Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus | Wikipedia audio article

Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus | Wikipedia audio article


The Hindus of the Kashmir Valley, a large
majority of whom were Kashmiri Pandits, were forced to flee the Kashmir valley as a result
of being targeted by JKLF and Islamic insurgents during late 1989 and early 1990. Of the approximately
300,000 to 600,000 Hindus living in the Kashmir Valley in 1990 only 2,000–3,000 remain there
in 2016.According to the Indian government, more than 62,000 families are registered as
Kashmiri refugees including some Sikh families. Most families were resettled in Jammu, National
Capital Region surrounding Delhi and other neighbouring states.==Background==
Under the 1975 accord, Sheikh Abdullah agreed to measures previously undertaken by the central
government in Jammu and Kashmir to integrate the state into India. Sociologist Farrukh
Faheem states that it was met with hostility among people of Kashmir and laid the groundwork
for the future insurgency. Those opposed to it included Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir and People’s
League in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) based in Azad
Kashmir. Since the mid-1970s, communalist rhetoric was being exploited in the state
for votebank politics. This fit together with the plan of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence
(ISI) which was trying to Islamise Kashmir and replace its prevalent Sufi culture with
Wahhabism in order to create an atmosphere of religious unity with Pakistan.ISI’s initial
attempts to create unrest in Kashmir against the Indian government were unsuccessful until
it started growing in late-1980s. The Afghan jihad against the Soviets, the Islamic Revolution
in Iran and the armed struggle of the Sikhs in Punjab against the Indian state became
sources of inspiration for large numbers of Kashmiri Muslim youth. Both the pro-Independence
JKLF and the pro-Pakistan Islamist groups including Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir mobilised
the fast growing anti-Indian sentiments among the Kashmiri population. The year of 1984
saw a pronounced rise in terrorist violence in Kashmir. When the JKLF militant Maqbool
Bhat was executed in February 1984, strikes and protests by Kashmiri nationalists broke
out in the region, where large number of Kashmiri youth participated in widespread anti-India
demonstrations, which faced heavy handed reprisals by the state forces.Critics of the then Chief
Minister, Farooq Abdullah, charged that Abdullah was losing control. His visit to Pakistan
administered Kashmir during then became an embarrassment, where according to Hashim Qureshi,
he shared a platform with JKLF . Though Abdullah asserted that he went on behalf of Indira
Gandhi and his father, so that sentiments there could “be known first hand”, few people
believed him. There were also allegations that he had allowed Khalistan terrorist groups
to train in Jammu province, although those allegations were never proved. On 2 July 1984,
G. M. Shah, who had support from Indira Gandhi, replaced his brother-in-law Farooq Abdullah
and became the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, after Abdullah was dismissed, in
what was termed as a political “coup”.G. M. Shah’s administration, which did not have
people’s mandate, turned to Islamists and opponents of India, notably the Molvi Iftikhar
Hussain Ansari, Mohammad Shafi Qureshi and Mohinuddin Salati, to gain some legitimacy
through religious sentiments. This gave political space to Islamists who previously lost overwhelmingly
in 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 Muslim employees for ‘Namaz’. People of Jammu took to streets to protest
against this decision, which led to a Hindu-Muslim clash. In February 1986, Gul Shah on his return
to Kashmir valley retaliated and incited the Kashmiri Muslims by saying Islam khatrey mein
hey (trans. Islam is in danger). As a result, Kashmiri Pandits were targeted by the Kashmiri
Muslims. Many incidents were reported in various areas where Kashmiri Hindus were killed and
their properties and temples damaged or destroyed. The worst hit areas were mainly in South Kashmir
and Sopore. In Vanpoh, Lukbhavan, Anantnag, Salar and Fatehpur, Muslim mobs plundered
or destroyed the properties and temples of Hindus. 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 Anantnag riots revealed that members of
the ‘secular parties’ in the state, rather than the Islamists, had played a key role
in organising the violence to gain political mileage through religious sentiments. Shah
called in the army to curb the violence, but it had little effect. His government was dismissed
on 12 March 1986, by the then Governor Jagmohan following communal riots in south Kashmir.
This led Jagmohan to rule the state directly. The political fight was hence being portrayed
as a conflict between “Hindu” New Delhi (Central Government), and its efforts to impose its
will in the state, and “Muslim” Kashmir, represented by political Islamists and clerics.The Islamists
had organised under a banner named Muslim United Front, with manifesto to work for Islamic
unity and against political interference from the centre, and contested the 1987 state elections,
in which they lost again. However, the 1987 elections were widely believed to be rigged
so as to bring the secular parties (NC and INC) in Kashmir at the forefront, and this
caused the insurgency in Kashmir. The Kashmiri militants killed anyone who openly expressed
pro-India policies. Kashmiri Pandits were targeted specifically because they were seen
as presenting Indian presence in Kashmir because of their faith. Though the insurgency had
been launched by JKLF, groups rose over the next few months advocating for establishment
of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Rule of Allah). The Islamist groups proclaimed the Islamicisation of socio-political
and economic set-up, merger with Pakistan, unification of ummah and establishment of
an Islamic Caliphate. Liquidation of central government officials, Pandits, liberal and
nationalist intellectuals, social and cultural activists was described as necessary to rid
the valley of un-Islamic elements. The relations among the semi-secular and Islamists groups
were generally poor and often hostile. The JKLF had also utilized Islamic formulations
in its mobilization strategies and public discourse, using Islam and independence interchangeably.
It demanded equal rights for everyone however this had a distinct Islamic flavor as it sought
to establish an Islamic democracy, protection of minority rights per Quran and Sunnah and
an economy of Islamic socialism. The pro-separatist political practices at times deviated from
their stated secular position.==Turmoil, induction of fear and Exodus==
In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began a separatist insurgency
for independence of Kashmir from India. The group targeted a Kashmiri Hindu for the first
time on 14 September 1989, when they killed Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, an advocate and a
prominent leader of Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu & Kashmir in front of several eyewitnesses.
This instilled fear in the Kashmiri Pandit community especially as Taploo’s killers were
never caught which also emboldened the terrorists. The Pandits felt that they weren’t safe in
the valley and could be targeted any time. The killings of Kashmiri Hindus continued
that included many of the prominent ones. On 4 January 1990, a local Urdu newspaper,
Aftab, published a press release issued by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, asking all Pandits to
leave the Valley immediately. Another local paper, Al Safa, repeated this expulsion order.
Explosive and inflammatory speeches were broadcast from the public address systems of the mosques
frequently. The sense of vulnerabity and insecurity was exacerbated by attacks on prominent Hindu
politicians, postings of hit lists with names of specific Hindu individuals and various
violent episodes in Srinagar and other places.In order to undermine his political rival Farooq
Abdullah who at that time was the Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the Minister of Home
Affairs Mufti Mohammad Sayeed convinced Prime Minister V.P. Singh to appoint Jagmohan as
the governor of the state. Abdullah resented Jagmohan who had been appointed as the governor
earlier in April 1984 as well and had recommended Abdullah’s dismissal to Rajiv Gandhi in July
1984. Mufti was convinced that such a move will irritate Abdullah and make him quit.
Abdullah had earlier declared that he would resign if Jagmohan was made the Governor.
However, the Central government went ahead and appointed him as Governor on 19 January
1990. In response, Abdullah resigned on the same day and Jagmohan suggested the dissolution
of the State Assembly. On 21 January 1990, two days after Jagmohan took over as governor,
the Gawkadal massacre took place in Srinagar, in which the Indian security forces had opened
fire on protesters, leading to the death of at least 50 people, and likely over 100. These
events led to chaos. Lawlessness took over the valley and the crowd with slogans and
guns started roaming around the streets. News kept coming of violent incidents and those
Hindus who survived the night saved their lives by traveling out of the valley.Most
of the Kashmiri Hindus left Kashmir valley and moved to other parts of the country, majorly
to the refugee camps in Jammu region of the state.==Timeline==
On 14 September 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 release of five militants, which was subsequently fulfilled.On
4 January 1990, Srinagar based newspaper Aftab released a message, threatening all Hindus
to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to the militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen.
On 14 April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-safa republished the same warning.
The outfit though did not own the statement and subsequently issued a clarification. Walls
were pasted with posters with threatening messages to all Kashmiris to harshly follow
the Islamic rules which included abidance by the Islamic dress code, a prohibition on
alcohol, cinemas, and video parlors and strict restrictions on Kashmiri women. Unknown masked
men with Kalashnikovs used to force people to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time.
All offices buildings, shops, and establishments were colored green as a sign of Islamic rule.
Shops, factories, temples and homes of Kashmiri Hindus were burned or destroyed. Threatening
posters were posted on doors of Hindus asking them to leave Kashmir immediately. During
the middle of the night of 18 and 19 January, a blackout took place in the Kashmir Valley
where electricity was cut except in mosques which broadcast divisive and inflammatory
messages, asking for a purge of Kashmiri pundits.On 29 April 1990, Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a veteran
Kashmiri poet was gruesomely murdered. Several intelligence operatives were assassinated,
over the course of January. On 2 February 1990, Satish Tikoo, a young Hindu Pandit social-worker
was murdered near his own house in Habba Kadal, Srinagar. On 13 February 1990, Lassa Kaul,
Station Director of Srinagar Doordarshan, was shot dead. Many Kashmiri Hindu women were
kidnapped, raped and murdered, throughout the time of exodus.Hriday Nath Wanchoo, a
trade union leader and human rights activist, was murdered in December 1992 with Ashiq Hussain
Faktoo being convicted for the murder.==Aftermath==
The militancy in Kashmir had increased after the exodus. The militants had targeted the
properties of Kashmiri Pandits after their exodus. In 2009 Oregon Legislative Assembly
passed a resolution to recognise 14 September 2007, as Martyrs Day to acknowledge ethnic
cleansing and campaigns of terror inflicted on non-Muslim minorities of Jammu and Kashmir
by militant seeking to establish an Islamic state.Kashmiri Hindus continue to fight for
their return to the valley and many of them live as refugees. The exiled community had
hoped to return after the situation improved. They have not done so because the situation
in the Valley remains unstable and they fear a risk to their lives. Most of them lost their
properties after the exodus and many are unable to go back and sell them. Their status as
displaced people has adversely harmed them in the realm of education. Many Pandit families
could not afford to send their children to well regarded public schools. Furthermore,
Pandits faced institutional discrimination by predominantly Muslim state bureaucrats.
As a result of the inadequate ad hoc schools and colleges formed in the refugee camps,
it became harder for the children of Pandits to access education. They suffered in higher
education as well, as they could not claim admission in PG colleges of Jammu university,
while getting admitted in the institutes of Kashmir valley was out of question. Later
the Indian Government has taken up the issue of education of the displaced students from
Kashmir, and helped them get admissions in various Kendriya Vidyalayas and major educational
institutions & universities across the country. In 2010, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir
noted that 808 Pandit families, comprising 3,445 people, were still living in the Valley
and that financial and other incentives put in place to encourage others to return there
had been unsuccessful. According to a Jammu and Kashmir government report, 219 members
of the Pandit community out of total 1400 Hindus, had been killed in the region between
1989 and 2004 but none thereafter.The local organisation of Pandits in Kashmir, Kashmir
Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) after carrying out a survey in 2008 and 2009, said that 399
Kashmiri Pandits were killed by insurgents from 1990 to 2011 with 75% of them being killed
during the first year of the Kashmiri insurgency, and that during the last 20 years, about 650
Pandits have been killed in the valley. Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, estimates 357 pandits
were killed in Kashmir in 1990.Panun Kashmir, a political group representing the Pandits
who fled Kashmir, has published a list of about 1,341 Pandits killed since 1990. An
organisation called Roots of Kashmir filed a petition in 2017 to reopen 215 cases of
more than 700 alleged murders of Kashmiri Pandits, however the Supreme Court of India
refused its plea.==Assessments==
Whilst some Pandit organisations such as Panun Kashmir etc. have accused Kashmiri Muslims
of genocide and mass-rape, during the times of exodus, authors have labeled the claims
as “exaggerated”. Scholars Mridu Rai and A. Evans have outright rejected the claims of
genocide. Some scholars have also accused the Indian
state and Media of utilizing the experience of Pandits as a tool of propaganda. In February
1993, a notable Indian magazine launched an investigation upon a list of 23 shrines provided
by Bharatiya Janata Party and found that the claims of alleged desecration of scores of
Hindu shrines in Kashmir, widely perpetuated by the Indian media and right-wing Hindu politicians,
were “false”.Further, whilst significantly higher figures of death, in thousands, have
been reported by certain Pandit-organisations, scholars have rejected the claims, instead
choosing to roughly rely upon the official figures. According to the government of Jammu
and Kashmir 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed and 24,202 families migrated out of the valley.==Recent developments==
The Indian Government has tried to rehabilitate the Pandits and the separatists have also
invited the Pandits back to Kashmir. Tahir, the commander of a separatist Islamic group,
ensured full protection to the Kashmiri Pandits.The apathy on the part of the government and the
sufferings of the Kashmiri Pandits have been highlighted in a play titled ‘Kaash Kashmir’.
Such efforts or claims have lacked political will as journalist Rahul Pandita writes in
a memoir.Some consider Article 370 as a roadblock in the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits as
the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir does not allow those living in India outside Jammu
and Kashmir to freely settle in the state and become its citizens.Sanjay Tickoo, president
of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), says that the ‘Article 370’ affair is different
from the issue of exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and both should be dealt with separately.
He remarks that, linking both the affairs is an “utterly insensitive way to deal with
a highly sensitive and emotive issue”.As of 2016, a total of 1,800 Kashmiri Pandit youths
have returned to the Valley since the announcing of Rs. 1,168-crore package in 2008 by the
UPA government. R.K. Bhat, president of Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj criticised the package
to be a mere eyewash and claimed that most of the youths were living in cramped prefabricated
sheds or in rented accommodation. He also said that 4,000 vacancies have been lying
vacant since 2010 and alleged that the BJP government was repeating the same rhetoric
and was not serious about helping them. In an interview with NDTV on 19 January, Farooq
Abdullah commented that the onus was on Kashmiri Pandits to come back themselves and nobody
would beg them to do so. His comments were met with disagreement by Kashmiri Pandit authors
Neeru Kaul, Siddhartha Gigoo, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and retired General Syed Ata
Hasnain. He also said that during his tenure as Chief Minister in 1996, he had asked them
to return but they refused to do so. He reiterated his comments on 23 January and said that the
time had come for them to return.The issue of separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits
has been a source of contention in Kashmir with separatists as well as mainstream political
parties opposing it. Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, had threatened of attacking
the “Pandit composite townships” which were meant to be built for the rehabilitation of
the non-Muslim community. In a 6-minute long video clip, Wani described the rehabilitation
scheme as resembling Israeli designs.However, Burhan Wani welcomed the Kashmiri Pandits
to return and promised to guard them. He also promised a safe Amarnath Yatra. Kashmiri Pandits
residing in the Valley also mourned Burhan Wani’s death. Burhan Wani’s successor in the
Hizbul Mujahideen, Zakir Rashid Bhat, also asked the Kashmiri Pandits to return and ensured
them protection.During the 2016 Kashmir unrest, transit camps housing Kashmir Pandits in Kashmir
were attacked by mobs. About 200–300 Kashmiri Pandit employees fled the transit camps in
Kashmir during night time on 12 July due to the attacks by protesters on the camps and
have held protests against the government for attacks on their camp and demanded that
all Kashmiri Pandit employees in Kashmir valley be evacuated immediately. Over 1300 government
employees belonging to the community have fled the region during the unrest. Posters
threatening the Pandits to leave Kashmir or be killed were put up near transit camps in
Pulwama allegedly by the militant organisation Lashkar-e-Islam. There were doubts as to who
put up the poster with speculations being raised as to whether other groups had put
up the poster using the name of Lashkar-e-Islam.The employment package was also extended to Pandits
who did not migrate out of the valley with an amendment to J&K Migrants (Special Drive)
Recruitment Rules, 2009 in October 2017.==See also==
Bitta Karate Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmir conflict Human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir
1947 Jammu massacres

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