Panun Kashmir, an organisation that claims to represent the interests of Pandit Kashmiris, recently came out in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act asserting that the “entire nation stands wholeheartedly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

This is yet another display of blatant pandering to the majoritarian and chauvinistic forces in this country, under the guise of promoting the interests of the Pandit Kashmiri community. It makes me want to wave my arms wildly and scream at the top of my lungs, “Not in my name!”

Before I’m labelled “anti-Hindu” or “anti-national”, let me stress at the outset that the ouster of Pandit Kashmiris from the Valley was brutal and forced. I don’t say this to mitigate the volume of online abuse, but because it’s true and important.

The 1980s were a chaotic period in Kashmir, when longstanding grievances of the citizenry against state corruption and poor governance led to protests coinciding with the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.

With the influx of arms and militants from across the border, civilian protests soon morphed into an armed insurrection in which Pandit Kashmiris found themselves cornered and vulnerable.

This resulted in the mass exodus of the community, including my grandparents.

Since then, there has been near constant political exploitation of the precarious state of the Pandit Kashmiri community post-exodus by the Hindu-right, in order to fortify their modern Hindutva narrative in which “Hindu victimhood” plays an integral role. This makes my blood boil.

I can almost buy into the allure of it. Like many communities around the world that were divided and physically driven apart along religious or ethnic lines, differences further crystallise over time, and the “other” becomes a monolith collectively responsible for your community’s suffering. It is true of Israel-Palestine, it is true of former Yugoslavia, and it is true of Kashmir.

Like many other second-generation Pandits who grew up outside Kashmir, I too grew up on the mainstream narrative that Muslim Kashmiris were by and large latent but virulent Islamists who attacked and drove away Pandit Kashmiris primarily for their Hindu identity and support of the Indian state.

But Kashmir’s insurgency has had many motivations, ranging from Islamic fundamentalism to genuine political and economic grievances. The narrative in the mainstream completely ignores the latter.

By its logic, mere acknowledgment of any suffering of the “other” somehow takes away from your own.

Challenging long-established notions that stem from horrific but also distorted narratives becomes a laborious process, requiring extensive introspection and external exploration.

I was only able to reach that stage after years of deliberate study and conversations with people on the ground.

Those life experiences crystallised into what has become one of my primary identities today: a staunchly progressive and secular Indian woman who is unwavering in her commitment to these ideals.

For me, the endurance of India’s democratic and constitutional order is more important than BJP and its cronies’ duplicitous attempts to “resettle” Pandits in the Valley.

Pandit Kashmiris know well that the revocation of Article 370 does not translate into their physical relocation back into the Valley en masse. Too much time has passed.

Today we are a largely well-resourced and educated community with good jobs in India’s largest cities and around the world. Why would an entire generation of Pandits with no perceptible connection to Kashmir go back to a land ravaged by years of conflict and poor job prospects?

And for those who might even consider it, do you really think you will be going back to the home you left behind or heard stories of?

Envision the physical manifestation on the ground of the rhetoric emanating from the likes of Panun Kashmir: Hindus and Muslims living in separate enclaves encased by walls and military forces.

Trying to pretend the “other” doesn’t exist, or just wishing it away, is not a sustainable model. Just ask Israel.

The Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens are in the same vein. Panun Kashmir said in its statement that the “passing of CAA by parliament is a resolve to ensure complete politico-cultural decolonization of India.”

Except CAA and NRC are literally the opposite of that. They fortify the myriad political identities, based on religion and caste affiliations, that emerged during the colonial era to serve colonial interests then, and serve the state today.

A society plagued by suspicion that must constantly rely on the government for “protection” is the wet dream of any regime with authoritarian aspirations.

For decades the BJP and its ideological parent the RSS have been laying the groundwork to create an environment of mistrust, where the Hindu population lives in perpetual fear of foreign “infiltrators,” which has today culminated in the passage of these policies.

I’m all for getting rid of the ad hoc basis on which India grants citizenship and creating a formal immigration policy, but not one that violates the fundamental idea of India which sets her apart from her neighbours.

The government’s “ominous duo” is a purposely bigoted formulation that gives legitimacy to prioritising citizenship based on religion, and provides undocumented residents of all religions, except Muslims, an out.

So Panun Kashmir is wrong. The bill is nothing but another colonial practice of dispossessing minorities and the already dispossessed.

The BJP and its allies’ vision of an India post-CAA and NRC is as fascist and untenable as its vision of a separate Hindu and Muslim Kashmir.

And I don’t use the word “fascist” casually. They check all the boxes: invoking a fabled “pure past” that was destroyed by either invaders, intellectuals, or liberals, subverting the truth with constant propaganda and conspiracy theories, and exploiting historical antipathy to turn groups against each other.

They’re doing everything in their power to legitimise the logic of Jinnah’s two-nation theory. And my community has borne the brunt of it. Pandit Kashmiris have suffered through the power struggle of two nuclear states, and we have also been disenfranchised by the communal politics of successive central governments as well as the local Kashmiri leadership.

We have worn both our Kashmiri and Indian identities proudly on our sleeves. So, when one is being desecrated in the name of the other, shouldn’t we be the first to protest?

The national exercise of the CAA and NRC will render large numbers of people —largely poor, illiterate, Muslims, Adivasis and Dalits— homeless in their own country.

We know what that feels like. We are well placed spokespersons for the value of coexistence. But before we assume that mantle, we need to free ourselves first from the shackles of our own volatile albeit slanted history, and the allure of majority rule.

(Cover Photo: A placard at an anti-CAA protest)