Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus

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Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus
Part of Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
Jammu-Kashmir-Ladakh.svg
Kashmir Valley in color green
Date 1989 and afterwards[1]
Location Kashmir Valley
Goals Islamisation, ethnic cleansing, independence from India, merger with Pakistan, Sharia law[2]
Methods Rape, targeted killing, murder, threats, kidnapping
Resulted in Mass Migration of Kashmiri Hindus
Casualties
Death(s) 200-1,341[3]

The Hindus of the Kashmir Valley, a large majority of whom were Kashmiri Pandits, were forced to flee the Kashmir valley as a result of being targeted by JKLF and Islamic insurgents during the Kashmir insurgency, on or after 20 January 1990.[4][5] Of the approximately 160,000–170,000 Pandits living in the Kashmir Valley in 1990,[6] only 2,000–3,000 remain there in 2016.[7]

According to Indian government, more than 60,000 families are registered as Kashmiri refugees including some Sikh families.[8] Most families were resettled in Jammu, National Capital Region surrounding Delhi and other neighbouring states.[9]

Background[edit]

Under the 1975 accord, Sheikh Abdullah agreed to measures previously undertaken by the central government in Jammu and Kashmir to integrate the state into India.[10] Sociologist Farrukh Faheem states that it was met with of hostility among people of Kashmir and laid the groundwork for the future insurgency.[11] Those opposed to it included Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir and People's League in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) based in Azad Kashmir.[12] Since the mid-1970s, communalist rhetoric was being exploited in the state for votebank politics. This fit together with the plan of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) which was trying to Islamise Kashmir and replace its prevalent Sufi culture with Wahhabism in order to create an atmosphere of religious unity with Pakistan.[13]

ISI's initial attempts to create unrest in Kashmir against the Indian government were unsuccessful until it started growing in late-1980s.[14] The Afghan jihad against the Soviets, the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the armed struggle of the Sikhs in Punjab against the Indian state became sources of inspiration for large numbers of Kashmiri Muslim youth.[15][16] Both the pro-Independence JKLF and the pro-Pakistan Islamist groups including Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir mobilised the fast growing anti-Indian sentiments among the Kashmiri population. The year of 1984 saw a pronounced rise in terrorist violence in Kashmir. When the JKLF militant Maqbool Bhat was executed in February 1984, strikes and protests by Kashmiri nationalists broke out in the region, where large number of Kashmiri youth participated in widespread anti-India demonstrations, which faced heavy handed reprisals by the state forces.[17][18]

Critics of the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, charged that Abdullah was losing control. His visit to Pakistan administered Kashmir during then became an embarrassment, where according to Hashim Qureshi, he shared a platform with JKLF . Though Abdullah asserted that he went on behalf of Indira Gandhi and his father, so that sentiments there could "be known first hand", few people believed him. There were also allegations that he had allowed Khalistan terrorist groups to train in Jammu province, although those allegations were never proved. On July 2, 1984, G. M. Shah, who had support from Indira Gandhi, replaced his brother-in-law Farooq Abdullah and became the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, after Abdullah was dismissed, in what was termed as a political "coup".[18]

G. M. Shah's administration, which did not have people's mandate, turned to Islamists and opponents of India, notably the Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, Mohammad Shafi Qureshi and Mohinuddin Salati, to gain some legitimacy through religious sentiments. This gave political space to Islamists who previously lost overwhelmingly in the 1983 state elections.[18] In 1986, Shah decided to construct a mosque within the premises of an ancient Hindu temple inside the New Civil Secretariat area in Jammu to be made available to the Muslim employees for 'Namaz'. People of Jammu took to streets to protest against this decision, which led to a Hindu-Muslim clash.[19] In February 1986, Gul Shah on his return to Kashmir valley retaliated and incited the Kashmiri Muslims by saying Islam khatrey mein hey (trans. Islam is in danger). As a result, Kashmiri Pandits were targeted by the Kashmiri Muslims. Many incidents were reported in various areas where Kashmiri Hindus were killed and their properties and temples damaged or destroyed. The worst hit areas were mainly in South Kashmir and Sopore. In Vanpoh, Lukbhavan, Anantnag, Salar and Fatehpur, Muslim mobs plundered or destroyed the properties and temples of Hindus. During the Anantnag riot in February 1986, although no Hindu was killed, many houses and other properties belonging to Hindus were looted, burnt or damaged.[20] An investigation of Anantnag riots revealed that members of the 'secular parties' in the state, rather than the Islamists, had played a key role in organising the violence to gain political mileage through religious sentiments. Shah called in the army to curb the violence, but it had little effect. His government was dismissed on March 12, 1986, by the then Governor Jagmohan following communal riots in south Kashmir. This led Jagmohan to rule the state directly. The political fight was hence being portrayed as a conflict between "Hindu" New Delhi (Central Government), and its efforts to impose its will in the state, and "Muslim" Kashmir, represented by political Islamists and clerics.[21]

The Islamists had organised under a banner named Muslim United Front, with manifesto to work for Islamic unity and against political interference from the centre, and contested the 1987 state elections, in which they lost again. However, the 1987 elections were widely believed to be rigged so as to bring the secular parties (NC and INC) in Kashmir at the forefront, and this caused the insurgency in Kashmir.[22][23][24][25] The Kashmiri militants killed anyone who openly expressed pro-India policies. Kashmiri Pandits were targeted specifically because they were seen as presenting Indian presence in Kashmir because of their faith.[26] Though the insurgency had been launched by JKLF, groups rose over the next few months advocating for establishment of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Rule of Allah). The Islamist groups proclaimed the Islamicisation of socio-political and economic set-up, merger with Pakistan, unification of ummah and establishment of an Islamic Caliphate. Liquidation of central government officials, Pandits, liberal and nationalist intellectuals, social and cultural activists was described as necessary to rid the valley of un-Islamic elements.[27] The relations among the semi-secular and Islamists groups were generally poor and often hostile. The JKLF had also utilized Islamic formulations in its mobilization strategies and public discourse, using Islam and independence interchangeably. It demanded equal rights for everyone however this had a distinct Islamic flavor as it sought to establish an Islamic democracy, protection of minority rights per Quran and Sunnah and an economy of Islamic socialism. The pro-separatist political practices at times deviated from their stated secular position.[28][29]

Turmoil, induction of fear and Exodus[edit]

In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began a separatist insurgency for independence of Kashmir from India.[30] The group targeted a Kashmiri Hindu for the first time on September 14, 1989, when they killed Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, an advocate and a prominent leader of Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu & Kashmir in front of several eyewitnesses. This instilled fear in the Kashmiri Pandit community especially as Taploo's killers were never caught which also emboldened the terrorists. The Pandits felt that they weren't safe in the valley and could be targeted any time. The killings of Kashmiri Hindus continued that included many of the prominent ones.[31] On January 4, 1990, a local Urdu newspaper, Aftab, published a press release issued by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, asking all Pandits to leave the Valley immediately. Another local paper, Al Safa, repeated this expulsion order. Explosive and inflammatory speeches were broadcast from the public address systems of the mosques frequently.[32][30][31] The sense of vulnerabity and insecurity was exacerbated by attacks on prominent Hindu politicians, postings of hit lists with names of specific Hindu individuals and various violent episodes in Srinagar and other places.[33]

In order to undermine his political rival Farooq Abdullah who at that time was the Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the Minister of Home Affairs Mufti Mohammad Sayeed convinced Prime Minister V.P. Singh to appoint Jagmohan as the governor of the state. 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. Mufti was convinced that such a move will irritate Abdullah and make him quit. Abdullah had earlier declared that he would resign if Jagmohan was made the Governor. However, the Central government went ahead and appointed him as Governor on 19 January 1990. In response, Abdullah resigned on the same day and Jagmohan suggested the dissolution of the State Assembly. On 21 January 1990, two days after Jagmohan took over as governor, the Gawkadal 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, and likely over 100. These events led to chaos. Lawlessness took over the valley and the crowd with slogans and guns started roaming around the streets. News kept coming of violent incidents and those Hindus who survived the night saved their lives by traveling out of the valley.[34][35][30]

Most of the Kashmiri Hindus left Kashmir valley and moved to other parts of the country, majorly to the refugee camps in Jammu region of the state.[36]

Timeline[edit]

On September 14, 1989, Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, who was a lawyer and a BJP member, was murdered by the JKLF in his home in Srinagar.[37][38] Soon after Taploo's death, Nilkanth Ganjoo, a judge of Srinagar High court who had sentenced Maqbul Bhat to death, was shot dead.[38] In December 1989, members of JKLF kidnapped Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the-then Union Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed demanding release of five militants, which was subsequently fulfilled.[39][40][41]

On January 04, 1990, Srinagar based newspaper Aftab released a message, threatening all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to the militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen.[42][43][44] On 14th April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-safa republished the same warning.[38][45][46][47][48][49][50] The outfit though did not own the statement and subsequently issued a clarification.[42][43] Walls were pasted with posters with threatening messages to all Kashmiris to harshly follow the Islamic rules[51] which included abidance by the Islamic dress code, a prohibition on alcohol, cinemas, and video parlors[52] and strict restrictions on Kashmiri women.[53] Unknown masked men with Kalashnikovs used to force people to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time. All offices buildings, shops, and establishments were colored green as a sign of Islamic rule.[44][54] Shops, factories, temples and homes of Kashmiri Hindus were burned or destroyed. Threatening posters were posted on doors of Hindus asking them to leave Kashmir immediately.[44][55] During the middle of the night of 18th and 19th January, a blackout took place in the Kashmir Valley where electricity was cut except in mosques[citation needed] which broadcast divisive and inflammatory messages, asking for a purge of Kashmiri pundits.[56][49]

On 29 April, 1990, Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a veteran Kashmiri poet was gruesomely murdered.[57][58][59][56][60] Several intelligence operatives were assassinated, over the course of January.[61][62] On February 2, 1990, Satish Tikoo, a young Hindu Pandit social-worker was murdered near his own house in Habba Kadal, Srinagar.[38][63][64][65][66] On February 13th, 1990, Lassa Kaul, Station Director of Srinagar Doordarshan, was shot dead.[38][67][68][69][70] Many Kashmiri Hindu women were kidnapped, raped and murdered, throughout the time of exodus.[71][72][73][74][52]

Hriday Nath Wanchoo, a trade union leader and human rights activist, was murdered in December 1992[75] with Ashiq Hussain Faktoo being convicted for the murder.[76]

Aftermath[edit]

The militancy in Kashmir had increased after the exodus. The militants had targeted the properties of Kashmiri Pandits after their exodus.[77][78] In 2009 Oregon Legislative Assembly passed a resolution to recognise 14 September 2007, as Martyrs Day to acknowledge ethnic cleansing and campaigns of terror inflicted on non-Muslim minorities of Jammu and Kashmir by militant seeking to establish an Islamic state.[79]

Kashmiri Hindus continue to fight for their return to the valley and many of them live as refugees.[80] The exiled community had hoped to return after the situation improved. They have not done so because the situation in the Valley remains unstable and they fear a risk to their lives. Most of them lost their properties after the exodus and many are unable to go back and sell them. Their status as displaced people has adversely harmed them in the realm of education. Many Pandit families could not afford to send their children to well regarded public schools. Furthermore, Pandits faced institutional discrimination by predominantly Muslim state bureaucrats. As a result of the inadequate ad hoc schools and colleges formed in the refugee camps, it became harder for the children of Pandits to access education. They suffered in higher education as well, as they could not claim admission in PG colleges of Jammu university, while getting admitted in the institutes of Kashmir valley was out of question. Later the Indian Government has taken up the issue of education of the displaced students from Kashmir, and helped them get admissions in various Kendriya Vidyalayas and major educational institutions & universities across the country.[81] In 2010, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir noted that 808 Pandit families, comprising 3,445 people, were still living in the Valley and that financial and other incentives put in place to encourage others to return there had been unsuccessful. According to a Jammu and Kashmir government report, 219 members of the Pandit community out of total 1400 Hindus, had been killed in the region between 1989 and 2004 but none thereafter.[82][83][84][85]

The local organisation of Pandits in Kashmir, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) after carrying out a survey in 2008 and 2009, said that 399 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by insurgents from 1990 to 2011 with 75% of them being killed during the first year of the Kashmiri insurgency, and that during the last 20 years, about 650 Pandits have been killed in the valley.[86][87] Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, estimates 357 pandits were killed in Kashmir in 1990.[88]

Panun Kashmir, a political group representing the Pandits who fled Kashmir, has published a list of about 1,341 Pandits killed since 1990.[89] An organisation called Roots of Kashmir filed a petition in 2017 to reopen 215 cases of more than 700 alleged murders of Kashmiri Pandits, however the Supreme Court of India refused its plea.[90]

Assessments[edit]

Whilst some Pandit organisations such as Panun Kashmir etc. have accused Kashmiri Muslims of genocide and mass-rape, during the times of exodus,[91] authors have labeled the claims as "exaggerated".[91] Scholars Mridu Rai[92] and A. Evans[93] have outright rejected the claims of genocide.

Some scholars have also accused the Indian state and Media of utilizing the experience of Pandits as a tool of propaganda.[94] In February 1993, a notable Indian magazine launched an investigation upon a list of 23 shrines provided by Bharatiya Janata Party and found that the claims of alleged desecration of scores of Hindu shrines in Kashmir, widely perpetuated by the Indian media and right-wing Hindu politicians, were "false".[95][93]

Further, whilst significantly higher figures of death, in thousands, have been reported by certain Pandit-organisations, scholars have rejected the claims, instead choosing to roughly rely upon the official figures.[93] According to the government of Jammu and Kashmir 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed and 24,202 families migrated out of the valley.[96]

Recent developments[edit]

The Indian Government has tried to rehabilitate the Pandits and the separatists have also invited the Pandits back to Kashmir. Tahir, the commander of a separatist Islamic group, ensured full protection to the Kashmiri Pandits.[97]

The apathy on the part of the government and the sufferings of the Kashmiri Pandits have been highlighted in a play titled 'Kaash Kashmir'.[98] Such efforts or claims have lacked political will as journalist Rahul Pandita writes in a memoir.[99]

Some consider Article 370 as a roadblock in the resettlement of Kashmiri Pandits as the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir does not allow those living in India outside Jammu and Kashmir to freely settle in the state and become its citizens.[100][101][102]

Sanjay Tickoo, president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), says that the 'Article 370' affair is different from the issue of exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and both should be dealt with separately. He remarks that, linking both the affairs is an "utterly insensitive way to deal with a highly sensitive and emotive issue".[103]

As of 2016, a total of 1,800 Kashmiri Pandit youths have returned to the Valley since the announcing of Rs. 1,168-crore package in 2008 by the UPA government. R.K. Bhat, president of Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj criticised the package to be a mere eyewash and claimed that most of the youths were living in cramped prefabricated sheds or in rented accommodation. He also said that 4,000 vacancies have been lying vacant since 2010 and alleged that the BJP government was repeating the same rhetoric and was not serious about helping them. In an interview with NDTV on January 19, Farooq Abdullah commented that the onus was on Kashmiri Pandits to come back themselves and nobody would beg them to do so. His comments were met with disagreement by Kashmiri Pandit authors Neeru Kaul, Siddhartha Gigoo, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and retired General Syed Ata Hasnain. He also said that during his tenure as Chief Minister in 1996, he had asked them to return but they refused to do so. He reiterated his comments on January 23 and said that the time had come for them to return.[104][105][106][107]

The issue of separate townships for Kashmiri Pandits has been a source of contention in Kashmir with separatists as well as mainstream political parties opposing it.[108] Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, had threatened of attacking the "Pandit composite townships" which were meant to be built for the rehabilitation of the non-Muslim community. In a 6-minute long video clip, Wani described the rehabilitation scheme as resembling Israeli designs.[109]

However, Burhan Wani welcomed the Kashmiri Pandits to return and promised to guard them. He also promised a safe Amarnath Yatra.[110] Kashmiri Pandits residing in the Valley also mourned Burhan Wani's death.[111] Burhan Wani's successor in the Hizbul Mujahideen, Zakir Rashid Bhat, also asked the Kashmiri Pandits to return and ensured them protection.[112][113]

During the 2016 Kashmir unrest, transit camps housing Kashmir Pandits in Kashmir were attacked by mobs.[114] About 200–300 Kashmiri Pandit employees fled the transit camps in Kashmir during night time on 12 July due to the attacks by protesters on the camps and have held protests against the government for attacks on their camp and demanded that all Kashmiri Pandit employees in Kashmir valley be evacuated immediately. Over 1300 government employees belonging to the community have fled the region during the unrest.[115][116][117] Posters threatening the Pandits to leave Kashmir or be killed were put up near transit camps in Pulwama allegedly by the militant organisation Lashkar-e-Islam. There were doubts as to who put up the poster with speculations being raised as to whether other groups had put up the poster using the name of Lashkar-e-Islam.[118][119]

The employment package was also extended to Pandits who did not migrate out of the valley with an amendment to J&K Migrants (Special Drive) Recruitment Rules, 2009 in October 2017.[120]

See also[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]