Farooq Abdullah, who has been chief minister of Kashmir, ruffled up the Kashmiri Pundits with his statement, “They have to realize one thing, nobody is going to come with a begging bowl and say come and stay with us.” This was the statement of an ex-chief minister on the question of Kashmiri Pundits’ exodus from Kashmir. Obviously, people are outraged. A state where insurgency still looms as the larger picture, with on-and-off reports of pro-Pak elements surreally active and operating, this is not only a lame statement to make but offensive as well.
1) The “Exodus” in Kashmir
January 19 marks a bloody day in the history of Kashmir. A bloody but forgotten day. Mobs went berserk in executing what would be infamously known as the “exodus” of Kashmiri Pundits from the valley. Some reports peg the number of fleeing Kashmiri pundits to be around 1,00,000. Other reports suggest the figure could be as high as 1,50,000 to 1,90,000.
The only Hindu community native to Kashmir, Kashmiri Pundits were forced out of their homelands by an armed separatist movement rising in the state. What was done on a mass scale to make this happen is not only harrowing, but also soul stirring.
2) The beginning of the horrific chain of events
The unfortunate series of events started with the killing of Tika Lal Taploo, a prominent Pundit activist in the state. By January, massive crowds had started gathering in the mosques, shouting anti-pundit, anti-India slogans. On January 4, 1990, press releases by Hizbul mujahideen started appearing in newspapers. The notices asking all Hindus to leave were soon put up on the doors and windows of Pundits. Then, as the night of January 19 approached, hateful slogans erupted in the streets. Mobs started carrying out what the slogans had been warning for some time now. The slogans, for instance were,
agar Kashmir me rehna hoga, allah hu akbar kehna hoga — if you want to live in Kashmir, you have to recite the name of allah.
ae zalimo ae kafiro, Kashmir hamara chod do — o cruel and infidels, leave our Kashmir.
The extermination wasn’t just an armed suppression, it was a torturous one. While newspaper reports were filled with incidents like
“24 Kashmiri Pundits shot dead in Nadimarg (including infants)”
“23 Kashmiri Pundits shot in cold blood in Wandhama village”
3) Extreme violence and gore
Survivors recount tales of horrendous torture inflicted on Kashmiri pundits. Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a noted scholar had nails pierced on his forehead, where the Hindus place the customary Tika. Sarla Bhat, a nurse, was gang raped before being killed. Cigarette butts were used to torture the ones who got caught. Gouging out eyes, cutting body parts using chainsaws are some of the horrors still livid in the eyes of those who managed to escape.
4) The last resort for Kashmiri Pundits
The Pundits had no choice but to flee. And they are not home even today. A large part of them live today in 8×8 refugee settlements in Jammu, where living conditions are languishing to say the least.
Let alone rehabilitation or even a convincing appeal from a sitting chief minister, they haven’t even been credited with a commission of enquiry on the lines of 1984 riots, or the 2002 riots for that matter. Is it because they constitute a minority in the state they were pushed out of, no votes meaning no democracy?
Another year passes by with the Kashmiri Pundits waiting for some regime to take up their cause.