In his book The Discovery of India, Jawaharlal Nehru has written that in the middle of the nineteenth century a significant part of Kashmir’s population was eager to reconvert to the religion of their ancestors—Hinduism—but they could not because of the obstructive attitude of the pandits of Benares. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 6, “New Problems'':
“In Kashmir a long-continued process of conversion to Islam had resulted in 95 per cent of the population becoming Moslems, though they retained many of their old Hindu customs. In the middle of the nineteenth century the Hindu ruler of the state found that very large numbers of these people were anxious or willing to return en bloc to Hinduism. He sent a deputation to the pundits [sic] of Benares inquiring if this could be done. The pundits refused to countenance any such change of faith and there the matter ended.”
This shows that even in the middle of nineteenth century, the Hindu leaders were not feeling too concerned about the fact that a significant part of the Hindu population of the Indian subcontinent (about 25 percent) had converted to Islam. They were not prepared to take drastic steps to get these people to reconvert to Hinduism. In the twentieth century, when the religious harmony of the Indian subcontinent was shattered, the Hindus woke up from their dogmatic slumber and developed the will to proselytize. Nehru makes a note of this in Chapter 6 of his book:
“Apart from political reasons, there has also been a growth in Hinduism of a tendency to proselytize and convert non-Hindus to Hinduism. This is one of the direct effects of Islam on Hinduism, though in practice it brings it into conflict with Islam in India.”
In the nineteenth century, if the Benares pandits had allowed the Kashmiris to reconvert to Hinduism, then the Kashmir crisis would not have erupted in the twentieth century—the wars, the bloodshed, the economic decline, the misery that has plagued Kashmir could have been avoided. The people of Kashmir, particularly the Kashmiri Pandits, have suffered terribly from the violence. Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits have been killed; many more have fled from the Kashmir valley leaving behind their ancestral property.
In his film The Kashmir Files, writer and director Vivek Agnihotri has captured some of the pain and trauma that the Kashmiri Pandits have faced due to militancy and violence.