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The Kashmir Files – Survival and the Struggle of the Kashmiri Pandits – A Human Rights Perspective


Kashmiri Pandits
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Throughout ancient times, the city of Jammu and Kashmir has always stood for and has been a symbol of peaceful contemplation, intellectual advancement, and religious diversity. Although besides these developments, the city has also been a target of internal and external aggression and forces and resultantly witnessed a gradual crippling of administration, law, and order. Since the year 1989, the city has been accompanied by a series of political, and religious incidents and the assassination of several eminent members of the community of Kashmiri Pandits. The Kashmiris have been displaced from their native place and have been living their life like refugees in their state. For the past few decades, there has been no indication of any kind of settlement of the Kashmir issue and the violence in the state is increasing day by day, and has resulted in the lifestyle of the Kashmiris. People in Kashmir have always suffered due to a lack of basic amenities of life due to internal and external pressures. Among all the communities in Kashmir, the community of the Kashmiri pandits has been the most targeted one.

As soft prey, the original inhabitants of Kashmir, the Kashmiri pandits, have been plundered, humiliated, massacred, decimated, and annihilated. Several factors appear to be affecting human rights in India, resulting in continued instability and insecurity in the minds of Kashmiris. The disputes between the nation-states of India and Pakistan have led to state insurgency in the region of Jammu and Kashmir and have caused an exodus to the lives of Kashmiri pandits and violated their human rights. The conflicts in the state of Kashmir, which has been home to several communities distinguished by region, language, and religious affiliation. The inhabitants of the Kashmir valley have had to endure gradual militarization of their lives, state oppression, violence, and loss of life. These barbaric aspects and tensions have consistently and unfortunately led to the violation of the human rights of the Kashmiri pandits in Kashmir. This rigmarole of terrorism in Kashmir has become a global phenomenon, thereby affecting the state at large.

Kashmiri Pandits – Power tussle in Kashmir

The protracted issue of Jammu and Kashmir has been considered one of the most intractable challenges that have been faced by independent India. The country has suffered from great political upheavals, since the partition of India in 1947. The people and the inhabitants living in Kashmir have been at the root of constant turmoil between the democratic nation of India and its neighboring country Pakistan. The conflict of Kashmir is complex and has emerged due to various factors such as unfriendly relations between India and Pakistan, the ineffective role of the United Nations, the Islamic linkage of Kashmir with the outside terrorist world, and also the emergence of the resurrection of Islam. The various internal factors that have created turmoil in the state are political implications since independence, ethnic differences among communities, and the economic backwardness of the people.

The origins of the conflict may be traced back to India’s struggle for independence from the British, as well as the manner the country was partitioned. The division was mostly based on religious demography, and India and Pakistan have fought three wars over Kashmir since then, with hostilities still present in the region. This Indo-Pak border zone is the world’s highest militarized area i.e., a powder keg as the countries possess weapons that are used only in desperate situations. Among all these wars between India and Pakistan and the dictatorship of few leaders, the state of Jammu and Kashmir saw a political and religious uprising since 1980, as thousands of indigenous Kashmiri Pandits fled from their homelands, and took refuge in the other plains of India. The Kashmiri Pandits are referred to as an indigenous community of Hindu minorities, which are surrounded by a large Muslim majority in Kashmir. Among all these conflicts in years, the community that has suffered the worst is the community of Kashmiri Pandits.

However, if viewed from the current contemporary scenario, the issue of Kashmir is not of a religious or a cultural paradigm, but it is a power tussle between the different communities, parties, and individuals. Although Kashmir is culturally different, it has always witnessed a single entity. It can be further stated that religion and culture are not the cause for separation between the Hindus and the Muslims but it is the acquisitiveness and the negative passion for the power of some individuals that have divided the people, and subsequently, has divided countries and states for the sake of acquiring power.

The Kashmir Massacre

Kashmir
Image Credits – Shreya Jagannathan

The Kashmiri Pandits have suffered huge hostilities and instability because of the rise of the Islamic league, bomb blasts of Kashmir of 1984, the rise of the Muslim United Front, communal riots of 1986, violent incidents and demonstrations in 1988 and 1989, and the targeted killings of the Kashmiri pandits in 1989, which forced the Kashmiri pandits to leave their native country. The Kashmiri pandits suffered from attacks, personal safety issues, threats, humiliations, and instability that eroded their trust in their fellow Kashmiri Muslims, which led to their exodus from the valley. The exodus was mainly due to the failure of the government of India, the failure of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir, ineffective and non-administrative laws and order in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and the inability of Kashmiri Muslims as they failed in instilling confidence and sense of security among the Kashmiri pandits when they were killed and targeted by both foreign and local militants.

Struggles of Kashmiri Pandits

After the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, they suffered a lot of humiliation and other basic problems. These issues can be mainly due to them being in a minority position or various other factors. The various factors that have impacted the life of Kashmiri pandits in the state of Jammu and Kashmir can be stated below:

  1. Migration – If viewed from an Indian perspective, the Kashmiri pandits were displaced from their native place of Kashmir and have been surviving like refugees since then. Since the years of partition, there has been no sign of any kind of settlement for the Kashmiri pandits, which has led to an impact on the social and cultural fronts. The sudden uprooting could have created financial instability among them. The change in the living conditions has impacted their health both psychologically and emotionally. This forced migration of leaving their native lands has created a sense of insecurity, loneliness, and rootlessness. The displaced people faced problems related to communication, education, and employment. 
  2. Minority community Diaspora – The Kashmiri pandits have been a minority community in the Muslim-dominated state of Jammu and Kashmir. They were harassed and also asked to convert their religion from Hinduism and Islam, which forced them to flee from their native state. The movable properties of the Kashmiri pandits were looted and set on fire. The houses that were left unburnt, were occupied illegally by the pandits. The cultivable land of the pandits was sold to government and private agencies without paying a rightful amount to the owners of the property. The people were not only looted, tortured, and humiliated, but the religious places of the pandits like the temples were demolished and desecrated. 
  3. Militancy – Militancy has been one of the most hated activities in the world, as it destroys the concept of democracy. It is a practice where an organized group seeks to achieve its objectives using violence. The minority pandits of Kashmir were the victims of Pakistan-based militancy. They were gunned down indiscriminately, hanged, and murdered. The people were tortured, raped, molested, threatened to leave their native place, and left at crossroads. 

Human Rights Violations

Human Rights

The stance on human rights in Jammu and Kashmir is highly lamentable and threatening on four grounds. Firstly, there is a situational violation of human rights concerning the charter of human rights of the United Nations. Secondly, the people of Kashmir are not able to fully benefit themselves from civil and political human rights with certain limitations of civil administration, civil society, election system, and political conflicts. Thirdly, the stationing of military and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir violated human rights because of insurgencies. Lastly, some terrorists commit unparallel atrocities on the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Violation of the rights of internally displaced Kashmiri Pandits

The Islamic insurgency has targeted the Kashmiri pandits and has caused the violation of their basic human rights. Human rights are the rights that have a claim on every individual. They are inherent to all human beings, and there should not be any discrimination based on nationality, sex, gender, place of birth, and religion. Since the years of independence, the pandits have suffered the most. The quest of the pandits to create an atmosphere of peace has been a dream since time immemorial. The liberty, dignity, safety, and citizens’ rights have failed, leading to divisions and discrimination. The protection of mankind from any kind of exploitation has been a worldwide concern. The Indian subcontinent, being a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has failed in protecting the rights of the Kashmiri pandits. The various rights that have been infringed of the Kashmiri Pandits can be summarised below –

  • The right to live in dignity has been violated as stated under Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Being a minority community, Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been violated i.e., concerning acquiring basic rights and freedom.
  • Then, there is a violation of Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, i.e., denial of life, security, and liberty of the Kashmiri pandits.
  • The Kashmiri pandits were tortured and subjected to degrading treatment, which resulted in the violation of Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • The Kashmiri pandits were denied nationality by the majority communities of Jammu and Kashmir, which resulted in the violation of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • The Islamic communities forced the Kashmiri Pandits to convert themselves to Islam, and many of the religious places of the Hindus were also destroyed, which resulted in the violation of the right to freedom of religion and conscience under Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • The basic right to livelihood has also been violated that included within its ambit the basic rights of health, life, sanitation, education, and medical care.
  • Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states about the property right, and about three lakhs of Kashmiri pandits have lost their property in the Kashmir valley.

Recommendations for improving the conditions of Kashmiri Pandits

The recommendations that can be adopted for improving the conditions of Kashmiri Pandits can be summarised below:

  • The Central government must locate the people living in various cities, and provide them with basic facilities so that they acquire basic fundamental rights.
  • The state government should take stricter actions for controlling the insurgency in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Red cross society must conduct surveys and visits in the state, to ensure that the human life and health of the Kashmiri pandits are protected.
  • The United Nations organizations must appoint a committee, to ensure that peace and security are maintained in the state.
  • The efforts must be taken both by the central and the state government to provide a secure life to the Kashmiri pandits, by giving them recognition in the state.

Conclusion

Jammu and Kashmir have been in a state of perpetual upheaval and conflict. Kashmir has historically been a target of military insurgency and terrorism, which has disproportionately targeted the minority group, impacting their peace and security in their state. Because of the fear of persecution by the majority population and terrorists, Kashmiri pandits were compelled to flee their homes and belongings. They are referred to as internally displaced individuals or refugees on a global scale. Politics and religious disputes have fueled insurgencies in Kashmir since 1947. These terrible events culminated in the brutal killings of Kashmiri pandits, resulting in a mass migration of Kashmiris. The government of India and the state of Jammu and Kashmir have failed in protecting the basic fundamental rights of the Kashmiri Pandits namely, the Right to life and the right to freedom of religion. Thus, it can be concluded by saying that the Kashmiri pandits have lost their identity, and have been referred to as the dispersed community. These threats to the community of Kashmiri pandits have challenged the spirit of equality and secularism in a democracy like India.



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