January 19, 1990- a day chiseled in their collective memories – is the day of exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community.
The name of ‘Kashmir’ valley is derived from the name of Rishi Kashyapa, the progenitor of all those living in Bharatvarsha. Kashmiris have played an integral role in Hindu civilization – Kalhana authored ‘Rajatarangini’, the first written history of Kashmir and contemporary Bharat; Sarangadeva helped evolve Carnatic music; scholars like Nagarjuna taught Buddhism.
But Kashmiri Hindus have faced genocide for over 800 years – there have been seven exoduses since the first Muslim rulers invaded Kashmir. Even according to a Muslim scholar Al-Beruni, Kashmir and Varanasi were the main centers of Hindu learning, and hence Kashmir, besides Varanasi, has been a target of those who invaded India in order to spread Islam, with the might of their swords, from the beginning. When we read Muslim texts like Bahristan-i-Shahi, we can imagine the kind of barbarism unleashed on Kashmir; but the Kahsmiri Pandit exodus in 1989/90 was the most shameful episode in the history because it happened in a a secular democratic republic of India and also in the era of great ‘human rights’ movements!
The signs were ominous right through the autumn of 1989 – posters were pasted on the doors of Pandit houses, asking them to convert, flee, or perish; as prominent Pandits were being murdered, the Chief Minister of the state Dr. Farooq Abdullah abandoned his people and ran away to London in order to let this slow pogrom unfold. On the night of January 19, 1990, things reached a fever pitch– mobs of ordinary Muslims gathered in every street, whipped into a frenzy by slogans which rang out from the loudspeakers of mosques. One such slogan was,
‘Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san’
(We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men).
Many Kashmiri Pandits fled the very next day. In April 1990, a Kashmiri Pandit nurse Sarla Bhat was gang-raped and beaten to death, in June Girija Tickoo was also gang-raped and then sliced at a sawmill. Over 90% of Pandit families, close to half a million people, fled Kashmir by June 1990. 450 temples were destroyed, and 10000 houses were razed to dust in the following years.
A false theory was propagated by those on the payroll of ISI, the intelligence agency of Pakistan, that the then Governor Jagmohan organized the exodus to defame Muslims. Kashmiri Pandits were forced to live in camps without toilets, water, electricity – 250,000 people lived in these conditions for 17 years. A few Pandits who dared to stay back faced massacres from time to time. The book ‘Our moon has blood clots’ by Rahul Pandita, tells us the untold story of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community from their ancestral homeland.
As if their exodus was not enough, the killers of Kashmiri Pandits like Bitta Karate who murdered over 40 Pandits and JKLF chief Yasin Malik who self-admittedly killed unarmed Bharatiya Air-force men are still roaming free, bearing a shameful testimony to our impotence to ensure justice to the persecuted Hindus of Kashmir. What this religious cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits shows is that we choose to live in denial and tend to treat such genocides as though they never happened.
What we need is a paradigm shift. First of all, Bharat must halt the genocide of Hindus within Bharat itself. There are three imperialist processes working in Bharat – Islamic, Christian, Chinese. Secularism in Bharat has been the interplay of these three imperialist processes, which are collectively used to emasculate Hindus.
The ethnic cleansing of Hindus from the Kashmir valley was aimed at destroying the place consciousness of Bharat by Islamizing the Himalayas. On Article 370, rather than getting into the technicalities we need to question the ideology involved. Sadly, all political parties of Bharat have trivialized the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus. Panun Kashmir is the first attempt to create a Hindu habitat and reverse the process of genocide.
Secularism is a process of incremental compromises to Muslim and Christian identity politics – this has to be destroyed. Else, the fate that befell Kashmiri Pandits will one day befall the rest of us: we will die while dreaming of return.
This article contains extracts from talks delivered by Rashneek Kher & Dr. Ajay Chrungoo at the inaugural World Hindu Congress held in 2014.
PS: Kashmiri Pandit Youth Initiative, Roots in Kashmir, is organizing a silent protest by children on #KPExodusDay, 19th Jan, 5.00 PM at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. If you are in Delhi, please go to lend your support.