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Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus

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Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus
Part of the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
Map showing Indian-administered Kashmir within the larger Kashmir region, with the Kashmir Valley highlighted in green
LocationKashmir Valley, Jammu and Kashmir, India
Coordinates34°02′00″N 74°40′00″E / 34.0333°N 74.6667°E / 34.0333; 74.6667Coordinates: 34°02′00″N 74°40′00″E / 34.0333°N 74.6667°E / 34.0333; 74.6667
Date1989 and afterwards[1]
TargetKashmiri Hindus
Attack type
Murder, arson, rape,[2] assassinations, kidnappings, riots
Deaths200–1,341[3] (297,000–598,000 displaced)[4]
PerpetratorsJammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, Islamist militants
MotiveIslamisation, independence from India, merger with Pakistan,[note 1] Hinduphobia, imposition of Sharia law[5]

The Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, also known as the Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, refers to the series of anti-Hindu attacks and Pogroms that took place shortly after the inception of the Muslim-dominated insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, which eventually forced native Kashmiri Hindus out of the Kashmir Valley.[6] The peak phase of the exodus was in the early 1990s, when Hindus, as a result of being targeted by both independence-seeking militant groups such as the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front as well as Islamist pro-Pakistan insurgents, fled from the Kashmir Valley to seek refuge elsewhere in India.[7][8] As of 2016, only 2,000–3,000 Kashmiri Hindus remain in the Kashmir Valley compared to approximately 300,000–600,000 in 1990.[9][10][11][12][13][14] Consequently, 19 January 1990 is widely observed by native Kashmiri Hindu communities as "Exodus Day" to memorialize the Hindus who were either killed or forced out of Kashmir by Muslim insurgents.[15][16][17]

According to the Indian government, more than 62,000 families in India are registered as Kashmiri refugees, including some Sikh and Muslim families.[18] Most displaced Kashmiri families were resettled in the Hindu-majority city of Jammu or the National Capital Region surrounding Delhi, as well as throughout other neighbouring Indian states.[19] As of 2015, only one family from the Hindu Kashmiri Pandit community had reportedly returned to the Kashmir Valley.[20]


Under the 1975 Indira–Sheikh Accord, Sheikh Abdullah agreed to measures previously undertaken by the central government in Jammu and Kashmir to integrate the state into India.[21] Farrukh Faheem, a sociologist at the University of Kashmir, states that it was met with hostility among the people of Kashmir and laid the groundwork for the future insurgency.[22] Those opposed to the accords included Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir, People's League in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, and the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) based in Pakistani-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir.[23] Since the mid-1970s, communalist rhetoric was being exploited in the state for votebank politics. Around this time, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) tried to spread Wahhabism in place of Sufism to foster religious unity within their nation, and the communalization aided their cause.[24] Islamization of Kashmir began in the 1980s when Sheikh Abdullah's government changed the names of about 2,500 villages from their native names to new Islamic ones. Sheikh also started delivering communal speeches in mosques that were similar to his confrontational pro-independence speeches in the 1930s. Additionally, he referred to Kashmiri Hindus as mukhbir (Hindustani: मुख़बिर, مخبر‎), or informants of the Indian military.[25][26]

The ISI's initial attempts to sow widespread unrest in Kashmir against the Indian administration were largely unsuccessful until the late-1980s.[27] The American- and Pakistani-backed Afghan mujahideen's armed struggle against the Soviet Union in the Soviet–Afghan War, the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the Sikh insurgency in Indian Punjab against the Indian government became sources of inspiration for large numbers of Kashmiri Muslim youth.[28][29] Both the pro-independence JKLF and pro-Pakistan Islamist groups including Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir mobilized the rapidly-growing anti-Indian sentiments amongst the Kashmiri population; the year of 1984 saw a pronounced rise in terrorist violence in Kashmir. Following the execution of JKLF militant Maqbool Bhat in February 1984, strikes and protests by Kashmiri nationalists broke out in the region, where large numbers of Kashmiri youth participated in widespread anti-India demonstrations and consequently faced heavy-handed reprisals by state security forces.[30][31]

Critics of the then-chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, charged him with losing control of the situation. His visit to Pakistani-administered Kashmir during this time became an embarrassment, where according to Hashim Qureshi, he shared a platform with the JKLF.[32] Abdullah asserted that he went on behalf of Indira Gandhi and his father, so that sentiments there could "be known first hand", although few people believed him. There were also allegations that he had allowed Khalistani militants to train in Jammu, although these were never proved to be true. On 2 July 1984, Ghulam Mohammad Shah, who had support from Indira Gandhi, replaced his brother-in-law Farooq Abdullah and assumed the role of chief minister after Abdullah was dismissed, in what was termed a "political coup".[31]

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.[31] 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.[33] 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 Hindus 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.[34] 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 12 March 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.[35]

The Islamists had organised under a banner named Muslim United Front, with a 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 are widely believed to have been rigged so as to help bring the secular parties (NC and INC) in Kashmir at the forefront.[36][37][38][39][40] The corruption and alleged electoral malpractices were the catalysts for an insurgency.[41][42][43] The Kashmiri militants killed anyone who openly expressed pro-India policies. Kashmiri Hindus were targeted specifically because they were seen as presenting Indian presence in Kashmir because of their faith.[44] Though the insurgency had been launched by JKLF, groups rose over the next few months advocating for establishment of Nizam-e-Mustafa (administration based on Sharia) on 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, Hindus, liberal and nationalist intellectuals, social and cultural activists was described as necessary to rid the valley of un-Islamic elements.[45][46] The relations among the semi-secular and Islamist 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.[47][48][49]

Insurgency activity

In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began a separatist insurgency for independence of Kashmir from India.[50] The group targeted a Kashmiri Hindu for the first time on 14 September 1989, when they killed 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 Hindus especially as Taploo's killers were never caught which also emboldened the terrorists. The Hindus felt that they were not safe in the valley and could be targeted any time. The killings of Kashmiri Hindus continued that included many of the prominent ones.[51]

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. 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.[citation needed]

Most of the Kashmiri Hindus left Kashmir valley and moved to other parts of India, particularly to the refugee camps in Jammu region of the state.[52]

Attack and threats

On 14 September 1989, Tika Lal Taploo, who was a lawyer and a BJP member, was murdered by the JKLF in his home in Srinagar.[53][54] Soon after Taploo's death, Nilkanth Ganjoo, a judge of Srinagar High court who had sentenced Maqbul Bhat to death, was shot dead.[54]
On 4 November 1989, high court judge in Kashmir Neelkanth Ganjoo was killed near the High Court in Srinagar. [55]

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.[56][57][58]

On 4 January 1990, Srinagar-based newspaper Aftab released a message, threatening all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to the militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen.[59][60][61] On 14 April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-safa republished the same warning.[54][62][63][64][65][66][67] The newspaper did not claim ownership of the statement and subsequently issued a clarification.[59][60] Walls were pasted with posters with threatening messages to all Kashmiris to harshly follow the Islamic rules[68] which included abidance by the Islamic dress code, a prohibition on alcohol, cinemas, and video parlors[69] and strict restrictions on Kashmiri women.[70] Unknown masked men with Kalashnikovs used to force people to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time. Offices buildings, shops, and establishments were colored green as a sign of Islamist rule.[61][71] 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.[61][72] During the middle of the night of 18 and 19 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 Hindus.[73][66]

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.[74][75][50]

On 25 January 1990, Rawalpora shooting incident took place, wherein four Indian Air Force personnel, Squadron Leader Ravi Khanna, Corporal D.B. Singh, Corporal Uday Shankar and Airman Azad Ahmad were killed and 10 other IAF personal were injured, while they were waiting at Rawalpora bus stand for their vehicle to pick them up in the morning. Altogether around 40 rounds were fired by the terrorists, apparently from 2 to 3 automatic weapons and one semi-automatic pistol. The Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police post located nearby, with 7 armed constables and one head constable, did not react. Such was the ascendancy enjoyed by the terrorists. Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), with its leader Yasin Malik in particular, were allegedly involved in the killings. Incidents like these further expedited the exodus of Hindus from Kashmir. [76][77][78][79]

On 29 April 1990, Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a veteran Kashmiri poet was gruesomely murdered.[80][81][82][73][83] Several intelligence operatives were assassinated, over the course of January.[84][85]

On 2 February 1990, Satish Tikoo, a young Hindu social-worker was murdered near his own house in Habba Kadal, Srinagar.[54][86][87][88][89]

On 13 February 1990, Lassa Kaul, Station Director of Srinagar Doordarshan, was shot dead.[54][90][91][92][93]

In December 1992, Hriday Nath Wanchoo, a trade union leader and human rights activist, was murdered[94] with Kashmir separatist Ashiq Hussain Faktoo being convicted for the murder.[95]

Many Kashmiri Hindu women were kidnapped, raped and murdered, throughout the time of exodus.[96][97][98][99][69]

On June 4, 1990 Girija Tickoo, a Kashmiri Hindu teacher was gang raped by Islamist militants, who ripped her abdomen and chopped her body into two pieces with a saw machine while she was still alive.[100]


The militancy in Kashmir had increased after the exodus. The militants had targeted the properties of Kashmiri Hindus after their exodus.[101][102] 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 militants seeking to establish an Islamic state.[103]

Kashmiri Hindus continue to fight for their return to the valley and many of them live as refugees.[104] 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 Hindu families could not afford to send their children to well regarded public schools. Furthermore, Hindus 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 Hindus 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.[105] In 2010, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir noted that 808 Hindus 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 Hindus community out of total 1400 Hindus, had been killed in the region between 1989 and 2004 but none thereafter.[106][107][108]

The local organisation of Hindus in Kashmir, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) after carrying out a survey in 2008 and 2009, said that 399 Kashmiri Hindus 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 Hindus have been killed in the valley.[109][110] Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, estimates 357 Hindus were killed in Kashmir in 1990.[111]

Panun Kashmir, a political group representing the Hindus who fled Kashmir, has published a list of about 1,341 Hindus killed since 1990.[3] An organisation called Roots of Kashmir filed a petition in 2017 to reopen 215 cases of more than 700 alleged murders of Kashmiri Hindus, however the Supreme Court of India refused its plea.[112]

Recent developments

The Indian Government has tried to rehabilitate the Hindus and the separatists have also invited the Hindus back to Kashmir. Tahir, the commander of a separatist Islamist group, ensured full protection to the Kashmiri Hindus.[113]

The apathy on the part of the government and the sufferings of the Kashmiri Hindus have been highlighted in a play titled 'Kaash Kashmir'.[114] Such efforts or claims have lacked political will as journalist Rahul Pandita writes in a memoir.[115]

Some consider Article 370 as a roadblock in the resettlement of Kashmiri Hindus 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.[116][117][118]

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".[citation needed]

As of 2016, a total of 1,800 Kashmiri Hindu 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 19 January, Farooq Abdullah created controversy when he stated that the onus was on Kashmiri Hindus to come back themselves and nobody would beg them to do so. His comments were met with disagreement and criticism by Kashmiri Hindu authors Neeru Kaul, Siddhartha Gigoo, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and Lt. General Syed Ata Hasnain (retd.). 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 23 January and said that the time had come for them to return.[119][120][121][122]

The issue of separate townships for Kashmiri Hindus has been a source of contention in Kashmir valley with Islamists, separatists as well as mainstream political parties all opposing it.[123] Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, had threatened of attacking the "Hindu 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.[124] However, Burhan Wani welcomed the Kashmiri Hindus to return and promised to guard them. He also promised a safe Amarnath Yatra.[125] Kashmiri Hindus residing in the Valley also mourned Burhan Wani's death.[126] Burhan Wani's self-styled successor in the Hizbul Mujahideen, Zakir Rashid Bhat, also asked the Kashmiri Hindus to return and ensured them protection.[127][128]

During the 2016 Kashmir unrest, transit camps housing Kashmir Hindus in Kashmir were attacked by mobs.[129] About 200–300 Kashmiri Hindu employees fled the transit camps in Kashmir during night time on 12 July due to the attacks by protesters on the camps and held protests against the government for attacks on their camp and demanded that all Kashmiri Hindus employees in Kashmir valley be evacuated immediately. Over 1300 government employees belonging to the community had fled the region during the unrest.[130][131][132] Posters threatening the Hindus to leave Kashmir or be killed were also put up near transit camps in Pulwama allegedly by the militant organisation Lashkar-e-Toiba.[133][134]

The employment package was also extended to Hindus who did not migrate out of the valley with an amendment to J&K Migrants (Special Drive) Recruitment Rules, 2009 in October 2017.[135]

Village Defence Committees were set up in 1995 to protect Hindus from attacks in remote areas. Following the murder of a Kashmiri-Hindu Sarpanch Ajay Pandita Bharti in June 2020, former Jammu and Kashmir police chief had said Shesh Paul Vaid that minority Hindus could be armed and Village Defence Committees could be set up with proper planning.[136][137]

In popular culture

The 2020 Hindi film Shikara is based on the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus.[138][139][140]

See also


  1. ^ While a significant amount of Kashmiri Islamists favoured an annexation of the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir by neighbouring Pakistan, Kashmiri Muslims who identified more with the officially secular, Kashmiri nationalist parties and organizations favoured an independent state of Kashmir over the notion of a merger with Pakistan.


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Further reading

External links