Remembering The Pandit Community Of Kashmir Who Became Refugees In Their Own Homeland

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Remembering The Pandit Community Of Kashmir Who Became Refugees In Their Own Homeland

On International Migrants Day, we remember thousands of Hindus living in Kashmir who were forced to exile and made to languish in refugee settlements for many years.

Every year, December 18 is observed as the International Migrants Day. The day acknowledges the significance of protecting the rights and dignity of migrant people across the globe. People often move from their homeland either voluntarily or forcibly. There are certain factors that make people migrate from one place to the other like economic challenges, frequency of disasters, and extreme poverty or due to conflict.

Likewise, 31 years back in 1990, thousands of Hindus living in Kashmir were forced to exile and lived like refugees for many years in their own country.

Rise Of Insurgency

Back in July 1988, a militant separatist organisation Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) started a separatist insurgency for independence of Kashmir from India. On 14 September 1989, a prominent Kashmiri Hindu, namely Tika Lal Taploo was attacked for the first time in Jammu & Kashmir. This instilled a sense of fear among the community as Taploo's killers were never found. The Hindus felt unsafe in Kashmir valley and feared to be targeted any time.

To undermine his political rival and then Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, the Minister of Home Affairs Mufti Mohammad Sayeed convinced then Prime Minister V.P. Singh to appoint Jagmohan as the state governor. Abdullah resented Jagmohan who had been appointed as the governor earlier in April 1984 as well and had recommended Abdullah's dismissal to Rajiv Gandhi in July 1984. Abdullah had earlier declared that he would resign as CM if Jagmohan was appointed the Governor. However, the Central government went ahead and appointed him as Governor on January 19, 1990. In response, Abdullah resigned the same day and Jagmohan suggested the dissolution of the State Assembly.

In December 1989, members of JKLF kidnapped Dr Rubaiya Sayeed, Mufti Sayeed's daughter and demanded release of five militants, which was later fulfilled.

Threat Messages

On January 4,1990, Srinagar-based Urdu daily newspaper released a message, threatening all Kashmiri Pandits to leave the valley immediately, sourcing it to the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen. Later, another newspaper republished the same warning. Walls were pasted with posters having threatening messages to all Kashmiris to strictly abide by certain rules like Islamic dress code, prohibition on alcohol, video parlours and cinemas, and restrictions to women. Unknown masked men with arms forced people to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time. Shops, office buildings and other establishments were coloured in green as a sign of Islamic law, whereas on the other hand, homes and temples of Kashmiri Pandits were burned or destroyed. Threatening posters were posted on doors of their houses asking them to leave the valley immediately.

Day Of Exodus

On the intervening night of January 18 and 19, a blackout took place in the entire Kashmir region. Electricity was snapped except mosques, where announcements were made by militants, asking Pandits to leave the valley. On January 21, 1990, two days after Jagmohan took over as governor, the Gawakadal massacre took place in Srinagar, in which the Indian security forces had opened fire on protesters, leading to the death of at least 50 people, leading to the chaos. Lawlessness took over the valley and the crowd with slogans and guns started roaming around the streets. News of violent incidents kept coming and many of the Hindus who survived the night saved their lives by traveling out of the valley.

Many Kashmiri Pandit women were allegedly kidnapped, raped and murdered, throughout the time of exodus, while the properties or land of many were either destroyed or occupied. Most of them lost their properties after the exodus and most of them are unable to return and sell them. Their status as displaced people has largely harmed them in the education sector as well.

In 2010, the Jammu and Kashmir government said that 808 Hindus families, consisting of 3,445 people, were still residing in Kashmir and that financial and other incentives were provided to encourage other people from the minority community to return. As per a state government report, 219 members of the Kashmiri Pandits of total 1400, were killed between 1989 and 2004.

In 2017, one of the organisations called Roots of Kashmir filed a petition to reopen 215 cases of over 700 alleged murders of Kashmiri Hindus, however the Supreme Court refused its plea.

Kashmiri Hindus continue to fight for their return to the valley. The exiled community had hoped to return after the situation improved. However, a majority of them did not return because of the unstable situation in the valley and the continuous threat to their lives.

Also Read: India Has 9 Out Of World's Most Polluted Cities, But Few Air Quality Monitors Than Other Populated Nations

Contributors Suggest Correction
Editor : Palak Agrawal
Creatives : Tashafi Nazir

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