Stand with Kashmir Statement on Kashmiri Pandits and the Ongoing Aspiration for a Pluralistic Jammu and Kashmir*

In the lake, the arms of temples and mosques are locked in each other’s reflections.

Agha Shahid Ali, “Farewell”


As Kashmiris and non-Kashmiris who aspire for a just, peaceful future for Kashmir and Kashmiris, we envision an inclusive, pluralistic Jammu and Kashmir in which all of its historic inhabitants are able to live with dignity.


This week marks the beginning of the departure of the vast majority of Pandits (ethnic Kashmiri Hindus) from the Kashmir Valley in 1990.


In the late 1980s, a mass rebellion against India’s occupation of Kashmir took off with the widespread support of Kashmiris. This was a period of extreme militarization, violence, fear, and chaos resulting from India’s suppression of the pro-self-determination movement. There are multiple, contested narratives over why those Pandits who departed left and the role of state and non-state actors in facilitating or causing their departure.


India’s longstanding and still ongoing suppression of information and democratic rights, lack of transparency, prohibition of international observers, legalized impunity and failure to conduct proper, impartial investigations into violations in Jammu and Kashmir prevents us from fully understanding what happened.


What we do know is that the departure of Pandits from the Kashmir Valley in 1990 was a tragedy, and that the pain of living away from your home is a deep one. We also know that this tragedy has been and is being weaponized by the Indian state and pro-India forces to undermine the Kashmir freedom movement through discourses that seek to:


1) Falsely portray Kashmir as an exclusive “Hindu” space, labeling non-Pandit Kashmiris as “invaders” and “foreigners” and Pandits as “aborigines” or Kashmir’s “original inhabitants;”


2) Demonize other Kashmiris, and particularly Kashmiri Muslims;


3) Falsely portray the Kashmiri freedom movement as “radical Islamic extremism” or “terrorism” rather than a movement for self-determination grounded in just principles and in international law;


4) Justify the Indian Government’s continued gross violations of the fundamental rights of Kashmiris; and


5) Exploit and exacerbate divisions among Kashmiris and those who would otherwise support their struggle for fundamental rights.


To that end, Stand with Kashmir would like to reiterate that:


1. We stand for Kashmir as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious place. We are committed to envisioning the region as a space the derives strength from its religious and ethnic plurality, both historically, today, and in the future.


2. We believe that the Indian Government’s longstanding, ongoing brutal suppression of the Kashmiri pro-self-determination movement has resulted in serious human rights violations against people of different faith traditions in Kashmir. The vast majority of those violations are the direct responsibility of the Indian Government and its forces. The Indian Government has legalized impunity in Kashmir and prevented the proper, impartial investigation of such violations; nonetheless, credible investigations have evidenced that India has conducted “false flag” operations to demonize Kashmiri Muslims and divide Kashmiris.


3. We call for free and impartial investigation by credible international organizations of all allegations of violations that have occurred in Kashmir, the proper redress of all violations and the rehabilitation of all victims.


4. We stand against all forms of supremacism and the demonization of any particular group by any other group. We reject the use of Islamophobic discourses to discredit the Kashmiri freedom movement, to demonize and marginalize Kashmiris and to justify violations of the rights of, and the collective punishment of, Kashmiri people.


5. We stand for a democratic political settlement of the status of the historic state of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with just principles and international law.


6. Over the last several decades of occupation, political instability and state violence, residents of the historic state of Jammu and Kashmir from various of its constituent communities have been displaced, exiled and forced to flee from their homeland. We stand for the right of return for all such displaced people and for a future Kashmir in which all of its historic peoples live in peace and dignity.


7. The Indian Government has created and continues to perpetuate a state of insecurity for all Kashmiris. We believe that all communities in Kashmir should enjoy security, including Pandits. We stand against segregated settlements for any people in Kashmir, including Pandits. Segregation is the path of supremacists. The purported policy reasons for segregation in Kashmir are premised on racist, false narratives that have sought to, and still seek to demonize Kashmiris. Segregated settlements only serve the interests of those who seek to exploit and exacerbate divisions among Kashmiris and render impossible a dignified, peaceful future for Kashmir and Kashmiris. Pandits who wish to return to Kashmir should freely return as neighbors and friends to their fellow Kashmiris — who are Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Pandit (including those who never left Kashmir) and others — who have always called for, and still hope for, their return.


8. We urge for a critical solidarity by which the historic residents of Jammu and Kashmir from various communities can acknowledge each other’s pain and suffering, and can jointly advance a future for Kashmir based on justice, truth, and reconciliation.


Stand with Kashmir volunteers belong to various religious traditions (including Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Christian); some of our volunteers do not adhere to any religious tradition. Irrespective of our religious (or non-religious) identities, we maintain that the pro-self-determination movement of Kashmiris and the struggle for justice in Kashmir is universal; we stand for an end to oppression and the realization of rights for all Kashmiris.


*In this statement, we use the term “Kashmir/Kashmiris” as a shorthand to refer to Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. We specify when we are referring to the Kashmir Valley or the former princely (historic) state of Jammu and Kashmir.


This is an important topic, and there has been research done on this subject by experts, including studies of the historical context and relations between Kashmir’s diverse communities. We encourage you to read the following for more information and other perspectives:


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