Exposing The Exodus

LKH DeskAftermath Comments

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HISTORY

Using the rhetorical threat of migration, the leaders of the Pandit community have attempted to blackmail governments many a time in the past. When the Muslims rose up for their rights in 1931, the Kashmiri Pandits felt threatened, their administrative positions were in danger and the thought that Muslims were going to snatch their bread and butter.

In a written representation, dated 27 April 1932, Kashmiri Pandits wrote a letter to the Maharaja and The British Resident, which read:

We the Hindus of Kashmir, therefore desire that we should be allowed to migrate to other parts in order to find a living there. Bread has been denied to us – in the Hindu Raj – but we have firm conviction that we shall not receive stones in other places in British India under the Crown. We, therefore, request your exalted person to graciously grant us the boon of migration to other places.” (File No. 215/149-P.S, year 1932, State Archives, Jammu)

The next threat came in 1967 when an inter-community marriage was used as an excuse to seek government jobs. At the same time, fake stories of persecution of Kashmiri Pandits were circulated among the Indian masses. In 1988, H.N. Jattu, President of All India Kashmiri Pandits Conference spoke of a ‘silent exodus’ of Kashmiri Pandits due to lack of government jobs.

During the armed rebellion of 1989, many Kashmiris who were believed to be supporting Indian rule in Kashmir were selectively killed. Several Kashmiri Pandits were also killed, mostly on allegations of being informers of the government. A community that was comfortable with the Indian rule couldn’t cope up with the uprising freedom wave that swept the entire Kashmir valley.

The first militant attack was on a Muslim police officer, Ali Muhammad Watali. The first militancy related civilian killing was also of a Muslim, Muhammad Yusuf Halwai, on 21 August 1989. He was an activist of National Conference. Mir Mustafa, a former legislator, was kidnapped and killed on 21 March 1990. Professor Mushir-ul-Haq, VC of the University of Kashmir and his Private Secretary, Abdul Gani, were kidnapped and killed on 6 April 1990. Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq was gunned down on 21 May, 1990. On 23 December 1990, senior politician Maulana Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi was gunned down. Some Kashmiri Pandits like Tika Lal Tapiloo of BJP, Neel Kant Ganjoo – a sessions judge who ordered the hanging of Maqbool Bhat, Lassa Koul – Director of Doordarshan Srinagar and Pushkar Nath – Assistant Director in the State Information Department — were also killed.

All these killings were political rather than communal in nature. The first militancy related abduction was also of a Muslim Kashmiri woman, Rubaiya Sayeed, who was later released in exchange of five jailed rebels.

As per Anuradha Bhasin, “many of them (Kashmiri Pandits) were shot dead for their affiliation with the intelligence agencies or their role in the government decision-making. Kashmiri Pandits occupied a prominent place in government jobs and bureaucracy despite being a microscopic minority in the valley.”

Recently, AS Dulat was the IB chief in Kashmir during the 90s also accepted that IB, in J&K, had a fair amount of Kashmiri Pandits. “They sneaked in and out of all sorts of places and got the intelligence flowing… they rendered yeoman service to the nation.

On 1 March 1990, Almost a million Kashmiris marched towards the Headquarters of The United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to handover a memorandum seeking freedom of Kashmir from the Indian rule. The demonstration continued for days without a break but not a single Pandit or his/her property was harmed.

Vijay Bakaya, a prominent Kashmiri Pandit and former Chief Secretary of Jammu & Kashmir says: “Our community should not forget that those thousands who came out on the streets did not attack or vandalize a single Pandit house.

Rastriya Seva Dal, after visiting Jammu & Kashmir in April 1990, wrote in a report published by the Economic and Political Weekly that:

The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is due to fear created by large rallies and angry demonstrations against the Government. The Muslims claim and the Pandits agree that there were no communal incidents or burning or looting of houses, misbehavior with women etc. The Pandits say that they left their houses because they feared something of this kind would happen soon.

Anuradha Bhasin further writes:

Whether the Islamic sloganeering from mosques was widespread or this happened only in selected pockets, since there is no recorded document or media reports, the truth is likely to be a causality with imagination and prejudice clouding the real picture. But the moot question is: would the response be so uniform in the event of one or even all mosques of the valley echoing the Islamic slogans? Was there some underlying unheard, unsaid, understood threat that motivated the Pandits to migrate in masses within two days. Why in just two days the entire scenario changed? Why did the ‘Islamic’ militarization suddenly become threatening since the killings were going on for months. The media obviously has done no homework.

CAUGHT UNAWARE

Most of the Kashmiri Pandits were unaware of the Government’s plan to shift them to Jammu or other places temporarily to pave a way for a massive crackdown on the Muslims.

O.N. Trissal narrates his personal experience:

In the late 1989, when militancy surfaced in the valley, the Muslims in general, whether as a neighbor, friend, or a colleague asked their Pandit brothers not to leave homes and provided security for them. Many Muslims accommodated Pandit families in their homes to save them from militant attacks. There are instances when Muslim ladies, at the risk of their lives, stood at the door of Pandit houses, to stop militants from entering their houses. Not only this, but when militancy gained the upper hand and the common Muslim himself came under the threat of the gun, timely information was provided to the Pandits so that they can flee to safety.

Professor Manohar Nath Tikoo also writes:

I still remember that fateful day when I was forced by none other than my own wife and daughters to leave. All my Muslim neighbors came to my home bidding my family a fond farewell with tearful eyes. I and my neighbors never wanted my family to leave Kashmir but there was definitely a massive psychological fear created by unknown agencies against the Kashmiri Pandits which forced us to leave. Althrogh the facts remains that not a single Muslim forced us to leave.

In April 1990, Justice V. M. Tarkunde visited Kashmir and reported:

Hindus have received full cooperation from the local Muslims. The Muslims shared their rations and other items of day to day requirements with them. There is total communal harmony in Kashmir. Those people who had come out had either overreacted to the situation or had done so because of other reasons which could be winter, curfew, or closure of offices and educational institutions. Not a single case of looting or arson of non-Muslim property had taken place.

All these statements prove that there were no blood-thirsty frenzied mobs on streets or in mosques who forced the Kashmiri Pandits to migrate. How would it have been possible? Kashmir was under curfew and shoot at sight orders were implemented on 17 January itself. Even if Muslims somehow managed to surround Pandit homes, how did they pack their belongings, escape the surrounding crowd, get state-run SRTC buses and drive away under armed escort within hours?

ENTER JAGMOHAN

Jagmohan Malhotra, who was famous for bulldozing Muslim habitations at Turkaman Gate in Old Delhi during the Emergency was appointed as the Governor of J&K for the second time in January 1990. Victoria Schofield quotes him as saying:

Every Muslim in Kashmir is a militant today. All of them are for secession from India. I am scuttling Srinagar’s Doordarshan’s programs because everybody is a militant… The situation is so explosive that I can’t go out of the Raj Bhavan. But I know what’s going on, minute by minute. The bullet is the only solution for Kashmir. Unless the militants are fully wiped out, normalcy can’t return to Kashmir.

Jagmohan soon put his plan into action, within 24 hours of his anointment, over 50 unarmed Muslims protesters were gunned down by CRPF at Gawkadal.

A Human Rights Watch report, Kashmir Under Siege quotes a Kashmiri Pandit saying:

There is no dispute about the fact that Kashmiri Pandit community was made a scapegoat by Jagmohan, some self-styled leaders of our community and other vested interests…. The Plan was to make Kashmiri Pandits migrate from the valley so that the mass uprising against occupational forces could be painted as a communal flare up… Some self-styled leaders begged the Pandits to migrate from the valley. We were told that our migration was very vital for preserving and protecting our ‘Dharam’ and the unity of India. We were told our migration would pave the way for realizing the dream of Akhand Bharat… We were fooled and we were more than willing to become fools.

A Kashmiri Pandit, K. L. Koul wrote in The Daily Alsafa (18/9/1990) :

Pandits were told that the government has plans of killing about one lakh Kashmiri Muslims in order to overcome the uprising against India. They were assured that once the proposed massacre in Kashmir was completed and the movement curbed, they would be sent back to the valley. My community now understands that it was a very crude way of painting the mass uprising against India as nothing but a communal flare up. The Indian government tried to fool the world by depicting the uprising as a handiwork of Muslim Fundamentalists who had turned against non-Muslims and had thrown them out of their homes. I know my community has lost the affection, love, respect and goodwill of Kashmiri Muslims for having betrayed them. I feel ashamed to admit that my community has stabbed the Muslims in the back. This all happened at the instance of Jagmohan. Some self-styled Pandit leaders exploited the situation and Pandits became refugees in their own land.

Another Kashmiri Pandit, Motilal Bhat says:

Those who left thought they would be gone for three to four months, and they would return when things improved.. no one expected to stay there for years.

Wajahat Habibullah, a senior IAS officer and complicit in covering up the Kunan-Poshpur mass-rape alleges that Jagmohan turned down his advice of discouraging a mass migration through television broadcast. Muslims would come up to his office in hundreds every now and then to request him to discourage the Pandits from leaving Kashmir.

Rather than discouraging a mass migration, Jagmohan announced that his government will ensure a safe passage and arrangements for Pandits.

FORCED TO …

After the migration, many Kashmiri Pandits wrote letters to newspapers or their friends in which they claimed that the government agencies had forced them to leave. In this letter below, Rajnath Turki, a Kashmiri Pandit writes to his friend Mushtaq Wani about how the security forces at Karan Nagar forced him to leave.

Thousands of Kashmiri Pandits didn’t leave the valley and still live here in complete harmony.

In a letter published in the Daily Alsafa on 18 September 1990, K.L. Koul wrote:

In the first week of February 1990, a word was sent to the members of the Pandit community in Kashmir and they were asked to migrate to safer places. This message from Jagmohan was conveyed through some self-styled Pandit leaders. Pandits were told that the government had plans of killing about one lakh Muslim particularly, the youth in order to crush the uprising. Pandits were assured that they would be looked after well, that they would be provided with free ration, free relief, jobs and free accommodation. Pandits were assured that once the Muslims were massacred they would be sent back. This is how Pandits left.

The Nadimarg, Wandhom and Sangrampur massacres are still a mystery. All of the victims from Nadimarg were shot in the head, pointing to the fact that killers were professionals. Sanjay Tikoo, President, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samriti says that the accused are nothing but scapegoats while the real killers roam free. Few days before the massacre, Kashmiri Pandit representatives had sought police protection which was denied to them. These massacres are believed to be done by the Ikhwaan (Renegades) who were/are on the pay-roll of the Government.

Kashmiri Pandits faced overwhelming problems in Jammu and continue to do so. The weather was hot, tents were crowded, washrooms were ill-equipped. Young Pandit girls were subjected to stalking on daily basis. Kashmiri Pandits were facing an identity and cultural crisis.

A migrant Kashmiri Pandit in Jammu, Bhan says:

We were not welcomed by Hindu Dogras, our co-religionists in Jammu who felt that we will compete with them for jobs and business on the one hand, and on the other hand we never felt close to them culturally as we used to feel for Kashmiri Muslims…. The respect which Kashmiri Muslims used to give us was a distinct dream in Jammu.

As per some Indian Media channels and Kashmiri Pandit organizations, 3,50,000 to 7,00,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to migrate from Jammu but according to the Census of 1981 the total population of Hindus (including non-Kashmiris) was 124,078. Given the decade growth of the community from 1971 to 1981 as 6.75% their population in 1991 would have been around 132,000. If we subtract at least 8,000 Kashmiri Pandits who didn’t leave the valley, we get almost 124,000 Kashmiri Pandits who migrated. A report from Indian Today and Asia Watch say the numbers are below 100,000.

Had the 90% majority been so thirsty for blood why didn’t even a single incident of stone pelting occur? How did the buses and vehicles ferrying Pandits for weeks on a 300km long Srinagar-Jammu highway face no mob fury?

On 23 March 2010, the Government admitted that 219 Kashmiri Pandits had been killed by the militants since 1989. It is also admitted as per official figures that more than 13,000 Kashmiri Muslims have been killed either by militants or by renegades. This means 99.5% of the causalities are Muslims. Where is the so called holocaust and genocide of Kashmiri Pandits?

FABRICATED STORIES

Not only have the numbers been inflated, some imaginary cases of persecution of Kashmiri Pandits have also been invented. A Kashmiri Pandit girl, Sarla Bhat, resident of Anantnag and working as a nurse in Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, was allegedly abducted on 19 April 1990, gang-raped for many days, killed and her body abandoned on the roadside at Hazratbal, Srinagar but an RTI filed questioning whether the incident took place or not replied with a clear ‘No’ (HQ/2015/RTI/S-59/559).

Similarly, the fake story of abduction, torture, gang-rape and killing of Mrs M.N. Paul at Takoora on 17 March 1990 is denied by the Police (HQ/2015/RTI/S-59/559). The police also denies the incident of alleged kidnapping of a 12 year old girl Shaloo Basanti, along with her father Vijay Chand from Zainakot on 22 October 1992.

A decomposed body of one Pandit lady, Asha Kaul was recovered at Shella Kadal Srinagar but the cause of her death couldn’t be ascertained by the police. Many propaganda websites allege that she was abducted, raped and killed. Nobody knows how they got so much information while the police couldn’t.

Another widely circulated incident is of Girja Tikoo, a laboratory assistant at the Government Girls High School, Kupwara, who was allegedly abducted, gang-raped, killed and the body cut into pieces using a sawmill on 6 April 1990. The village headman, Ghulam Nabi, confirms that Girja was abducted from Chopan Mohalla, Kupwara, raped and killed but her body was recovered from the Kahmil stream. The allegation that her body was cut into pieces is an attempt to dramatize a horrible incident.

Similar is the case of Rupawati Bhan and Babli Bhan who were allegedly tortured to death and their bodies thrown down from a third story building on 28/06/1990. Here again, truth became a victim of drama. The police confirm that the killing took place but says there was no torture and the bodies weren’t flung down but rather shot dead after which the unidentified gunmen fled away.

DESTRUCTION OF TEMPLES

Following the migration, BJP came up with a list of 55 allegedly destroyed temples in Kashmir. On the day of the demolition of Babri Masjid (6 December 1992), Lal Krishna Advani said: “Everybody wants to defend Babri Masjid, none of them have spoken a word of critism about the 55 temples destroyed in Kashmir.” After being questioned over it, he reduced the number to 40 in another rally.

Journalist Harinder Baweja busted this myth with photographic evidence and revealed that the BJP had misled people to score political points. Harinder Baweja visted 23 temples from the list provided by the BJP and found all of them safe and functioning. These temples, according to BJP, had been burnt and demolished.

One Pujari of Ganpatyar Temple, which the BJP claimed had been destroyed said that Puja had continued uninterrupted in the 200 year old Hanuman temple.

In another instance, a Kashmiri Pandit, Maheshwar Nath told Baweja: “Gita ki kasam, this temple has never been touched.” When Advani was confronted on this issue and accused of lying and distorting facts, he denied any such list existed.

In many cases, Muslims have been taking care of temples since decades. At the time of Migration, Pandit Radha Krishna, caretaker of the Mamleshwar temple, handed over the keys of the 900-year-old Shiva temple to a Muslim who took care of the shrine and kept it open till his transfer in 2004. There after two more Muslims, Muhammad Abdullah and Ghulam Hassan took care of the shrine, arranged aarti regularly. Payar Temple of Pulwama has been under the care of Muslims since last four decades.

A Hindu caretaker of Vitaal Bhairav (Rainawari) who wanted to sell the temple land to a businessman was also stopped by local Muslims, who later alerted Srinagar based Kashmiri Pandits. Both communities later renovated the temple on their own expenses.

After the Migration, many non-Kashmiri Pujaris came from various parts of India and took over the temples. These Pujaris started selling away various properties that the temples owned. In one case three Pujaris – Gopal Dass, Ram Dass and Jairam Dass looked over 375 Kanals of temple land which they had rented to non-state-subjects, violating the Article 370. In one case, a lease holder, Kuldeep Narayan Jaggi sold the rented land illegally for 2.5 Crore. Even an ancient idol from the temple is missing. Some Kashmiri Pandits say assets worth Rs 500 Crore are already sold out.

(The article is an edited part from a long chapter from Kashmir – Exposing the myth behind the narrative, a book written by Khalid Bashir Ahmed.)

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