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Migration and marginality: a sociological insight of Kashmiri Pandits.

The history of mankind is the history of human movement, mostly voluntary, but as the world became more populated and as open spaces began to shrink, these movements increasingly became involuntary. People subjected to different forms of insecurity, whether stemming from violence or from lack of access to a decent life or as the result of economic deprivation, are leaving their hearths and homes in search of safety and greater opportunities elsewhere. A similar situation occurred in 1988-89 in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). The rise of insurgency in the Kashmir Valley and its adjoining areas since 1988 led to an ethno-religious divide between the two major communities inhabiting the valley and its immediate and a major consequence has been the migration of 55,304 families, which mostly comprised of minority Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) families, to Jammu and other parts of the country. Displacement and marginalisation is historical in the life of the Kashmiri Pandit Community. The outbreak of militancy changed the whole scenario. People at the time thought it as a temporary kind of migration, which some of them attempted even before 1989, but they failed to realise its gravity at that time. Now after 20 years of displacement they are facing the wrath of migration in the form of threat to the future of their progenies. An attempt has been made to study the changes that the community witnessed through time in their socio-cultural and demographic-economic sphere after displacement. The paper has tried to look in to the migration process leading to marginality in case of Kashmiri Pandits after 1989-90. Effect of migration on the socio-economic and cultural life of Kashmiri Pandits after 1989-90. The process of de-ethnicszation that has generated the arguments in terms of threat to identity.


Migration and the movement it entails have always accompanied civilization in every stage of its development. Historically people have moved from one place to another by force in terms of slavery, or for reasons of colonisation. Towards the late 19th and early 20th centuries, international migrations began to be prompted by industrialisation and urbanisation. A shift in base and settlement, prompted by varied reasons and sponsored by different agents, is thus not a new concept. Unlike the early migrations, which were largely directed towards the north and the west, migrations today cannot be understood in linear terms of fluid movements, within structural constraints and continuities, the movements being marked by turbulence and change, and undertaken in multiple directions (Behara: 2006).

In the contemporary context of globalisation, as has often been noted, the world is in a constant state of flux. People are presented with multiple worlds, images, things, persons, knowledge and information at the same time and at an everincreasing pace. Moreover, the life cycle of each of these has been drastically shortened, such that the world one encounter is perceived and consumed largely in temporary terms. Change, then, is the only constant and the changes that characterise this external world one in habit are internalised by them and have a significant impact on their lives and their perceptions about time and space. Individuals are forced in one way or another to respond to the larger forces operating on them since no one remains completely removed from the turmoil that surrounds them; the world having come closer, globalisation has facilitated the process of migration considering the forces of demand and supply, needs and gratifications, and the increased and easier possibility of movement and communication (Joseph: 1998).

In the process of movement, one undoubtedly leaves behind a familiar world to explore one's chances in an alien land. The process of migration may thus have a constraining effect not only in structural terms, of the choices made available, or cultural terms, but also in the sense in which it may include abuse, exploitation, and emotional and psychological distress (Chari and Chander: 2003).

The history of mankind is the history of human movement, mostly voluntary, but as the world became more populated and as open spaces began to shrink, these movements increasingly became involuntary. People subjected to different forms of insecurity, whether stemming from violence or from lack of access to a decent life or as the result of economic deprivation are leaving their hearths and homes in search of safety and greater opportunities elsewhere. Masses are everywhere in flight. The reasons compelling their movements are various. Any movement of people from the place of origin to another for the purpose of settling down (temporary or permanent) is generally known as migration. It is not only natural but also steered by socio-economic changes in society. Migration emerges in external and internal spheres. External migration stands for crossing the internationally recognised boundaries of the country and settling down in foreign land. The internal migration occurs within the country from one region to another or from one place to another and has psychological, socio-economic and other reasons and backgrounds. A person tends to remain in the same area in which he develops a sense of belongingness so long as his needs are satisfied and is well adjusted without any threat perception. The movement of population need not occur across borders; they are equally traumatic for emigrants if they take place within the borders of a country. At other times, people are forced to move from one region to another or from one country to another. For example, at the time of partition between India and Pakistan, migrants faced many problems including threat to their life and property. Ordinarily, it takes a long time for the migrants to re-establish themselves. The problems of migrants get magnified if they represent different communities, speak different languages and dialects, practice different customs and follow different traditions. They leave behind their social circle of friends and forge new ties with the community in the area of immigration. Sometimes, the natives look down on them and because of it they have to face hostilities (Chari and Chander: 2003).

Forced migration has been a feature of history across the world. Individuals and sometimes whole sections of population have moved because of military conflict, civil war, persecution and man-made or natural disasters. However, the twentieth century has been called the 'century of the refugee' and this characterisation is well justified considering the massive human displacements that have occurred across the world in this period. The year 1947 saw one of the greatest displacements of people ever with the partition of India (Kaul: 2005).

Physical, economic and social hardships often drive people to resort to migration. Search for means of livelihood is the chief cause of migration and unavailability of the means of livelihood in the area of prior residence is believed to push people to other regions. Sometimes forced movements of people take place due to political disturbances, militancy and wars. Such movements lead to a shift of population to the neighboring countries/states as refugees. These people are not, naturally, easily accepted by the host community and are thus compelled to lead a vagabond life without having stability in terms of housing, economic pursuits and social life. Sometimes, these people are accepted by the host community or else they return to their native habitats after the restoration of peace. However, in some cases, the country does not accept them and they are considered a burden by the host country. On the other hand, some of these migrants refuse to go back to their native place because of a feeling of insecurity and the existence of political instability in the native community (Kaul: 2005).

A similar situation occurred in 1988-89 in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K). The rise of insurgency in the Kashmir Valley and its adjoining areas since 1988 led to an ethno-religious divide between the two major communities inhabiting the valley and its immediate and a major consequence has been the migration of 55,304 families, which mostly comprised of minority Kashmiri Pandit (Hindu) families, to Jammu and other parts of the country. Out of these migrant families, 21,199 are living outside the' state while 34,105 have sought shelter in the Jammu division as per government records. However, the unofficial figures put the number of families which migrated from Kashmir at one lakh. Though the migrants mainly comprised of minority Kashmiri Pandits (Hindu), some Sikh families and a few Muslim families who were perceived to be pro-Indian were also a part of the exodus. These families moved to Jammu, Delhi and other parts of the country to seek shelter (Gandotra: 2009).

Marginalisation as a social manifestation/social construct has constitutive elements namely, subjugation through domination, segregation and separation through differentiation, discrimination through power and control either of traditional or contemporary features and deprivation through social inclusion or exclusion. Marginalisation is a process. Marginals exist always and everywhere. Marginality has degrees and is not a black and white category. There are certain marginalised groups, but some groups are being marginalised and Kashmiri Pandits is one of such groups in the State of J&K. Within the Kashmiri Pandit migrants, camp and non-camp migrants do not share single common deprivation factor. There has occurred the culturocide of the Kashmiri Pandits after migration.

The structural relocation of the Kashmiri Pandit families as a consequence of forced migration has resulted in the marginalisation of the community. This paper attempts to highlight the marginalised aspects of the Kashmiri Pandit community in J&K state after 1990 exodus. The present paper relates to the study of the impact of displacement caused by deprivation, subjugation and coercion on the Kashmiri Pandits of Jammu and Kashmir. The study has focused on the changes in the socioeconomic and cultural life of the Kashmiri Pandits. The aim of the study was to understand the problems of cultural identity imagined or real among the Kashmiri Pandits as a community due to displacement (Gandotra: 2009).

The Kashmiri Pandits have witnessed many ups and downs and the changes in their social life are imminent. In the decade after 1990, the community was forced to migrate from their homeland as a displaced population to live in the makeshift camps. Nearly three hundred thousand people were forced to migrate from their homeland in the Kashmir Valley in beginning of the 1990's as a result of the conflicting situation of the State fuelled by the militant and the insurgent activities supported from across the borders.

Exodus is not new to the Kashmiri Pandits. The displacement of the population was there in different historical periods, but what makes their migration in the 1990 unusual and different is the fact that it was done under forced and compelling conditions, was a sudden and unwilling decision, and was of collective and large-scale nature. Most of them have settled in the city of Jammu in rented houses, their own accommodation and in the migrant camps with limited facilities. This unanticipated and forced migration generated several unintended consequences on the lives of the Kashmiri Pandits resulting in their marginalisation.

While Pandits had to suffer the loss of Kashmiriyat in exile, they still try to maintain their identity and cultural heritage, but their families have scattered, interkin relations have loosened and reunions are in many cases infrequent.

Displacement has apparently created a fear of loss of cultural identity among Pandits. They allege facing a grave identity crisis wherein their ethnic identity, comprising common race, religion, language, culture, tradition and custom, is on the verge of extinction. The ruptured social fabric of this once a close-knit community with strong inter-community linkages has affected their socio-cultural life.

Identities and memories get transformed over time and as a result, they tend to be subjective constructions of reality rather than objectively fixed phenomenon. The deteriorated identities of refugees, immigrants and other displaced persons facing has called 'a generalised condition of homelessness', are reconstructed in imaginative ways in their new environments. For thousands of these displaced persons, it is a journey from the ex-colony to the post-colony where they experience and express their nostalgia for the past in various forms (Gill: 2000).

In the postmodern world one constantly recreates oneself according to one's desire and situations into which one is pleased and secondly one is the product of the discourses in which one is situated. It is important to consider under what conditions one might be able to prescribe, erase and rewrite one's identity. In the postmodern conception identity also becomes something constructed through various disciplines and discourses (Jodhka: 2001).

Ethnicity and ethnic identities were for a long time treated as integral constituents of traditional preindustrial societies. For mainstream sociologists and anthropologists, ethnicity is a primordial sentiment that is likely to decline in the modern setting. According to Tonnies' modernisation was expected to neutralise ethnic diversities, thus heading towards a process of 'de-ethnicisation' (Gill: 2000).

However, this viewpoint now appears to be untenable considering the strong currents of ethnic violence and communalism in urban centres in developed as well as developing societies. Modernisation may not always lead towards de-ethnicisation. On the contrary, it may re-strengthen ethnic identities and consciousness.

In the neo-Marxists framework, however, it is argued, that the development of capitalism produces the conditions for the rise of ethic self-consciousness. Further, they argue that ethnicity is an integral part of the uneven development of capitalism and it is due to the policy of the bourgeoisie to divide the working masses so as to procure a lease of life for the moribund system. No need to emphasise, therefore "ethnic process has to be viewed as class practice articulating new definitions of a reality so as to seek new identities as power groups". Mukherjee has viewed class and ethnicity in a three dimensional frame of reference, i.e. class consciousness is latent resulting in manifest national and ethnic consciousness and when the class-in-itself manifest leading to latent nation-in-itself. This possibly could explain the ethnic conflicts having taken many shapes and forms (Widmalm: 2002).

One of the most popular cultural perspectives with reference to ethnic minorities is cultural pluralism i.e. to say willingness on the part of dominant group to permit cultural differences. In a multiethnic context, this can provide true meaning of identity through decentralisation. The theoretical support for this perspective is procured from the cultural relativity i.e. every culture needs to be judged on its own terms and that the moral judgements are always relative to the standards of a given culture.

Culture, it feels, is thus valuable only for its original polities and progress is denied to retain their uniqueness. Making ethnic distinction as an end in itself and they at times concentrate on absolute way of life, moral, custom and suggest ethnic self-isolation. Cultural exchanges between peoples took place to some degree or another at all stages of human history. The persistent commitment to tradition among ethnic minorities has been primarily a reaction to real or presumed threats against the dominant majority who cause the menace. These minorities perceive and in affect use ethnic identity as a defensive mechanism. Hence they express and maintain the positive values of their own traditional culture (Jodhka: 2001).

The second postulate is that cultural pluralism inevitably leads to crystallisation of ethnic identities and thus is a liability and inimical to national interests, and therefore the suggested remedy is assimilation and acculturation. The anthropologists declare that acculturation, comprehends those phenomenon which results when groups of individuals having different cultures come into continuous first hand contact with subsequent changes in the original cultural patterns of either of both groups. The sociologist approach of assimilation refers to the process in which varying degrees of coercion, minorities absorb the dominant patterns of the majority. It is the gradual process whereby cultural differences tend to disappear. Before and after accession of Jammu and Kashmir with the Indian state, the Kashmiri Pandits have faced the merits and demerits of assimilation and integration. Adaptation of Persian food (Wazwan), similarity in the dress pattern (Phiren etc.), the functional interdependence of Muslims and Pandits on customary services and so on directs us to believe that Pandits became a party to the process of assimilation and integration and accepted the composite cultural (Kashmiriyat) identity. The subsequent isolation of the community through exodus landed them in a new setting (migrant camps and non-camps), with the result that the community is in search for the revival of the primordial identity (Gandotra: 2009).

Field Work Methodology and Context

The study deals primarily with the community which was uprooted by militancy in Kashmir valley and who migrated to Jammu after sudden spurt in violence in 1989-90. Approximately 34,000 families settled down (initially temporarily) in Jammu division and some 22,000 families in other parts of the country. However, the researcher has restricted the study to Jammu tehsil only.

Since the Kashmiri migrants are scattered in different pockets throughout Jammu Division, a systematic physical scanning of the total area of the Jammu tehsil was done with the help of a tehsil map of Jammu and a copy of the record of registered migrants from the Relief Commissioner, Jammu to locate settlements of major concentrations of Kashmiri migrants.

The present study has operationalised the concept of ethnicity as used by Oommen. "Ethnicity is a construct which is 'contextual', 'situational' and in a continuous process of definition, formation, change and redefinition". Hence, one sees that the Kashmiri Pandit identity is also contextual. Before migration, the cultural identity in the name of "Kashmiriyat" was important, but after the mass exodus (post migration), religious identity has become more pronounced than the cultural identity. A new political activism is developing among them. Politicisation of Kashmiri Pandit identity after the 1989-90 both at the national as well as international level by the opinion leaders, media, politicians etc. made the displaced community to always talk in terms of preservation of their cultural identity.

Displacement and marginalisation is historical in the life of the Kashmiri Pandit Community. The outbreak of militancy changed the whole scenario. People at the time thought it as a temporary kind of migration, which some of them attempted even before 1989, but they failed to realise its gravity at that time. Now after 20 years of displacement, they are facing the wrath of migration in the form of threat to the future of their progenies.

An attempt has been made to analyse the changes that the community witnessed through time in their socio-cultural and demographic-economic sphere after displacement.

Problem of Emigration

The migrants had to face many problems while migrating from Kashmir in 1989-90. Most of the migration took place from the rural areas of the Kashmir valley.

* Threat to life and property, threat to family members (through pamphlets, newspaper reporting, announcements from the mosques) feeling of insecurity, particularly among, women, killing of neighbours and relatives were the major reasons for the migrants to leave the valley.

* Discussion with the migrant family household heads indicated that majority of them came in private trucks booked overnight as limited bus transport services were available and the families even had to pay exorbitant charges as the demand for trucks was high.

* A large proportion of family migration took place mainly due to the fact that members could not afford to leave their families behind in view of the prevailing situation of insecurity.

* Since Kashmiri migrants did not except expulsion from Kashmir, therefore they had to leave their home empty handed.

* Due to emigration, the displaced community lost their immovable properties, houses, shops, agricultural land, orchards, trees and livestock, which they left behind.

Problem of Immigration

The Kashmiri Pandits were not only confronted with the various problems at the time of emigration but had to face much more problems at the time of immigration. The problems faced by them at the initial level and at the subsequent levels were different.

Settlement Problem

As per the latest available figures, the number of families, which have migrated from Kashmir since 1989-90 and registered in Jammu division is 34,195. This includes 30,122 Hindus, 2,044 Muslims, 1,916 Sikhs and 23 others. It is quite clear that the migration from Kashmir division has been religious selective, because of the dominance of a particular group in the total migrant populace.

Initial Problems

Initially, some of the migrant families were accommodated in tents, some in the government and semi-government buildings, though less but a significant number of them lived in rented houses. Also a few of them were accommodated in relatives' houses as 'dependents'.

There is nothing like 'the private space' for people and especially women living in these spaces. The notion of private is all but non existent and the only available spaces are shared spaces between the men and women and often the men dominate. They have to live in miserably cramped quarters. Three generations live in one cramped quarter or tent, the married couple, the in-laws and the children. In some cases, there are a number of families put together in one big hall (although now they have started shifting to one room tenements(ORTs)). Women have to sleep cramped in corners in their small cubicles next to the member of the other families when they were in the large unpartitioned halls. The women in the camps see the loss of their private space as a loss of dignity. Some desperate attempts to maintain the dignity were done by putting up thin curtains, but they still had to share small common bathrooms.

Privacy problem not only affected the lives of the migrants living in the tents but also the lives of the existing families because of the intruded families (dependents) which had already lost the privacy because of their migration.

Continued state of homelessness, deprivation and insecurity had pushed this displaced community to a state of continuing chronic stress which led to deterioration in the overall physical and mental health of the community.

High death and low birth rates, ageing, diseases like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, heart attacks and strokes had overtaken these hapless people. Different studies conducted at the initial stage by the expert doctors and physicians of Jammu also revealed that most of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits died due to exposure to hostile environs, snake bites, heat strokes, heart, nervous and other ailments (Hak: 1992).

Eve-teasing was yet another problem which the Pandit migrant girls had to suffer in the new environment. Immediately after migration the government announced assistance--both cash and kind - to those migrant families who did not have any member in government service and as such had no other source of income. With effect from 1st January, 1990 (official date of inception of migration for assistance) to ending January 1994 the cash assistance was Rs. 10 per day per head subject to the maximum of Rs. 1,000 per family and dry rations of 9 kg rice, 2 kg atta (flour) per head (with no maximum limit) and I kg sugar per family.

Subsequent Problems

Due to prolonged migration period, government had no other option but to replace the tents with ORTs in a phased manner. At present, some 4,588 migrant families are living in such ORTs in different parts of Jammu and Udhampur districts. Though free shelters have been provided to 4,588 migrant families, more than 30,000 migrant families have been left to fend for themselves. The subsequent problems of the migrants are discussed under the following subheads:

Problem of Shelter

The tents provided at the initial stages were converted later into one room tenements. The constructed shelters are not only sub-standard, leaking, congested and uninhabitable but also lack privacy and ventilation. The built up space of these shelters (ORTs) is 10ft x 10ft x 8ft, with just one window and a door. The roof is covered with tin or asbestos sheet, resulting in oven-like conditions during scorching summers. In this stifling one-room living space births, deaths and weddings in the family occur. The migrants who could not find camp accommodation were generally left to their own initiative in the matter of accommodation. The non-providence of accommodation by the government to the majority of the Kashmiri migrants has resulted in mushrooming of migrant colonies in the urban outgrowth of Jammu city. It has resulted in lopsided development where colonies are lacking the basic civic amenities like sanitation, regular supply of safe drinking water, electricity and drainage facilities. No wonder, these places have become major areas of disease-affected people.

Relief Assistance

The cash assistance has been revised at least four times; however, there has been no change in the quantity of the rations. From 1st February, 1994 onwards till 30th May, 1996 the cash assistance was enhanced to Rs. 450 per head per month subject to maximum of Rs. 1,500 per month. With effect from 1st June, 1996 till 31st March, 1999 the cash assistance was Rs. 450 per head per month subject to maximum of Rs. 1,800 per family. From 1st April, 1999 to 30th June, 2003, the cash assistance was provided at the rate of Rs. 600 per head per month subject to maximum of Rs. 2,400 (4 souls). With effect from 1st July, 2003, cash assistance is paid at the rate of Rs. 750 per soul (maximum Rs. 3,000 per family).

The rations are, however, being provided as per the initial formula, but, if a family is having a newly born baby then it is provided with an extra quantity of sugar (250 gms per month) for next 4 years.

Some State and Central government employees, who were serving in different government/semi-government departments and PSUs in Kashmir and had left the valley, were adjusted by their respective departments in Jammu.

However, those who could not be adjusted were provided with facility of drawal of their salary as 'leave salary'.

Lack of Privacy

Even after shifting to the ORT's the migrants had to face the problem of privacy. Due to overcrowding and want of privacy there is serious erosion in the sexual functioning. The lack of private space led to complete lack of intimacy between couples and the impossibility of any real emotional bonding because of being under constant gaze and observation. The conception rate has come down and the cases of premature menopause and reduced fertility span have increased considerably. Their personal relationships were under tremendous strain sometimes even leading to increase in the divorce rates.

Change in Family Structure

The family is the primary institution of socialisation of an individual. It is a fundamental unit in providing procreation and upbringing of children in human society.

After migration, due to acute shortage of accommodation and financial compulsions, most of the families had to break up giving rise to nuclear families. The camp accommodation, which is not even sufficient for a single person, could not house a complete joint family with the result the constituent units of the family separated from their parent unit. Thus, majority of the Kashmiri migrant families at present are nuclear families. Family structure of Kashmiri migrants reveals that there is higher percentage of joint families in the non-camp areas as compared to the camp areas (Dhingra and Arora: 2005).

Health Problem

Health trauma has become a major challenge to the survival of the displaced community. The terrible stress and strain of migration and struggle for survival in an alien environment has led to the emergence of new disease entities, which were formerly unknown or rare in the community. Poor and congested housing, unsanitary and unhygienic living condition in the camps as well as rented accommodations, malnutrition, lack of basic amenities like drinking water, drainage, over-crowding, joblessness, depression led to morbidity and mortality. The lack of basic facilities like fans and coolers was a far cry in the camps where the migrants lived. However, there were lesser number of reported cases of heat strokes in the subsequent years due to gradual acclimatisation in the new habitat (Kaw, Bhatt et. al.: 2001).

Lack of Medical facilities

Lack of medical facilities which included lack of doctors, specialists, medicines, hospitals were the problems with which the migrants were confronted with at the later stage of the migration. Lack of government hospitals during the post-migration period in the camp localities forced the migrants to look for private clinics. Government did set up dispensaries in the camps but they always were/are inadequately stocked. As many as 12 dispensaries with 28 qualified migrant doctors and 111 migrant paramedical staff have been provided in various migrant camps to cater to the medical needs of the migrants. Besides, ambulance facilities are also available at Muthi (Phase I & II), Purkhoo and Nagrota Camps.

Initially, the dispensaries were housed in one room tenements (ORTs) but the Relief Organisation has taken up construction of buildings for dispensaries with sufficient accommodation (comprising three-room prefabricated structure). Five such dispensaries have been constructed so far--one each at Mishriwala, Nagrota, Battalbalian (Udhampur), Purkhoo (Phase III) and Muthi (PhaseI) migrant camps. However, the migrants are not satisfied with the medical facilities extended to them and term these as insufficient and improper (Kaul: 2005).

Problem of Education

Denial of adequate and proper facilities for education is violation of rights of people. Education has been one of the biggest casualties of the conflict. The plight of the migrant students/teachers is a worrisome problem due to dislocation.

Post migration has resulted in the discontinuation of education of the migrant youths due to inaccessibility of educational institutes and financial crises and therefore there was an increase in the dropout rate after migration. Keeping in view the future of Kashmiri migrant students, the state government opened camp schools and camp colleges for these migrant students. The camp schools and colleges in general lack all the required and desired facilities. Initially, the camp schools were run in tents in open grounds in scorching heat and thus rainy day was a holiday. The quality of education being poor, majority of children are un-employed or under employed. The discontinuation of education is the result of multiple factors which include changed new environments (housing, harsh living conditions etc), economic distress, and loss of interest among students due to non-availability of jobs.

Unemployment, Occupational Status and Economic Stagnation

Occupational profile before and after migration indicates a major shift in the sources of livelihood. Before migration the households were dependent on government services followed by agricultural income and others were self employed and in private services. The occupational status has changed significantly during the post migration period as households dependent on agricultural activities vanished and instead they were replaced by a new category of jobless/relief holders. The migration has made majority of families dependent on the meager relief provided by the government and the working population are without employment which has affected them adversely, both physically and mentally, thus reducing their productivity and their earning capacities. New expenditures unknown in Kashmir valley like house rent and transportation cost have further added to their miseries.

The employment structure of the male workers has also undergone a significant change during the post migration period. The people who were engaged in either agricultural activities or were self employed during the pre-migration period have become jobless after the migration. The phenomenon of migration has resulted in reduced livelihood opportunities for all categories, though, it has been much worse for agriculturists and those living in the camps. The migrants experienced delay in completion of education and consequent delay in getting employment. Even the eligible members could not get employment due to lack of job opportunities and lack of awareness in the new environments.

Further because of unemployment there is a tendency to marry late sometimes resulting in premature menopause among women and impotency (if not physical but mental sterility i.e lack of desire) among the men. Displacement has resulted in the loss of their fruitful productive years. The bad financial conditions forced the young ones to delay their marriage and the couples to delay having a child or not having a child at all.


Due to sudden and spontaneous decision to flee and in order to save their lives migrants abandoned their properties, both movable as well as immovable. Some of the families could bring along some equipments, clothing and bedding, and vehicles. Some families have no information about the current status of their immovable property land etc. They complain about having lost their land papers and some argue that those have been destroyed by the militants at their native places along with the other property items. The data regarding immovable property is highly unreliable as migrants overstate the measure and amount of land, orchards, etc. left behind in Kashmir.

Divorce Rate

Divorce rates have increased due to several factors, most significantly due to lesser interactions among the spouses. In some camps, a family had a thin curtain to separate it from the neighbour. Due to overcrowding, several couples rarely shared private moments and often did not develop physical or emotional bonds. Interference by their in-laws further alienated them from each other.

Families without Fathers

The conflict in Kashmir has resulted in the death of the most of the people. Many families have lost their bread winners. Kashmiri families being patriarchal in nature have lost the male members resulting in families without fathers. Though after migration a normal family also felt the intensity of problems but in the families of this short the problems were bit different. The widows in the families faced different set of problems viz. emotional stress, denial of inheritance rights, sexual harassment and general social undesirability, loss of control over children and growing sense of insecurity (Dhingra and Arora: 2005).

Breakdown of Traditional Family Structure

Kashmiri Pandits had centuries old tradition of a hierarchical joint family system within close family ties, now cracking up under the strain of migration. Functionally the most important group in Pandit society is the domestic group called the gara (household) or chulah (hearth group). A chulah rarely stands by itself in a village. It is usually embedded, as it were, in a wider grouping of domestic groups called the kotamb (family). The kotamb is usually a large, extended family and may include kin who are genealogically separated by several degrees of collaterality.

After the migration there is a breakdown of traditional joint family structure. These families have been replaced by the nuclear families due to economic strains and lack of accommodation. Joint families which marked the identity of the Pandit households have disintegrated in the post migration period. Marital status has undergone significant changes due to breakdown of traditional family structure. There is a significant increase in the divorce rates (Madan: 1989).

Language Problem

Language is regarded as the bedrock of identity. The Kashmiri language belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages. Before migration the Pandits used to speak the Kashmiri language. It was absolutely impossible to think the Pandits celebrating their rituals, festivals and other socio-religious customs without the aid of their mother tongue. Kashmiri Language never enjoyed the status of an official language. After migration the children are faced with a peculiar situation where they have to learn multiple languages, which ultimately may lead to erosion of a specific dialect of Kashmiri Language usually spoken by the Pandits. They are faced with conflicting situations as the older members of the family are trying to impose strict measures to reinforce speaking Kashmiri at home in order to strengthen their cultural values. Besides this the problem is further complicated by lack of a suitable script. Therefore lesser proportion of children and grandchildren are communicating in Kashmiri language and thus there is a danger that gradually the spoken language of Kashmiri displaced people may disappear in future (Gandotra: 2009).

Changes in Dress Pattern

The traditional dress of the males included a pheran-a long, loose, round, woolen robe up to a length down the knees with an another matching robe of white cotton called poch which acts as a sort of lining to woolen robe. The head gear called dastar or saafa was actually a five by one yard length of muslin cloth, plain or dyed tied round head with a notch in front. The ladies also used to wear a dyed pheran, usually of cotton or fine wool, with a poch. The pheran had woven red tape on borders and arms.

The change in their social life has even reached to the level that a visible change can be witnessed in their dress pattern and code. Changes in the dress code is also due to change in the climatic conditions. The different cultural exposure has brought in liking for the modern dresses especially among the younger generation. The dress pattern that has undergone change is from traditional to western as most of the men have started wearing jeans, t-shirts, the girls have started wearing skirts, jeans, shirts, tops, salwar kameez and sari are mostly used by the older women.

Changes in Food Habits

In contrast to the Brahmins elsewhere Kashmiri Pandits are essentially non-vegetarians. This is attributed to the climate, which is harsh in winter when hardly any vegetable could grow except hak.

Changes in the food habits were observed which were partly due to climate and partly due to market. The cost of the local Kashmiri vegetables had also gone up at the initial stage after migration which was yet another reason for the change. Also the pattern in terms of cooking, serving and eating has changed but some of the migrants have still tried to continue the traditional ways of having vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.

Changes in Methods of Celebrating Festivals and other Cultural Activities

The life of Kashmiri Pandits revolved round observance of all sorts of festivals, which are socio/religious in nature. The festivals extended from one to over a period of 23 days. But after migration, the lack of accommodation and resources, absence of the temples and sacred places and rivers has brought in the significant variations in the method of celebration. The Pandits do celebrate most of their festivals, the prominent one being the Mahashivratri but the method of celebration has changed. Influence of surrounding social and cultural environment has crept into the system by way of adopting local festivals (Report, J&K Center for Minorities Studies: 2006).

Adoption of Non-Kashmiri Practices

The non-Kashmiri practices included demand for dowry, adoption of non-Kashmiri fasts, giving up of age-old rituals and customs, changes in the traditional ornaments etc. Significant changes were observed in relation to dowry demand or giving up of age-old rituals and customs especially wearing of 'Dejhoru'. This cultural symbol and tradition is gradually losing its importance as its use is restricted to special occasions and celebrations and at special community gatherings. Pandit ladies have started adopting some of the non-Kashmiri though pan-Hindu practices like wearing sindoor, piercing nose, wearing payals and bichu and nuth. Similarily non-traditional fasts are being observed due to influence of the new cultural environment.

Changes observed in Recreation

Significant changes have also been observed in the mode of recreation, which is one of the most important requirements for positive and healthy personality development. The new environment has eroded the recreational facilities and services for elders, adults and children. Due to lack of space family members have no extra curricular activities. Children are always glued to television programmes or family tasks. Paucity of playgrounds and income avenues has affected their mental and physical ability.

Changes in Role-relationships

With the above documented changes in the cultural and physical aspects of life of Kashmiri Pandit families, there are bound to be changes in role-relationships in their families. It was noted that the immediate fall out of migration was very high increase in number of nuclear families. The traditional joint families were forced to split up due to lack of adequate accommodation. Even the elders in the family accepted such division due to their helplessness. With the collapse of traditional joint family structure, the support of an integrated family is missing. This is bound to lead to its natural consequences like inadequate child care support systems for working women, growing feeling of individualism and increased feeling of loneliness.

The roles and relationships of the family members have challenged in the wake of altered living conditions. The male members of the Kashmiri Pandit community are no longer satisfied with the kind of role they are playing these days. They feel that they are no longer capable of taking the responsibility of running their homes, as they do not have good jobs that they had earlier. Government is providing them relief and they are dependent on it. Traditional role as providers--for their families tends to lead to anger' frustration, uncertainty and helplessness among male members and sometimes this translates into violence against women, in the family". Women are facing double stress. Firstly, it is the stress of migration that she has to bear and secondly being the weaker sex, she also faces stress in family due to internal tension.

Changes in Socialisation Process

Another related problem faced particularly by women is the socialisation of the children. Women felt and expressed that they had to abandon their traditional way of living while staying in the camps. Children were being exposed to the adult life sooner than advised and expected. Kids were loosing their innocence. It was difficult for women to bring up children in their own way and style. The children know nothing about Kashmir and it is very difficult for mothers to convince their children that they have a rich heritage of snow, chinars and meadows.

Keeping in mind the debate generated above in terms of de-ethnicisation and re-ethnicisation processes, it is assumed that when the community is placed in its native place, the modernization forces along with climatic conditions, environmental factors and socio-cultural factors bring incremental and evolutionary changes leading to de-ethnicisation process, and the same was happening with the kashmiri Pandits in the valley (before migration) and therefore the argument is had Pandits still been there, changes were bound to take place, whether in terms of family structure, marriage patterns, role-relationships, food habits, dress patterns, celebration of festivals etc., but in a phased and planned manner. Some changes would have been accepted and some rejected (depending upon the cultural setups) and hence the identity would not have been threatened and the people would have continued to live in a composite culture as they continued in the past during different historical periods, despite of various marginalisation and deprivation processes.

But the present situation (post migration) has led to the drastic changes in the socio-cultural set up of Kashmiri Pandits. The modernisation forces on the contrary have re-strengthened ethnic identities and consciousness heading towards the process of re-ethnicisation. Hence displacement along with the modernisation forces and identity politics has lead to manifestation of religious identity which was latent when the community was placed in the valley.

Politicisation process has led these migrants to always speak in terms of erosion of socio-cultural identity.

Broadly, the following assumptions can be made:

--Changes take place in an evolutionary manner with incremental changes (at the native place of the community).

--Changes take place through the process of diffusion (brought by voluntary migration).

--Changes take through the forced migration (involuntary displacement) leading to drastic changes and posing a threat to the cultural identity of the migrated community.

The first and second types of changes lead to de-ethnicisation process whereas the third category strengthens the re-ethnicisation process and the Kashmiri Pandit migrants under study have witnessed the third kind of change. Pandit migrants have used ethnic identity as a defensive mechanism. The exodus has landed the community in a new setting with the result that the community is in search for the revival of the primordial identity.

The people of Kashmir today are in a dilemma between consociation and coercion. Cultural pluralism inevitably leads to crystallisation of ethnic identities and thus inimical to national interests and hence the suggested remedy is assimilation. There are three theoretical perspectives of assimilation. The consensus model of integration conceives that through the process of modernisation and development the segmentary tradition of the past get replaced gradually. The consociational model implies a basic agreement among ethnic divisions on parliamentary procedure and strong elite, who are engaged in 'negotiation politics' and capable of the compromises on their constituent groups. The third perspective of control believes in effective domination of one group over another through political coercion.

The struggle for identities both by backward and advanced societies is due to modernisation with its associated vulgar consumerism and wastefulness on one hand and poverty, hunger, unemployment and disease on the other. Further uneven development of capitalism has accentuated regional disparities and divisive tendencies. So integration, as conceived by the consensus model through modernisation and development has not been possible in the case under review.

Kashmiri migrant's identity is under great deal of pressure and there is a danger of its erosion. Though attempts are being made by the community at the local as well as at the national level to preserve their cultural identity.


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Hema Gandotra, Asstt. Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Jammu.

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Author:Gandotra, Hema
Publication:Madhya Pradesh Journal of Social Sciences
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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