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Uniting Under The Chinar Tree

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By Justice Markandey Katju, former Judge, Indian Supreme Court


Many years ago, in 2014, I tried to create an organization called the Chinar Foundation for uniting all Kashmiris – Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs – and for promoting the Kashmiri Sufi culture (see my article “Chinar Foundation” on my blog Satyam Bruyat of December 2014 ). My effort failed.

Now in the Bay Area of California, where I am presently located, I have renewed my efforts. Yesterday I had a long telephonic discussion with a young Kashmiri Muslim lady who is settled here for the last 20 years, and who has agreed to become the General Secretary of the organization (with myself as its Chairman ). I had met her on a few occasions earlier.

I explained that the aim of the Chinar Foundation will be to unite all Kashmiris be they Hindu, Muslim and Sikh, and promote the true Kashmiri culture, which was the culture of the Kashmiri Rishis or Sufi saints ( who were both Hindu and Muslim. See on google ). This was the culture of love, compassion, tolerance and brotherhood among all humans, of whatever religion.

In his autobiography Jahangirnama, Mughal Emperor Jahangir writes of the Kashmiri Sufi saints ( many of whom he met ) “They possess simplicity, and are without pretence. They abuse no one. They plant fruit bearing trees so that all may benefit, and seek no advantage for themselves.”

Unfortunately, attempts have been made in recent years in Kashmir to replace the tolerant Sufi culture, which is the true culture of Kashmir (look up on Google “Rishi order” ), by the intolerant and bigoted Wahabi culture. These attempts must be strongly opposed.

Unfortunately, presently Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are deeply divided. Kashmiri Pandits are very bitter about being hounded out of their homeland, where their ancestors had lived for centuries. They have reason to be, but we must move on. Not all Kashmiri Muslims committed those atrocities. Moreover, Kashmiri Muslims, too, have suffered. Now the time has come to give a healing touch and bind up our wounds (using President Lincoln’s words of 1963 in his famous Gettysburg Address).

The Kashmiri Muslim lady with whom I spoke told me she had many Kashmiri Pandit women friends in the Bay Area of California but they have stopped speaking to her after she criticized abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. It seems almost all Kashmiri Muslims are critical of abrogation of Article 370, while almost all Kashmiri Pandits support it. This is another symptom of the deep divide.

I told her that she should arrange a preliminary meeting of Kashmiris, both Muslims and Hindus, so that we – at least – start talking with each other, and acquaint each other with our respective viewpoints. At present, Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus are hardly on talking terms as there is a lot of animosity among them. When some Kashmiri Pandits kissed the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the “Howdy Modi” function in Houston, Texas recently, Kashmiri Muslims were incensed.

The Chinar tree is what will unite us. It is only found in Kashmir and is our real symbol. It is a tall, large tree and its shade gives comfort to all below it. I have often said to my Kashmiri Muslim brothers and sisters that though I am a Kashmiri Pandit, my DNA is the same as yours. The call of the hour is to remove the animosity, misgivings and bitterness in our hearts, and unite under the Chinar tree. That is the correct way forward.


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