Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims were once the warp and weft of the Valley’s rich social fabric, which began to tear with the rise of militancy in 1989. In their battle against the Indian state to secure Kashmir’s independence, militants also began targeting and killing Kashmiri Pandits, sparking their exodus from the Valley. Their trauma and struggles in exile spawned a new Kashmiri Pandit imagination, in which, for several Pandits, the Kashmiri Muslim was now their tormentor.
On 5 August, amidst a lockdown in the Valley, the central government read down Article 370, which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and changed it from a state to Union Territory. An overwhelming majority of Kashmiri Pandits celebrated the move, which they perhaps viewed as a punishment to their aggressor.
Yet there are Kashmiri Pandits who have not let their trauma efface their memories of the state’s syncretic culture and who vehemently oppose the 5 August decisions. Among them is Kapil Kak, a former Air Vice Marshal, who joined five other citizens in petitioning the Supreme Court against the government’s decision to effectively nullify Article 370 and alter the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir.
On 8 September, Ajaz Ashraf, an independent journalist, spoke to Kak about the government’s Kashmir moves, the psychology of the Kashmiri Pandits and why their politics has shifted to the right. Referring to the government’s Kashmir policy, Kak said, “It is behaving like a guy who jumps from, say, the seventeenth floor. As he hurtles down each floor, he keeps saying, ‘So far, so good.’”