Khurram Parvez is a prominent Kashmiri human rights activist. He is the Chairperson of Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances [AFAD](which has won the 2016 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award) and Program Coordinator of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society [JKCCS]. Khurram is a recipient of the 2006 Reebok Human Rights Award.
In this second part of his interview, he talked about role of religion in Kashmir conflict, secularism in India, Gender Discrimination in Kashmir, Kashmiri Minorities, PDP-BJP alliance & More
To read the first part of this interview CLICK HERE In which he talked about his early life, why activism, challenges faced, solutions of Kashmir conflict, What majority wants, his reaction on being prevented from boarding flight to Geneva and being charged under Public safety act in which he was kept in jail for 76 days.
Is there any role of religion in Kashmir conflict?
It’s not just the resistance movement which has religion as an element. The occupation is also religious, unfortunately. The Indian government claims to be a democracy but acts generally in Jammu and Kashmir as a Hindu majoritarian state. Acts only to protect the interest of Hindus. It has made itself appear as a Hindu occupation.
That’s why you would see an increased investment in the Yaatras in Jammu and Kashmir. What about Kashmiri Pandits? What about the minority?
Government services in Jammu & Kashmir were always dominated by Hindus. One-third of the Government employees in 1947 were Hindus and even in 1989 the majority of the bureaucrats in Jammu and Kashmir, almost around 65% of them were Hindus. But the percentage of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir is around 28% while as their representation in the administrative affairs was 65%. Even today, 50% of Kashmir Administrative Services officers are Hindus and in the IAS cadre the percentage of Hindu officers is around 65%.
So what does this tell us? Even if you look at the judiciary, out of all the judges, only two happened to be Muslim. Because the state always has trusted Hindu names only. They don’t trust any Muslim names. So if the state has acted as a Hindu majoritarian militarized occupation, it is very natural for the people to respond as Muslims because Muslims have been persecuted.
The other reason is that in past so many years government has denied any political space to the pro-freedom groups in Jammu and Kashmir. So if you deny any political space, the only by default space available for people at the grass root level is the mosque. Mosques are the only place where Hurriyat leaders can go and talk to people. So because of this what is happening is, that if you are speaking to your own people in a mosque rather than public places your language will automatically be religious.
For example, if you are asked to speak in a temple, even about politics, your language will be automatically influenced. You will speak in a different tone.
The government has pushed us inside the mosque and now it’s crying that Kashmiris are religious fanatics. That’s a dream and that’s a desire which Government of India has. It wants to see Kashmiris become religious fanatics. We have always defeated the narrative of the Indian state and we will defeat this narrative of radicalism as well.
Do you think India is secular in spirit or is it only on paper?
For Kashmiri people, there is no confusion. We have seen Indian government, whether it was led by Congress or BJP or Communists and Janta Dal together; we have always seen Government of India acting as a Hindu majoritarian state.
It was during the Congress rule that cow slaughter was banned in most of the Indian states and not BJP. So the Hindu appeasement has been always a part of politics in India. I think in Kashmir; the way Indian army, the Indian government has behaved, makes it clear for people of Kashmir that India was never a secular country. India was always a Hindu majoritarian country.
For us, BJP is extreme right wing, and Congress is right. There is no centrist party we see in Delhi. The left is also, unfortunately, very right.
We often hear that there is a lot of discrimination on the basis of gender in Kashmir. Do you think that under the larger issue of self-determination, the rights of women have not been discussed?
No, I don’t think so. I think it’s also like when Americans were talking about Afghanistan evasion they started this discourse that they want to liberate the Afghan women.
It’s actually unfortunate to even answer these kinds of discourses because what was happening in Afghanistan was a massive militarized occupation of United States. And they wanted to make the world believe that it’s a feminist occupation because these people wanted to protect the lives of Afghan women. They actually harm the Afghan women more than anyone else.
So in India also this discourse which has emanated about Kashmiri women not participating in democratic processes or jobs or other things is a discourse based on lies. The reality is the situation of Kashmiri women is far better than Indian and Pakistani women.
There may not be any feminist organization leading the feminist cause in Jammu and Kashmir because it is not required so. Because the society is not against these values. Society is not against the empowerment of women. In India, you require all these organizations because structurally society is against all these values.
Only because the biggest priority is the political cause and that’s the reason why other organisations or other movements do not emerge on the scene. But just because there is no organisation it does not mean there is no work happening on the empowerment of women.
If you see the social indicators of Kashmir, the percentage of women working in government sector, you will be surprised. And the people who are raising this issue against Kashmir would be shocked to hear that the number of women working in the government sector is far bigger than anywhere in other Indian states.
Women are weakest in India if you compare it to rest of the world. The problem is when the question comes from India – that they’re concerned about Kashmiri women, people get irritated. Because our situation of women is far better, it’s not even comparable to India. We don’t even want to compare ourselves to India.
When I was in Kashmir, I was told by Parveen Ahanger that “Hindus were called so that Muslims can be Killed”. How far do you agree with it? If you agree at all.
We are doing a report on the Kashmiri minorities. Hopefully, It would be out by the end of this year. The report explains what were the reasons which led to the Migration of Kashmiri Pandits. We will try to base it on the narrative of the Kashmiri Pandits who we meet and also the government facts and figures.
There is a lot of negative propaganda against Kashmiris in the last 27 years that Kashmiri Pandits have been driven out and I understand why they are doing this.
But we have been asking the government that there should be a proof, there should be a commission of inquiry appointed to identify the reasons along with the people who led to the Migration of Kashmiri Pandits.
Why is the government not interested in doing a probe on the issue of Migration of Kashmiri Pandits? Why is it scared of even probing that? We believe that there should be a very comprehensive probe of the killings of Kashmiri Pandits and also on the issue of their migration.The truth should come out.
What we have seen on the ground in 1990 and what we have documented is that there are very complex, multiple reasons for the migration of Kashmiri Pandits. There is not just one reason that Kashmiri Pandits all of a sudden decided to leave or someone asked them to get out.
It is not as simple as that. Neither is there a proof with anyone in Jammu and Kashmir of suggesting that Kashmiri Pandits were driven out nor is there a proof with us to suggest that government asked them to leave. The truth lies between these two narratives. The extremist narratives. The truth is that Kashmiri Pandits felt scared.
There were some Kashmiri Pandits being killed but at that point of time some Muslims were also being killed and the number of Muslims being killed is higher than the number of Kashmiri Pandits being killed (in 1989 and 1990).
Some people have lied that 19th of January is the Holocaust day when Kashmiri Pandits were asked to leave.
If you look at the government record, on that day, not even a single Kashmiri Pandit was killed. Not even a single Kashmiri Pandit’s house was attacked and not even a single Kashmiri Pandit was injured.
The truth is, yes, there was fear. Kashmiri Pandits were being killed along with Kashmiri Muslims but at that point of time Kashmiri Pandits who identify themselves politically with India thought that they should leave Kashmir for a while but a lot of Muslims also left with them. So people who left Kashmir left Kashmir for their own reasons, for their own fears.
Kashmiri Muslims who left, left because they were also collaborating with the Indian state. Kashmiri Pandits who left felt that.. I told you about the 21st of January 1990 massacre. Well, it happened very close to a Kashmiri Pandit locality. So Kashmiri Pandits were under the impression that there might be reprisals because the army is killing more Muslims and Kashmiri Pandits might retaliate. So on this presumption, a lot of people felt scared and they left.
Some people also left because they were working with Intelligence Bureau, police, other intelligence organizations. But Muslims who were working in police or government offices also left.
But yes, having said all that I said, there are certain cases where Kashmiri Pandits have been persecuted only because they were Kashmiri Pandits. Those communal killings were also there but their number is far less, very less. In our documentation, in the government figures, which it reveals, 209 Kashmiri Pandits have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989, 14th of September – till now.
But I have a question for Indian people and for you as well, why do you only talk about Kashmiri Pandits? Is Indian Hindu population only concerned about the upper caste Brahmins? Only 209 of those who got killed? Are you not concerned about others? Are you not concerned about Muslims?
Of course in India, the discourse is so polarized, communally charged, that you would not be concerned about Kashmiri Muslims who were killed. But you should be still concerned about other Hindus who got killed here. Most of the Indian people are not concerned about killings of Muslims. Because whenever we talk about mass graves, 10,000 disappearances, 70,000 killings, the next questions from Indian people is what about Kashmiri Pandits?
Do Indians even know how many Hindus got killed minus Kashmiri Pandits? Nobody knows. Nobody’s even concerned about them. Nobody is talking about those Hindus. Why? If you talk about Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindus – Other Hindus who got killed were fighting for India, they lost their lives, many of them while fighting also.They resisted pressure from militants as well.
The total number of Hindus including Kashmiri Pandits who got killed in Jammu and Kashmir is, according to Government is 1544. Out of these only 209 are Kashmiri Pandits. But everyone in India seems to be concerned only about the Brahmins. If you are not concerned about Kashmiri Muslims fine but be concerned about other Hindus who got killed here in Jammu and Kashmir. Nobody is talking about them. No one is talking about their rehabilitation. They also suffered a lot.
The problem in the Indian discourse about Kashmir is that most of it are actually determined by the hyper-jingoistic Indian right wing media. It is they who determine what Indians should talk about when it comes to Kashmir. You talk about Kashmiri Pandits and you talk about women’s right in Kashmir, these are the questions which have been determined by the media discourse. A negative, maligning discourse has been there because of the interest of the people in the government and also the corporate media.
Mehbooba Mufti in an interview recently said that PDP did Alliance with BJP to end the miseries of Kashmiris and find some kind of honorable solution to the Kashmir problem. Is that happening in your opinion, sir ?
As a politician, she has a rightful place to say all this. If she thinks that by having an alliance with BJP there is a possibility of resolution we would be happy to see that but we actually believe that the Indian government, whether it is led by BJP or by Congress, is at this stage not ready to resolve Jammu and Kashmir conflict. It does not matter who is in power, the Indian government has no political will for resolution. In Kashmir, we don’t see much of a difference in Congress and BJP. It’s a struggle of Indian people if they want to get rid of BJP and I think they should not use our soldiers to fire at them.
What would be your message to students across India (including Kashmir)?
The message is simple and clear. We believe that young people should not be blinded by this negative jingoistic discourse of the right wing media. They should come to Kashmir, they should work with people and try to find out the truth and then propagate it. Because in any conflict the first casualty is truth and that is what has happened in Kashmir.
The Government of India through its operation has ensured that the truth is completely muzzled. People’s courage to speak the truth is targeted. If you see the military operations in Jammu and Kashmir, they have targeted those who have the courage speak the truth. That is why I believe, more Indian people should come to Kashmir, find out the truth and then accordingly make up their mind.
Whatever the Indian government has learnt in this laboratory of violence, which is Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian laboratory of violence, they will use that on Indian people as well. Because I very firmly believe this quote of Martin Luther King, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’
So I believe that whatever is happening here will affect Indian people in the future. The majority of Indians feel very elated and happy that Kashmir is being treated very firmly and it is being spoken, unfortunately in a very right wing discourse.
And if the Indians think that this will be limited to Jammu and Kashmir then they are fooling themselves. When you feed the monster, it becomes bigger and bigger and the monster will ultimately eat you up. I am not talking about the monster as any particular political party. I am just saying that this is a mindset, the mindset in which Indian people have invested previously, will affect you and it’s exactly this way that in some other countries things have evolved.
In Nazi Germany, this is how democratic fascism evolved, because violence on the others was considered to be necessary. Likewise, in India’s discourse, violence against Kashmiris is considered to be a necessity and it will affect you tomorrow. India’s political future is in great danger and young people in India should be aware of this.
They should try and involve themselves in this discourse and try to change things for their own. Forget about Kashmir. I think Kashmiri people are capable enough to fight for themselves. Indian people don’t have to fight for Kashmiris but for themselves, for their own political future.
अभी एक गाय आपके पीछे दौर रही है, आप आपने आप को गाय से तो बचाएं.
The interview is taken by @alokanand and edited by Aakanksha.To suggest an interview, feedbacks, comments you can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org