After 27 Years, Calm Hasn’t Returned To The Valley And Kashmiri Pandits Still Await Justice
The Kashmiri Pandit ethnic cleansing and subsequent exodus remains a blot not only on Kashmiriyat but also on Indian secularism. Tiny, peaceful minority was forced to flee their homeland by the majority, in what remains the biggest internal forced migration in the history of Indian Republic.
Exodus started on 19th January 1990 and an estimated 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits vacated the valley forever. In Kashmir, rife with insurgency and Jihadism, there were slogans raised “Kashmir Banega Pakistan” (Kashmir will become Pakistan). Posters were plastered on walls which denounced the Pandits as traitors, Indian agents and spies and said they have two options : Flee forever or face death. Chants of Naara-e-Takbir (Allah is great) became synonymous with who has the right to live in Kashmir. The non Muslim Pandit had no right to live there.
Then Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto boosted the morale of the Kashmiri jihadists by referring to them as descendants of Ghazis and Ghaznavis ( slayers of the infidels).
Anti Kaafir slogans blared out routinely from the mosque loudspeakers, often when jihadists were shooting someone with Kalashnikovs. The dehumanisation and othering of the Hindu population had reached it’s extremity. Many Kashmiri Pandits languished in rehabilitation camps in Jammu and still hoped they will someday be able to return again to the valley. They were given token compensation by the government but talks of their resettlement in the valley has remained only empty political sloganeering. Political parties, on all sides of the spectrum, have not done anything for the resettlement of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits.
Author Rahul Pandita in his memoir on Kashmir “Our Moon has Blood Clots” pens the poignant saga of displacement of Pandits. A tragedy. He weaves it along with Kashmiri history and the peculiar, composite culture. The melancholic nostalgia in the community for their homeland. The harrowing experiences of their near and dear ones. And the frustration and resentment at being used only as an agenda in the ping pong of politics, eliciting no empathy or consideration otherwise.
On 21st March 1997, 20 years ago on this day, 7 Kashmiri Pandit villagers were gunned down by Pro Pakistan jihadists in Sangrampora village of Burdgam district in Kashmir. Innocent villagers were made to stand in line and shot dead. Two of the terrorists who were involved in the massacre were later killed in an encounter 3 days later – on 24th March.
It’s been 27 years but calm hasn’t returned to the valley and Kashmiri Pandits still await justice and their right to return to the valley.