By Shriya Katoch
The story of Kashmiri Pandits is not an unheard one. Every few years the issue is paid lip service until it faces reclusion once again, but with 80% reduction in militancy in the last 5 years, the question arises as to whether the situation in Kashmir has improved?
The Kashmiri Pandits were dislocated from their millennia-old home .
It all began in 1988 when the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front began demanding independence of Kashmir from India. Many Islamic radicals among the party wanted to exterminate Kashmiri Pandits and make Kashmir an all Muslim state.
Benazir Bhutto who was at the time the Prime Minister of Pakistan delivered an instigating speech stating that the blood of Muslim’s runs through the veins of Kashmir. She said that the Kashmiri have the blood of Mujahideen. This speech ignited passion in Kashmir ,against India. In fact, The Pakistani central government supported, trained and armed the insurgency in Kashmir.
Their first act of violence was when they killed Pandit Tika Lal Tapoo ,who was a prominent leader in Jammu and Kashmir.Following months lead to massive assassinations of various public figures in the state, who were the pillars of the Kashmiri Pandit community. This created a wave of panic among the Kashmiri Pandits. On Jan 04, 1990,
a local Urdu newspaper, Aftab, published a press release asking all Pandits to leave the Valley immediately or they would be killed.
Al Safa, another local daily repeated the warning.These warnings were followed by masked Jihadis carrying out military-type marches openly.
They began a killing spree. Bomb explosions and sporadic firing by militants became a daily occurrence. Explosive and inflammatory speeches were being broadcasted.
This evoked a complete state of anarchy.Chaos took over and preyed on the innocent. Lawlessness flooded the valley and a mob with slogans and guns started roaming.
Reports of violent acts against Hindus were heard. The holy war spared no one. Men, women and children were killed alike. Kashmiri pandits were killed, their corpses mutilated beyond extent and left on the street. Women were raped, hanged naked, some even burned. Eyes were gauged out and their tongues cut with scissors. Youngsters were strangled with steel wires.
According to the Indian Government 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed from 1989 to 2004 (different sources quote varying numbers, ranging up to 700) and 350,000 were dislocated due to the insurgency.
Radical Islamists wanted to eliminate all Kashmiri Pandits making Kashmir an all Muslim state. They held a deluded vision of Islam being in danger, also, the Kashmiri Pandits did not support their separatist view. Hence, this genocide occurred and earned the term ethnic cleansing. Due to this turmoil, the Kashmiri Pandits were forced to dislocate to other areas.
It has been 26 years and the Kashmiri Pandits continue to live as refugees in their own country. Facing neglect, deprivation and despair in refugee camps. They live in inhuman conditions. These camps are not even armed with basic amenities such as water. People are cramped into small spaces .
They are victims of fanaticism,robbed of their life. However, they did not answer violence with violence, insanity with insanity. And how are they paid, discarded off, forgotten, left to fender for themselves?
When will their screams be heard? The population of Kashmiri Pandits is dwindling and they face the threat of extinction.
Attempts are being made to return the Kashmiri Pandits back to their home.Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to dissolve the controversial Article 370.
As of 2016, only 1800 Kashmiri Pandit youths have returned to their state .
However, a high percentage of Kashmiri Pandits are still not sure whether the
divide has been bridged .
What happened in Kashmir in 1990 was a major violation of human rights,
efforts need to be made by the government to ensure that the Kashmiri Pandits
feel secure enough to return back to their homeland. They need to be returned to their rightful home .
Shriya Katoch multitasks as an Engineering student,an avid reader,a guitar player and a death note fan. Twitter: @katochshriya538