In late 1989 and early 1990 a good number of Kashmiri Pandits were leaving Kashmir. Day and night, the flow of people increased and no one could think of going back. The stories they narrated were horrible and extremely painful. They were harshly chased away from their houses in Kashmir. Many of them came with only the dress they wore. Refugees –men, women, boys, girls, and children – were all over Jammu area. Women reported of their painful experiences, some of them were molested, disrespected, threatened, and their husbands or relatives killed. Mothers narrated that at times they had to hide their girl children in the cow dung pits covered with dry leaves and twigs. Some talked of their houses being burnt, livestock put to flight, their fields charred and their belongings burned or taken away at gun point and that too even at midnight. It was so painful they did not want to recall. There was no mercy. No explanation. No alternatives. No second thought. Only flee. There were no warnings except the mounting rumour that the Hindus would have to leave Kashmir. Later on it was clear that the whole exodus of the Hindus was planned. Newspapers , Kashmir Times and Daily Excelsior, reported the events daily: that approximately over 3,00,000 Pandits had fled Kashmir. According to Indian government, more than 62,000 families were registered as Kashmiri refugees. These include some Sikh families also. All who resisted were killed; their number is around 1341. According to a J&K government report, 219 members of the pandit community, out of a total of 1400 Hindus, had been killed in the valley between 1989 and 2004, but none afterwards. The numbers of people killed are not accurate. The estimate of rape and molestation were not recorded. Most of the families settled in Jammu, many relocated to the national capital region and other states. There was lifelong hostility between the Kashmiri Hindus and the Muslims.
Sheikh Abdullah, who played a central role in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, had agreed with the government of India to integrate the state with India. But as the issue was highly sensitive, Abdullah was diplomatic in his talks and contacts to buy time. He also met with serious opposition from strong Islamic forces like JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front), Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, People’s league in Indian Jammu & Kashmir etc.; all these were based in Kashmir with their connections, even members spread out in Pakistan. The ISI’s attempts to create tension in Kashmir against Indian government, the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, the Islamic revolution in Iran, and the armed struggle of the Sikhs in Punjab against the Indian states were sources of inspiration for the Kashmiri Muslims. Reportedly, the state government diplomatically changed the names of about 2500 villages from their Hindu names to new Islamic names. This only worsened the situation; Muslim leaders’ sharing a platform with JKLF was diplomatic, if not supporting the terrorist group. Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims were falling apart with absolutely no meeting points. The Kashmiri Muslims had the support of the local government and the Pakistani neighbours. In Pakistan, the government, army and militants were all in a chaotic collaboration. Even elected government was kept weak or servile by the armed forces and militants.
On number of occasions the Kashmiri Muslims, supported by the militant groups, attacked and destroyed Hindu temples, Hindu properties and killed many people. The worst hit area was southern Kashmir close to Jammu and Udhampur. The Islamists had organised themselves under different banners as Muslim United Front and similar bodies under social and cultural rights. It was just like the RSS of today under different name code.
Every one belonged to one outfit or other. Kashmiri militants killed anyone who openly expressed pro-Indian allegiance or policies. The Islamic group wanted the Islamisation of socio-political and economic set up, ethnic cleansing, independence from India, and to merge with Pakistan. With support from outside, the Kashmiri group became very powerful even as a military force. Removal of Central government officials under threats, silencing of liberal intellectuals, social activists, media persons, etc. were common occurrence. Use of uninterrupted Islamic formulations was a weapon to silence the uneducated Muslim common men. Quran was often misquoted. Some of the inhuman methods used were: rape, targeted killing, murder, threats, kidnapping etc. In 1989 number of shocking incidents took place in Srinagar include: the murders of Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, BJP member and lawyer, and Nikanth Ganjoo, judge of the Srinagar high court, and the kidnapping of Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of Union minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, demanding the release of five militants etc. Numerous incidents of encounters and insurgencies were reported in the local newspapers. Explosive and inflammatory speeches were broadcast from the public address system of mosques frequently. Attacks on prominent Hindus and politicians were common. Notices were pasted on the gates of prominent Hindu homes to quit Kashmir at the earliest. In 1990 Srinagar based newspaper Aftab released a message threatening the Hindus to leave J&K; another Srinagar based newspaper Al-Safa also published the same message and warning. There were bitter feelings that Kashmir is not part of India; it is by itself, or it has to be part of Pakistan, and never with India. In the hope of controlling the militants, the state government was dismissed and the powerful Jagmohan was made the governor of J&K. But it was of no use. The might of Jagmohan was challenged by massive killings in Srinagar (50-100). With this, leaving the valley was the only solution for the Kashmiri Pandits. When the tension began in Kashmir, Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister and it continued under the next one, V.P.Singh. India was aware of the gradual uprising and none of our prime ministers dared to either go for a plebiscite or even spend a few days in Kashmir. But Indian government kept on pleasing Kashmiri people dumping in millions of rupees for the state for this project or nil project. Even local Muslim leaders’ speeches in the mosques were communal oriented. Naturally tension grew and brewed up between Hindus and Muslims. It reached high pressure, ready to explode anytime.
The Kashmiri Pandits were an educated group, and this high caste group looked down upon the Muslims. Hindus in Jammu reluctantly welcomed the migrants. Some of our institutions accommodated their children in our schools even by opening double shifts. Those children as they came away from the comfortable climate of Kashmir, with their differences in culture, language and the tensions were not too happy to put up with the children of Jammu. The school staff members were given due orientation to understand the migrant students and to be accommodative with the current exigencies.
Possible Return of Pandits: In the last decade, the government of India tried to send back the Pandits to Kashmir. By and large, the people were/are not very free to go back to Kashmir though many projects and even jobs were/are promised to them. Even now, in spite of political support the Pandits’ returning to Kashmir will take time.
The future of Jammu Kashmir? After living and working in Jammu Kashmir for many years, after enjoying the incomparable beauty and bliss of the paradise on earth, after living under threat of the encounter of the militants in the Kathua boarder, and after being an insignificant page in the mission of J&K, I wonder about the future of the state: our unmarked border of thousands of kilometres even through snow covered hills, our uncertain future of PoK, the hopeful return of the Kashmiri Pandits, their possible resettlement in the vicinity of the Muslims who made them quit the state at gun point, the interference of Pakistan in our land, and the eavesdropping of China, the high level and remote control of the US to catch fish in muddy water, the intrusion of militancy of jihad-groups in Kashmir… Will J&K administration get the full support of the people of Kashmir? Will the announcement of the Indian home minister on August 5 prove wise?
Kashmir is not merely a geographical part of the earth. Kashmir is people, and they have to be taken into confidence in a democratic process. Kashmir issue is much more than a private internal affair of India. It shares and enjoys the religion, culture and everything of the South Asian region. Both Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims with their politicians have to come together in one way or other. There need to be long educative animation to guide the Hindus and Muslims to live in collaboration or at least tolerate each other. Is our central leadership attuned to it? If we insist on Hindu Rashtra what would be the next step? Can our central ministers guide the way? It demands time, consultation, experiment, leading to a dynamic cohesion. No one expects a hundred per cent agreement, but there should be a hundred per cent democratic process. That cannot be under the “RSS ambit of Modi-Shah”. No people can be administered by threats and violence. Should not India try some unchartered diplomatic route to buy time and make space in line with the UN guidelines? History awaits…
References : Making of Terrorism in Pakistan, by Eamon Murphy;
Kashmir, its aborigins, by Colonel Tej K Tikoo;
India, Pakistan and the Secret Jihad, by Praveen Swami;
My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, by Jagmohan, Allied Publishers;
The Challenge of Kashmir, by Sumanthra Bose, Sage Publications;
Kashmiri Vision of Freedom, by Shahla Hussain, Cambridge University Press;
The Administrator, Vol, 35L.B.S.N.Academy of Administration 1990, pp69-73.
(Published on 26th August 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 35)