(By Saadut) Jan 20: Like our human, social and political rights have been bound by anarchic feudalism for centuries, so has our right on agony and pain. Ideally human sufferings should not have been tied to ethnic strings or political convenience, but when it comes to Kashmir, everything in India including human misery is viewed from a ‘hindu nationalistic’ glass. In conflict ridden Kashmir, while some armed men did target a cross section of society including Pandits, Sikhs and Muslims, the Indian state exclusively targeted Kashmiri Muslims resulting in unimaginable mayhem. The same bullets that killed telecom engineer B.K Ganjoo (March 1990), killed noted academician and educationalist Musheer ul Haq and his secretary Abdul Gani (11th April 1990).
Another hostage H.L Khera was killed (April 1990) when armed men drove right through strict curfew bound Srinagar pushing Khera out of their car right outside state police headquarters and firing bullets on him. There has never been any explanation on how could these armed men have driven in a curfew seized Srinagar that was controlled by Indian paramilitary forces at every inch and then how was it possible for the killers to drive into and fire on Khera near the most heavily guarded and barricaded place in Srinagar. Some questions in Kashmir have never been dared, for the fear of their known answers.
While most of these killings happened after January of 1990, there has been no plausible reason given to why most of the Pandits fled on the night of 19 January 1990. The only coincidences close to this date are joining of Jagmohan as governor of J&K one day prior and the repeated massacres by Indian forces right after 19 January. Sadly many facts in India have been twisted to create a demonic image of every Kashmir Muslim, blaming them for every crime of this conflict. Sample this ‘(all pundits) will remember the night of January 19 — the night when their Muslim neighbours, friends and colleagues turned against them. The night when they kept awake all night, as frenzied mobs on the streets and inside mosques called for their extermination.’ (The Hindu 20th January 2014, There Are No Goodbyes). This claim aims to make you believe that on the night of 19th January 1990 Pandits houses were surrounded by hostile and ‘blood seeking’ Muslims, resulting in their migration. How would it be possible, under unrelenting curfew from 17th January itself with shoot at sight orders, Muslims managed to assemble and surround Pandit habitations on the night of 19 January, and then within minutes of this Pandits managed to pack their belongings, seek friendly passage from ‘this hostile crowd’, call up state run SRTC and then drive away under armed escort’? Logic and reason surely fail here. Sample another claim in the same write-up about the killing of Late B.K Ganjoo ‘Three terrorists had come looking for him but were unable to find him. As they were leaving, a woman in the neighbourhood, who had seen Mr. Ganjoo hiding, signalled to them. They returned and pumped bullets into the (rice) drum.’ Match his claims with earlier narration of the same events ‘The intruders searched the house and not finding him, left. But they returned, apparently on a signal from a watching accomplice outside, who had spotted Ganju. They went up the stairs to the roof and pumped the drum with bullets’
Notice the author’s deliberate attempt to substitute ‘a watching accomplice outside’ to ‘a woman in the neighbourhood’, only to portray the 1990’s ‘when scheming neighbors got Pandits killed’. In both claims, falsifications aim at distorting the real picture of those events for sinister political goals. Ironically B. K Ganjoo was claimed to have been killed by a group named ‘Ikhwan ul Muslimeen’ and in following years many of the armed men in Kashmir turned into state sponsored renegades, their group was also called ‘Ikhwan ul Muslimeen’ headed by notorious Kukka Parrey. These state patronized renegades were known to have indulged into hundreds of innocent killings and colossal atrocities.
Since late 1989, protests had been gathering against the Indian rule in Kashmir and massive protests unnerved India such that they pushed a brute military force to quell them. As protests kept swelling, Muslims believed ‘Azadi’ was just round the corner while Pandits got scared by the sheer quantum of this rebellion. It was this fear in Pandits that many agencies (including some armed men) exploited for own interests. While most Pandits from Srinagar, already under a fear psychosis, were escorted in state buses on 19th January curfewed night, right after Jagmohan had taken over, Pandits from rural areas migrated in later months and years, trailing the exodus trend in fright and scare. Most Pandit killings (219 killed in 20 years) happened after later part of 1990 while the repetitive massacres right after 19 January. Gaw Kadal massacre happened one day after 19th January (on 21st Jan 1990, 52 killed and more than 250 critically injured), the Alamgari Bazar massacre on 22nd January 1990 (killing 10 civilians and fatally injuring scores), the Handwara massacre on 25th January 1990 (killing 25 civilians and critically injuring dozens others). The list of such massacres by Indian forces seems unending while the reasons of 19th exodus strangely linking to their occurrence. Credence to this also comes from other statements; Jagmohan in an interview to Current, May 1990, “Every Muslim in Kashmir is a militant today. All of them are for secession from India. I am scuttling Srinagar Doordarshan’s programmes because everyone there is a militant… The bullet is the only solution for Kashmir. Unless the militants are fully wiped out, normalcy can’t return to the Valley.” Wajahat Habibullah recalling how Muslim groups appealed to the Governor (via Habibullah) to stop Pandits from leaving, his suggestion to Governor Jagmohan about a television (and radio) broadcast of requests from hundreds of Muslims to their Pandit neighbors not to leave Kashmir, being rejected by Jagmohan. On the contrary Jagmohan announcing that ‘the Government cannot guarantee any safety of Pandits….if Pandits decided to leave, refugee settlement camps had been set up for them and also that departing civil servants among the Pandits would continue to be paid their salaries’. The state was clearly pushing for an exodus.
It was not only Pandits who migrated from Kashmir, yet India recognizes migrants as ‘Pandits exclusive’. Of a total of 142424 migrants from Kashmir, 124381 were Pandits, 10930 Muslims and 7113 Sikhs (source Indian government data of migrants). But not only was the figure of migration used and falsified in India for political ends (claims of migrant numbers fluctuating between 2 lac, 3 lac to 7 lac), much help extended by the Indian government to migrants was also decided by a religious identity, being exclusive to Pandits. The Indian media, which for all its secular claims inherits right winged traits (spare a few professionals) never ever bothered to speak about the non Pandit migrants or the real reasons of exodus. For them, and the greater mindset in India, vilification of the Kashmir Muslim is justified just because our political aspirations do not identify with India. Our reminder to India of its promises is labeled ‘secession’, our cries for justice ‘anti national’.
Pain in Kashmir cannot be and is not an exclusive domain of an ethnic group, its presentment in India maybe. Who better can understand the pain of Pandits than their Muslims neighbors, having lost thousands of their own to this conflict? Who else can understand their sense of dispossession, longing for home than people who lost their own homes to ignited infernos of Kashmir, the arson affected of Kupwara, the charred Sopore town, the gunpowder ignited Cheeni Chowk, the dispossessed migrants of our villages who fled for their lives and sought refuge in an indifferent city with no state to help (Indian government also does not recognize the almost 55,000 Kashmiri migrants who fled across the LoC during turmoil). Pandits fled to a land where ‘their own people’ accepted them; we had nowhere to flee as ‘their people’ sought our blood everywhere. Most people I have talked to in Kashmir feel pained for the exodus of Pandits, yet many Pandits I have heard felt no emotion for the 70,000 of our killed. We always condemned the loss of Pandits away from their homes, yet we also faced their indifference and antipathy when our kids were trampled in 2010 or our women were outraged and raped (have heard prominent KP’s call the kids killed in 2010 as ‘terrorists’). “I have lost my home not my humanity” are mere words when the same people jeer at KunanPoshpora (mass rape by India army) or Shopian like tragedies. I accept every life of the 209 killed is too big a tragedy, in spite of their ignoring the magnitude of our 70,000 killed. We seek justice for all crimes in Kashmir, irrespective of religion or community, while they deny our GawKadal, Zakura, AlamgariBazar, Hawal, Tengpora, Sopore, Handwara, Bijebehada massacres. Nadimarg is a crime against us as much as Bijebehada or Pathribal killings are. If you consider Muslims responsible for the crimes committed against Pandits in Kashmir by motley groups who killed far more Muslims than Pandits, can we hold you responsible for thousands of innocents killed by ‘your army’? Reconciliation does not happen by accusations, but by acceptance of each other’s pain and agony, by acceptance of each other’s rights. Let there be an independent ‘Truth and Justice commission’ for all crimes in Kashmir. Reconciliation will only happen when there is no feudal binding on our right to pain and anguish, no feudal bondage that suppresses political and social aspirations. Reconciliation will never happen when forces within them continue to vilify us for personal aims, thriving on the continuity of divisions and conflict.
Back home people claiming ‘Pandits are welcome to Kashmir’ are being hypocritical. Who are we to welcome you to Kashmir? You are as much Kashmiri as we are, as much of your right to your home as we have to ours. While you have no borders between homeland and exile, think of those Kashmiris who were banished beyond borders for a mere political opinion. They too deserve a return. There are no ideal situations to live in, no cessation of challenges that people wait for before they move in. Come and live in your homeland like we live here, in the midst of aiming bunkers, scorching under the glare of Indian guns, struggling under an indifferently oppressive political authority. We don’t have any special treatment or perks to offer, can only offer equal opportunities of the non existing avenues here. Comeback wherever you feel like, you don’t need a visa for home.