19th January 1990 passed me by- I was a student in IHM Goa, doing my internship in Leela Kempenski in Mumbai. I heard NOTHING, read NOTHING while 5 lakh plus of my Hindu brothers and sisters were forced out by threats of Death, Convert or leave – at gunpoint literally, while the Indian Government I had faith in just abdicated all its responsibility. The conspiracy of silence continued by the ecosystem while we Hindus went about our lives unaware that a death blow had been delivered to the fountainhead of our civilization -Kashmir- the land where my Ancestors -hailed from. The land of Goddess Saraswati, the land where the Ancient Sharda Peeth stood, where Adi Shankaracharya visited all the way from Kerala and opened the Dakshin Dwar.
The word Kashmir always stirred a slight guilt in my conscious – lulled as I was by Macaulised education and the high decibel media narrative of us Hindus and Indians forcibly occupying a piece of paradise where we had no rights.
It took Social Media and a chance encounter with Jammu Kashmir study center lecture to open my eyes and shake me out of slumber. Later I heard Sushil Pandit talk on Kashmir and I realised how ignorant we Hindus were of our own culture and history.
On this day let me recount the seven exodus Kashmiri Hindus and sikhs had to endure
Yes 7 Exodus, three of them in 20th century!
2 of them in Independent India
The First Exodus (1389-1413)
Till 1339 Kashmir was a Hindu state, it was a paradise of sorts, with great learning centres, great books being written, women were highly educated and Sanskrit was spoken along with Sharada.
In 1389 Sikander Butshikan decided to uproot every weed of Hindu and Buddhist religion from Kashmir- forcible conversions started with demolishing of Temples. The Magnificent Martand Sun Temple took Six Months to raze.
One lakh Kashmiri Pandits were drowned, nearly 40 thousand converted. 7 mounds of Janeu were burnt.
Sacred books burnt or thrown in Rivers. This exodus forced Kashmiri Pandits to settle in Kishtwar, Badharwah and other such places. Still 11 Kashmiri Pandits families braved all and stayed in Rainawari where the mounds were burnt.
The Second Exodus (1506-1585)
Slowly the Tortures lessened and Kashmiri Pandits returned. But more torture and conversions were in store.
Dr. M.L. Kapoor observes that it took Islam almost six centuries to secure a strong foothold in Kashmir. Subsequently with a jet speed it galloped through and within next one hundred years over shadowed Hinduism and claimed a majority.
Chaks Dynasty which comprised of Shias recruited by Shah Alam took over power of Kashmir. The Chaks belonged to Dardistan. They made conversion of Kashmiri Pandits a state policy and legalised it under Maliganeem.
Moosa Raina let loose a reign of terror. 24,000 Brahmin families were converted, suspecting that they may reconvert the men were forcibly circumcised, beef fed to them. 1000 cows were slaughtered. When Pandits rallied behind Pandit Nirmal Kanth, untold tortures were inflicted on them. Tax which prevented sustenance was imposed on unconverted Hindus,thus forcing them to exile.
The Third Exodus under the Moghuls (1585-1753)
Akbar Conquered Kashmir and rolled back the black Jaziya tax. His policies encouraged Pandits to return to their Homes. But this respite was short lived.
Jehangir reverted to imposing Jaziya. He demolished temples. He ruled that Hindu men could not marry Muslim women but Hindu fathers were forced to Marry their daughters to Mughal officials residing in Kashmir. Shah Jahan went further and the third Exile of Kashmiri Pandits to Sitaram bazaar area of Delhi took place.
It was during the reign of Aurangzeb that 500 Kashmiri Pandits under Pandit Kripal Sharma approached Guru Tegh Bahadur to protect them. Guru Tegh Bahadur along with three Disciples made the supreme sacrifice.
The Fourth Exodus (1753)
After the Mughal Rule Kashmir passed into the Hands of Afghans. The forced conversions, marriages, Jaziya continued unabated forcing the fourth exodus. The Kashmiri Pandits approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh who invaded and captured Kashmir. During the Sikh rule and the Subsequent Dogra Rule, Kashmiri Pandits returned and rebuilt their lives along with temples etc.
The Fifth Exodus -13 July 1931
Sheikh Abdullah returned to Kashmir after completing his graduation from Aligarh Muslim University. Maharaja Hari Singh had supported Independence from the British in the London Round table conference. Sheikh Abdullah began giving inciting speeches in Srinagar Mosques and provoked stone pelting and riots against Hindus. On 13th July 1931 Mobs overran the central prison in Srinagar to free one Qadir who was on trial for sedition. An orgy of violence was let loose against Hindus in Kashmir and even areas in Jammu. The shops of Hindus were looted, many were killed,Scores were converted.
The Sixth Exodus -20 February 1986
Gul Shah ‘Padsa’ the estranged brother in law of Farooq Abdullah was the architect of this Exodus which strangely finds no mention in any narrative. Gul Shah was the Chief Minister for 20 months. He planned the building of Shah mosque within the precincts of an Ancient Temple in the new secretariat building. When the Hindus especially in Jammu region opposed it, his hoodlums evicted Kashmiri Pandits from their homes. Temples were burnt and razed and an anti Kashmiri Pandit atmosphere was created by Mufti in south Kashmir and by Farooq Abdullah in Srinagar.
The seventh Exodus -19 January 1990
5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits left their homes under Violent threats. They are still waiting to Return. In Independent India.
Will the Land of their ancestors be safe for their return?