A day after Kashmiri Pandit councilor, Rakesh Pandit, was killed by militants in south Kashmir’s Tral, Kashmiri Pandit leaders and activists based in Jammu have called for an end to the political process in Kashmir and sought a “decisive battle against jihad”.
The Kashmiri Pandit leaders sought a military approach alone to handling Kashmir and also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for its peace overtures to Muslims.
The comments were made during a virtual condolence meeting held on Thursday, a day after the killing. The participants also took strong objection to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha taking note of a young Kashmir girl’s complaint about excessive homework, a video of which went viral, when the same concern wasn’t shown to Kashmiri Pandit students in the 1990s.
Shailendra Aima, member of the Panun Kashmir outfit, which demands carving out of a Hindu exclusive union territory in Kashmir, said that ‘the Sangh has today accepted defeat and says Hindutva is incomplete without Islam… Why are they saying this? Because they are defeated lot. Sangh is a defeated psyche that thinks they can’t fight jihad in any manner. They want to win over jihad through hearts and minds.”
A visibly agitated Aima then criticised the Indian Army’s stated policy of “Winning Hearts and Minds” in Kashmir. “Army is to fight a war,” Aima said. “Army is not to fight hearts and minds. When army will start fighting for hearts and minds (sic), it will not kill.”
“We were told that the Sangh is taking forward the vision of a Hindu Rashtra. That Sangh, however, was finished when its head, the honorable, whoever he is, I don’t want to take his name. It disgusts me,” said Aima. His anger was directed at a statement attributed to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
In the nearly four-hour-long meeting Aima’s hardline views were also shared by those who spoke before him. The consensus remained that only a military solution can be applied to Kashmir with no distinction made for Muslim civilians.
“When you try to assuage the enemy,” Aima said, “then you succumb”.
A furious Aima asked: “If the only difference between Muslims and Hindus is of prayers and both gods are equal, then I should become a Mulsim! Let Modi ji become a Muslim! Mohan Bhagwat become a Muslim! … They have mentally become Muslims.”
Among the attendees of the meeting were the prominent rightwing Kashmiri activist Suhsil Pandit; the head of another Jammu-based far-right party Ikk Jutt Jammu, Ankur Sharma; chairperson of Panun Kashmir, Ajay Churungoo; and Bharatiya Janata Party sarpanch in Kulgam, Vijay Raina.
Modi has failed
The panel was consistently critical of the role played by the RSS and the BJP, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, all of whom they accused of not coming through on the Sangh Parivar’s vision for Jammu and Kashmir.
“They experimented with removing Article 370. After doing that they have an internal paralysis, that we remove Article 370 but can’t go beyond reorganisation,” said Aima.
Mahesh Kaul, a Jammu-based activist and author, said: “Behind the ruse of abrogating Article 370, what is happening through the backdoor is that they will give you [Kashmiri Muslims] a much better lollipop.”
It was also alleged that Kashmiri Pandits were being sent to contest elections in J-K “as guinea pigs inside Kashmir Valley to perfect a political process that the BJP wanted to experiment in Kashmir.”
Vijay Raina, a BJP sarpanch, told the participants that “the state as well as the Central government has totally failed. They don’t know what to do. We are being used as cannon fodder.”
He added that the Kashmiri Pandit grassroots workers worker were contemplating retiring to Jammu “If this continues I don’t think we should work here.”
The tone of the meeting was set by Sushil Pandit stating “before asking questions to outsiders, we must introspect. Is the Indian system ready to accept our ethnic cleansing that was a result of jihad.”
Sushil Pandit further criticised Government of India’s move to bring a new domicile policy, “wooing people like Altaf Bukhari”, and “bringing foreign legislators in hordes to Kashmir with the hopes of receiving their validation and approval”, at a time “when the ink had not dried on the 5 August orders.”
“How can you expect them to fasten their belts to fight jihad?,” Sushil Pandit disparaged the Modi government which, he added, was running out of options as their own organisation and voters “have started to ask questions of them.”
‘Decisive battle against jihad’
Ankur Sharma of Ikk Jutt Jammu accused successive Governments of India of “apologetic” approach towards the militancy in Kashmir that, he said, “should be officially termed as jihad and jihad as a war form should be described so that a narrative is built in the country.”
Stating that the period between the eruption of the insurgency in the late 1980s till the early 2000s be “officially declared as genocide” as, Sharma said, “the first step to reverse the genocide is the recognition of genocide.”
Sharma further said: “The perpetrators of jihad, which includes the Kashmiri society as well, which at that time acted as bunkers for jihad and at some level and degree ensured their participation in the genocidal process; the politicians at the time who made such statements under the ambit of the genocide convention, for example Farooq Abdullah and separatists, should be acted against.”
Urging the government to “unleash a decisive war against jihad”, Sharma emphasised that a “geopolitical foothold for Panun Kashmir” was the way forward “to scuttle Pakistan’s plans”.
Calls for an Israel in Kashmir
The RSS chief’s hints of reconciliation with Muslims and attempts at inclusiveness has agitated the Kashmiri Pandit activists and leadership.
“Why do you call Lord Ram, who is lord of the entire universe, as Imam-e-Hind? Do you know what his politics is?,” Lalit Ambardar said of RSS chief Bhagwat. “His politics is this because when you quote Iqbal you try to appease India’s large Muslim section.”
Ambardar added that Kashmiri Pandit activists had kept “in check” the government’s attempts towards political resolution of Kashmir issue. “don’t think that we are very less, we are very important. Now entire India is taking cognizance that Kashmiri Hindu is an important element in India’s resurgence,” he said.
Throughout the conversation, there was near unanimity among the speakers. The speakers echoed the need to imitate the Israeli occupation of Palestine as a way forward in creating Panun Kashmir.
Rakesh Handoo, a Kashmiri Pandit who was part of the Governor Jagmohan’s counterinsurgency plans in the 1990s, declared that “there is one and only solution that is a separate homeland, where we live and protect ourselves with arms, we should be given training.”
Handoo emphasised: “It is important to make an Israel there [in Kashmir]. There is no second option.” He also said that he would soon clear the air on the accusations against Kashmiri Pandits for fleeing Kashmir without a fight, stating that he would elaborate on the role played by the Kashmiri Pandits in crushing the militancy.
Nearly two years after the abrogation of J-K’s limited-autonomy, amid a significant peace deal between India and Pakistan and a massive crisis emerging out of the Covid-19 crisis in India, the Modi government is fast losing its allies.
“We are at a stage when Modi ji’s buffers are gradually eroding,” said Ajay Churungoo, head of Panun Kashmir. “Things that we said were strategic imperatives, today we doubt its basic content. Now we think all formulations are a subversion of national polity.”