Incoherence in the concept of justice for Kashmiri Pandits | Kashmir Files #29

Whenever the discussion on Kashmiri Pandit starts, here’s the mental image that comes forth; an entire Muslim population backed up by “terrorists” that they sympathise with, come to kill, rape, loot and destroy the Pandits, forcing them out of the state. Today, we won’t go into the details of how it actually happened but rather for the sake of the argument go along with the popular narrative of the media and see that even with it, does the concept of justice hold true.

Most people who have come to know about the migration of Pandits have taken the information either from mainstream media or a Pandit’s subjective experience it’s quite rare that people actually go about reading the history of times and the analysis of the situation, which I’ll elaborate on some other time. One thing that needs a clarification however is the concept of massacre.

The dictionary definition is a bit different from the connotations that we experience generally. The definition is that a massacre is a killing, typically of multiple victims, considered morally unacceptable, especially when perpetrated by a group of political actors against defenceless victims. So firstly, multiple victims and second that it is to be “considered” morally unacceptable, and that it must be against defenceless victims. There are reasons for that, in a war, thousands die but it isn’t to be a massacre, because each side is fighting against one another, second that both are with defence and that in war lowering of guard and being killed is still not considered as a relation with victim but rather a mere death caused by carelessness, political actors also plays a role because war is political generally.

Before we go any further I’d highly recommend you read this blog post on the concept of what constitutes as terrorism, or else you might end up thinking that I’m talking crazy. And a couple of things to understand here is that I’m not against Pandits, they lived here with the diverse population for thousands of years, and here where they lived is their rightful land, all I’ll be doing here is pointing out the incoherence of the general outside population behind the thinking of the Kashmir issue and the current atrocities in comparison to Kashmiri Pandits migration.

Moving on; imagine a territory where militia has risen up, by the state and also by the people in that territory. In that conflict, elimination of militant individuals by the state militia (read about that over here) comes to be known as a success, is rewarded, and encouraged, the same dimension of goal-driven actions is applied by the other militia. Killing of informers, spies, guides on either side of the conflict is considered rightful by the relativity of the goal of the sides. Victims and terrorist in principle would mean the atrocity put upon the people that have nothing to do with either side, one cannot claim to be a victim and thus innocent if one joins the war for either side. Many people don’t know that the “terrorists” didn’t kill just the Pandits, they mainly killed informers, Pandits or Muslims, didn’t matter, what mattered to them was who informed on them, depending on the side of the war a person was he/she was to be killed by either side, this holds true to this day. I’m not justifying anything here I’m mainly pointing to the observation that is overlooked and thus paints a picture of a total religious conflict, such people haven’t read an iota of Kashmir’s history.

Indian government and media applies the same principle but half-heartedly in today’s time. The principle is, helping the militants (spies), providing them with pathways across the border (informers and or guides), is the same as being the militant, because that lands you a bullet in the head, and that is glorified throughout the continent. By the way, I completely agree with it, as I’ve already put forth the reasons, it isn’t mere fighting actively that constitutes as participating in a war, but indirect help also amounts to the same consequences.

So the concept of massacre is now fully understood as being different from the casualties of war. The concept of innocence is also measured now. So let’s get into the numbers for a while. Generally speaking the mainstream media shouts numbers in millions for some reason about the killing of Pandits, so let me clarify the data for you. A local organisation of pandits in Kashmir, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti after carrying out a survey in 2008 and 2009, said that 399 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by insurgents from 1990 to 2011 with 75% of them being killed during the first year of the Kashmiri insurgency. Not thousands, not a million, not even half a thousand. Now this isn’t to say that the lives didn’t matter because the numbers are low, agreed? Good, so this can be universally acknowledged, and in principle universally across time, applied. The data reveals the death of 75% of them to be in the first year i.e. 1989-1990. That amounts to roughly 299 in a year and a hundred more spread over time. Catastrophe to be honest, loss of lives should never be reduced to the lifeless and cold numbers, right? Feel the pain, I encourage you to. Now here’s another number, 541 in 2008, which The Economist said that it was the lowest in two decades of the Kashmir conflict. So test you hypocrisy here, if you feel pain for the loss of 399 Pandits (rightfully so) and feel nothing for the 541 in a single year and it being the lowest in two decades, well you’ve a skewed sense of morality.

Let’s look into another report, a Kashmiri Pandit, who didn’t leave Kashmir had this story to tell: He found a poster pasted to the outside wall of his home in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir, “…it basically instructed our family to leave the valley or die…” He decided to take the threat to the local newspaper, where he paid for it to be placed as an advertisement in the classifieds section. No sooner had it been published, then shocked Muslim neighbours and friends congregated at Tickoo’s home, apologising for the misdeed and promising that his family faced no threat. They urged him not to leave. There were even reports by the locals that it was the Indian government that put up such posters to have the Pandits leave the state, but let’s just consider it as a rumour. The Pandit, Sanjay Tickoo now heads up the KPSS, an organisation that looks after the affairs of the Pandits who remain in Kashmir. On the one hand, he says, the community did experience intimidation and violence, which culminated in four massacres in the past 20 years. But, on the other, he says, there was no genocide or mass murder as suggested by Pandit communities based outside Kashmir. “The figures of 3,000 to 4,000 killings [as suggested by some Pandit organisations] is propaganda, which we reject.”

There was unmistakably violence against Pandits, no doubt about that but exaggerating the figures to such insane degrees and then not having the same empathy for the general Muslim population that got killed in literal ten of thousands in numbers with more than 10,000 disappearances that to me is a preposterous degree of hypocrisy. It isn’t uncommon to see the enjoyment of people on Twitter and other platforms on the killing of a child, wailing of a mother, disappearance of a family member of the Kashmiri population. That for the most part is because the general media has fed them over years, the narrative of exaggerated numbers, and the image of blood thirsty Kashmiri Muslims. I’ve literally seen people demanding rape of Kashmiri Muslim women as a revenge for the atrocities on Pandits. And the most common justification of “what about the Pandits” remains a Gospel for many, the messed up logic of “justice” being delivered as inhumane oppression is celebrated, out of ignorance, misinformation and most importantly the cherished celebrities. So till the next movie comes out on Kashmir, that you actually care to read before you speak, enjoy the next season of your favorite genre of escapism.

Bibliography

  • https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/spotlight/kashmirtheforgottenconflict/2011/07/201176134818984961.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashmiri_Pandit

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