A well-meaning, self-proclaimed secular professor at my university, spoke of how he went to Sopore in Kashmir recently, and was pained to see the Soporis—an influential Pandit family—had been “forced to flee” by ‘goondas’ of Kashmir.
The professor was speaking on the Sri Krishna Commission report on Bombay riots of 1992-93, which indicts many influential Hindutva figures and police officers in mass crimes against Muslims in the post-Babri Masjid demolition riots, and which has been gathering dust for the last 10 years. The report has come to light in view of the swift judgments handed down to those Muslims allegedly involved in the Bombay blasts of 1993. Instead of calling spade a spade, he went on to use pretty neutral phrases like ‘a certain community, a particular community’ while referring to Muslims killed in the Hindu mob violence in Bombay and elsewhere , but when it came to Kashmiri Pandits he made their identity explicit.
Not that it surprised me that all he could notice in Sopore was the missing Sopori family, and not the scars of death and destruction left by Indian Army’s actions on the town or hundreds of its residents killed or maimed by them, but the way he compared the tragedy of Pandits in Kashmir with that of Muslims in Bombay and Gujarat. In fact, it was a subtle attempt to discursively equate the culpability of Hindutva people in India and Muslims in Kashmir. He conveniently chose to ignore on whose side the all-powerful Indian state stands. Many student colleagues heaved a sigh of relief. They left the auditorium with lighter conscience. Indian state’s and society’s crimes were justified implicitly by reference to a popularized narrative about Kashmiri Pandits.
The professor’s speech irked me more for he kept referring to L K Advani and Bal Thakeray as Advaniji and Thakeryji. Well, so did a well known social activist who spoke after the professor, who has been fighting for long for justice to the victims of communal violence in India, and who, according to her own admission, receives daily threats from the Shiv Sena and its other clones.
On a wall in Leh recently: Free Ladakh from Kashmir. Free Tibet.