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In separate verdict on Art 370, Justice Kaul recalls Pandits' exodus

December 11, 2023 20:05 IST

The mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community changed the very cultural ethos of Kashmir and there has been little turnback despite three decades having gone by since it got triggered by growing fundamentalism fuelled from across the border, Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said on Monday.

IMAGE: Kashmiri Pandits display placards at an event in New Delhi to mark the 30th anniversary of their mass exodus from the Kashmir Valley. Photograph: ANI Photo.

Justice Kaul was part of a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud which unanimously upheld the Centre's decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 bestowing special status upon the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In his separate verdict, Justice Kaul noted the history of Kashmir, including the "troubled times" of the 1980s, as well as the recent developments.

"God and nature have been very kind to Kashmir valley. Unfortunately, the human species has not been so considerate. The 1980s saw some troubled times culminating in the 1987 elections, which saw allegations and counter-allegations," he said in his 121-page concurring judgment.


He said there was a growth in fundamentalism fuelled from across the border, and the 1971 creation of Bangladesh was not forgotten.

"Unemployed and frustrated youth were trained as militia and were sent back into Kashmir to create chaos. It was a major change for people who, irrespective of faith, were known for peace and tolerance. Kashmiri Shaivism and Islamic Sufism were taken over by such militant tendencies," Justice Kaul said.

"There was a mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community, threatened for their life and property, changing the very cultural ethos of Kashmir. There has been little turnback despite three decades on this issue," he said, adding it was a proxy war on the territory of India with "active support from across the border".

Justice Kaul noted in order to curtail the activities of terrorists, either from across the border or indigenous, the armed forces and paramilitary forces were brought in.

"The kidnapping of the daughter of the then Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, and her subsequent release in exchange for terrorists detained, lit the last match, which produced such unprecedented fire that it engulfed the whole valley," he noted.

"The bottom-line is that today's generation aged 35 years or younger have not seen the cultural milieu of different communities, which formed the very basis of the society in Kashmir," the judge said.

Justice Kaul said re-establishment of democracy was sought to be affirmed by the elections held in 1996.

He noted there have been constant endeavours thereafter to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem, with former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao stating that "sky is the limit" for autonomy of the state, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee raising the slogan of "Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat" (humanism, democracy, inclusive culture of Kashmir with amity between Hindus and Muslims).

"Legend has it that aeons ago Kashmir valley was a vast mountain lake called 'Satisar' and that Rishi Kashyap created the valley of Kashmir by draining this lake," Justice Kaul noted at the start of his verdict.

While unanimously upholding the Centre's decision of abrogating Article 370, the bench ordered restoration of statehood for the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir "at the earliest" and election to the assembly by September 30 next year.

While splitting the state into two Union territories -- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh -- the government had provided for a legislative assembly only in Jammu and Kashmir.

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