It has been more than a month since the release of “The Kashmir Files” – the untold saga of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, who were driven out of their own ancestral lands by an unbending spear of hate and religious radicalism by a section of the majority Kashmiri Muslim population in Kashmir around year 1990 (onwards). The genocide went unchecked by the local and union governments, and the entire security apparatus of the state. To imagine that the governments in power with entire security apparatuses at their disposal stood impotent in the face of marauding gangs of misguided people, is unfathomable (let alone being unpardonable).
The country has now got conversant with problem and travails of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, thanks to the film produced and directed by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri. It is a film whose time had come especially after the abrogation of Article 370 on the one hand and on the other hand due to the seeming concertedness in keeping the horrid story swept “under the carpet”. Did the story need telling? Well the very reaction of the masses indicate that a vast majority of India had no inkling of the horrific incidents and this itself rests the debate on whether it was right or wrong to make the film. We as a society would rather do well to denounce every incident of hatred and bigotry. We owe it to the great idea of democracy called “India”. To be in denial mode is as good as justifying the carnage. It is time the conscientious recognize the incident for what it was. Thanks to the film-maker – the muted and subdued voices of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandit is now resonating not just in India, but the world over. The USA and the UAE have permitted screening of the movie and with that act signaled to the world their objectivity in mind and approach.
Some commentators remark that the story incites communal distaste. Point is, a story in which a bully terrorizes the meek is bound to find non-partisan support from all conscientious people. The filmmakers have stressed that the film is based on factual happenings and that the incidents have various sources for corroboration. In fact a few Kashmiri Muslims have gone on record to confirm the atrocities committed. The genocide led to swathes of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits abandoning all ties with their ancestral lands overnight and fleeing to Jammu (the southern portion of the state of J&K) and then to Delhi. Some continue to live there as refugees to this day. Some slowly migrated to other parts of the country and the world. The status of the community though remains the same to this day – that of “Refugees”. Perhaps this may be the only instance in the world, where a community has been forced to seek refuge in their own country.
Every story of subjugation, persecution and radicalism needs to be told objectively, honestly and with the same empathy, be it the genocide of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandit in Kashmir, the genocide of the Christian Armenians committed by Turkey, or the subjugation of Muslim Uyghurs in Xinjiang province in China. This movie should be seen by all Pakistanis, Ilhan Omars, Erdogans, Mahathir Mohammeds and OIC groupings of the world. To be in denial indicates their tacit support to the carnage. Would it be acceptable to their sensibilities of self-righteousness?
The “clash of civilizations” needs to ebb. The divisions of nation, creed, ethnicity, religion, region may still remain, for they cannot be wished away that easily; but the divisions have to co-exist in harmony because we are at such a juncture of human history that human frontier transcends our own planet as we look out towards the vast expanse of space around the blue planet. That human kind is the next civilizational construct and has astronomical miles to tread.
As the world gets connected even better by the day, where the digital boundary transcends national boundaries, where the “others” problem is appearing more and more as a problem for “humankind” as a collective to resolve – objective voices and minds need to be heard and come together, so that lasting and meaningful solutions are found for triumph of humanity.
For a moment if one were to forget the Hindu – Muslim narrative in the Kashmir saga and view the atrocities and resulting exodus as a wrong against humanity (and not a particular community), it would naturally and obviously be considered as just that – a “crime against humanity”. It would undoubtedly tick all boxes for such qualification. The first thing that needs to be done therefore is to stop this narrative that it was a Muslim Vs Hindu issue, so as to avoid a prognosis that near immediately leads to a fractured judgment. People are ready to take sides depending on which group they belong to. A binary view of the matter is taken which results in galvanizing hatred of one group against the other. Bloods boil. Only vengeance will satiate the scheming mind. Suddenly justice becomes debatable, inconclusive, vague, off the mark and subjective. Each group tries to prove its prognosis right. Justice suddenly has a minimum of two versions. Justice becomes the casualty. No meaningful understanding or purpose could be achieved. Therefore any such construct which only gives ‘subjectivity’ the upper hand should be consciously sidelined. How then should the issue be viewed?
A simple way of viewing the problem that may help in resolving the issue is – to view the act as an act perpetrated by one brother against the other (which in reality they are). The right and wrong are then easily discernible. The only worthy question that would demand an answer thereafter would be whether the act was lawful and just. The answer would help arrive at an objective conclusion. Would not the establishments of justice and governments find it easier to arrive at the right action / recourse then? The constitution of India guarantees protection to one brother against the brutality of the other. A brother raping his brother’s wife, a brother murdering a brother’s kith and kin in cold blood, a brother indulging in gruesome mutilation and dismemberment of brother’s body, a brother usurping the land and property of another – all these acts are guaranteed legal and constitutional remedies.
Now for the remedy–
(a) Firstly, de-link religion from the identity of people associated with the conflict. Handhold and facilitate the return of the wronged brother to Kashmir.
(b) The second step would be to support rehabilitation of the wronged brothers to their ancestral lands.(c) The third step would be to integrate them back into the local society with the help of the conscientious brothers living in the Kashmir Valley.
(d) The fourth step would be to let law take its course against the perpetrators, if evidence came forth.
The onus of rehabilitation and integration should rest on both the government and the shoulders of the conscientious brother; as wounds inflicted heal faster when the atoning brother applies the analgesic.
A popular film exists on Mahatma Gandhi, which goes by the name “Gandhi”. The scene is of partition of the vast landmass of India into two nations – India and Pakistan. The division led to the migration of Hindus from Pakistan to India and Muslims from India to Pakistan. The scene is heart-rending since the caravans of the two communities get embroiled in savage butchery en route to their respective destinations. A perplexed man with confused emotions goes to Mahatma Gandhi, (who is on a “fast unto death”, to persuade for peace among the warring factions), to seek advice – for atoning a heinous crime of having butchered a child of the other community. That was his vengeance for having lost his own child due to similar circumstances. Mahatma Gandhi is in pain on hearing the man’s ordeal and act. Gandhi tells the man that if he seeks true atonement he should adopt a child from the other community and raise the child as his own.
It is time India matured as a democracy and a true indicator of that would be when religion is viewed purely as a private practice and the citizen is de-linked from his religion in the eyes of the government / nation. Every citizen may seek the same privileges and be subject to the same obligations. If the code has a name etched to it as the “Uniform Civil Code”, it is time this code is instituted in our country.