Lighting Candles, Remembering Martyrs
Martyrs day – 14th Sept. 2010
(Candle light ceremony addressed by
Dr. K L Chowdhury)
Friends, we are gathered here this evening in this austere ceremony to observe the 20th anniversary of our martyrs. We are here to remember and recount their sacrifices by paying our tributes to them. We light the candles to express our deep indebtedness and gratitude to them who sacrificed their lives so that ours may be saved. We do so to glorify them so that their celestial light illumines our souls. We light the candles to dissolve the darkness of terror and to banish the fear that has been let loose on us by people driven by wickedness, hatred and intolerance. We light the candles to dispel the dark clouds of depression that hover above us because of the callous indifference of the state administration and the central government. We light the candles that we may lead kindly light for the nation to shake it from complaisance and submission to the forces of subversion, secession and terror in Kashmir and the rest of India. We light the candles to show our immense gratitude to the thousands of army personnel, the central security agencies, the state police who sacrificed their lives defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India and fighting terrorists and subversives.
Friends, when we remember our martyrs we recall the horror stories how they were bullied, tortured and done to death in cold blood. Recounting terror leads to a catharsis of terror; recounting terror is a part of the exorcism of terror. It works by the same psychological device that we use in treating people who have been wronged, abused and traumatized. Recounting terror is important in stalling our fall into the abyss of amnesia, lest we are lulled into complaisance and a false sense of security in exile. Please do not forget that our adversaries have not yet finished their work by merely uprooting us from our homeland, engineering our exodus and driving us into exile. They are not done yet; they are ever scheming, and conspiring to hound us even in exile, to make life difficult at each step, to drive us further into desperation and to squeeze all possible space in J&K – physical and psychological, social and cultural, economic and political to choke us out of existence.
Friends, it is a day to recall the selective killings of our community members and the mass massacres of Pandits in the hamlets of Sangrampora, Wandhama, Nadimarg, Chattisingpora etc. Even more painful than the gruesome killings have been the intimidation and the innuendoes, the vitriol, the barbs and the sarcasm, and the humiliation and the insults poured on us at every possible juncture during our everyday life in Kashmir. Worse were the orgies, the jubilation, and the dance of death that the tormentors indulged in after committing the heinous crimes.
Two incidents still haunt me and have caused anguish more than the ghastly murders. First, the morning after Shri Tkka Lal Tapilloo was eliminated, when I was changing into the white apron ready to go round my ward in SMHS Hospital, the clerk of the department of Medicine came to my room – a lean and short fellow who could be described as a moderate. He wore a funny smile on his face. “Sir, do you know, Tikka Lal has been shot dead?” he said unemotionally, matter-of-factly.
I kept quiet, looking at him as if I did not know what he was talking about.
“Tikka Lal sir, the Jan Sangh leader.” He continued.
I was still unresponsive.
“Tikka phaetr sir. He was shot dead like a dog right near his house?”
Those were the epithets and the abuse chosen for our leaders by ordinary, even petty people, in ordinary conversation with us. Words more piercing than poison darts
“But why?” I shouted, “what crime had he committed?” He could feel the anger in my voice
“Possibly, because he was big mouthed and spoke too much,” he said putting up an innocent, expression as if it were justified to shoot anyone who spoke ‘too much’.
The second incident was when Judge Nila Kanth Ganjoo was killed and left to die on the road. No one was allowed to touch the body. People desiring to visit his home to offer condolences were warned that the terrorists were watching and would punish anyone found empathizing with the judge’s family. Not only was he a friend and colleague of my father, but his daughter was our colleague as well. If you are not allowed to mourn the dead, to express sympathy with the bereaved, you are living in servitude and terror. I led a group of KP doctors from the hospital in open defiance of the threat and paid a visit to the bereaved family.
Nurse Sarla of SKIMS was attending on militants admitted in the medical institute. She was killed because she was believed to know too much about the nexus between the faculty members of SKIMS and the militants. Lassa Koul, Prana Ganjoo, Prem Nath Bhat, Sarwanand Premi and his son, and hundreds of others- teachers and engineers, lawyers and judges, nurses and doctors, professors and professionals, social activists and shopkeepers, street walkers and farmers and others were killed because they were Kashmiri Pandits and Indians.
Friends, let us not forget the hundreds and thousands of people who lost their lives prematurely in exile fighting displacement, depression and disease. They too are martyrs because they did not submit to the dictates of our oppressors; they preferred to leave everything behind but not their honor, not their commitment to the nation. They kept the light alight and the fire burning by burning themselves in the cauldron of exile.
The blood of all these martyrs is not only on the hands of fanatics and fundamentalists, jihadis and Islamists, but also on the successive state rulers who have let loose an inexorable tyranny through ideological, administrative, constitutional and judicial processes that have been maneuvered and violated in a way blatantly prejudicial to the minorities. This impalpable, insidious, invisible state terror is worse than the terror of the gun.
We have also to recognize a new kind of terror – the sinister terror of the media, both print and electronic especially a large number of national dailies and some prominent TV channels which clearly are the handmaidens of the terrorists and Islamists, who have hired the so called intellectual-liberal elite of our country to denigrate Hindus and Hinduism and advance the cause of separatists, secessionists, stone pelters and militants.
Friends and comrades, how should we pay our best homage to the martyrs? We seek inspiration from those who dared and blazed a trail of fearlessness and sacrifice. They have taught us that we should not let the enemy steamroll us into submission, and force us into conversion We must vehemently counter, by word deed and action, jihad in its all manifestations, and its demonic impact on the rest of the world, esp. our own community.
Friends, we are going through a very crucial phase of the current upheaval in Kashmir, possibly worse even than the time of our cleansing from Kashmir. It is India that is being systematically cleansed from Kashmir this time. There is a likelihood of big concessions for the hardcore separatists by the Govt. of India. Provision of thousands of jobs and incentives, constructing the international airport and laying a network of railway lines in the valley, provision of subsidies for Haj, compensation for loss of business due to strikes and hartals during the last 20 years, writing off loans etc has not appeased the people of the valley. Even if the Govt. withdraws or dilutes the AFSPA, grants autonomy, and tries to pamper, appease and placate them by other kindly and benevolent gestures and through largesse, through concessions and other devices, it is not going to stop the turmoil. The demon has tasted blood these sixty years after India won freedom. It will not stop short at anything, not even Azadi. It is sworn to destroy our land. That is the biggest danger.
If Kashmir gets autonomy, there has to be a quid pro quo. Homeland for Kashmiri Pandits is well conceived and still holds. It is our birthright and the real panacea for all our problems. It also is the key card which the Govt. of India can use if it is inclined to hold on to Kashmir, at least a slice of it, and to counter the Islamists, secessionists and Azadi mongers at national and international forums. If Bosnia can be carved out of the Balkans why not homeland for Kashmiri Pandits? Are we not the indigenous and ancient citizens of the place, the aborigines?
However, homelands are not achieved in thin air, not by mere slogans, nor in drawing rooms, but by a sustained crusade which may take big sacrifices and a long time. Remember, we have no sympathizers, no partners, no allies outside our community; we are up against an array of adversaries including an unfeeling, uninformed nation, an inimical state Govt., an impotent Central Govt. and hostile media. It is our battle, our crusade and we have to fight it together, and sink personal egos and differences and stop internal dissensions and denigrations of each other. We have to retrieve homeland and seize it back inch by inch.
Homeland means space – physical and cultural, economic and political, emotional and spiritual. But the physical space is missing for now. If we can find some political space till we get a physical space why not. But unfortunately the word Political Empowerment has become a hate word with some of our friends. They confine its meaning to the nomination or reservation of an MLA or MP or member of the municipal corporation. How one or two legislators can influence a 75 member assembly, they argue. They do not realize that political empowerment has wider connotations. In any case why do they forget that we are living in an age of coalition politics? Even having a single MP or MLA rather than having none matters. Shamim Ahmad Shamim would roar in the Parliament and hold the MPs in thrall with his oratory and advocacy for Kashmir. Saifudin Soz brought down Vajpayee ministry single-handed; he is still reaping a rich harvest for that treason.
It is sad that some o our other friends feel they have the prerogative of speaking on Kashmir and are the sole voice of KPs. They do not tolerate any viewpoint that goes contrary to their dogma. They rage and rave and attribute imaginary motives to our words and deeds. They are the ones who cried wolf every time we came up with a new idea, a new vision. They could not digest our advocacy for Constituencies in Exile; they decried the Three Tier Return Formula; they ridiculed the City-State module for rehabilitation that we suggested in response to the Prime Minister’s Package. They debunked it all because these concepts were new and practical, because we were trying to respond to the evolving situations and trying to find some practical ways of ameliorating the distress of exile. Let me remind you that none of these concepts are at the expense of, or as a substitute for, homeland. They are steps towards that final goal. If we did not reject other temporary ameliorating measures like the doles, the one room tenements and Jagati Township why should we have reservation about seeking more concessions till we achieve homeland?
Unfortunately we can not agree even on the prime Minister’s Employment package. The youth of our community are directionless. They have been made to sign a contract for the jobs, which are still in abeyance, with stringent conditions akin to servitude. They will be treated worse than bonded labor. They should have refused to accept the conditions. Having committed that blunder, we should not let our youth to join in Kashmir. It will be like jumping into fire for the valley is on fire which does not show any sign of abating. We must launch an agitation for the transfer of all these appointments and jobs to Jammu till the final resolution of our displacement form Kashmir.
Politics is a dynamic process that is governed by the interplay of various forces which, in politics and sociology, work like the market forces do in economy. If you do not know how to respond to these fierce forces you will go into recession and depression not unlike the global economic recession and depression that the world is facing presently. That is the danger to our idea of a Homeland if we lack a robust response to the fast evolving situations. A grandiose vision should not be allowed to become a blind spot, and inertia in responding to the call of action should not become our Achilles heel.