They were shot at, their women violated and butchered, their children were strangled with wires and their houses burnt down to ashes.
The long forgotten Kashmiri Pandits are back in the limelight again. No, they are not trending on twitter because a human rights group has taken up their cause, nor has Bollywood decided to march with placards in their support; it was apparently an innocuous tweet by the well-known journalist, Ms Tavleen singh, which has again brought the issue to the fore.
Why did Kashmiri Pandits flee overnight?
The oft heard theory is, 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the valley overnight to escape a state sponsored violence on the night of January 19th ,1990. The date coincides with Mr JagMohan taking over as the Governor of the state and ergo fingers are pointed at him for facilitating the movement of Pandits out of the valley, to Jammu. But anyone with a little analytical mind will tell you that this was not a possibility as neither a combined effort by state transport or defence force’s transport could have achieved such a feat in early 90’s, nor could Kashmiri Pandits have used their own vehicles to travel, as back in that era, having a personal car was a luxury. There are more questions that need to be answered. For example- How did Jagmohan, whose previous stint in Kashmir 1984-1989 earned him a good name among Kashmiris, become a slayer overnight?
Interestingly this theory gets a lot push by many main stream journalists and politicians alike, despite the populace being aware of the incidents which pushed Kashmiri pandits out of the valley. Do they really think we are so naïve to have forgotten what happened in the valley? Here’s a tweet by Digvijay Singh in support of the popular theory.
The untold truth and the sequence of events:
- 1984: Islam khatre mein hai
This was the year when Ghulam Muhammed Shah, brother in law of Farooq Abdullah, had become the chief minister of J&K. During his short stint as chief minister he had decided to build a mosque (Shah Masjid) within the premises of an ancient Hindu temple in Jammu; this was done under the pretext of “Islam khatare mein hai”. Division on the basis of religion had just dropped its roots in the valley bringing the Pandits on the radars.
- 1986: The prelude
It was long before 1990 that issues related to communal violence had begun in Kashmir but it is mostly overlooked or never discussed. The year was 1986 when valley saw one of the worst communal riots in the state; the riots took place in Anantnag district of South Kashmir, which used to be the political bastion of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the late Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister. Back then Sayeed was a member of the Congress party. It is estimated that close to 300 homes of Kashmiri Pandits were lost in the riots and a few temples were also burnt down.
- 1987: Watershed moment
The elections held on 23rd march of 1987 were largely reported as rigged. Those contesting the elections were Farooq Abdullah (National Conference), Mufti Mohammed Sayeed (Indian National Congress), and Muhammad Yusuf Shah aka Syed Salahuddin (Muslim United Front). Syed Salahuddin, present chief of terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen, had been holding a grudge against Governor Jagmohan, as he had shot down Salahuddin’s request of infusing capital into orchards; apparently these orchards were used to shelter terrorists. Interestingly his election manager of 1987 was a man named Yasin Malik, a state fed separatist who now heads JKLF( Jammu and Kashmir liberation front).
- 1989: Staged kidnap of Rubaiya Mufti
Union Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s daughter, Rubaiya, a Doctor intern was kidnapped; what followed was the prompt release of 5 dreaded terrorists in exchange to getting Rubaiya back home. 14 years after the Kidnap, JKLF vice chairman Javed Mir confessed it was staged and carried out by JKLF. In short, Mufti Sayeed and JKLF’s chief Yasin Malik, all had their hands in the cookie jar.
- 1989- call for Nizam-E-Mustafa
All this while since 1986 butchering of Kashmiri pandits continued unabated in the valley. But later half of 1989 was particularly bad. These were times when Kashmiri Pandits were put on the cross hairs; Tilak Lal Tappu, a well-known lawyer was murdered; Justice Nil Kant Ganju was shot and so were other Kashmiri Pandits; the list is long. Posters had begun to appear on the streets with hitlists, and any Kashmiri Pandit who found his name on the list would flee the valley. This did not happen overnight!
- Jan 19, 1990 : The fateful night
Last seven days which led upto Jan 19 saw some blood curdling incidents in the valley; Kashmiri Pandits faced all kinds of persecution that included brutal killings of men and rape of women. Children too were not spared. This is when Jagmohan had taken over as the governor and Farooq Abdullah had resigned as the chief minister.
This was also the time when central government was facing turbulence; in power was a coalition govt led by VP Singh,who had surrendered to the whims of terrorists.
A survey was carried out by an NGO, J&K Centre for Minority Studies, which was set up by a retired IAS officer ML Kaul; the purpose of the survey was to gauge “Impact of migration on the socio-economic conditions of Kashmiri Displaced People” and also it investigated the circumstances and causes of mass exodus of people from the valley. The sample chosen for the survey were mostly from Srinagar district- 33%, 6% from Badgam, 31% Anantnag, 9% Pulwama, 12% Baramulla and 9% from Kupwara district. It not just included Kashmiri Pandit families but also Sikh and a few refugee Muslim families.
An overwhelming majority of the people, 85% of people from the camp and 94% of people living outside camps, surveyed said that the sudden decision for migration” of Kashmiri Pandits was- “insecurity induced by terrorist violence in view of random, gruesome and torturous killings” . So this should bring an end to the conspiracy theory that exodus of Kashmiri Pandits was state sponsored and the blames levelled at Jagmohan Malhotra hold no water.
Now its time for the audience to ponder – A Chief minister who ran away to London when Kashmir was in crisis, Union minister whose daughter’s kidnapping was staged, a Governor who decided to take the bull by horns- who do you think was responsible for the Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits?
Definitely not Jagmohan Malhotra in my opinion.