Monday, December 24, 2018

Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi and a dead Temple. 1960

Remains of Bhairav temple Chattabal
2009. Pic: Autar Mota

In 1951, the Food Control Department of Jammu and Kashmir State encroached upon and occupied the Bathing Ghat and other premises of Bhairav temple Chattabal. They started using the place for distributing rations. The temple was desecrated. I grew up hearing stories of the desecration. But, I assumed may be post 1990, my family was exaggerating. My family comes from the area, my grandfather used to take me to the Ghat and show me the lock on the temple and the ruins. I was eight. Over the decades my grandfather saw the temple of his ancestors desecrated multiple times, in 1973 a mob threw chappals into the Hawan kund and in 2008 we saw a glimpse of the burnt remains of the temple. He was eighty. I wrote about it. The story was still not clear to me.

I recently came across postscript to the story in a small footnote in the book "Crisis in Kashmir"(1991) by Pyarelal Kaul (who was with Praja Socialist Party).

"That Shri Bhokhatiashwar Bhairov Nath Asthapan, Chattabal, Srinagar is and continues to be, an ancient, holy shrine of the Hindus -- That the said Asthapan Ghat is and has been with the Hindu Community in general, always used by the Hindus of Chattabal in particular, for the observance of religious rites and worship such as daily Sandhya, Kriya Karam, Shradhas, etc., for hundreds of years past. --
That the entire compound of the said shrine has been reduced to a public market place by the said illegal and unlawful encroachment by use and occupation of the said Bathing Ghat and other premises of the said shrine with night soil, urine, filth and rubbish of every kind."

Notice dated April 2, 1960 under section 80 CPC to the Chief Secretary of State for removal of encroachment and payment of damages. The advocate for Pandits was Pt. Rughonath Vaishnavi, the man who Tahreeki propagandists now like to market as "Pakistani Pandit" ignoring the fact that during Bangladesh war he was one of the men who supported liberation of Bangladesh.

Why did Pandits chose Vaishnavi as a representative?

It is true, Vaishnavi was a man with political opinions and stood by his ideology. He believed in democracy. Resolution through non-violent means. Even if it all meant Kashmir becoming part of Pakistan. But, as this notice shows, he was concerned about what was happening to his community. It was something that concerned him directly. He was physically living in Kashmir. So, the meaning of it was clear to him. Perhaps he saw this act as an extension of Muslim ultra-nationalistic tendencies being fanned in the valley for all kind of political gains. Today, most KPs who remember the destruction of this temple, blame the ghat boatmen Hanjis, people of nearby locality Nalbandpora, which was hotbed of Plebiscite front politics (which back them was just another front for getting NC back in power) for the desecration of the temple with the motive of usurping the temple land. Few remember the politics behind it. 

This act of Vaishnavi  sets him apart from the new age "Pakistani Bhattas and Bhattanis" of present generation who are incapable of doing the same, [among them is Vaishnavi's grand-daughter  Mona Bhan]. All they can do is push stories of "Kashmiri Muslims performing last rite of Kashmiri pandit" and then while living outside Kashmir write about dead pandits who loved Kashmir to be part of Pakistan. They can sell fear of Hindu India and at the same time sell the idea of peace with Muslim theoretic state of Pakistan and a Sharia compliant paradise Kashmir. Forgetting that from Bazaz to Vaishnavi, all of them have written about obvious growing religious fanaticism of Pakistan. It is they who are also enablers of the environment today in which a pandit writing a petition about desecration of a Hindu temple in Kashmir would be labeled "Sanghi Batta". Vaishnavi today would have been labeled Sanghi Batta out to demonize Kashmiri Muslims. No matter what they say or write the true meaning of these events cannot be changed for the victims. The temple is dead.

It was this dispute from 1950s that foretold that my family would be forced to leave their ancestral place someday. In late 60s, some of the families from our extended clan started leaving the place. Some moved to Delhi and some to other localities. My grandfather stayed on but he did purchase a piece of land in Jammu in late 60s after selling a piece of land in Chattabal near Lakad Mandi. All of them knew what was coming, they didn't know the date. All of them were preparing for the inevitable.


Video Link

Monday, December 10, 2018

Jagannath Sathu on Plight of Pandits, 1952

KP farmer women.

Jagannath Sathu was a radical humanist inspired by thoughts of M.N. Roy. He organized Kissan Mazdoor Conference and later was vice-president of KDU (Kashmir Democratic Union), the first Pro-Pakistan political party of the state. Along with Pandit Prem Nath Bazaz he was one of the few Pandits who challenged Sheikh Abdullah reign by backing Pakistan. In 1950s, he was exiled to Delhi along with Bazaz by Sheikh. He was also one of the first Kashmiri to be rounded by police on terror charges in Delhi. He was devotedly anti-communist (his piece on "Red-Menace" is rather famous in academic circles) since communists kept changing the horse they were backing in the conflict. 

Here's an extract from 1952 pamphlet published by Sathu on "Plight of Minorities" in Kashmir, about the pandits he writes:
Pandits Suppressed Everywhere

Kashmiri Pandits are as a community an intellectual class in the State. For centuries, may be thousands of years, they have led the Kashmiri masses in education and culture. By dint of their efficiency, faithfullness and diligence they have manned the administrative machinery of the State under the successive rules of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Mughals, Pathans, Sikhs and Dogras. But now for the first time under the secularism of the Kashmir nationalists, they were told that these qualities were of no use or value and it was the brute majority of the numbers that counted. Therefore not only were State Services refused to Kashmiri Pandits even when they were better qualified for these than the Muslims related to or acquainted with the nationalist leaders who were appointed; the Pandits already in Service were also superseded by their subordinates far junior to them in class and grade and inferior to them in academic qualifications. It becomes very poignant for a Pandit official to wok under an inefficient, less qualified, uninformed and inexperienced subordinate who promoted to a responsible job inly because he is muslim favoured by the nationalists. In many cases employees twenty or thirty steps junior have been pushed to the top.
Thus jobbery and favouritism is not confined to the sphere of Government services. It is applied everywhere. Government contracts in P.W.D., Forest, Panchayat, Revenue and other departments are also given to their own men by the nationalists. Relatives and friends of Ministers get the lion's share. The dealers appointed by the Government to sell rationed goods are the favourites of the ruling clique. This also adversely affected the economic condition of the Kashmiri Pandits.
The agrarian reforms and the way they have been implemented by the Abdullah Government have hit the Kashmiri Pandits hard. We shall have to say a lot about these reforms at its proper place but here we would like to discuss their repercussions on the social life of the Pandits. More than thirty percent of the lands in the valley belonged to this community. A very insignificant fraction of the lands was bestowed upon the few members of the community as jagirs by the past rulers for some loyal services rendered. Most of the land in their possession was secured by Pandits either at the time of the first settlement of the land seven decades ago when not many people were coming forward to take the responsibility. of developing the barren regions of the valley. Land was then considered a great liability and only industrious people with some capital to invest could have land as a business proposition. A large slice of this land was also purchased by the Pandits after 1934 when propriety rights were granted to Kashmiris. Before that year the Maharaja was recognised, in law, as the sole proprietor of land in the valley. Pandits purchased agricultural land with their hard earned money in hope that it would yield good return to maintain them. When the agrarian reforms were introduced thousands of Kashmiri Pandits whose only source of income was land were thrown on the streets.
According to the Big Estates Abolition Act every landlord has the right to keep 182 Kanals of his land. But the nationalist leaders and workers have been touring far and wide in the valley advising Muslim peasants not to give any share of the produce to the Pandit landlords. When the guardians of Law and Order are themselves interested in preaching the defiance of law what redressal can be available to the poor Pandit. Thus the Act has practically taken away the whole land without compensation from the Pandits irrespective of their economic condition.
No remedy but exodus
With doors of Government services virtually closed on them; with government contracts almost totally denied to them; with trade and commerce in a chaotic condition in the State; with land snatched away from them; and above all, with insecurity and uncertainty all round in their home land, if Kashmiri Pandits found the demons of starvation, death and disrespect staring them in their face there in no wonder in it. Time and time again they approached the eminent Kashmiri Pandits such as Sapru, Kunzru, Katju in India, they even waited upon Sardar Patel, with their bucketful of woes. But evidently no body could help them so long as the Kashmiri Pandit Prime Minister of India was adamant on his policy about Kashmir. Having felt convinced that they could expect no sympathy from high political quarters at New Delhi and the unlimited power of the Kashmiri nationalists was in no way to be curtailed, having also realized that there could be no end to the abnormal conditions so long as the dispute over the accession issue between Indian and Pakistan continued Kashmiri Pandits decided to leave their motherland for good. What a wrench it must be to a Pandit to bid goodbye to his country of birth it is not difficult to imagine. Already about 20,000 Pandits, men, women, and children have come out and settled in different parts of India. If the present conditions continue for some time more there should be no doubt that the remaining members of the community will also leave their hearths and homes and they valley will be completely denuded of the Hindus.
From their bitter experience of the nationalist politics during the last two decades particularly since October 1947, the Kashmiri Pandits consider it quite risky and dangerous to remain in the valley; they are afraid of a flare up which might develop into a big conflagration, envelop the small microscopic minority, and reduce it to ashes. 
It is interesting that even such a partisan person, a pro-Pak person could back in 50s, could ( and indeed did) articulate Pandit concerns, their plight so clearly. Something the younger generation of Pro-Pak KPs, are now incapable of expressing publicly. The piece also makes it clear how Pandits came to acquire land post 1934. 


Friday, December 7, 2018

Jokes from the Dead

This happened somewhere around early 1990s. Pandit Dina Kak still had a lot of friends in Srinagar. He would write letters to them. In his letters he would ask some of his friends to send him latest copies of local newspaper. Sometimes ask for newsletters of JKLF. Some of his dear friends would oblige him, so they would send him old copies Al-Safa, Aftaab...this is the best they could do for him. When the papers would arrive at home, he would have his cup of tea and could often be seen smiling reading the paper. Sometimes he would even laugh out loud. Dina Kak's wife would get angry. She wondered why he still needed to read these papers published in Srinagar. After all these were the papers that just a few years ago had carried threat letters to pandits from militants. She wondered if he had become one of those self-hating pandits. Or, if he had become a sadist. Maybe a trip to Dr. Susheel Razdan was on needed. Then one day when she had had enough, she refused to serve him tea while he was reading one of the papers. Under duress Dina Kak finally explained:

When I read Hindustan Times or Times of India...there is no mention of Kashmiri Pandits anywhere. Occasionally there is a photograph of some migrant camp with a caption about how all pandits were originally elite class. All I can read is how militants are making the government dance and how government is claiming that things are going to be fine year. However, when I read these papers from Kashmir, it is the same story, but occasionally I find article by former friends about how Pandits are doing great outside Kashmir, how the government is pampering us silly, how money is dropping from the sky. I feel rich. I feel powerful. We run the congress, we run BJP, we run RSS and sometimes we are godless communists too. I read how we control the media, the government and the Army...even US and Israel. If you read them, if a few years we Pandits would be ruling the world. It makes me feel a whole lot better.


This happened somewhere in the 90s. After it became clear that "Panun Kashmir" was not a possibility, the pandits, as usual, gathered in Vikram Park by the side of canal to deliberate upon the issue. It was in this meeting that Er. Shiban Ji The Great gave his famous solution to KP predicament. He was the last speaker for the day, it was late afternoon, much like the heat of the sun, the meeting was now ebbing. But, Er. Shiban Ji still had fire in him and his word smelt of embers from a fresh Kangri.

"Brothers, listen and listen carefully. What I am about to suggest may offend most of you but I have done all the calculation and this is the only way forward. It is a question of life and death. Rather a question of death. And only death can provide the answer. Our Muslim cousins are fighting this war using deaths and deaths it is we should fight back using. Things have to change. Our deaths have to change. I propose we change our death rituals. No KP in death should be burnt any more. Let's start having burials for our dead. And those burial grounds be in Kashmir. Our living can live in clusters of choice, they won't allow it, let our dead stay in clusters, in Kashmir. Dead pose not threat. If Afghan and Pakistani Mujahids can find burial place in Kashmir. If they can claim a piece of Kashmir, no reason why a KP should not find a little corner. After all how much space does a dead need. Don't walk away, please listen. I have done the calculation. 4 feet by 2 feet. That is almost 3 square meter. That's 0.0003 hectare. In 30 years, 50000 thousand of us would be dead, victims of heat, snake bites, old age, accidents, heartaches, nostalgia and homesickness . That's 0.0003* 50000 hectares or almost 30 acres. That is almost 5 times the size of Melbourne cricket field. In 30 years, if our progenies chose to return, let this land be our Panun Kashmir, let the dead and the living find a piece of land in Kashmir. Till that time, let the dead find peace in Kashmir."

Like always not many heard him that day too. Those who did, laughed. Then they too left. Er. Shiban Ji was alone. "Let them burn, I shall be buried," Shiban Ji promised himself. A decade later Er. Shiban Ji moved to Germany, after the death of his wife, his son who was working as an Engineer with a famous automobile company, would not let him live alone in Jammu. Years raced to another decade. As Er. Shiban Ji aged, his brain got the maggots of alzheimer. It was then that he started begging his children that he be buried after death. "Let them burn, I shall be buried," he would say all the time. When the time came, the son listened and left no stone untuned to have his father's last wish fulfilled. Er. Shiban Ji now lies buried in Germany at a place near Dachau.


This happened somewhere around 2010: in village Dupbal a rumor was going around that a dead body had been found. It was of a young woman. Clashes were imminent. Village elder prepared for the worst as young men had started gathering. However, authorities sent a policeman in civics who talked to the elder. Elder was jubilant. This was good news. He gathered the villagers and announced,"The body was of old Shanta ji who never left Kashmir. Let the villagers gather and celebrate Kashmiriyat. Set up a funeral pyre."


Many moons ago, radio presenter and expert of Asian affair Oral Stain asked great Kashmiri historian and Tikka Master Gundhlal Dolmut what is the one event in history that if undone would have changed the course of Indian history.

Gundhlal took a deep long drag from his hookah and closing his green eyes, in a deep sonorous voice replied:

"Spain should have remained under caliphate. Fall of Al-Andalus was a tragedy. Had the dream sustained, America would still have been discovered, ships would have still sailed, mountains of Gold moved, natives would have found one true god at the hand of soul catchers, they would have got rail roads and bathing soaps, civilisation would dawned but all the Red Indians would have been Muslim. It would have been real kal-doudas for Anglo Saxons. They would have been still busy trying to quieten their own middle-east... their own many Palestines and Kashmirs."

Stain Sahib was irritated by the answer. Dolmut was not making much sense. Stain Sahib erupted, "What has that got to do with India?"

Gundhlal opened his eyes, as if from some deep slumber and calmly replied, " want to know about real Indians and not the other Indians!" Gundhlal took another drag from his Gur-Gur, inhaling the Jahnami Tamookh, he continued:

"Lalitaditya should not have helped Chinese in their fight against Turks and Arabs over Tibet. Tibet should have fallen to caliphate. Kashmir would have been Muslim in any case, but Tibet would have been Muslim too. Today, China would have still busy handling Tibet issue. There would have been self-immolations of another kind."

The comment brought a wry smile to Oral Stain's face. In his leather bound private notebook, he wrote a note on the episode: Illustrious Kashmiri Pandits have lost their mind in exile.


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