Wandhama and Kupwara: Fading truth and jaded reconciliation

On the 27th of January, 1994 27 people were killed by security forces; the incident left scores injured.  Most  if not all  the victims were Muslim.Eerily , after an intervening period of four years, in 1998, on the 27th of January 23 people were murdered in cold blood by unknown killers.  The victims this time were Kashmiri Pandits(Kashmiri Hindus) who had chosen to stay back in Kashmir. The common or almost common thread undergirding the killings was the Republic day. The Kupwara killings happened on the 25th of January and the Wandhama killings on the 27th of January. (We labeled the killings as “mass killings” rather than “massacres” to inject sobriety and proportion into both the nature of the killings and the debate thereof).

We will neither go into speculations regarding who committed these crimes nor into “conspiracy theories”. We will, however, employ the gory killings to illustrate a point. In both cases, people (humans) were killed but alas given the nature of the conflict in and over Kashmir, these killings were and became politicized- so much so given that in one incident Muslims were killed and in the other Hindus, the conflict acquired Hindu-Muslim over and undertones. And, unfortunately, both killings are being highlighted as such. What is lost in the recriminations over the killings, is the human disaster that both killings were and the bitter legacy they left between two estranged communities of Kashmir: Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims.

We may make a digression here. Psychologically, closure is very important after a bitter or traumatic experience-at both individual and collective levels. Psychological closure is the need for humans for a firm answer to a closure and an equally human aversion to ambiguity. Both Wandhama and Kupwara killings call for a definitive need for closure and both are shrouded in obscurity and ambiguity. This is more poignant and salient given the nature of estrangement between Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits and the equally important need for some sort of a reconciliation.

At a time when the clamor for return of Kashmiri Pandits is alive and there continue to be calls for “settlement colonies” for Kashmiri Pandits, reconciliation is important between the two major communities of Kashmir. Resettlement along the lines of “exclusive Pandit colonies” is a non starter and even a recipe for disaster. It will entail , among other things, militarization of the potential Pandit return to Kashmir; it will lead to further estrangement. However, if Pandits want to and are to return to their homeland, then the prelude to this return has to be both psychological closure and some form of truth and reconciliation between the two communities. This would axiomatically call for a vigorous, bared to the bone truth between the two communities mediated in reputed non partisan forums and by reputed experts. This truth and reconciliation can hopefully become the premise or predicate of a reconciliation that is mutually acceptable to both communities. Given that we write when the two gory incidents- Wandhama and Kupwara killings- happened albeit with an interregnum of four years, the two incidents can be the bellwether of the truth and reconciliation we have in mind. In the final analysis, the killing were about people, regardless of their color , creed or religion. All in all more than 50 people lost their lives. Nobody can bring back the dead to life except God. But what we can do is use these killings as a template for some sort of a truth and reconciliation between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims. The idea is not to revive old wounds or resuscitate bad memories but merely confront the truth and reconcile so that some sort of closure is attained and a new salubrious, non politicized paradigm of relations between Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir designed. We owe this to the victims.

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