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The Kashmiri Files and the Politically Correct

I’m the first one to rejoice at the tremendous success of the #kashmirifiles. It shows a tremendous change of mentality in the Indian public, a fair recognition of the terrible plight of the ethnic cleansing of the Hindus in the Valley of Kashmir. This is most welcome, and we owe it in greater part to the advent of Mr Narendra Modi and his Prime Ministership. It is because of him and some of the remarkable ministers of the @BJP4India government that the public has shifted from a Nehruvian/secular outlook on events (that were not at all secular in their essence, because they always strove to bring down the Hindus, their culture, and spirituality) toa truer vision of things. It is particularly noteworthy to see that a significant part of the Indian media has also changed its stance, and is now able give their dues to the Kashmiri Pandit community.


Let me honour here also the pioneers: Lal Krishna Advani, who was one of the rare politicians to visit Kashmiri Hindu refugee camps and speak about their sorry condition and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi who had the guts to go and raise the Indian flag in Srinagar on 26 January 1992 at a time when it was extremely dangerous, and when the entire Indian media made fun of him, including Madhu Trehan’s Newstrack, the only private TV channel of the time.


I want to recall here my days as a young journalist covering Kashmir, because I faced the same incomprehension that sometimes bordered on contempt in my reporting. At that time, the BBC was the Queen, so to say, of all media, because television was still in its infancy here and radio remained, for both the public and us journalists, the best and fastest means to keep abreast news. Mark Tully was then the South Asia Chief of Bureau of BBC—he was worshipped by Indian & Western journalists alike, and his word was gold. Now, you have to remember that at this time, the BJP was nowhere, and it was a Congress government which was in power, both at the Centre and in many of the Indian States. From 1989, when the first Hindu public figures of the Valley of Kashmir were getting murdered by what was then the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), such as the director of Doordarshan, Lassa Kaul, and Mr Satish Tikoo, people whom I had interviewed earlier, till the first elections in Kashmir in 2000, the Indian goverment was accusing Pakistan of training, arming, and financing the Indian Kashmiri militnats, and sending them back across the border to create havoc in India. Mark Tully—nobody remembers it today—accused the Indian government of lying, and kept on denying that the Pakistani government had a hand in Kashmiri Indian terror.


I was a lone voice then to whom it made sense: not only did I know that the Pakistani military dictator Zia-ul-haq had vowed after the loss of Eastern Pakistan which became Bangladesh thanks to Indian support: ‘To Bleed India through a thousand cuts’ in Punjab and Kashmir; but it was also logical that Kashmir terrorists needed weapons and training, and that they crossed the Line of Control (LOC) to source these at the hands of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). I wrote so in my articles for the French-speaking newspapers I was a correspondent of, Le Figaro and Le Journal de Genève, as well as in Indian publications, such as The Hindustan Times, or The Indian Express, and often faced a lot of hostility from the sub-editors who would censor my articles.


The killing, raping, strangling by wire, shooting in front of the whole family of Hindus, started increasing in 1990, after Benazir famous ‘Azad Kashmir’ speech: the next Friday all mosques in Kashmir blared: ‘Hindus, Convert, Leave, or Die’. In a few months, the entire Hindu population of the Valley of Kashmir, who had lived there for generations, left everything—land, houses, belongings—and fled without firing a single shot in defence, becoming refugees in their own country.


I was there, it touched me immensely and opened my eyes to what a monotheist and intolerant religion could do to another people in the name of their ‘true God’. What bothered me most was that Western journalists, led by Mark Tully, followed by Indian reporters, only highlighted on the so-called human rights violations committed by the Indian army and paramilitary forces on Muslims of Kashmir, but kept quiet on the ethnic cleansing of Hindus—as if they were responsible for their persecution. Let me state it again, because I saw it first-hand—the Muslims of Kashmir started a violent war in the name of Islam, on the Indian army, the Indian government & Hindus of Kashmir. The terrible irony is that today these Muslims pose as martyrs, and are taken as face value in the Western media, such as The New York Times, The Guardian in London, or Le Monde in Paris.


Towards the end of my stint in Kashmir in 1994, I was one day having lunch with many other journalists in the only hotel still open in Srinagar, called ‘Adhoos’, when one of our drivers came to announce that Shabir Shah, one of the separatist leaders who was under house arrest, had escaped and would surface near the grand mosque Jamia Masjid in old Srinagar to make a speech. Immediately, the entire Western and Indian journalist corps jumped into cars to get their byte. I was not interested, but instead visited a Hindu which had been attacked by mortar the day before. It was heavily guarded by the Border Security Force and I was extremely touched by the story of the three Pandits who had chosen to stay in spite of the grave danger to themselves. It was this day that I decided to present to the public the tragic story of the Hindus of Kashmir.


In 2004, I received at the hands of PM Vajpayee the ‘Nachiketa Award for Excellence in Journalism’. With it came a cheque of 50,000 rupees, which I used to mount an exhibition on the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus. This exhibition was opened in India Habitat Centre in Delhi by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 2005, and visited by more than 10,000 people. With the help of @srisri, we displayed this exhibition all over India, and then in different parliaments in Europe, Israel, and finally to the US Congress in 2011, which prompted Democrats & Republicans alike to pass a resolution taking notice of the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus.


I had already started studying Indian History, and writing books to correct the many failings and injustices that the British coloniser’s view of India had standardised. But I felt it was not sufficient, so when Sri Sri gave my wife Namrita and I a piece of land near the Pune airport, I decided to open a museum there dedicated to the great Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The first exhibition we housed was of course that of Kashmiri Pandits. Today, The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum of Indian History has now a Bharat Mata temple, a library, a reception, and 20 pavilions.


Once again, let me congratulate Vivek Agnihotri, his dedication, courage, persistence. The success of The Kashmir Files should not make us fall into the politically correct’ mode—to talk about the Kashmiri Pandits, and do nothing about them … I can see it coming already …


François Gautier

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