19 January 1990 – A freezing night when crime against a peaceful ethnic community took place while India slept unaware of what their compatriots were going through.
Media, Human rights organisations, Government agencies- all closed their eyes while a helpless community was forced out of their ancestral land under threats of Convert,Leave or Die by Gun wielding Jehadis . Subsequently their story was buried under a Media silence and government denial. The victims were sought to be made aggressors, media narrative painted the event as a backlash to the minority community’s aggression ,some sought to paint the exodus as a conspiracy planned to blacken the ‘Aazadi ‘ movement and many such ludicrous arguments were made to legitimize and downplay the gruesome incident.
Kashmiri Pandits have been inhabitants of the valley for at least 5000 yrs. It was post 1339 that their persecution started . There were Seven recorded exodus of Kashmiri Pandits,starting with Sikander Butshikan who told the Kashmiri Pandits – Leave, Convert or die.
In 1989-1990, same slogan was repeated in the valley,blared from mosques-Leave, Convert or Die.
The exodus of 19 January 1990 was not a spontaneous event,but a well planned one,foundation to which was laid Pre Independence from 1931 onwards. During 1931, with active British support, inciting speeches were given in mosques,by Sheikh Abdullah which led to protests and stone pelting ,for which he was imprisoned for sedition by Maharaja. In June 1931, A man named Abdul Qadir gave extremely inciting speeches in mosques and caused widespread protests and stone pelting .He was arrested and on July 13,1931,a mob overran the central prison in Srinagar . In the ensuing riots, 13 people were killed. Then the mob went berserk and started looting Hindu shops in Srinagar. For 3 months the riots went unchecked,having spread to Jammu,Kotli, Mirpur. Hindus and Sikhs were targetted, shops looted,women raped and hundreds were converted. Thousands of Kashmiri Hindus left their homes in Vicharnag and Maharajganj. The reports of this incident are found in British Archives.
Pre Independence the Maharaja Quit Kashmir movement bred an anti Hindu feeling inside the Muslims. Post independence ,the same feeling was fostered by the politicians,esp Sheikh Abdullah, who formed a plebiscite Front. On the other hand Jamaat-I-Ismaili started opening madrasas and started indoctrinating the youth. In 1986, Riots broke out in Anantnag against Hindus .Cows were slaughtered,temples burnt, houses looted .This was when brother in law of Sheikh Abdullah, Gul Padsha was the CM and mufti Mohammed Sayeed was Home minister. The events of 1986 have never been bought into public space and No inquiry ever Ordered.
Post Independence, Kashmiri Pandits were looked upon as ‘Spies’ and symbol of Indian State. They were 10% of the population at the time of independence . The land to tiller act of 1950 robbed most of Kashmiri Pandits of their lands without any compensation. The administration conspired not to give them state seats in colleges or jobs in Government. As a result thousands of Kashmiri Pandits migrated silently between 1947-1989 in face of a hostile atmosphere.
By 1989, Religious indoctrination had reached its peak,ably abetted by Op-Topac launched by Zia ul Haq to Islamise Kashmir and rid it of all Hindus,who were reduced to merely 4-5% of population. From 1989, Kashmiri Pandits were targetted and taunted as Spies. Posters were pasted of Marked Kashmiri Pandits on walls of Mosques. Prominent Kashmiri Pandits were killed in public in most barbaric manner to strike fear into hearts of Kashmiri Pandits. Prominent personalities like Tika Lal Taploo,BJP Chief was gunned down. Those boys who accompanied the funeral were also gunned down later. JKLF took the lead into forcing KPS into exile,with daily killings of Some prominent Kashmiri pandit. Others like Hizbul Mujahideen,Allah tigers etc aided the agenda. The valley was reverbating with slogans like – jisko kashmir mein rehana hai,Allah ho Akbar kahna hai,
Aye Zalimo, Aye Kafiro, Kashmir Hamara chhorh do
Kashmir mein Kya chalega, Nizam-e-musataf .
Leave, Convert or die.
After the National Conference-Congress coalition government resigned under the pressure of the militants, armed youth almost ruled the lawless Valley of Kashmir. Farooq Abdullah went to London to play golf and his Council of Ministers went to Jammu where some of them entered into secret liaisons with the Kashmiri insurgents.
In private homes and in mosques, Kashmir Valley’s Muslim society was in grip of Islamic and ‘Aazadi’ mania. In their mass congregations, India was painted as the occupier and the Kashmiri Pandits were dubbed as the spies of India. The tag that Pandits are the spies of India in Kashmir never left them. Zia’s ‘Operation Topac’ began to unfold. Constant barbaric killings of Kashmiri pamdits foretold of coming events. Muslim clergy intensified their hate Hindu tirade in Friday jumma congregations, projecting Kashmiri Pandits – bare 3 per cent religious minority – a source of threat to the 97 per cent Muslim majority.
On 19th of January, 1990, Around 9 PM, thunderous Islamic and pro-Pakistan slogans were raised collectively by multitudes and relayed through powerful loudspeakers.
Masses of Muslim population, young, old, children, and women came out of their homes, crowded the streets, gesticulating vigorously and yelling slogans in favor of Islam, Pakistan and the insurgency. Crowds of frenzied Muslims spread rugs and carpets on streets and squares. They lit bonfires, People danced, shook fists made violent gestures as loud speakers were fixed and microphones blurred a mix of Quranic verses, revolutionary songs, anti-India vitriolic and the supremacy of Islamic faith, all by turn making rounds from one to another speaker.
Like frightened pigeons, the Pandits huddled up in their nests and kept vigil all night. Al Safa, a popular Urdu daily of Srinagar minced no words in telling the Pandits to leave the Valley within hours if they wanted to save their lives and honor. Loud speakers fixed on mosque tops blurred a profusion of warnings of similar type.
The Pandits found that the Indian government offered them no security. Threatened and defenceless Pandits had no option but to leave their homes, properties, jobs, business, farms, orchards, temples, shrines, cremation grounds, Gods, deities, and the land of their forefathers. They engaged whatever means of transportation they could manage, took a bagful of clothing and headed out of the Valley to unknown and un-seen destinations. They left in trickles for fear of being captured en route and butchered in cold blood. The process continued for the first two-three months of 1990. Indian army was Stationed in Badami Bagh Cantonment, Srinagar, but not one soldier escorted the fleeing fugitives. Kashmiri Muslims did not obstruct the exit of the Kashmiri Pandits and facilitated their safe journey out of the Kashmir Valley.
The Pandits of Kashmir, who had braved six exodus, forced conversions and destruction of their civilisational symbols during six centuries, were expelled from their five thousand year-old homeland in an independent democratic Indian State.
Today 19 January 2019 marks 30th year in Exile !
Picture Credit: YouTube