing that 'Kashmiri culture is Indian culture is Hindu culture … We have never used our strength as majority community" is a loud remark given how delicate matters have been regarding the region, and more so in recent times—both nationally as well as internationally. Sandeep Chakravorty, India's consul general in New York may have caused a stir internationally with his opinion but within India, this is a grave matter to deliberate upon yet another time. Through a video, the senior diplomat appeared to advocate Israel-like settlements of Kashmiri Hindus by calling for the adoption of an "Israeli model" in Kashmir which is yet to emerge from the crippling lockdown and communication blackout imposed since August 5 when it was announced unilaterally by the Indian government that the special status granted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 is to be abrogated. It is repeatedly alleged that the eight million residents of the region are denied basic human rights, while thousands of others including senior most mainstream politicians, activists, and even juveniles, have been arrested and put under preventive detention. In the circulated video, he is addressing a group of Kashmiri Pandits at a private event in the US city last week. Granting that this an attempt to unnecessarily make a scandal out of things (since the address is during a private event), the bigger question of settling the Pandits of Kashmir is some timely food for thought. With the altered status of Jammu and Kashmir with that becoming a Union Territory, the Centre stands directly responsible for many aspects of the region which had been hitherto left to the state government that went by the internal interests and that of the existing majority. Chakravorty opined that "I believe the security situation will improve, it will allow the refugees to go back, and in your lifetime, you will be able to go back … and you will be able to find security, because we already have a model in the world," making a reference to the exodus of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus in 1989 after Pakistan invaded the territory and sowed the seeds of an armed rebellion in the region against the Indian government which was made to look like occupation of the nothern territory. "I don't know why we don't follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it," the diplomat went on to say, adding that the current Indian leadership is "determined" to do so.

As spectators, what must be understood is that comparison of one disputed region with another cannot be clearly valid in a generalised manner due to the varying facts and reasons that have contributed to the nature of the dispute. Just the common result—conflict—is not a sufficient condition to copy methods form an apparently successful or workable example and paste it on our own. The noble intention of resettling an expelled community calls for discussion on some very basic concerns: in three decades of expulsion, refuge, and eventually beginning life all over again, is it right to uproot them all over again just so that a government could boast of an achievement? Also, the matter of settling Pandits and other Hindus back in the valley is not as simple a matter as pick and place—the valley has been volatile for decades, peace has been elusive, and the pervading situation of uncertainty and instability has put in peril the lives of the local people. Kashmir remains a region where it is normal for education of children and youth to suffer, with the internet clampdown, even general public healthcare is in shambles. The killings are more normal than imaginable. Certainly, this is not a place to resettle anybody. The focus and emphasis, in stead ought to be on fixing the situation in Kashmir and taking it as close to normal as possible making it free and livable for those who are already there. Only then can there be any thoughts of bringing in more people and rehabilitating those who were compelled to leave. The narratives about the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits have largely been instrumentalised as a justification for the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. But the fact is that in stead of incorporating more elements to this already complex situation, the attempts to evade addressing the core problem at hand has only been compounding it further. If Kashmir is to be made peaceful and livable, it is the local people of Kashmir that must first have this opinion. The pervasive resentment against the Indian rule is an impediment that must be replaced with genuine trust. Only then can Pundits be welcomed back in their home.

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