Kashmiri Pandit leader hits out hard at govt, says Kashmir sitting on a volcano

Picture of Altaf Hussain
Altaf Hussain , senior Journalist , Shrinagar , Kashmir

I have known Kashmiri pandit leader Sanjay Tickoo, from.mid-1990s. He is among the few thousand Kashmiri Pandits who have stayed put in the Valley while more than 90 per cent of the community have left, mostly in the wake of the armed conflict that broke out in.the late 1980s. Today,  heheads the Kashmiri. Pandit Sangharsh Samiti. I have known him in that capacity but havent had much interaction with him. 

 The Kashmiri Pandits have always identified themselves with the Nehru family, perhaps because India’s first Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru’s ancestors were of Kashmiri origin. But I know from personal experience that many among the migrant KPs (Kashmiri Pandits),  though not all , have become ardent supporters of the BJP ever since their exodus from Valley in 1990s. So, on Tuesday, August 10, I expected fireworks during a debate on Ramdutt Tripathi’s RDT SHOW on Media Swaraj in which Sanjay Tickoo had been invited to discuss  Kashmir , the occasion being the visit of Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi.

But Tickoo shocked both me and Ramdutt Tripathi, and most probably the viewers as well, by his fierce criticism of the Central and the UT governments.

He said despite tall claims of the BJP govt, nothing had changed for better in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, he said, things had become. worse. He said it was Police Raj in J&K in which “human rights of every Kashmiri are being violated.”

Mr Tickoo said he being a Brahmin, his loyalty to India was a given fact. But he warned that if the Indian govt persisted with its agenda in Kashmir, the situation would be much worse than it was in 1990.

“I had no fear in 1990 (when armed conflict had begun) even though many people, Hindus, Muims and Silhs were being killed. But today I feel scared.” He said even if everything looked calm after revocation of Attivle 370, there was lava gathering inside the hearts of people which could erupt anytime. “In 1990  only Kashmir burnt, but this time, if Kashmir burns, whole of India will be up in flames too” he said.

Tickoo attributed his fears, among other things, to the political vacuum and absence of a political  process/ activity. He said the bureaucrats have become arrogant , with “everyone of them thinking of himself as Modi or Amit Shah.” 

He said  Kashmiri Pandits, met the Lieutenant Governor , Manoj Sinha in August last year. “He assured us that he would have a word with the Chief Secretary who , in turn, would address our problems . But since then we have not had audience with the CS even once”, he lamented, adding that “we feel like second  class citizens in the Republic of India.” He went as far as to allege that the BJP govt was “taking revenge from Kashmiris , both Hindus and Muslims.” He further said that,corruption had become rampant in the past two years. 

Kashmiri Pandits protest scene last year

 But Mr Tickoo was equally critical of the Congress party. He said both Congress and the BJP had mistreated Kashmir.

He blamed Nehru (without naming him though) for not holding a plebiscite in Kashmir before 1953, when Sheikh Abdullah was the most popular leader of the Kashmiri people and stood on India’s side. (In 1953., and it was coincidentally  the month of August, Nehru had Sheikh Abdullah dismissed from power and jailed for more than a decade. The Sheikh  launched the plebiscite campaign in mid 1950s during his incarceration). 

Mr Tickoo had something very flattering to say  about Muslims in Kashmir. He said most of the Kashmiri Muslims were not extremists. “Orherwise, I would not have survived here these 32 years” he said.  

 Mr Tickoo  said that for some years,  he had been organising Dussehra processions in Srinagar., which normally would be done by Khatris (from Punjab and elsewhere). “Thousands of people attend, most of them Muslims”, he said.

 Mr Tickoo said while most of the Kashmiri Pandits fled the Valley in 1990s due to the armed conflict, those of the community who left the Valley in the two decades after the year 2000 did so for economic reasons.  He put the number of Kashmiri Pandit families staying put in the Valley today at  800 plus. 

Mr Tickoo expressed deep anguish over  non-Kashmiris usurping temple properties in Kashmir. “They are trying to assault our religious and cultural traditions”, he said.

Note : For full version of Ram Dutt Tripathi’s discussion with Mr Altaf Hussain and Sanjay Tickoo please watch this video on Media Swaraj YouTube Channel.

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