Table of Contents
   Index
   About the Author
   Preface
   Islamabadisation
   The Abdullah Dynasty
   A Journey into History
   Kashmiri Pandits
   The Myth of Negligence
   Mullaism
   Mortgaged Media
   Siege by Scandal
   The 'Inhuman' Rights
   The Valley of Oddity
   This Happened to KPs
   Exaggerated Reporting
   Appendix

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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CHAPTER 4

Kashmiri Pandits: An endangered community

Bansi Parimu, an eminent painter, asked S. B. Chavan - the then Union Minister for Human Resources - who had visited Srinagar in 1986 in connection with a project for the wildlife conservation in the Valley, "I believe you are interested in the preservation of the endangered species of stags." Answering in the affirmative, Chavan said, "It is a project much after the heart of Governor Jagmohan and I too am interested." Parimu asked, "But why cannot you do something about the other endangered species here?" "Which endangered species?" asked Chavan. Pat came the reply from Parimu, "Kashmiri Pandits."

Even Parimu who was hounded out by terrorists from the Valley and died in wilderness in New Delhi in 1991, did not know that he was making a prophesy about the fate of the minuscule minority in the Valley.

The en masse exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the wake of the current phase of terrorism was unprecedented. Never before had the minority community felt such despair, except once about 400 years ago, when only eleven families of this community survived following the onslaught of Sultan Sikandar. Leafing through the pages of Kashmir's history, it is evident that peaceful times have been very few here. The Valley has been subjected to many invasions from outside, and has suffered intrigues and conspiracy from within. One party would arrive, loot and plunder, followed by another. Under these circumstances, the people of the Valley developed a chameleon-like character. They developed survivalistic characteristics, almost willing to do anything to keep their superior, boss or ruler, pleased - sycophancy, servility, and backbiting Kashmiris, including Hindus (Pandits), have always remained xenophobic. As a single ethnic group they evolved an exquisite cultural pattern with the strands of the principal religions. They have shared the ups and downs of life in Kashmir. Even the notion of an independent Kashmir nation was given birth to by Ram Chandra Kak, Prime Minister of Maharaja Hari Singh, before the accession of the State to India in 1947.

Before their exodus, Kashmiri Pandits themselves used to admit with pride that they were always in the forefront of the struggle to retain a separate Kashmiri identity. At least 47 members of this community were externed from the State by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah during a crackdown on the 'Mahaz-i-Raishumari' (Plebiscite Front).

This community by and large always remained in the vanguard of the tirade against the residents from other States who were posted in Kashmir. It is the turn of Kashmiri Pandits now to be despised by the majority community which accused them of having dominated the political and economic scene of Kashmir for hundreds of years.

Rebutting these allegations, Khem Lata Wakhlu, a former Kashmir Minister, wrote in her book: "The relations between Kashmiri Muslims and Hindus have always been complex. It would not be wrong to say that these are based on a peculiar love-hate syndrome. The dress, language, living style, culture and genetic origin of both groups are identical. The family names are identical too, going back as they do to a common ancestor. Both groups love each other, depend on each other and have got used to living in close proximity with each other for centuries. They are used to sharing each other's woes and happiness, participating in marriages, deaths, and other social and religious occasions from time to time. One cannot distinguish easily who is a Muslim and who is a Hindu. There are many places of worship where all Kashmiris worship and pay their obeisance without any distinction. The cultural heritage is common to all, giving rise to many common customs and rituals at the time of birth, marriage and death. Many Hindu children had Muslim foster- mothers and vice versa. Quite often most 'munshis' or teachers in the well-to-do Muslim household would be Kashmiri Hindus. And there are umpteen anecdotes, about sharing of love and mutual trust.

"In spite of this rich heritage there is a chasm somewhere which raises the question in every mind about the possible reasons for the present condition. And in the present context, innumerable problems are faced by the people which have given rise to tension amongst them. The most obvious reason for this tension is unemployment.

"Both communities have been bereft of riches and capital for centuries, a few exceptions on either side notwithstanding. The Hindus have managed, however, to keep their traditional occupation with the written word alive, in spite of utmost difficulties faced by them in doing so. They maintained this wealth of learning within their fold at all costs. They learnt the language of the Pathans, of the Sikhs, and of the Dogras, and then of the English, thereby managing to be of use to their rulers. For centuries they depended on petty service with the ruling classes in order to maintain themselves. Their Muslim brethren depended exclusively on agriculture, trade and the traditional arts for their sustenance. With the learning of English the Kashmiri Hindus became visible as a job-seeking community in the Government hierarchy.

"The Muslim community was in the forefront as long as there was the sway of Persian and Arabic languages. In the wake of the advent of Urdu and English, particularly the latter, the Muslims came under the influence of maulvis. They sought to keep the masses away from the new education system on the plea that it was Christian education. At the same time, however, they did not deprive their children from the benefits of the new education. Thereby, they were able to join the Government services along with others. The mass of Muslim people were thereby not only deprived of the share of governance but also found it difficult to obtain schooling and education. The pressures of the caste system also played their traditional role in spite of the fact that the distinction of caste had apparently been wiped out by change of faith to Islam. As a consequence of these social, political, and religious factors, the Kashmiri Hindu became visible as a munshi, clerk, patwari or girdawar (petty revenue official) in the Government hierarchy. His Muslim neighbour gradually became envious of his new power and better living standards. When the autocratic rulers came out with a heavy hand on the poor masses on one pretext or the other, the Kashmiri Hindus became the instrument of Government and earned hate at the hands of the population - largely Muslims - as a factotum of the ruler."

Adding that on account of higher ambitions, there was growing resentment caused by lack of meaningful employment, Wakhlu is of the opinion that there is another reason for the growing disaffection. The gulf between the poor and the prosperous was visibly growing wide. A new class of wealthy people had emerged. Their wealth was conspicuous, more so because it was acquired in a short span of time. In these fast-changing situations everyone felt the desire to get rich quick and become a prosperous Nawab or Sultan like others. In this rat race, many people did achieve results rather fast and were not easily recognizable after the change. They were so engrossed in their new found wealth and status that they lost touch with reality. Consequently, their behaviour and attitudes towards their own poorer kith and kin became callous, even harsh. As against this, those who could not keep pace with this competition and revolutionary transformation became envious and developed hatred born out of inferiority complex.

The youth in this group of population took to terrorism under the garb of new revolutionaries. To gain their objective, the young men took support of religion and unfurled the flag of extremism in the Valley. To garner the support of the disgruntled, it was necessary that the first brunt of the new revolution had to be borne by Kashmiri Pandits and the wealthy Kashmiri Muslims. Both were sought to be depicted as agents of India and eliminating them became their immediate aim.

Kashmiri Pandits are often accused of usurping job opportunities in Government offices. Rebutting the allegation, the Panun Kashmir - an organisation of Kashmiri Pandits at Jammu - stated in a booklet Kashmir - Facts Speak: "With about 80 per cent literacy among Kashmiri Pandits as against 26.6 per cent literacy in the State as per the 1981 census, Kashmiri Pandits should have been ruling the roost in the absence of any competition worth the name but the community does not fill up more than 4 per cent posts in the State services. It added that out of about 2,10,000 employees of the State Government and its Corporations, Kashmiri Pandits hardly count for 8,500 in number."

Ali Mohammad Sagar, J&K Minister of State for Information in the Farooq Government, admitted on July 11, 1989 at New Delhi that 59 per cent personnel in the State police were Muslims against 65 per cent of Muslims in the population. He added that in the selection for public enterprises during the year 1988, the percentage of Muslims was 55.4.

However, the fact is that power was always in the hand of Muslims after Independence. Though Kashmiri Pandits fought against Maharaja's rule under the leadership of Sheikh Abdullah, there was no Kashmiri Pandit in the executive committee of the National Conference (NC) in 1990 - P. L. Handoo, who represented the Anantnag constituency as the National Conference nominee in the ninth Lok Sabha (November 1989-June 1991), was merely a special invitee to the meetings of the executive committee.

A section of politicians and newspaper columnists often allege that Kashmiri Muslims have been denied their due share in the State services. But the fact is that though Kashmiri Muslims lag behind in their educational qualifications, their representation in the services is more or less proportionate to their population. A brief summary of the figures of the employees working in Government departments as on 1.7.87 is given in the following tables:

The percentage of each community in the employment of the
Government Department of the State(Category-wise) as on 1.7.1987
Category of Service  Hindus  Muslims  Sikhs  Others  Total
Gazetted  6,307  5,140  717  159  12,323
(Percentage)  (51.18)  (41.71)  (5.82)  (1.59)  (100.00)
Non-Gazetted  49,705  73,780  5,555  2,136  131,176
(Percentage)  (37.89)  (56.23)  (4.23)  (1.64) (100.00)
Inferior  14.370  32,011  1,010  1,469  48,860
(Percentage)  (29.42)  (65.52)  (2.06) (3.00)  (100.00)

The percentage of employment and the Percentage of
population of each community
Name of Community  Nos. of employees in Govt. Services  % age in employment  % age in population
Hindus  70,382  36.59  32.27
Muslims  110,931  57.67  64.19
Sikhs  7,282  3.79  2.23
Others  3,764  1.95  1.31
Total  192,359  100.00  100.00

The Employment position in respect of Scheduled Castes/
Gujjars & Bakerwal and Ex-serviceman employees as on 1.7.87
Name of Community  Nos. of employees in Govt. Services  % age in employment  % age in population 
Sch. Castes  1,765  3.52  3.00
Ex-Serviceman  3,145  1.63  N-A
Gujjar & Bakerwal  1,071  0.56  7.00

Employees working in the State-owned Corporations/
Undertakings/Autonomous bodies and Banks along with their
Community-wise and category-wise percentage as on 1.7.87
Category of Service  Hindus  Muslims  Sikhs  Others  Total
Gazetted  1,115  1,160  104  2,381
(Percentage)  (46.83)  (48.72)  (4.37)  (0.08)  (100)
Non-Gazetted  6,201  11,065  1,123  110  18,499
(Percentage)  (33.51)  (59.82)  (6.59)  (0.59)  (100)
Class IV  3,082  6,508  272  66  9,928
(Percentage)  (31.04)  (65.55)  (2.75)  (0.66)  (100)
Total  10,398  18,733  1,499  178  30,809

The percentage of employment and the Percentage of population
Name of Community  Nos. of employees  % age of employees  % age in population 
Hindus  10,398  33.75  32.27
Muslims  18,733  60.80  64.19
Sikhs  1,499  4.87  2.23
Others  178  0.58  1.31
Total  30,808  100.00  100.00

The Percentage and the Number of Employees of
Reserved Category Working in these State-Owned
Corporations/Undertakings Banks
Name of Class  Nos. of Employees  Percentage among Employees  Percentage in Population
Sch. Caste  1014  3.29  8
Ex-Serviceman  137  0.77  Not Available
Gujjar & Bakerwal  149  0.80  7

In fact these are the Scheduled Castes, Gujjar and Bakerwal - the backward communities among the Muslims - who have been denied their dues by Kashmiri-speaking Muslims being at the helm of political and administrative affairs since Independence.

However, in response to a question from Mohammad Shafi Khan - a National Conference legislator - the J&K Assembly was informed in August 1989 that as per the available information the community-wise number of employees working in various Central Government offices as on January 1, 1989 is as follows:

Category of Service  Hindus  Muslims  Sikhs  Others  Total
Officers  1613  133  161  21  1928
(Percentage)  (83.66)  (6.89)  (8.35) (1.10)  (100)
Clerical Staff  4043  662  323  75  5100
(Percentage)  (79.27)  (12.98)  (6.28)  (1.47)  (100)
Class IV  5622  1212  550  331  7715
(Percentage)  (72.87)  (15.70)  (7.14)  (4.29) (100)
Citing these figures, the detractors of Kashmiri Pandits often raise a hue and cry over 'denial of job opportunities' to Kashmiri Muslims forgetting that education is the most dear aspect of life for the minority in the State. Moreover, these are the Central services which any citizen of the Indian Union, including J & K, may join without any discrimination. The figures are related to Hindus, not to Kashmiri Pandits alone. Similarly, there is no bar on Kashmiri Muslims joining Central services elsewhere in the entire country and in fact they are serving in many States in India.

In fact, Kashmiri Pandits suffer in silence since 1948. They are continuously on the run. In a report from Kashmir in the Indian Express in its issue of March 3,1986, H. K. Dua said: " The minority community of Kashmiri Pandits has suffered discrimination under successive regimes in the Valley but the Anantnag communal riots have left them in a state of shock . . . While the Centre's Kashmir policy is apparently in the melting pot, the travails of Kashmiri Pandits have emerged as the immediate issue. Kashmiri Pandits were nearly three lakhs in 1947, they are only 70,000 now, half of them in Srinagar. Their population has dwindled because of the continuing migration to other parts of the country. They leave the Valley because of discrimination in recruitments for jobs, admissions in educational institutions and economic deprivation . . . The recent violence has shattered their confidence. They are feeling bitter, frustrated and bewildered. The attacks on houses and places of worship on February 20, particularly in places like Wanpoh, Dhanav Bogund and Lukbawan in Anantnag district and incidents in Srinagar, Sopore and Baramulla involving the beating and harassment of members of the minority community have further intensified their anxiety and generated a feeling of insecurity."

The Srinagar correspondent of the Hindu reported: "At least 23 villages in Anantnag district were affected in the communal violence that broke out on February 20. Wanpoh villagers said that their village was only two km away from the residence of the Superintendent of Police, Mohammad Abdullah Mir, the police did nothing to save them from the onslaught of about 2,000 pro-Pakistani youth armed with sticks and iron rods who had come from the neighbouring Khudwani village. They had to plead with some jawans to come to their rescue. But they had a good word for the 'local Muslims but for whose intervention,we would have been killed.' The villagers estimated their loss at Rs.60 lakh . . . In Dhanav Bogund village, eight houses, three cattle sheds and two places of worship were burnt . . The entire Lukbawan village was looted and razed by over 5,000 persons, some carrying guns, who came from the neighbouring areas."

Quoting the Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag, Syed Abdul Wahid, Yusuf Jameel reported in the Telegraph (Calcutta): "In all 129 houses were looted, burnt or damaged, nine shops looted or ransacked, 16 temples or 'Shivalas' ransacked or damaged, two 'Kothars' (paddy stores) and two cowsheds burnt in Anantnag district on February 20."

C.E. Tyndale Biscoe, the father of public education in Kashmir, who came to-Kashmir in 1881 and spent five decades recorded: "The Brahmins are a proud people, for besides being twice born, they hold they are part of God. The boys told me that they could not commit sin and when they were caught in their various acts of transgression, which I considered against the moral laws, they always said that they were only following the custom of their fathers and forefathers and, therefore, felt no shame".

Biscoe goes on to add: "I must say that ordinary Kashmiri such as I have known for 30 years is a coward, a man with no self-respect and deceitful to a degree and I perhaps may write with a clear conscience, for I have told this to all classes of them on their faces, times without number, and to give them all credit, they never resent it, because they know it is true".

Syed Tassadaque Hussain in his book Reflections on Kashmir Politics states: "Individually they (Kashmiri Pandits) are the finest people one can come across in the Valley. They are delicate, intelligent, decent and very friendly. For obtaining their objectives the Kashmiri Brahmins would stick at nothing. Its sole aim becomes self-preservation and not achievement . . . While in India it was the lowest strata of society which willingly escaped to Islam to avoid caste disabilities, in Kashmir it was the high caste Brahmin group that converted to Islam unwillingly to escape Afghan tyranny."

He added: "Despite conversion to Islam, the neo-converts remained the ethnic part of the same community. Hence, Hindu communalism and Muslim communalism did not at all arise in the Valley. The same community despite two different faiths could not fight itself. Rather in the social milieu that prevailed at that time Kashmiri Brahmins had the closest affinity with Kashmiri Muslims. There was no over all differences between the cultures of two groups. The totality of the differences pertained to faith factor. Minus faith factor, race and custom remained the same. Politically, socially and psychologically the attitudes of the two communities did not materially differ. In fact, the bond of common language provided the strongest association of attitudes."

He said: "Islam spread in the Valley by Muslim sufis and saints who had come from Persia and Kabul to proselytise the infidels in the Valley. They succeeded not by sword. However, their persuasion had the State power behind it. Otherwise, Persian and Pathan saints and sufis who spoke a different language and belonged to a different culture would not have made such a deep impact on the Valley of Kashmir . . . The morbid fear of Punjabi domination would drive the people of Kashmir despite being predominantly Muslims into the lap of predominantly Hindu India. Kashmiri Muslims are also a lot to blame. Instead of joining the mainstream they became more insular than ever."

Kashmiri Pandits always found it more prudent to abandon their homeland, particularly after Independence, for better and more job opportunities. That is why the population of this minority community registered an increase by only 4,000 between 1941 and 1961 in Kashmir. But in 1990, this community was forced to leave the Valley as they were an obstacle in the way of armed terrorists aiming to establish Nizam-e- Mustafa (Islamic rule) in Kashmir. The very presence of the Pandit is a challenge to attempt a total Islamisation of the Valley and reversal of its cultural traditions that are fundamentally Hindu in essence and a distinct, yet essential, component of the larger Hindu ethos.

With the recent advent of full scale Islamic fundamentalism, the social interaction which was sustaining a healthy civil society, became a thorn in the side of terrorists. It had to be plucked out and cast away as per the plan of Pakistan's Intelligence agency, the ISI.

From September 1989 onwards when terrorism raised its ugly head in the Valley, the scene in the beginning was dominated-by the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) - which pretended to be secular. The assassination of Tak Lal Taploo, vice-president of the State unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, was attributed by the JKLF to his being an 'Indian zealot' and was largely seen by Pandits as a selective killing and possibly not as a signal of an all-out attack on them.

The next killing was that of Judge Neel Kanth Ganjoo (retired) who, several years ago, had sentenced Maqbool Butt, a secessionist leader, to death for his involvement in a case of a gruesome murder. The Kashmiri Pandit community leaders, in a rejoinder to the JKLF, expressed their shock and anger at the fact that if Judge Ganjoo had sentenced Maqbool Butt to death in his capacity as a judge, was the JKLF prepared to punish, in a similar manner, all prosecution witnesses in the trial, all of whom were Muslims? No straight response came from the JKLF. One thought that terrorists had closed the issue. But they sent their unequivocal answer to this pertinent question by gunning down P.N. Bhatt, a Kashmiri Pandit - and an advocate in Anantnag - who was also a social worker of some repute in the area. No doubt, even the saner elements in the majority community were silenced to death by the young men imbibing fundamentalism and obscurantism. The status of Kashmiri Pandits were like frightened pigeons.

Several thousand persons, including women, came out on the streets of Srinagar city following searches in January 1990. The religious slogan - Nara-i-Taqbir, Allah-o-Akbar ranted the air sending a chill down the spine of the minority community.

Recording the scene of that night, Khem Lata Wakhlu wrote: "Hardly anyone in Kashmir slept on the night of January 21. The sound of commotion and hysterical screaming spewed out of hundreds of mosques. Anti-India slogans rant the air coupled with Allah-o-Akbar and Nizam-e-Mustafa. The noise hammered incessantly on the eardrums. People from all corners of the city poured out on the streets, milling around agitatedly in spontaneous processions. Whoever dared to stay indoors was threatened with dire consequences. People owing allegiance to secular political parties were terrified to see the massive spectacle and were afraid that they might be the first victims of the onslaught of people in anger. It looked as if everybody was hell-bent on killing those who swore by Indian secularism, who trembled at the prospect of being victimised in this spate of terrible anger. They knew that by the time the Government machinery woke up, the streets would be streaming with innocent blood. Government officers, who may have controlled the situation, were scared to their bones. What else could they do in such a situation? When a tiny stream suddenly erupts forth - with the flooding fury of an ocean, who saves whom? People surged forward blindly trudging along paths, dragging their feet towards unknown destination, pulled forward like helpless pawns in the hands of destiny."

The events unfolded at an astonishingly rapid pace. From December 1989 onwards, Kashmiri Pandits started receiving threatening letters asking them to quit the Valley. Members of their families were threatened to be killed irrespective of age or sex. All this obviously was aimed at terrorising them into fleeing the Valley.

The Pandit community was rudely shocked to learn that killings were no longer selective, but of a general nature aimed at driving out its members, to turn Kashmir into a Muslim ghetto.

In a memorandum to the then Governor of the State, General K.V. Krishna Rao (Retired), the Kashmiri Pandit Sabha, Jammu, on January 15, 1990 submitted: "On December 15 in 1989, men, children and old women from the minority community were mercilessly attacked and womenfolk molested in Shopian in Pulwama district in South Kashmir." At that time, Dr. Farooq was the Chief Minister of the State.

The indiscriminate killing in Habba Kadal in Srinagar, where Pandits used to live in a sizeable number quickened the process of migration. Panic coupled with fear gripped the minority community so much so that families left literally in their sleeping suits and walked, in bitter cold, a distance of a few kilometres to reach the only bus stand for Jammu, seeking to catch any available motor vehicle, even goods-ladden trucks, to escape from the fury of the Kalashnikov-toting terrorists.

The migrants had no time to take their valuables with them. They could not even carry essential articles of daily use. Those who managed to carry their essentials along were forced back by terrorists warning them to leave the Valley without their belongings. This sudden and disorganised exodus from the Valley left the migrants destitute, bereft of even the minimum resources to eke out a reasonable living outside the Valley in the inhospitable tropical climate of the plains. Their meagre savings continue to remain blocked in banks because terrorists would not allow these establishments to transact business.

Barring a handful of Kashmiri Pandits who are either running their business establishments by buying peace with terrorists or some Government servants who are discharging their duties under security cover, the entire Kashmiri Pandit community has been forced to flee the Valley.

The following table speaks for itself.

District-wise details of displaced families registered - ending November 1990
DESCRIPTION JAMMU  UDHAMPUR  KATHUA  RAJOURI  DODA  POONCH  TOTAL
NUMBER OF FAMILIES REGISTERED  46525  6358  478  28  360  53750
TOTAL STRENGTH  211785  27402  2012  94  1460  242758
NO.OF FAMILIES ACCOMMODATED
(i) IN TENTS  5039  355  5394
(ii) IN BUILDINGS  1043  2234  138  3424
TOTAL  6082  2589  138  8818
NO. OF CAMPS ESTABLISHED  19  30
CASH ASSISTANCE PAID BY THE GOVT. FROM MAY TO NOV.l990  143371308  14002374  806062  91900  719645  158991289
NO.OF TOT GOVT.

EMPLOYEES; (CENTRAL & STATE)

11771  1077  135  12  118  13114
NO.OF EMPLOYEES BELONGING TO BANKS, CORPORATIONS ETC.  888  47  935
NO. OF FAMILIES WITH AT LEAST ONE GOVT. EMPLOYEE  10720  892  114  12  109  11848
NO.OF STATE PENSIONER'S FMLY NOT RECEIVING CASH ASSISTANCE  146  24  173
NO.OF TENTS ISSUED -
T.TILLOO  75
MUTHI  259
TRIKUTA NGR  5
JHIDI  733
MISTRIWALA  1053
PURKHU  824
NAGROTA  659
INDIRA NAGAR  225
UDHAMPUR  800
DODA 50
TOTAL  3608  1025  50  483
SOME MORE STATs. for JAMMU Distt.
NO. OF F.P. SHOPS  = 9  KP FMLYs  35459  156042 MEMBERS
NO OF DISPENSERIES  =26  SIKH FMLYs  8270  40916 MEMBERS
NO OF SCHOOLS  = 6  MUSL.FMLYs  215  1068 MEMBERS
NO. OF COLLEGES  = 3  OTHERS  1331  6666 MEMBERS
TOTAL  45275  204692 MEMBERS
 

Besides, some have gone to other cities such as New Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow and even to far-flung cities in the South. However, some politicians and human rights activists have imputed motives to the decision of Kashmiri Pandits to migrate from the land of violence and anarchy to safer sanctuaries. One of them even croaked, "The migrants left at the bidding of the highest-up in Srinagar." He obviously meant Jagmohan. The Save Kashmiri Pandit Campaign Committee, New Delhi, retorted back: " Must we tell this gentleman hailing from Kashmir that nothing is more distasteful to a Kashmiri Pandit as, indeed, to all Kashmiris, Hindus and Muslims alike, than the remotest thought of leaving his land which he loves as only a son would love his mother. Gentleman, why are you deliberately falsifying Kashmir's ethos and history? Why are you pulling wool over your eyes? Why are you seeking to minimise the gravity of the situation which has brought ruination on us all? Apparently, you claim to uphold the flag of Sheikh Abdullah. Can you deny that his house at Soura in Srinagar was gutted down by the very same terrorists who are after our lives, that his grave is today guarded by a big contingent of the paramilitary forces for fear of secessionists desecrating it by tearing it open like a pack of wolves throwing away his remains into the river as openly threatened by them. If this is the fate meted out by terrorists to him, who brought Kashmir into the Union of India, pray, gentleman, what will the fate be like for Kashmiri Pandits who, as a community, are openly dubbed by secessionists as agents of India. Gentleman, why are you suppressing the fact that the situation has taken such a catastrophic turn that not only Hindus and Sikhs but also Muslims are now fleeing from the land of their birth for fear of being the next targets of secessionist Kalashnikovs." The same gentleman, Hirdya Nath Wanchoo, who openly supported terrorists, was ultimately gunned down in December 1992 by some unidentified terrorists at his home in the wake of internecine conflicts between various factions of terrorists.

Migrant families registered at Jammu by November 1990 included 8,270 Sikh families with 40,916 members; 215 Muslim families with 1,068 members; and 1,331 others with 6,666 members - besides 35,459 Kashmir Pandit families with 1,56,042 members; who have run away in fear on their own, leaving homes and hearths behind.

No wonder the crisis in Kashmir, at the instigation of Pakistan, has been cataclysmic for the small community of Kashmiri Pandits who have been hounded enmasse in a pre-determined manner from their homeland whose soil they had nurtured with their sweat and blood. Kashmir's distinctive ethos, its culture and traditions bear an unmistakable mark of the peculiar genius of Kashmiri Pandits but today they have been made fugitives, fighting a grim battle for their very survival.

In an appeal, the Save Kashmiri Pandit Campaign Committee has stated: "To have been known as a Kashmiri Pandit has been a matter of pride for everyone of us and envy to others. Carving his own distinctive way of life, the Kashmiri Pandit has been able to hold fast to it despite tremendous pressure and trials and tribulations he suffered from time to time at the hands of tyrannical rulers and inquisitors. He has tried to imbibe something of the loftiness of the mountains that surrounded him, and drank uninhibitedly at the fountain of knowledge.

"The Kashmiri Pandit has its own pantheon of gods, his own circuit of temples and shrines - Tulamala (Kheer Bhawani), Chakreshwari (Hari Parbat), Loli Bhawan, Nagbal and Umanagri (Anantnag), Bhadrakali Teerath (Kupwara) and the shrines of Alakh Devi and Rishi Peer (Srinagar) and, of course, the famous Amar Nathji cave tucked deep in the high Himalayas. The same Kashmiri Pandit, alas, appears to have been stripped of his right to live in the land of his ancestors. All his gods at the moment are unable to help him for they are locked in their sanctums with no one to look after them.

"Today, Islamic fundamentalism has struck Kashmir in its most pernicious form aiming to wipe out all vestiges of 'kafir' existence and making Kashmiri Pandits the prime targets of its fury. Harassed and haunted by the Pak-trained terrorists for being visible manifestations of Indian nationalism, the Pandits have been forced to abandon their homes and hearths, leaving all movable and immovable property and educational careers behind and taking refuge at Jammu, Delhi and other places. An ominous blow was struck on April 14, 1990 when terrorists issued a warning that the Pandits should leave the valley within 48 hours. If they dared to return, the punishment would be death. And death it has been ever since. A whole community is on the hit list."

Lamenting over the developments, Bansi Parimu had remarked, "I find my Lal Ded searching for a shroud to conceal her festering wounds; Nunda Rishi lamenting upon his mutilated ethos; Habba Khatoon shedding blood instead of tears at the smouldering saffron fields; Arni Maal becoming dumbfounded on her bruised ego; Mahjoor and Nadim trying to trace their abode and Rasool Mir moaning upon the disappearance of his Poshimaal." The Kashmiri Pandit, steeped in secular traditions, could not imagine the havoc waiting for him on account of the onslaught of Islamic fundamentalism. The concerted onslaught on secular traditions has an alibi in the form of repeated allegations about the negligence of the Valley, which is contrary to facts.

Crescent over Kashmir

 

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World Kashmiri Pandit Conference 1993 Panun Kashmir
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