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Kashmiri Pandits: Crisis began with Indira Gandhi, Rajiv 'installing' puppet govts

Indira Gandhi with Sheikh Abdullah
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 
This is not about the film 'Kashmir Files' per se. Enough debate has taken place in social media, TV channels and elsewhere regarding the film. Many people are 'proud' that the governments in states are asking their 'employees' to watch it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been deeply 'influenced' by the film. His party, leaders and cadres are going overboard to promote the film. Many state governments have made it tax free.
Meanwhile, rather than making Pakistan accountable for its act and misadventures in Kashmir, the Sanghis and their ilk are seeking to make the entire Muslim community in India as the main villains. For BJP, the purpose appears clear: to keep the pot boiling. The net result is: given the inability of the 'secular' forces to respond with courage and conviction, Hindutva is gaining.
We are also told that the film does not refer to VP Singh, under whose regime the Pandits were displaced from Kashmir. Congress and 'liberals' are bringing VP Singh into picture, blaming him for their displacement. What they forget is: the incidents of 1989-90 will have to be seen in the broader atmosphere prevailing in the valley by the inept handling of the situation by Rajiv Gandhi.
VP Singh has been the target of this calumny and slander, including by India's Brahminical liberal seculars, because of his 'Mandal sin'. Implementation of the Mandal commission report providing 27% quota in government services to backward communities was surely the biggest challenge to the Brahminical hegemony then.
The Kashmiri Pandit issue is historical. Apart from other reasons, its roots lie in the imposition of puppet regimes in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). What happened in Kashmir when VP Singh was in power from December 1989 to November 1990, for nearly 11 months? Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, a former Congressman from J&K, contested from Muzaffarnagar and won the elections. The VP Singh government assumed office on December 2, 1989 and Mufti was made Home Minister.
Within 48 hours of taking charge, VP Singh made a visit to the Golden Temple, along with his cabinet that included Devi Lal, Inder Kumar Gujral and Mufti. The situation in J&K had already turned volatile due to the highly unpopular government of Farooq Abdullah, which came to power due to allegedly rigging in the elections.
Jagmohan was made the governor not only under the pressure of BJP, which backed the VP Singh government, but also, as a biographical work of VP Singh asserts, Mufti sought his appointment as governor due to local politics in J&K. On December 8, 1989, Home Minister Mufti Sayeed's daughter Rubaiya Sayeed was kidnapped by terrorists of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). It was a big blow to the government, as just on assumption of office things were looking out of control in J&K.
Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah is said to be holidaying in London during the period when his state was burning. It needs to be asked as to how the daughter of the Union Home Minister got kidnapped. Was the threat perception not taken into account? General KV Krishna Rao as governor at the that point of time could do little to handle the situation.
On Jagmohan's appointment as governor, Farooq resigned in protest and the state was placed under President's rule. Jagmohan was 'well respected' by Hindus but was considered a villain by Muslims for his highhandedness in dealing with the situation in which a large number of Muslim youths were arrested by the police and kept in jail.
One must also not ignore the historical fact that the J&K problem is rooted in Hindu resentment against the 1950 Land Estate Abolition Act which was responsible for ending zamindari in the state. It hurt the interests of the dominant sections of Kashmiri Pandits and Dogras, who benefited from the erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh rule. No doubt, all Hindus were not zamindars, but the move was sought to be interpreted as an affront on Kashmiri Hindus. Opinion makers and political elite converted in entire into a Hindu-Muslim issue.
While the Indian leadership wanted J&K to remain as its 'secular tag', militants in the Valley sought to eliminate Hindus and Muslims, who were pro-Indian. Still, till Sheikh Abdullah was alive, under his leadership, J&K remained solidly with India. He had huge influence on the Kashmiri masses. In early 1980s, Sheikh Abdullah's health deteriorated. His son Farooq Abdullah was seen as his legitimate heir.
Indira Gandhi returned as Prime Minister in 1980, and she wanted a puppet government in J&K. J&K at that time was being ruled by Sheikh Abdullah, the undisputed leader of Kashmiri nationalist movement. At the fag end of his life, in 1981, Sheikh got his son Farooq appointed as President of the ruling National Conference. After the death of Sheikh Abdullah in 1982, Farooq became chief minister.
Farooq was a different man. He wanted to be part of the broader coalition that was emerging in India against Indira Gandhi, particularly on issues related with states' autonomy. The initiative was by Andhra Pradesh chief minister NT Rama Rao and involved many other non-Congress chief ministers, including Rama Krishna Hegde and Left parties.
Indira Gandhi wanted to have an alliance with the National Conference, but Farooq was not ready for this. In 1983, when the West Indies cricket team came to India to play six one-day and six test match series, one one-day international was held at the Sher-e-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar. The atmosphere in the stadium was very hostile. One could see various anti-India groups were active -- this concerned the Indira Gandhi government.
As Farooq was new to politics and was trying to ally with opposition parties, particularly various chief ministers who were not comfortable with Indira Gandhi, the Centre wanted to dismiss Farooq. But governor BK Nehru refused to oblige. The result was he was removed. Jagmohan, an old Sanjay Gandhi loyalist, famous for his 'excesses' during the Emergency, particularly the infamous Turkman gate slum demolition case, was made governor in April 1984.
Indira Gandhi trusted in him. She had acknowledged it in the form of Padma Shri in 1971 and Padma Bhushan in 1977 for his 'services' to the nation. Within a short period of time, Jagmohan was at loggerheads with the J&K chief minister, who enjoyed majority. How do you remove a chief minister in such a situation? The old Congress tactic came handy for Jagmohan to create a rival group in the party.
The result was a split in the National Conference with Farooq's brother-in-law Ghulam Muhammad Shah being made chief minister of J&K in August 1984. This was the sad story of a leader who was determined to topple the state governments who had enough majority. In October 1984, Indira Gandhi was assassinated. J&K witnessed many upheavals around that period. Under Ghulam Muhammad Shah, Kashmir began to polarise sharply.
Rajiv Gandhi, who became Prime Minister, followed his mother's footsteps. The mischief of opening locks of Ram Janma Bhumi at Ayodhya in February 1986 and mishandling of the Shah Bano case under him were seen in the Valley as an effort to push Muslims to the wall. It helped anti-Indian Pakistani supporter groups, who targeted Hindus, especially Kashmiri Pandits.
Riots in Anantnag were the last straw. As the atmosphere continued to be frightening for the Hindus and pro-Indian Muslims, many of them started migrating to safer districts in the Jammu region. Rajiv Gandhi was worried about repercussions of the anti-Hindu sentiments in the Valley and got dismissed the government of Ghulam Muhammad Shah in 1986. Indeed, Delhi wanted a puppet government again.
Later, the relationship between Farooq and Rajiv Gandhi improved resulting in an alliance between the National Conference and the Congress. Elections were held in 1987 bringing Farooq back to power. These elections are said to have been thoroughly rigged and had no acceptability in the Valley, where militancy was raising its head. Farooq began being seen as the 'stooge' of India.
VP Singh has been the target of this calumny and slander, including by India's Brahminical liberal seculars, because of his Mandal sin
Democratic deficit ultimately gives rise to dissension and violence. When Jawaharlal Nehru went to the UN against Pakistan's invasion on J&K and then promised for a plebiscite, it was surely a thought of winning over people through democratic means. Nehru's policy has been termed a blunder, yet it was a reasonable move which got aborted.
General KV Krishna Rao succeeded Jagmohan as governor of J&K between July 1989 and January 1990 when the situation there was extremely difficult and deteriorating. It was thought that the veteran general would be able to handle things both administratively and politically. But after the Rajiv Gandhi government lost the election and VP Singh assumed office, things failed to stabilize and anti-India sentiments continued.
Rajiv, Sonia Gandhi with VP Singh
For the first time, the rest of the country saw protests in Kashmir on their TV sets. The mishandling of the Rubaiyya Sayeed case and the release of a terrorist to protect her life was a dark chapter, but as an individual she had the right to be protected. In political negotiations such things do happen. Farooq had no understanding of the issue and was accused of inept handling. He was not there in India for over a month when the crisis happened.
No doubt, Farooq is a secular leader, but at that time he was completely disconnected from the Kashmir population. Most people felt that he was the spokesperson of the Government of India. When the Union government made Jagmohan governer again, as mark of protest Farooq resigned and the state was placed under President's rule.
On December 8, 1989, the kidnapping of the Union Home Minister's daughter changed everything. Were the Indian security agencies unable to provide security to the family of the Union Home Minister who hailed from the Valley? While the release of the terrorist was not a good idea, but at that point of time VP Singh had just assumed charge.
He sent a team of senior leaders including Arif Mohammad Khan and Inder Kumar Gujral to negotiate and do the needful. The questions should be asked to Arif Mohammad Khan, now governor of Kerala, as to what was his role in the release of the militants. If he was unhappy with the move, as he claims now, why didn't he resign or protest? Clearly, Kashmiri separatists could not digest a Kashmiri leader as India's Home Minister.
The Kashmir story does not end here. It exposes more hypocrisy of those in power. In 1996, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became Prime Minister. He ran the government till 2004. During this period, Farooq was chief minister of J&K and his son Omar Abdullah was Minister of State, External Affairs, in the Union government. Omar went to historic Durban Summit against racism and xenophobia, and claimed that there is no caste discrimination in India.
The most fascinating part of the story is that Jagmohan too was a minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet. Farooq was part of NDA which had Jagmohan as minister. Jagmohan did not oppose inclusion of Farooq's son in the same cabinet. Ironically, Farooq in 1990 had resigned as soon as Jagmohan was sent as the governor of J&K.
The main question is: why didn't all these worthies do anything to rehabilitate the displaced Kashmiris -- many of them Kashmiri Muslims? The fact is, many people blame Jagmohan instigating Kashmiri Pandits to migrate to polarise the situation and take strongest possible action against the 'militants'.
As per reports from 1989-2004 a total number of 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed though the Sangh parivar makes the story look in thousands. The total number of internally displaced people is still not known, but it could be between 70,000 to one lakh families.
It can be easily said that Jagmohan was part of the problem. He played the Hindu card and was darling of not merely the Hindutva forces, who celebrate him today, but the Gandhis too. In fact, all the legitimacy to Jagmohan was provided by the Gandhis, and he acted at their whims.
J&K is a political problem and not administrative. Kashmiri Pandits faced the trauma, as nobody would like to leave his or her place of birth and not return. It is the same pain which people faced during the partition of India. 'Kashmir Files' does not resolve the issue but puts the blame of migration of Kashmiri Pandits on Muslims and non-BJP leaders. In fact, it is the story of Indian leadership's political and administrative failure.
Kashmiri Pandits' story can only be resolved through a political process where Kashmiri people matter. The current regime has sought to portray all the Kashmiris who stood by India and felt pride in being Indian as anti-national. Farooq might have been a failure but he remains a diehard Indian. Mufti Sayeed's daughter Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party was in alliance with BJP. Why was the issue never resolved then?
The Kasmiri Pandit story is being used to whip up anti-Muslim sentiments. It will not solve the issue. It reflects dirty tricks of the present government. There is nothing wrong in making a film and portraying the condition of a community. But Kashmir crisis is not between Hindus and Muslims but between the Pak-sponsored terrorism and the idea of India. This issue should not be made a tool to spread poison and spread hatred.
---
*Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat. Twitter: @freetohumanity

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