Communalism in Kashmir

Published: September 14, 2014
The writer is a syndicated columnist and a former member of India’s Rajya Sabha

The writer is a syndicated columnist and a former member of India’s Rajya Sabha

Kashmiri Pundits, like Punjabi Hindus, have no homeland to return to. Both want to go back. But the militancy that ousted them is still strong. On the top it is the local population which has been contaminated by the fundamentalists.

Some Pundits who have returned are unhappy. They find that the atmosphere of secularism is, by and large, a memory of the past. They have the feeling of being strangers at places where they and their forefathers lived happily.

Religious bias has built walls between the communities. The Pundits, who had to leave their homes when the militancy, which hit Kashmir in the mid-1990s, has waned. But the overall situation is not congenial.

True, most of the Pundits live in Jammu and the places around the city. But these are refugee camps, not homes. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Farooq Abdullah has been vainly trying to sort out the matter which is essentially human.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart, has politicised the issue by asking Omar to give land to the Pundits. Who is Ranjath Singh to do so? He is not serving the cause of the Kashmiri Pundits, they are not outsiders. They are part and parcel of the Kashmiri culture. Their protest against the sufferings is understandable. But that does not mean that the home minister should play politics while taking up their cause.

This is not a Hindu-Muslim question and should not be made into one. All political parties need to initiate steps which will enable the pundits to go back. Most of their property is intact and the rest must be taken back from the people who have occupied it forcibly or otherwise.

I recall the Hurriyat leader, Syed Ali Shah Gillani, vehemently denying that it was a Hindu-Muslim question. At that time, the bug of fundamentalism had not bitten Gillani. He may not have changed his views but he is conspicuous by his silence. He should have re-enunciated his earlier stance: the Kashmiri Pundits are part of our culture and should not be mixed with the general Hindu-Muslims question. Gillani, in fact, told me that he had wrongly stated earlier that the Kashmiri Pundits’ question would be settled with the overall Kashmir dispute.

Rajnath Singh has unnecessarily given an opening to those who argue that Kashmir is an unfinished task of the Partition. They want the state to be divided on religious grounds. They will also try in Pakistan to re-emphasise their contention that the criterion of religion — on the basis of which India was divided — should be extended to Kashmir. Omar’s response to allot the land to Pundits only gives a communal colouring to the problem.

Some extremists have demanded a separate area and security for the Kashmiri Pundits. At present, 30,000 of them are reportedly in Kashmir while their total number is around 400,000. As long as Sheikh Abdullah was dominant in the affairs of Kashmir, he did not allow religion to play any role in politics. He would say that he opposed the state’s integration with Pakistan because Jammu and Kashmir was a secular state. He did not want to join an Islamic country because he preferred pluralism to communalism.

Even during the independence struggle, the Sheikh sided with the Congress instead of the Muslim League which demanded a separate homeland for the Muslims. He paid the price for being critical of New Delhi’s policy of wanting a strong centre. After being detained for 12 years at Kodaikanal in the South, he stayed with then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to register that Nehru had realised his mistake of misjudging the Sheikh when he demanded that the centre should only administer three subjects—foreign affairs, defence and communications — as was offered at the time of the Partition.

The Shiekh’s famous statement was that the Kashmiris would not eat the Indian wheat if it meant compromising their autonomous status within the Indian Union. The Sheikh’s faith in secularism was deep although he wondered whether India would stay pluralist in the long run.

Chief Minister Omar Farooq is said to have the same apprehension. His perception is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is anti-Muslim. It was, however, healthy to see Modi and Omar appearing at the same platform after the prime minister had made an aerial survey of the flood-ravaged state. Modi announced a special relief of Rs10 million and said that it was a national disaster, thus transcending the special status under Article 370.

This may erase the charge that he was anti-Muslim (Kashmir’s population is 80 per cent Muslim). Modi’s gesture towards Pakistan to help the victims in the occupied Kashmir is praiseworthy. This is a thaw of sorts in frozen relationship between the two countries. Pakistan has also made a similar gesture. Both prime ministers must have realised that misery knows no religion or politics.

Understandably, India does not want to talk to Pakistan because Islamabad is dragging its feet on the trial of the militants who attacked Mumbai in the year 2008. The trial is a litmus test of Pakistan’s intention to punish the perpetrators who are currently without any charge. Islamabad’s plea is that New Delhi has not provided enough evidence to its courts to convict the guilty.

Whether the Kashmiris realise it or not, they have lost the services of trained people. The Pundits have gone to other parts of India and have found jobs because of their high qualifications. They are not likely to go back even if the state offers them equivalent jobs. In fact, Kashmir has lost the cream of youth which is technically well equipped to help the state develop economically.

Srinagar should, in fact, make efforts to get the Pundits back because that will give them the secular image which they had enjoyed for decades. Lack of efforts on this front would only alienate the rest of the country where the Kashmiris are gainfully employed.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (37)

  • Anjaan
    Sep 14, 2014 - 11:56PM

    Now It is proven beyond any doubts that the article 370 has done no good to the people of Kashmir in the past 68 years, made the Pundits homeless and encouraged the pro-Pakistan separatists. The very first thing that is required for Kashmir to turn for the better is the abolition of this failed article.


  • Pandu
    Sep 15, 2014 - 12:36AM

    it will happen. We are on the way. The first step is to abolish article 370 and fully integrate J&K with the rest of the country. There are many other Muslim majority towns and villages across India with non-muslim populations co-existing. Kashmiris will admit to you they don’t want to turn into Pakistan.


  • rahul
    Sep 15, 2014 - 12:39AM

    I think it is testimony to the fact most Hindu’s in India succeed coz Hindus always give a lot of importance to education unlike muslim who depend on Allah to give them everything. In India also some Muslims have succeed coz they gave importance to education. In Kashmir those idiots like separatist’s teach Muslim youth stone pelting and make them intellectually bankrupt.Things will only change when kashmir Muslims kick out that geelani.But they won’t do that coz they have ego higher than Himalayas.


  • Babloo
    Sep 15, 2014 - 12:44AM

    Mr Kuldip Nayar writes so much communal, anti-Hindu lies and jibberish that I do not know where to start.


  • Surya
    Sep 15, 2014 - 12:52AM

    Finally, someone is highlighting the kashmiri pandit problem. My community is in exile. We need to be repatriated to the valley. Add half a million pandits back in the valley, with full army protection, and we should be safe. We need to be protected from the hostile anti nationalists who torched our houses and murdered us all the way through till 1990.


  • IndianDude
    Sep 15, 2014 - 1:15AM

    “…Home Minister Rajnath Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart, has politicised the issue by asking Omar to give land to the pundits. Who is Ranjath Singh to do so?..”

    Let me turn your question on its head and ask: “Who are you to criticize the Home Minister of India belonging to widely supported/elected party, by the Indians?”

    As an Indian, I don’t care much about your desire to be bhai-bhai with Punjabis across the border at the expense of rest of Indians. For pakistan, punjab is pakistan but for Indians, Punjab is just an another province that has contributed more than their share to the Republic of India. Punjab is not India!


  • IndianDude
    Sep 15, 2014 - 1:25AM

    It is about time to abolish article 370. Let people from nearby poor states, such as UP, Bihar to migrate to the valley. And for God’s sake it is time we treat the muslim separatists like the china treat them in xianjing or what the pakisatani have done to the baloch. It is about time people like geelani send to pakistan or to jannat, if the Pundits came be force out by the terrorist thugs from the valley, it is morally justified to do the same to these bums.

    Also, the aid announced to the undeserving people in the valley is not Rs. 10 million but 1000 crores (1 crore= 10 million) , that is about pakistani rupees 20,000 million!


  • Sep 15, 2014 - 1:39AM

    Modi announced a special relief of
    Rs10 million….

    It was Rs 10 billion, if I am not mistaken.


  • Syed Jalal Kashmiri
    Sep 15, 2014 - 2:25AM

    This is Indian propaganda. Kashmir is an unfinished conflict stemming from the Partition because its a Muslim majority land which should have merged with Pakistan. India started religious and ethnic communalism among residents of Kashmir. Most of these pundits are not Kashmiris, but came from Gujurat,etc when the British sold Kashmir to Gulab and Hari Singh, and made him a prince over an unwilling Muslim population.

    There can be no peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue, unless India recognizes the unalienable right of the Kashmiri people to choose their own destiny. If India continues to behave as an aggressor, Kashmiris will resist and win their freedom.


  • Sep 15, 2014 - 3:36AM

    The esteemed author has written a thought provoking article. Some of
    the solutions will simply not take place. Because the Saffron Lord is here.
    Modi is anti Muslim. All two hundred million Indian Muslims know this. And when
    you have a huge segment of the population disenfranchised,… not Indians,
    then there are huge ramifications. There will be no progress, or advances, or
    positive things happening to India because of this huge two hundred million
    kingsize, thorn, India’s side. And as long as Hindutva hindus are kept radicalized,
    straining at the leash, attack mode, by Modi, chances at a bright future are nil, zilch
    hopeless. This is the only way Modi can stay in power. 200 million internal, 180 million
    external bogey men. Poor effete India. Hopefully India will discard the old baggage.

    [moderators, fair comment, nicey nice India, did not rip out a piece or draw blood at all]


  • Jawad U Rahman
    Sep 15, 2014 - 3:54AM

    An enlightened writer like Mr. Nayar should perhaps look at what is going on in Scotland. Truly honorable way forward for India is not abolishing article 370, but to give the right of self determination to the people of the state.


  • wb
    Sep 15, 2014 - 6:31AM

    All those who are talking about abolishing article 370 should understand that BJP is not even going to broach the issue in earnest.

    BJP does not have the courage to take up honest issues as I have observed in the 100 days of government.

    This BJP government is nothing but congress government under a different leadership.


  • jssidhoo
    Sep 15, 2014 - 6:34AM

    “Kashmiri pundits, like Punjabi Hindus, have no homeland to return to.” Wow that is a new one Punjabi Hindu unsafe in Punjab , which world do you live in Mr Nayar i live in Punjab and i know there is no such problem .


  • Mahakaalchakra
    Sep 15, 2014 - 6:45AM

    Nayar Sahib, Modi granted Indian Re 1000 crores (equal to almost 18 billion Pakistani rupees) NOT Rs 10 Million as stated by you in your article. Re 10 million is just 1 crore.

    Additionally, there was another grant of Indian Re 1100 crores (Re 11 BILLION) sanctioned by Modi government after the first report of flooding started poring in before Modi took an aerial survey.

    Modi had clearly stated that more will be contributed after a survey is done. The central government does not charge the state government of Kashmir or the massive rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts of central agency.

    Lastly, Punjabi Hindus are never disallowed to settle in Punjab. They are in fact allowed to settle any place except “secular” Kashmir.

    What is your point?


  • vasan
    Sep 15, 2014 - 6:45AM

    I think Mr Nayar is blatantly wrong. If the pundits were driven out of militancy, the same militancy did not drive out any muslims. Why were pundits driven out other than the fact they are hindus. If this is not communal, I cannot understand what else can be. One thing I got to agree that Kashmir is the loser by driving the pundits out.


  • Raj
    Sep 15, 2014 - 7:21AM

    You are regurgitating the 80-90 year old fantastic delusions of Pakistan ideologues. These delusions haven’t materialized. And they never will.
    2 / 3 rd of the Muslims in the Indian subcontinent are doing just fine- those in India and Bangladesh. Only Pakistani Muslims are disenfranchised due to consistent failure of Pakistan ideology as exhibited by you!!


  • Sep 15, 2014 - 7:44AM

    Sheikh Abdullah remained loyal to his half brother Jawaharlal Nehru but later generation is wishy washy.


  • WB
    Sep 15, 2014 - 7:47AM


    I’m surviving that you are still surviving with so much ignorance in your brain. Pakistan has a knack to keep the idiotic people alive, the good ones are shot at though.


  • ajeet
    Sep 15, 2014 - 7:58AM

    They want secularism when in minority. Once majority, they want sharia.


  • Aseem
    Sep 15, 2014 - 8:32AM

    @Syed Jalal Kashmiri:
    Going by the logic that kashmiri hindus were gujaratis then what about muslims. All muslims claim that their ancestors came from Arab. so muslims should not claim any rights over the south asia…. is it? Why Pakistan did not claim Lakshadweep, 100% muslim union territory of India in Arabian sea? In 1947 all those muslims wanted to join Pakistan, went to Pakistan. You had a choice to move to pakistan, its too late now, unless pakistan accepts you.


  • Sep 15, 2014 - 8:53AM

    Liar and confused.


  • Sep 15, 2014 - 8:57AM

    Yes, he announced Rs. 10 billion. But now it will be much much more to bring the lives of OUR Kashmiris even with the rest of the country.


  • Huma
    Sep 15, 2014 - 9:48AM

    The fault is entirely’s India’s as it has failed to hold plebiscite in Kashmir even after 67 years.


  • Sep 15, 2014 - 9:54AM

    @WB: ….WB ‘water bottle’..there you are!
    ‘..surviving..’ only difference is you are seething and
    boiling in your hate against anything Pakistani. And
    you get paid by BJP at Rs.15 per 50 words. Not
    much incentive is there?…and then to fight for your
    sleeping space on the sidewalk. Sympathies, galore.

    [moderators, responding to directly addressed hindu troll’s personal attack.]


  • Gp65
    Sep 15, 2014 - 9:58AM

    It was incremental 10 billion on top of the original 11 billion for a total of 21 billion rupees.


  • sharabi
    Sep 15, 2014 - 10:57AM

    Mistakenly like your comment, & yes education or anything we should ask from ALLAH(SWT). He is the Almighty,The real provider. Except that everything is fine


  • Jor El
    Sep 15, 2014 - 11:18AM

    @Huma: So sue me in the International Court of Justice.


  • RHS
    Sep 15, 2014 - 11:20AM

    Kuldip Nayar Sahib, we know you mean well and for that you are respected by many on both sides of the border. The only major issue I have with your writing here is on Sheikh Abdullah. He was a “secularist” when it suited him and a “communalist” when it suited him too. He singlehandedly made Kashmir a very confused issue, one which should have been solved within 5 years of Partition instead of becoming a permanent wound that we are all dealing with till today.
    And for those who are calling for the removal of Article 370 here I don’t believe that it is going to happen anytime soon. It is a legal connection of Kashmir to India that has endured to date. It can be removed only if India settles the issue with Pakistan and/or the Kashmiris.


  • Jor El
    Sep 15, 2014 - 11:36AM

    @RHS: “And for those who are calling for the removal of Article 370 here I don’t believe that it is going to happen anytime soon. It is a legal connection of Kashmir to India that has endured to date. It can be removed only if India settles the issue with Pakistan and/or the Kashmiris. “

    Or if the J&K assembly passes a resolution to have it removed.


  • KashmiriPandit
    Sep 15, 2014 - 2:26PM

    “Who is Ranjath Singh to do so??” – You ,yourself have made the comment that Rajnath Singh is the Home minister of the Indian Union, and J&K(the Indian Administered part,atleast for now) is part and parcel of the union. So he is entitled to do so .
    By the way, who are you sir, to discuss these issues? Just another person , like me. So understand that Rajnath Singh has authority in these matters that you, or I don’t have.

    The real extremists and communal forces are very simply, the APHC and its core person, SAS Geelani.Otherwise , why would only pandits be driven out from the valley on 19/01/90?? I was seven years old then.
    SAS Geelani is not an elected member of the people,so who is he to dictate things to the government of India. The only reason bullets are not in SAS head is that he has not picked up an Assault rifle.


  • Murthy
    Sep 15, 2014 - 9:09PM

    If the Home minister of India doesn’t have the right to ask the CM of J&K to find land for the displaced pundits, who has, then? The author says the HM is playing politics. Is asking the CM of a state to accommodate displaced citizens coming back to their homeland communal? Strange logic!


  • Gp65
    Sep 16, 2014 - 1:40AM

    @Author: why do you think the Pandits should not be resetlled? Whose job is it if not the home minister’s to take leadership in this matter? It is youwho are being communal in this matter by implying that only people of one particular religion have a right to live in Kashmir.

    As far as Hindu Punjabis are concerned, they can consider any part of India as their home land including of course Punjab.

    Plebiscite or not, the Pandits are as Kashmiri as the Muslims who live there. What is the justification for pushing out of their land?
    Incidentally please read the UN resolution and terms for it. The first sep needs to be taken by Pakistan which it has never taken.

    @RHS Kuldip Nayyar maybe supported by Hurriyat and its supporters as well as people like Mani Shankar Aiyar. Certainly his increasingly partisan and communal views do not have many takers in India.


  • thruthseeker
    Sep 16, 2014 - 2:40AM

    Pundits driven out of their homes is not communal, Home Minister of a country asking the state govt to help resettle the victims is. I am trying to work out, is the author so smart that no one can understand his logic, or his is so dumb as to not know what he is talking about.


  • Syed Jalal Kashmiri
    Sep 16, 2014 - 7:31AM

    @Aseem: Muslims of Hyderabad, Junagadh, Kashmir, Firozpur, and Muslim areas of Gujurat, UP pressed for Pakistan but were denied their rights. India invaded Hyderabad, Junagadh, and Kashmir to deny Muslims their rights for self-determination. Lakshadweep has been pushing for union with the Maldives, but India has occupied it by force.

    What’s the difference between British occupation and Indian Hindu occupation? India massacred Muslims of East Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. Jammu was settled by Hindus from southern people like Gujuratis. They don’t speak any Kashmiri dialect, neither is their culture Kashmiri. Ladakh’s Muslim identity was also diluted by foreign Tibetan refugees which India settled on evicted Muslim land.

    The fact that some Kashmiris have a mix of Punjabi, Pashtoon, Iranian, Arabic, Turkish, or other blood does not nullify their claims to the lands of their ancestors. Muslims in Kashmir, Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc are locals of the lands in which they are born and have lineage from thousands of years from this area.


  • rohit950723
    Sep 16, 2014 - 9:50AM

    When & Where Muslims are seclar? No where..


  • FAZ
    Sep 16, 2014 - 11:57AM

    Kashmiris can only wish to be Scottish now!


  • Bahadurkhan
    Nov 10, 2014 - 7:44PM

    Height of phony’ ism . syed Ali shah geelani taking treatment in MUmbai for cancer. then giving interview from ward bed asking for Azaadi from Indians, Asiya ANdrabi of Women’s front sending her children abroad for modern education. one hurriyat leader grabbing a rescue boat and wanting to be photographed giving aid. sopore citizens giving their basement on rent for free to visitors from Pok. eNtire state is bank rolled from. Delhi. Farooq Abdullah president of cricket association caught embezzling funds. and so on and so on. Boat wallah who are dependent on tourists calling Indians to go back yo their country. finally a medical representative in SOpore found to be a conduit for terrorists. Is educating people sometimes useful ?


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