Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus

By: Wikipedia.

Kashmir, a paradise on earth

Kashmir is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Kashmir region became an important centre of Hinduism in the first half of millennium and later of Buddhism; later still, in the ninth century, Kashmir Shaivism arose.[4] In 1339, Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir, and thereafter, until 1820 it remained under Muslim rule. Kashmir is also believed to be the country meant by Ptolemy‘s Kaspeiria.[9]

The Nilamata Purana describes the Valley’s origin from the waters, a lake called Sati-saras.[12][13] The name Kashmir derives from the name of the sage Kashyapa who is believed to have settled people in this land. According to folk etymology, the name “Kashmir” means “desiccated land” (from the Sanskrit: Ka = water and shimeera = desiccate).[2] In the Rajatarangini, a history of Kashmir written by Kalhana in the mid-12th century, it is stated that the valley of Kashmir was formerly a lake.[3] According to Hindu mythology, the lake was drained by the great rishi or sage, Kashyapa, son of Marichi, son of Brahma, by cutting the gap in the hills at Baramulla (Varaha-mula).[3] When Kashmir had been drained, Kashyapa asked Brahmins to settle there. This is still the local tradition, and in the existing physical condition of the country, we may see some ground for the story which has taken this form.[3] Accordingly, Kashmir would be derived from either kashyapa-mir (Kashyapa’s Lake) or kashyapa-meru (Kashyapa’s Mountain).[14] According to tradition, Adi Shankara visited the pre-existing Sarvajñapīṭha (Sharada Peeth) in Kashmir in the late 8th century or early 9th century CE.

General view of Martand Sun Temple and Enclosure of Marttand or the Sun, near Bhawan. Probable date of temple AD 490–555. Probable date of colonnade AD 693–729. Photograph of the Surya Temple at Martand in Jammu & Kashmir taken by John Burke in 1868.

Who are (or were) Kashmiri Pandits

According to the 1901 Census the Hindus represented “only 524 in every 10,000 of the population (i.e. 5.24%) in Kashmir. These 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 Islamist insurgents during late 1989 and early 1990.[4][5] Of the approximately 300,000[6][7][8] to 600,000[9][10] Hindus living in the Kashmir Valley in 1990 only 2,000–3,000 remain there in 2016.[11] Kashmiri Pandits are the original inhabitants of the Kashmir Valley and are the only remaining Kashmiri Hindu community native to Kashmir.[5][6]

The Kashmiri Pandits had been a favoured section of the population of the valley during Dogra rule (1846–1947). 20 per cent of them left the valley as a consequence of the 1950 land reforms,[21] and by 1981 the Pandit population amounted to 5 per cent of the total.[22]

Ethnic cleansing – the massacre begins

In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began a separatist insurgency for independence of Kashmir from India.[33] The group targeted a Kashmiri Hindu for the first time on 14 September 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.[34] On 4 January 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.[35][33][34] 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.[36]

Kashmir Temple , Houses and institutions of Kashmiri Pandits burnt , looted and abandoned

Convert or leave and leave your women behind

They began to leave in much greater numbers in the 1990s during the eruption of militancy, following persecution and threats by radical Islamists and militants. The events of 19 January 1990 were particularly vicious.

On that day, mosques issued declarations that the Kashmiri Pandits were Kafirs and that the males had to leave Kashmir, convert to Islam or be killed. Those who chose to leave were told to leave their women behind.

The Kashmiri Muslims were instructed to identify Pandit homes so they could be systematically targeted for conversion or killing.[23]

According to a number of authors, approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left the valley during the 1990s.[24] Other authors have suggested a higher figure for the exodus, ranging from the entire population of over 150,000,[25] to 190,000 of a total Pandit population of 200,000,[26] to a number as high as 800,000.[27] The nature of the planned exodus has remain controversial, with the involvement of then Governor Jagmohan in organizing a clandestine exodus been a subject of controversy.[28] Many of the refugee Kashmiri Pandits have been living in abject conditions in refugee camps of Jammu.[29] The government has reported on the terrorist threats to Pandits still living in the Kashmir region.[30][31]

Total Genocide of Kashmiri Pandits and cleansing achieved

Some Hindus across India tried to help the Pandits. Bal Thackeray from Maharashtra got seats reserved in engineering colleges for the children of these Pandits. He was one of the first persons to help them after which Punjab also followed suit.[32][33][34]

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 terrorists seeking to establish an Islamic state.[35]

Failed attempts to get Pandits back to their homes

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 J&K government report, 219 members of the community had been killed in the region between 1989 and 2004 but none thereafter.[36] The local organisation of pandits in Kashmir, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti 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.[37][38]

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.[89][90] Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, estimates 357 pandits were killed in Kashmir in 1990.[91]

Panun Kashmir, a political group representing the Pandits who fled Kashmir, has published a list of about 1,341 Pandits killed since 1990.[92] 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.[93]

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.[39]

Once high scholars now refugees in their own country

Kashmiri Hindus continue to fight for their return to the valley and many of them live as refugees.[83]  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.

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.[111] 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.[112]

During the 2016 Kashmir unrest, transit camps housing Kashmir Pandits in Kashmir were attacked by mobs.[117] 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.[118][119][120] 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.

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