The Night All Was Lost: Three Decades On, Exodus Still Haunts Kashmiri Pandits

Kashmiri Pandits 

Exactly 30 years ago on 19 January 1990, the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee their homeland, the Kashmir Valley, as a result of being targeted by Islamic jihadis.

Meanwhile, different political parties came to power but couldn't create a conducive atmosphere for their return to the valley. Displaced Kashmiri Hindus are still longing to return to their homeland.

The exodus of Kashmiri Hindus is no secret. Since 1989-90, nothing much has changed for the displaced community. What has changed is their culture, tradition, language among others.

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Every New Year brings new hopes to the world. Whereas, for Kashmiri Pandits, January brings back a three-decade-old nightmare. On 19 January 1990, Islamic jihadis wreaked havoc on the minority Kashmiri Hindus. They were left with only three options -- convert to Islam, leave the place or perish.

The terrorists murdered hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits. Women were allegedly gangraped and killed. Hindu temples were targeted. Kidnappings and incidents of stone pelting at Hindu homes were a common occurrence. Neither police nor administration came to their rescue. No human rights defenders enquired the whereabouts of Kashmiri Hindus. Even at the hospitals, Hindu patients were being marginalised.

From streets to schools, colleges and offices, the minorities were persecuted, threatened and tortured mentally as well as physically.

Had the then Governor Jagmohan not called the Army to the valley on 19 January 1990, Kashmiri Pandits would have been massacred. Slogans were being raised from the mosques' loudspeakers -- "Kaafiro ko maaro" (kill the outsiders), "Yahan Nizam-e-Mustafa chalega" (what we want in Kashmir, rule of Allah), "We want Kashmir with Pandit women, not Pandit men".

Lakhs of Kashmiri Muslims were present on the streets to slaughter the Hindus. At last, the Army had to come to their rescue.

Kashmiri Hindus were left with no other option but to migrate to other cities. Lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits moved to Jammu, New Delhi and other cities.

Even the then Central government couldn't do anything for Kashmiri Hindus.

According to Kashmiri Pandits, over 300 Hindus were killed between 1989-90. The massacre continued even after 1990. On 26 January 1998, 23 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in Wandhama area of Ganderbal district.

Even after 30 years of the Kashmiri Pandits' exodus, no action has been taken. Police didn't even register FIRs in several cases. After exodus, Kashmiri Pandits' homes were allegedly robbed. Many houses were set ablaze. No FIRs were registered.

Justice Neelkanth Ganjoo, telecom engineer Balkrishna Ganjoo, Doordarshan Director Lassa Kaul and political leader Tikalal Taploo, among others were brutally killed. Girija Ganjoo and Sarla Bhat were allegedly abducted, gangraped and then murdered. Justice has not yet been delivered in several such cases.

Kashmiri political leaders such as Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti or the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed never talked about atrocities against the Kashmiri Hindus. No leader made attempts to ensure return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley.

When Kashmiri Pandits were attacked, Farooq Abdullah was Jammu and Kashmir's Chief Minister, while Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister.

It's unfortunate that no judicial inquiry commission or SIT was formed or an inquiry could be launched in such cases.

Kashmiri Pandits are still awaiting for justice. This year is the dawn of a new era. Even after three decades in exile, the community's return to their homeland still seems to be a distant dream.

(With Inputs from IANS)

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