Issue of Kashmiri Hindus is a "National shame"

21 Jan 2016 17:05:24

Ashutosh Jha

 Ashutosh Jha

January 19, a day of little historical significance for most people across the world, is a Black Day for Kashmiri Pandits. A day of commemoration! This day is remembered by the Pandits as the day of parting, the day of their exodus from Kashmir.

In April 1990, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, through the columns of an Urdu daily, Al Safa, issued an ultimatum to Pandits to leave Kashmir in 36 hours. On the same day, the newspaper also carried an ominous column referring to Pandits as untrustworthy and informants of the Indian intelligence agencies. This was the second time a pro-Pakistan militant outfit had issued an ultimatum to Pandits. The first had appeared in Aftab, in January. At that time, Pandits had persisted and lingered.

Hundreds of posters pasted on doors, walls, shops and electric poles ordering Pandit families to leave. Suspicion, betrayal and mistrust divided the Muslims and the Pandits. Friends parted from friends, neighbours from neighbours.

Going further back in time, when Pakistani tribal raiders entered Kashmir in October 1947 and raided a village in Baramulla. It was a tragic incidents of persecution of the Pandits of Baramulla at the hands of the marauders. They seized Baramulla and torched the houses of Pandits. They forced the Pandits at gunpoint to recite the Kalima to convert them to Islam. Those who dared to resist were hacked to death inside their homes. Many Muslims joined the raiders to save themselves.

In the current Indian political scenario, Pandits are a forgotten entity. The middle-aged and youngsters visit Kashmir as tourists and pilgrims. About two thousand Pandit youths have been given non-transferable jobs in government departments in Kashmir. Devoid of freedom and a sense of belonging, they live in ghettos created by the authorities. Some live in rented accommodations. Is this the homecoming they dreamt of?

According to a state government report of 2010, 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in the region between 1989 and 2004. But according to a survey conducted by Kashmiri PanditSangharshSamiti, 650 were killed between 1989 and 2008. In the last 25 years, thousands of men and women perished in exile hoping to return to their homeland. The elderly Pandits who still linger in camps and temporary settlements, leading impoverished lives, find themselves in a vortex. They want to return to their homes, but there are no homes to return to. Children born and brought up in camps live off a borrowed memory. Their childhood, spent in puny and squalid camps, was black.

The new generation in Kashmir doesn’t even know that Pandits lived there. They don’t know that Islamabad in South Kashmir was once called Anantnag, the land of countless springs. That Takht-e-Suleiman was once known as Shankaracharya temple. That Koh-e-Maraan was once called Hari Parbat, the SharikaPeeth, abode of Goddess Sharika. That around two hundred temples in Kashmir were destroyed.

The biggest issue plaguing the Pandits return is the continuos extremists influence on common people and law and governance in the valley. Kashmiri's should create conditions where they could thrive with Pandits and coexist. But sadly this has not been the case anywhere in the world, because as soon as Muslims are in majority the minorities are either ethnically cleansed or forced to convert.

#‎Exodus of Pandits:A national shame

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