My father, Professor Bal Raj Madhok, who breathed his last on 2 May 2016, was born in Askardu of Jammu and Kashmir on 25 February 1920. A product of the Lahore University of undivided Punjab, he joined the RSS at 18, while still a student. He rejected the offer of a commission in the Indian Army in 1942 and decided to serve the nation through the RSS. As a lecturer of history in the DAV College, Srinagar, and chief of the RSS, he played a notable role in the defence of Srinagar at the time of Pakistani invasion in October 1947.
A few days before his death, while lying on his hospital bed in AIIMS, he had asked me, “Kashmir ka kya haal hai?” I replied, “Can’t say.” He asked, “Why?” I said, “I don’t watch TV news these days. Don’t like to do so without you.” That evening, I switched on the TV for him to watch the news. Even in his state of extreme weakness, he tried to keep abreast of the latest situation on his beloved Kashmir. And, today, he would have been deeply hurt by the vituperative rant of the separatists and Pakistani stooges like Yasin Malik and his ilk on the issue of a separate homeland for Kashmiri Pandits.
I vividly remember how, in one of the TV news debates a few days after respected Papaji’s article entitled “Madhok on Kashmir”—in which he had strongly advocated revocation of Temporary Article 370 for the full integration of Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of India (The Sunday Guardian, 8 March 2015)—the same Yasin Malik was visibly shaken on the issue of Kashmir’s full integration. His nervous body language during the entire course of that news programme was worth watching. And it once again proved what my father often used to say of such people: “Agga sher da, picchha giddar da.”
According to Prof Madhok, Pakistani leaders want to keep the Kashmir issue alive for a number of reasons. It helps them to work up the feeling of jihad among its Muslim population and keep the protagonists of independent Sindh, Pakhtoonistan and Balochistan on the leash. It gives them a convenient handle to malign India and win the moral and material support of other Muslim countries. It provides them with the excuse of interfering in India’s internal affairs.
“Above all, leaders of Pakistan seem to be convinced that they can dupe the Indian leadership and secure their objective of separating the Kashmir valley from India, sooner or later. They are happy that India is squandering huge sums of money to develop Kashmir. The growing affluence of Kashmiri Muslims has become the biggest asset for Pakistan. Anti-Indianism has grown among Kashmiri Muslims in proportion to their affluence,” he would say.
He often lamented that Indian policy makers have so far refused to learn, despite repeated jolts, that the problem of Kashmir is basically religio-political and not socio-economic. A wrong diagnosis leads to the application of wrong remedies, resulting in the further worsening of the situation.
Today, the burning issue is the future of Kashmiri Pandits. All secessionist elements in Kashmir have worked together to drive out or eliminate the Hindu minority from there. The Kashmiri Hindus, better known as Kashmiri Pandits, have lived there as a besieged community from the middle of the 14th century. They got some relief when Maharaja Ranjit Singh conquered and annexed Kashmir to his Lahore kingdom in 1819 and made it a separate province. During the hundred years of Dogra rule, Kashmiri Pandits made the best use of the facilities for higher education and improved communication with the rest of India. After Independence, some of them got associated with Sheikh Abdullah, who used his association with Kashmiri Pandits to extract maximum concessions from the Central government led by the most celebrated Kashmiri Pandit ever, Jawaharlal Nehru. Even then Sheikh Abdullah, in his autobiography, devoted one full chapter on Kashmiri Pandits, calling them “spies” and the “fifth column” of the Central government in Delhi.
Prof Madhok’s considered view was that “not only the future of Kashmiri Pandits is tied with the future of Kashmir valley but the future of India in relation to Kashmir is also tied with them. If Kashmir is to remain a part of India, Kashmiri Pandits will have to go back to Kashmir Valley not only for their own sake but also for the sake of wider interests of India as a whole. Their return and rehabilitation in Kashmir Valley must be part of any solution of the Kashmir problem.
“But now, it will not be possible for them to live with Kashmiri Muslims in the same mohallas and neighbourhoods. Islamic fundamentalism, which does not permit co-existence of Muslims and non-Muslims in peace on equal terms anywhere in the world, has got complete grip over the minds of the new generation of Kashmiri Muslims. Kashmiri Pundits, therefore, will have to live in separate settlements within Kashmir Valley” (Kashmir: The Storm Center of the World; Houston, 1992).
A separate and reserved area or district exclusively for the resettlement of displaced Kashmiri Hindus should be earmarked in south Kashmir, closer to Jammu. It should stretch from the Jawaharlal tunnel under Banihal Pass to Zojila Pass and should include the Verinag springs, Acchhabal, Kokarnag, Mattan, Martand, Pahalgam and the holy cave of Shri Amarnath. Mattan and Amarnath being holy pilgrim spots and Pahalgam being a popular tourist spot, will help develop this area as a major pilgrimage and tourist centre. Indian industrialists and Kashmiri Pandit entrepreneurs must invest in this area for its development. To meet this end, he suggested two things way back in 1992 soon after the exodus of the Kashmiri Hindus began from the valley. They were: 1. The setting up of a Kashmiri Hindu resettlement fund with major contributions from the Central and state governments and partially from the general public. 2. A Kashmiri Hindu resettlement board with representatives of the Central and state governments and Kashmiri Hindus. It should undertake the survey and construction of resettlement colonies and townships in the reserved areas.
Further, he said, some seats can also be reserved for Kashmiri Pandits in the Legislative Assembly of Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits, the original inhabitants of the valley, who have preserved its culture, language and way of life through the centuries, have inalienable rights on Kashmir. They must get a share of the territory of Kashmir where they may be able to live with honour and without fear.
Dr Madhuri Madhok, elder of Prof Madhok’s two daughters, is an author and journalist. She has also worked as a media academic.