Born in Baramulla in 1929 in an ordinary Kashmiri Pandit family, Kashinath Pandita did graduation from St. Joseph’s College in Arts with English literature. The tribal raid of October 1947 destroyed his family like hundreds of other Pandit families in Baramulla.
After doing M.A. from Punjab University, he served as Lecturer in State Degree Colleges and in 1958 earned a scholarship from the Indian Ministry of Education for higher studies at the University of Teheran, Iran. Four years of study and research at the University of Teheran earned him a Ph.D. in Iranian Studies meaning history and civilization of Farsi speaking peoples.
He joined Kashmir University in 1963 and it’s Centre of Central Asian Studies in 1976. He rose to become Professor and Director of this Centre till his superannuation in 1987.
Kashi Nath Pandita – India
He is not only the first Kashmiri to obtain Ph.D. from Teheran University but is also the first to have worked in close collaboration with a number of Central Asian Academies of Science particularly the Tajik Academy. From 19976 till present day, he has been visiting and interacting with Central Asian academic community almost every year or two. His travelogue titled My Tajik Friends won him Sovietland Nehru Award 1987. This work has been translated in to Russian by the Tajik Academy and is considered a valuable contribution to Indo-Tajik friendship.
Among other works of Dr. Pandita are:
1. Baharistan-i-Shahi, A Chronicle of Mediaeval Kashmir (translated from Farsi) This is available on Kashmir net.
2. Avicenna – An Introduction
3. Iran and Central Asia
4. Ladakh, life and culture (edited)
5. Hafiz of Shiraz (Urdu)
6. Tohfatul Ahbab, translation of a 17th century history of Kashmir (in making)
Dr. Pandita has produced scores of research articles in the field of academics. Some of these are published in foreign journals. He has participated in many important international seminars and conferences throughout his career and at different places in the world from Bangkok to the US.
Post retirement contributing:
The rise of armed insurgency and the mass exodus of the community in 1990 was too big a tragedy to leave all Kashmiri Pandit intellectuals unfazed wherever they were. Dr. Pandita was one of the pioneers among the exiled community who jumped into the fray. He shut down for good his academic part of life and whole heartedly devoted to the cause of the distressed community. Onwards of 1990 he dedicated himself to (a) active participation in political struggle, and (b) fighting for the cause of Kashmiri Pandits through his copious writings.
- In 1990, Dr. Pandita became one of the founding fathers of Panun Kashmir, the political movement entrusted with the task of carrying on the political struggle of the Pandits… In 1991, Panun Kashmir nominated Dr. Pandita to travel to CA and interact with community members on issues, which PK had taken in hand. He met with community members in Fremont, San Francisco, Washington, and Detroit etc. addressing community gatherings, answering questions, explaining problems and giving feedbacks.
- In 1991 he founded Friends of Kashmir NGO in Jammu as a mouthpiece of PK and other Pandit organizations bringing out quarterly magazine that carried a lot of material on Kashmir and related themes in the region.
- In 1992, Dr. Pandits participated in the II World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. Here for the first time he met with the sponsors and sympathies of Kashmir armed insurgency and this was the opportunity when he embarked on a procrastinated debate with them through his writings exposing true nature of insurgency in Kashmir.
- In 1993, Dr. Pandita as the Secretary General of Friends of Kashmir participated in the Kashmir Conference organized by the Socialist Group of British MPs in the European Parliament. This conference was held in Brussels. It was in the course of this conference that Amanullah Khan, the founder of JKLF was arrested by the Interpol. Among the five Indian delegates to this conference (Dr. Farooq Abdullah, George Fernandes, Bhim Singh and Ravi Nayar) Dr. Pandita was the only member who declined to sign the memorandum drawn by the organizers of the seminar asking the Belgian government to withdraw the case against Amanullah Khan. The statement of Dr. Pandita in the conference was, later on, described by Farooq Abdullah as a historic document. The then Indian ambassador in Brussels, on the behest of Dr, Farooq invited Dr. Pandita to a dinner and conveyed government’s appreciation for his historic presentation in the European Parliament. This brought Dr. Pandita into contact with some British MPs with whom he conducted regular correspondence later on.
- In 1993, Dr. Pandita engaged a stubborn pro-militant and anti-Pandit British member of the House of Lords namely Lord Aveburry, Chairman of British House of Lords Committee on Human Rights. A long stint of exchange of letters, arguments, counter arguments ensued that went on for more than a year. When Lord Aveburry visited Kashmir in 1994, he invited Dr. Pandita while in Jammu and expressed his great appreciation of engaging him (Lord Aveburry) in a great debate on a very sensitive issue. This was the first time when Lord Aveburry said that he had changed his views and had begun to understand the plight of the Pandits. Later on, this Lord Aveburry became an ardent supporter of Indian position on Kashmir
- In 1995, Dr. Pandita traveled to the US where he met with Selig Harrison, Stephen Cohen and later on Michel Krepon, all of them considered members of a strong think tank on Kashmir.
- In 1996, Dr. Pandita confronted two British MPs from two constituencies in UK with PoK Diaspora predominance. The big confrontation took place in Geneva on the sidelines of the session. Dr. Pandita told them that the PoK Diaspora in their respective constituencies were the real criminals who had sponsored the killing of innocent Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 through their sponsored KLF and later JKLF.
- The same year Dr. Pandita was invited by Konrad Elst in New Delhi and thus began a long stint of friendship between the two. It is to be noted that this Belgian intellectual has referred to Dr. Pandita several times in his several works on contemporary Indian history especially the Hindu history and civilization. He has highly lauded Dr. Pandita’s understanding of Kashmir history past and present and his clear thinking on the ongoing situation with regard to its impact on the Pandits and their future.
- In his capacity as General Secretary of Friends of Kashmir, and with the moral support of Panun Kashmir Dr. Pandita began his long campaign of confronting the enemies of Kashmir Pandits and their cause at the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. In all Dr. Pandita traveled to Geneva 32 times and made 64 interventions in all from 1993 to 2004.
- Two achievements made by Dr. Pandita are noteworthy in the course of his efforts at Geneva. One is that it was he who managed to get the title “Reverse Minorities” introduced in the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission with specific mention of Kashmiri Pandits as an example. The second is managing the passing of Chairman’s statement condemning the beheading of Norwegian tourist to Kashmir by the fundamentalist-terrorists. It was this historic statement from the Chair of the sub-Commission that the opinion of the entire UN HR Commission regarding insurgency in Kashmir changed. For the first time the official and non-official delegates to the sessions stopped calling Kashmiri terrorists as “freedom fighters” as had been propagated by the Pakistani sponsored Kashmiri delegates.
- Yet another laudable effort made by Dr. Pandita at the UNHRC in Geneva was to raise the question of giving proper nomenclature to the exiled Pandits as “Internally Displaced Persons” and not as “migrants” given by the Indian government and the J&K government.
- Dr. Pandita was one of the persons who had filed a petition at the NHRC in New Delhi that the Pandits are called IDPS. In a stunning revelation, Dr. Pandita presented to the National Human Rights Commission a copy of the letter sent by the Government of India to the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) a high profile NGO that had visited Kashmir in 1994 and asked New Delhi’s views. Dr. Pandita had maintained close liaison with one of the members of the ICJ whom he had met in Vienna in 1992. It was through the instrumentality of this member that he had been able to obtain a copy of the response of the GOI in which the government clearly stated that 2, 50,000 KPs were hounded out of their native place by Islamic fundamentalists-terrorists and thus their “ethnic cleansing” had been brought about.
- At Geneva Dr. Pandita trained at least a dozen of delegates from various Indian NGOs who had by 1995 begun to come to Geneva in large numbers. He provided them with full information of how to make interventions and how to marshal arguments. In particular he was the person who educated the otherwise blank Indian delegates on Kashmiri Pandit situation.
- It has to be noted that Dr. Pandita had no NGO of h is own that had ECOSOC status and without accreditation by a status NGO, he could not make any intervention. But through his persuasive efforts and dedication he not only managed to get accreditation from prestigious NGOs at Geneva but also founded a new one named Interfaith International with collaboration from Dr. Charles Graves. He became its Vice President for several years. However when this NGO was hijacked by the anti-Iraqi Shias based in London, Dr. Pandita withdrew because he wasn’t going to abandon his Pandit cause for the Shia cause.
- In Geneva, Dr. Pandita invariably attended the briefings of the Pak sponsored anti Pandit and anti India Kashmiris. He more often than not pushed the speakers to corner by posing questions and counter arguments. The result was that the organizers took a decision never to allow him time to ask a question. This was a part of the strategic battle in Geneva.
- Dr. Pandita attended several seminars in London, some organized by the Pandits and others by NGOs and human rights organizations. In these seminars Dr. Pandita very lucidly went on stating the position of the Pandits who had been sent on forced exile. In one seminar organized by the anti-Indian and anti-Pandit groups, he bluntly told them,” Friends if you want to get rid of India in Kashmir, ok, well and good. We support it as it is your right. But then we also want to get rid of you as our right. You have to concede us the right to our homeland.” Abuses and humiliations were hurled on him, nothing new.
- In 2002, Dr. Pandita traveled to the US. At eight US universities and three community centers he delivered lectures on Kashmir, Pandits and other aspects of Kashmir insurgency. He also spoke freely on Islamic fundamentalism and its spillover in Indian sub-continent.
- At home, Dr. Pandita has attended almost all important seminars organized on Kashmir by various organizations, three in Srinagar, scores in Jammu and other parts of the country. In ideological sense, Dr. Pandita is considered a hardliner who has stubbornly stuck to the homeland demand of PK. He has not been included in some official dialogues held over years just because of his label of a hardliner. In one of his well know letters address to the then Home Minister Advani and placed on its website by Kashmir Herald, Dr. Pandita argued strongly in favor of granting the Pandits the title of IDPs.. In is formula for solution of Kashmir issue Dr. Pandita has drawn his points very clearly (a) installing a commission of inquiry into he rise of Islamic terror in Kashmir (b) geographic and political restructuring of the state (c) grant of homeland to the Pandits administered centrally (d) providing a reconstruction plan for the exiled Pandits since 1947, and finally constitutional and legal sanction to the creation of the homeland and it future administrative arrangement.
Perhaps no Kashmiri Pandit intellectual has written so much on Kashmir after 1990 catastrophe and its multifarious dimensions as Dr. Pandita has done. From 1990 to 1997 he continued to contribute a column to Daily Excelsior of Jammu besides writing editorials for the same. From 1993 to 1996, he was a regular columnist for The Pioneer of Delhi focusing on Kashmir, Pakistan and Central Asia. From 1993 till present day, Dr. Pandita’s articles have been published in The Tribune, Gujarat Times, Economic Times,
Dr. Pandita’s articles will be found on several websites like Google, Yahoo, Kashmir Herald, Tribuneindia, Kashmir Sentinel, Kashmir Images and Gaash. His article on Kashyapa Bandhu Ji appearing in Calcutta – based Vitasta is a historic piece. He has also translated about a dozen of late Bandhuji’s letters in Urdu into English and Kashmir Sentinel has published these.
In 1998 Dr. Pandita dissolved the Friends of Kashmir and in its place created another NGO named Asian-Eurasian Human Rights Forum. This has a branch in Geneva and in Colorado. The NGO has its own website: www.word-citizenship.org/ and Dr. Pandita has his own blog where scores of his articles, letters, commentaries, notes and reviews will be found.
Many published articles of Dr. Pandita on Kashmir and Kashmiri Pandits have been included by many compiles while making a volume of important and informative pieces on the subject of Kashmir.
Very few people know that Dr. Pandita has been presenting the case of the Pandits to the Farsi readership in Iran, Tajikistan and Afghanistan by writing in Farsi. Dozens of such articles have appeared in the Farsi press. In Tajik republic of Central Asia ,Dr. Pandita is called the unofficial ambassador of Tajiks in India. In recognition of his services to Indo-Tajik culture, the President of Tajikistan has made him the life member of Tajikistan’s important Cultural Organization called Paywand.
I recognition of his services to the strengthening of Indo-Tajik and Indo-Central Asian relations, the President of India has awarded a Certificate of Merit to Dr. Pandita which carries an annual honorarium of fifty thousand rupees.
Dr. Pandita has been at the centre of PK activities ever since its inception in 1991. He has performed his role essentially as Adviser. He could win the trust of the members of organization through his dedication and spirit of service. He was one of the signatories of Margdharshan Resolution. He was among the leading team that proceeded on Anandpur Sahib march. He was also among the team that talked to Saraswats in Bombay in 1992. He has been a close confident and adviser of both Dr. Agnishekhar and Dr. K.L. Chowdhury. Most of the drafts of press releases, statements, policy statements etc. have been drafted by him for PK. He was the co-sponsor with Dr. Chowdhury of the PK Plan for Return and Rehabilitation of Pandits which was issued after the plan of M.N. Kaul was publicized.
Dr. Pandita is at present engaged in writing the history of PK being an eye witness to most of the events and being in the thick of battle all these years. He has been speaking from the stage, marching along with the protesting masses, joining the delegations, speaking to the press and answering questions since 1991. He has put down about 70 pages and hopefully the whole history will fill double the number of pages. ( I can send you the draft of the pages written so far)
It is true that differences appeared in PK as early as 1996-97, and with the passage of time the gulf widened. But it has to be stated that Dr. Pandita was the only person who made a great struggle to bring about compromise between the factions. It took a lot of time and energy to bring the sides to a meeting point. But unfortunately a rapprochement could not emerge. Dr. Pandita cannot be held responsible for its failure. On the other hand the efforts of Dr. Pandita have never been disclosed though hopefully he may disclose these in his history of PK now underway. That is a sordid story. However, although the division among the PK dealt a serious blow to the cause of Kashmiri Pandits but Dr. Pandita continues with his relentless efforts to push the cause at all for a and in all possible ways.
Some other statements and conferences given by K.N.Pandita:
Statement at the unhcr in the 52nd subcomission, August 15, 2000;
ngoCHR 57th subcommission … Along with demanding an apology from the government of Japan, he insisted that America should also visualize the past horrors of the war. He further questioned if there were any sanctions against America for developing the nuclear bomb … ;
Articles and books published on ‘Kashmiri Pandits’:
Baharistan-i-Shahi – On Kashmir nuclear flash-point – Talibanization of Kashmir – Pakistan’s militarized religious organizations – Chechnya: Booming guns in the Caucasus – Threats to India’s Stability – Autonomy in Jammu & Kashmir – NHRC’S Verdict on Kashmiri Pandits – The creed of theo-fascism – Chechnya: impending nuclear flash point – Subtle polemics of intervention – Fundamentalist terror and global strataegys – The mission for self destruction – External threat and internal subversion – Prime Minister speaks it out – Islamic warriors in Turkestan – Creating atmosphere conducive for dialogue towards peace – Helping those who don’t help themselves – The labyrinth of Kashmir insurgency – The Pariah Called Panun Kashmir – Mending the fence with Iran – The General’s visit to Iran
NGOs: A Futuristic Vision by Kashinath Pandita, in Development, Social Justice and Civil Society;
He has authored several books, including ‘My Tajik Friends’, ‘Iran and Central Asia’.
Click on the following 2 links to find the entire text of his book ‘Baharistan-i-Shahi‘, in the left column under ‘Pages‘ you’ll find the different chapters;
- and also same on his editors blog;
Links showing texts from Kashinath Pandita:
Kashmir Herald on the web;
links about the Kashmiri problem (with different autors):
in the Daily Herald.
Vedams Books from India;