asi aasy tu aasi asu, asav
asi dor kar patuvath
shivas sori nu zyon tu marun
ravas sori nu atugath

– Sadhvi Lalleshwari (Lal Ded)

We have been in the past; In future also we shall be. Forever the sun rises and sets; forever Shiva creates and dissolves and creates again.

I am a Kashmiri Pandit, born in exile.

We are a tiny community of Hindus displaced from our native homes in the valley of Kashmir at the behest of jehadi slogans shouted from mosques asking us to galiv, raliv ya tchaliv (die, convert or leave), most recently in 1990. Though this wasn’t the first time that Hindus met with such a tragedy; this was the seventh time in the history of time a forced mass exodus of Hindus from Kashmir happened.

Generations of Kashmiris, particularly the Hindus moved away from their home, hearth and safe haven, in an effort to uphold their identity and in resistance of the excesses of the Islamic aggressors. I have been mocked at by many non Kashmiris and called a ‘coward’ as my predecessors fled instead of fighting back.

To all of you, who question our bravery and resilience, ask yourself the difference between saving a life and taking a life. Analyse what happens in either scenario and then try to picture what exactly happened in Kashmir in those long dark nights and the days that followed it. In the 1990 and in the months that preceded, there was a planned persecution of select Kashmiri Pandits.

One by one, individuals and families were targeted, based on the ‘hit list’. In many cases, the Muslim neighbours whom the Pandits trusted gave away their hiding spot, resulting in brutal murders and persecution of the Hindus. A drive to ‘cleanse’ Kashmir off of the Hindus led to extermination of the Pandits. The choice available to those still alive was to leave, to live and fight another day.

Thirty years on, the teenagers and young boys and girls who escaped with their families in a truck, wrapped in a black shawl or in a taxi, have grown up. They lived to watch developments in Kashmir from afar. They survived, thanks to their parents, who managed to somehow extract them from the hell that broke loose on the streets, to a safer haven elsewhere. Already tiny number of Kashmiri Pandits further shrunk and scattered. But seeds, even when strewn callously, do sprout. That’s what seeds do.

Genocide, is a process, an intentional action to destroy an ethnic, racial or religious group, in whole or in part. Recognition of genocidal process invariably meets with ignorance, apathy or denial.

In 1996, the founding President of Genocide Watch, Gregory Stanton, in his briefing to the United States Department of State laid out 8 stages of genocide. Gregory has been known to have first articulated the stages of genocide model in the 1987; three years prior to the most recent genocide of Kashmiri Pandits. Interestingly, Gregory added two additional stages: discrimination and persecution to make it 10 Stages of genocide. Let’s see what these are:

  1. Classification: “People are divided into ‘them’ and ‘us'”
  2. Symbolization: “When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups…”
  3. Discrimination: “Law or cultural power excludes groups from full civil rights: segregation or apartheid laws, denial of voting rights”.
  4. Dehumanisation: “One group denies the humanity of the other group. Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects, or diseases.”
  5. Organisation: “Genocide is always organized… Special army units or militias are often trained and armed”
  6. Polarisation: “Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda”
  7. Preparation: “Mass killing is planned. Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity”
  8. Persecution: “Expropriation, forced displacement, ghettos, concentration camps”.
  9. Extermination: “It is ‘extermination’ to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human”
  10. Denial of Genocide: “The perpetrators… deny that they committed any crimes…”

(Source: Wikipedia)

Now if you analyse what happened in Kashmir, you will understand that each of the above fully resonates with the plight of Pandits, the Hindus in Kashmir valley. Infact, having been at the receiving end of apathy from their own government and ignorance from fellow countrymen and women, survival became an all essential requirement for the Pandits.

Having been uprooted overnight, they ensured their children’s education was not interrupted. The stories of young KP children having to study in the afternoon shift in the camp schools is not a one off. Many of my fellow KPs around the world including in India, who are qualified doctors, engineers, civil servants all have their horrific stories of schooling and higher education to relate. Disruption to education did not deter their grit to survive.

Hindus around the world are fighting a civilisational war for generations. Many gave in, converted or laid their lives in defending their honour and identity. The Hindus in Kashmir are perhaps a rare force of nature that has survived this civilisational onslaught.

Having dispersed and scattered far and wide, instead of dissipating, they sprouted. Ofcourse, the lineage of the originators of knowledge traditions of the world ought to have had a strong resilient gene!

Many a times, I have heard people say things like: “Kashmiri Pandits are an insignificant community – they are not a vote bank owing to how few they are”.

In response to those commenting about us not being a vote bank, “All of patriotic India stands by Kashmir and its Hindus. They may not know of our plight but the day they do, elections will be fought and won because of us.”

And my dear friends, Elections were fought and won on the basis of manifesto commitment to Kashmiri Pandits in India.

What is more, an awakened Hindu ensured that enough political muscle was flexed to ensure the political party (Conservatives) that supported India and its Hindus won in the United Kingdom. The political party (Labour) that chose to support propagandist in passing resolutions interfering with India’s internal matters was given the boot by Indian diaspora.

The abrogation of Article 370 was a landmark welcome step in the right direction last year August. Though a few U-turns have been observed in Jammu & Kashmir, politically, what really needs to be done is to ensure there is a legal process of punishing genocidal crimes in India.

If the government in India is really serious about giving the Kashmiri Pandits a sound basis to return to their homeland in Kashmir, there needs to be a Genocide Crime and Atrocities Prevention Act legislated. The perpetrators of genocidal crimes must be punished and not viewed as one off murder.

I am a daughter of Maa Kashmira and I have survived genocide. If civilisation in India as also the world has to survive, a robust case study in the form of Kashmiri Pandits will create the right precedence if the genocide, particularly of Kashmiri Pandits in India, is prevented and reversed.

This isn’t a flight of fantasy or a demand, this is a necessity for India to survive.

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