Justice awaited even after 30 years of exodus of Kashmiri Pundits

This year marked 30 years of the exodus of the Kashmiri pundits. Brutality in Kashmir was not less than ISIS terrorists. Sunanda Vashisht testified at a US Congressional hearing on Human Rights in Washington. She asked some serious questions on human rights with respect to an exodus of Kashmiri pundits like Greta Thunberg asked on the environment recently.

She asked – First, “Where were the advocates of human rights when my rights were taken away?” Second, “Where were they on the night of Jan 19, 1990, when there were voices blaring from all mosques in Kashmir that they wanted Kashmir with Hindu women but without Hindu men?” Third, “Where was the savior of humanity when we people were given 3 choices by the terrorists: flee, convert or die on the same night.”

Background

Draft of the exodus of Kashmiri pundits has been prepared long ago. Only execution happened on the eve of Jan 19, 1990. Islamization of Kashmir began during the 1980s when Sheikh Abdullah Govt changed the names of about 2500 villages from their native names to new Islamic names. Similar to 1930, Sheikh also started delivering communal speeches in mosques.

He referred to the Kashmiri Pandits as “Mukhbir” or informers of the Indian government. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of PDP was home minister between Dec 2, 1989, to Nov 10, 1990, whose duty was to take care of law and order. The then CM, Farooq Abdullah visited POK and shared a platform with JKLF then became an embarrassment as claimed by Hashim Qureshi.

Ghulam Md. Shah succeeded his brother-in-law Farooq Abdullah and became the C.M. of J&K from 2 July 1984 to 6 March 1986. His tenure gave political space to Islamists who lost the 1983 state elections. In 1986, Shah decided to construct a mosque within the premises of an ancient Hindu temple inside the New Civil Secretariat area in Jammu to be made available to the Muslims for ‘Namaz’.

People of Jammu took to the streets to protest against this decision, which led to a Hindu-Muslim clash. In February 1986, Gul Shah returned to Kashmir valley, retaliated, and incited the Kashmiri Muslims by saying Islam khatrey mein hey (Islam is in danger). People started running before the crow without looking at their ears.

Before the horrible night of Jan 19, 1990, many incidences were witnessed about the catastrophic blow. In 1986, Kashmiri Pandits were targeted by the Kashmiri Muslims by killing them, looting their properties and damaging or destroying their religious places. The worst-hit areas were mainly in South Kashmir and Sopore.

During the Anantnag riot in February 1986, although no Hindu was killed, many houses and other properties belonging to Hindus were looted, burnt, or damaged. An investigation of the Anantnag riots revealed that members of the ‘secular parties’ in the state, rather than the Islamists, had played a key role in organizing the violence to gain political mileage through religious sentiments.

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The heat of the moment

Various factors simultaneously played role in the proliferation of ethnic cleaning between the 1980s to 1990s. First, Successful Afghan jihad against the Soviets, originated by Saudi Arabia, financially supported by the USA, and executed by Pakistan by misleading the Taliban (In English Students) gave confidence among the Kashmiri Leadership. They wanted to try the same means to separate Kashmir from India.

Second, the Islamic revolution in Iran was the successful attempt to overthrow the USA-supported monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the replacement of his government with an Islamic republic under the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has aroused new hope in Kashmiri. These two were landmark incidents because it has challenged the two biggest power of the time the USA and the USSR and successfully defeated.

Third, rising armed Sikh militancy in Punjab further added fuel to the fire as a motivation factor. Fourth, the hanging of the militant leader Maqbool Bhat in 1984 has increased the activities of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). JKLF kidnapped Ravindra Hareshwar Mhatre, an Indian diplomat, in London and later murdered in Birmingham in 1984 because India refused to exchange Maqbool Bhat in return for an Indian diplomat.

Fifth, In 1986, the Rajiv Gandhi government opened the Babri Masjid locks to enable Hindus to offer prayers there. Ripples of this step were felt in Kashmir too. In the same yeah Rajiv Gandhi overturned the supreme court decision of the Shah Bano case with law. It led to discontent among the Hindu population. To neutralize it, he opened locks of Babri Masjid.

Sixth, local political upheaval between NC (National Conference) and PDP (Peoples Democratic Party). The rigged election of 1987 after which Abdullah formed the government was a turning point at which militants took the upper hand.

Seventh, Kashmiri Muslims deem Jagmohan as the reason for the exodus of Kashmiri Pundit. On January 21, 1990, the CRPF gunned down 160 Kashmiri Muslim protesters demanding independence at the Gawkadal Bridge, which has come to be known as the worst massacre in the long history of the conflict in Kashmir.

The massacre happened just a day after the Government of India appointed Jagmohan as the Governor for a second time. The two events – the flight of the Pandits and the Gawkadal massacre took place within 48 hours. But for years, neither community could accept the pain of the other, and in some ways, still cannot, as each continues to talk past the other.

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Days of Ethnic cleansing

In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began a separatist insurgency for the independence of Kashmir from India. On 14 Sept. 1989, Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, who was a lawyer and a BJP member, was murdered by the JKLF in his home in Srinagar.

Soon after Taploo’s death, Nilkanth Ganjoo, a judge of Srinagar High court who had sentenced Maqbul Bhat to death, was shot dead. In December 1989, members of JKLF kidnapped Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the then Union Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed demanding the release of five militants, which was subsequently fulfilled.

Columnist, Sunanda Vashisht claims that around 4 lakhs of Kashmiri pundits fled right after the night of horror. They survived who fled that horror night. Those who somehow survived, even, 30 years later, are still not welcomed in their own home in Kashmir. They were/are not allowed to follow their faith there. Their house in Kashmir is illegally occupied by their own people.

Those which were not occupied have been burnt down or ransacked. She spoke of a young man, an engineer, who was shot by terrorists through the rice container he was hiding in. The wife of that young man was forced to eat her husband’s blood-soaked rice. She described the exodus as the “worst ethnic cleansing witnessed in independent India”.

Rahul Pandita was merely 14 years old in 1990. He writes in his book “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” that there was a series of slogans against the Kashmiri Pandit community, anti-India slogans, and anti-Pandit slogans. He pointed out one which really terrified them – ‘We want our Pakistan without Pandit men but with their women’. Other slogans were being raised from the loudspeakers of Mosques – “Kaafiro ko maaro” (Hill the Non-Muslims), “Yahan Nizam-e-Mustafa chalega” (Here rule of Allah will prevail).

On 19 January 1990, Islamic jihadis wreaked havoc on the minority Kashmiri Hindus. They were left with only three options – convert to Islam, leave the place or perish. Terrorists murdered Kashmiri Pandits, their women were kidnapped, gang-raped, and killed. Hindu temples were Vandalized. Neither police nor administration came to their rescue. Even human rights failed in fulfilling their duties. Even at the hospitals, Hindu patients were being marginalized. These things forced Kashmiri pundits to migrate to other cities.

My intention was not to incite any community by putting forward atrocities faced by Kashmiri Pundits. My objective was to aware people about the tolerance and emotional intelligence of Kashmiri Pundits. In spite of facing extreme brutality by their own community, they didn’t prefer to choose violent mean as ‘Compulsive Gun theory’ is projected by the intelligentsia to covertly support militants and Naxals.

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That’s why their success stories are found from Sydney to Silicon. Today they are well educated (nearly 100% literacy) mostly professional, materially successful, religiously liberal, politically flexible, totally non-violent, and most persecuted Hindu minority from a Muslim majority state within a Hindu-majority country.

Justice Awaited

Rahul Pandita mentions in the book that he kept a record of each and every Pandit killed in the Valley during the exodus because he wanted people to know the story of each and every Pandit killed. The government and the media completely neglected the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. In 2008, PM Manmohan Singh announced an Rs. 1,618 crore package to facilitate the return of the Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley.

6,000 jobs were also announced for the Pandit youth in the Valley. Most of the jobs were never filled, due to the fear of being targeted by militants. The settlements provided to Kashmiri Pandits are cheap single-bedroom structures, with no drinking water facility. The real problem is harassment at work from their Muslim colleagues. Many Pandit employees don’t receive their salaries on time.

Even after 30 years of exodus of Kashmiri pundits, no action has been taken. Police didn’t even register FIRs in several cases. After the exodus, Kashmiri Pandits’ homes were allegedly robbed. Many houses were set ablaze. Justice Neelkanth Ganjoo, telecom engineer Balkrishna Ganjoo, Doordarshan Director Lassa Kaul, and political leader Tikalal Taploo, among others, were brutally killed. Girija Ganjoo and Sarla Bhat were allegedly abducted, gang-raped, and then murdered.

Justice has not yet been delivered in several such cases even after 30 years of exodus of Kashmiri pundits. The liberal discourse of this country and the media have, by and large, bypassed their story. Unfortunately, even, Supreme court of India refused to look into the cases in which a petition was filed by an organization, Roots. Thus, Justice is still awaited.

Footnotes

  1. Amazon | Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita
  2. India Today | My grandfather was ready to kill me to save me from worse
  3. The Quint | How, 31 Yrs Ago, Kashmiri Pandits Became Refugees in Their Country
  4. Indian Express | The Kashmir Pandit tragedy
  5. Outlook | PM announces Rs 1600 cr package for Kashmiri migrants
  6. The Lallantop | Story of exodus of Kashmiri pundits
  7. Swarajya | The Kashmiri Hindu Woman Who Forcefully Countered The Islamist Narrative At A Hearing On Kashmir In The US
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