Assist. Prof. Pyar Singh Thakur
Thirty two years ago, on 19 January, 1990, the whole world witnessed the inhuman brutality over the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs in the valley of Kashmir of Jammu & Kashmir as 19 January 1990 is shoddy and notorious day in the annals of Kashmir. It was the day that the Kashmiri Hindu community and also Sikhs were deserted their homeland to the chant of blood curdling and Jihadi slogans. Today, it is inevitable that we humans recall the inhuman events of those fateful days of 1990 and targeting of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits began in late 1989. Those brutality events led the first to be killed was Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, a bodacious leader of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandit community, he was gunned down in broad daylight outside his home in front of myriad eyewitnesses by terrorists but no one was ever charged, and then four months later, on 4 January 1990, Aftab, a local Urdu newspaper in Srinagar, runs a press release issued by the Pakistan based terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, proclaiming jihad and asking all Hindus to leave the Kashmir valley resulted that walls are plastered with posters asking Hindus to quit Kashmir, homes of Hindus are painted to identify them and Hindu women are forced to sport marks on their foreheads (tilak); masked men with Kalashnikovs stroll the streets, forcing people to reset their wrist watches and clocks to Pakistan Standard Time. The scene was very remorseful. A reign of terror rules the Valley, unchecked by the local government. The predominantly Muslim Kashmiri society, 7 million strong, simulates and instigates helplessness against a few hundred terrorists and forsakes the minority Hindu community to its fate. But it was not their fate. With each passing day of January, the tension arises more worst. Then on 19 January,1990, echoed as the Kristallnacht of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandit community, the terror pressure reaches its zenith. As dusk falls and Hindu families, women and children included, cower inside their homes, behind the false security of their doors, outside the spine-chilling beseeches to quit the Kashmir Valley become screamers, louder and yelpers. The muezzin’s routine calls to the Islamic faithful from mosque tops is replaced by three taped slogans that resonate and echo throughout the inclement cold of January night, its eerie darkness playing the fear deep rooted by these repeated bewitchings such as “Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar)”. “Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa (What do we want here? Rule of Shariat)”. “Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men)”. The depravity of the slogans is beyond human sense. Nabbing just what they can carry, Kashmiri Pandits quit the Kashmir valley, leaving behind their ancestral homes—thus began the most recent exodus of Kashmiri Pandits as history is witness to myriad forced migrations of Kashmiri Pandits during the last millennium. Till date no justice done with Kashmiri Pandits to resetting in their homeland with honour and proper escort them and neither guilty put behind the bars.
Over the coming months, abandoned Hindu Pandits’ homes are deliberately gutted and those that could not be burnt because of their proximity to Muslim homes are skilfully damaged so that they would cave in under the harsh winter weather, making pecculation of material easy; some Pandits, who chose to stay back are subtly intimidated by their Muslim friends and neighbours to sell their properties at throwaway prices or at meagre amount. Many records show that approximately, 16,000 Hindu homes suffer this fate. According to Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre of the Norwegian Refugee Council, 350,621 Kashmiri Pandits have been displaced from the valley since the uprising began. Anywhere between 500 to 1,000 Hindus were killed during this period. Group genocide or massacres were common: Wandhama, Chapnari, Prankote and Nandimarg are few of the locales that come to mind where groups of Hindus were mercilessly gunned down by terrorists with the local population complicit in these killings. At the beginning of the 20th century there were close to 1 million Kashmiri Pandits. Today not more than 9,000 Pandits remain; some put the figure even lower at 3,000. Kashmiri Hindus made up 15% of the population in 1941. By 1991, their numbers had dwindled to comprise a mere 0.1%. These are the gloomy facts that interprate the tale of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits. When the population of a specific community is decimated by fear from over 1 million to less than 10,000 and now constitutes a bare 0.1% of the population, there is only one word to describe it: ethnic restoring. Although the scrapping of Article 370 has changed the ground reality in Kashmir valley it cannot negate the ethnic restoring of Kashmiri Pandits: a humungous moral infraction that stands as an indelible blot or indelible stigma on the moral fabric of India; a shame for mankind. While it is easy to blame the terrorists, it cannot absolve us of our responsibility. There was a total failure, at every level of the defence and government mechanisms that define a civilised nation: society, government and the press—all abrogated their responsibility and failed the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits. What happened in Kashmir could not have occurred without the tacit compliance of civil society, Kashmir’s majority Muslim community and so, despite their protestations, they must bear the brunt of this charge. More disturbing is the mute acceptance of this barbaric atrocity by civil society and the media also. When we can crowd the streets for a surreal crime, a supposed act of potential discrimination that is more paranoia than fact or logic like the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), why were there were no street protests, no candle light vigils, no media brouhaha or media discussion over channels and no sit ins like Shaheen Bagh for this brutal act of ethnic restoring? That is countless question. Was it because the victims were Hindus? Indian civil society must introspect and have the courage to confront this demon that hovers over mankind. No nation can lay claim to democracy and secularism if it has different benchmarks of victimhood depending on the community. Some crimes cannot be more equal than others. And the purpose of recalling history is not to wreak retaliation but to provoke rue among the perpetrators and to ensure that such evil does not take place again—nothing more nothing less.
Assist. Prof. Pyar Singh Thakur