Kashmiri Pandits don’t have to be flag-bearers of the Indian state

19 August 2016
Ali Mohammad Shah, the father of Altaf Ahmad Shah, a Kashmiri man who was allegedly killed by the Indian security forces during the armed insurgency which broke out in 1989, speaks during Amnesty International India's event, "Broken Families," in Bengaluru.
AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi
Ali Mohammad Shah, the father of Altaf Ahmad Shah, a Kashmiri man who was allegedly killed by the Indian security forces during the armed insurgency which broke out in 1989, speaks during Amnesty International India's event, "Broken Families," in Bengaluru.
AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi

On 15 August 2016, the police in Bengaluru registered a first information report against the human-rights organisation Amnesty International India under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including sedition. The FIR was registered after representatives from Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad—a student body affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh—sought action against the organisation. The ABVP activists claimed that “anti-national” activities had taken place at “Broken Families,” an event that Amnesty India had hosted two days earlier at the United Theological College in Bengaluru, as part of its campaign against human-rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir. Protests against the human-rights organisation, primarily within Karnataka, have intensified since, and Amnesty India’s employees have reportedly been asked to work from home as a “precautionary measure.”

I have waited to get some clarity on what actually transpired at the event. Now that I have it, I feel compelled to say a few things. I hope they are read and pondered over in the right spirit by all parties, especially Kashmiri Pandits.

There is no doubt that the Amnesty International, like most rights groups, has turned a blind eye towards the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. That the organisation is sympathetic to Islamic groups became clear after the head of its gender unit, Gita Sahgal, left it six years ago, accusing it of “ideological bankruptcy.”

On the question of morality, the Pandits have had an edge so far. The azadi movement in Kashmir lost its moral high ground in 1990, when the minority Pandits were hounded out of their homes and over seven hundred of them were brutally killed by Islamist extremists. Even after they were driven out of a land that their ancestors had lived on for thousands of years, and forced to reside in tattered tents, in exile and extreme humiliation, the Pandits never took up arms.

There was no dearth of attempts to radicalise us. But, instead of picking up Remington pistols, we chose Resnick-Halliday textbooks. Amnesty may think that the Pandits do not deserve to be included in events on “Broken Families” [of Kashmir]; Tara Rao, its programmes director in India, may not have had accurate statistics on the number of Pandits thrown out of the valley when she spoke at the event; but the fact remains that nobody can take our truth away from us. In the last 26 years of exile, hundreds of Pandits, from Jammu to Johannesburg, acting individually, have braved adverse and belligerent crowds to put forth our narrative.

Rahul Pandita  is a Yale World Fellow and the author of “Our Moon Has Blood Clots”, a memoir of a lost home in Kashmir.    

Keywords: Kashmir Indian Army Sedition Amnesty International India Kashmiri Pandits
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