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Remnant Pandits face spectre of ethnic cleansing

July 1st-August 15th, 2000

Two-thousand Pandits, who foolishly continue to remain in Kashmir valley have again been caught in the fire of ethnic-cleansing, resorted to by the Muslim fundamentalists. Close on the heels of Telwani massacre, on Feb 5, when three Pandits were killed, the separatists attacked a Pandit family at Brari-Angan.

In the renewed campaign of ethnic-cleansing, the separatists had asked through posters and threatening calls, all the non-Muslim minorities to leave Kashmir by March 28. As the sequence of events indicates the separatists had chosen Brari Angan-Achbal belt for this renewed campaign.

On the holy festival of Shivratri a group of twelve terrorists appeared at the houe of Brij Nath at Brari Angan, Achabal and kidnapped him. He was taken to a temple and killed there. Another version said he was done to death in a nearby jungle. Brij Nath’s family had trusted his neighbours and b did not migrate in 1990. He was an employee of the State Irrigation deprtment.

The same night, the militants attacked a police post, guarding 6 Pandit families at Pethbugh, near Dyalgam in Anantag. Unidentified gunmen fired indiscriminately upon the houses of Pandits. Lalitashorie, wife of TN Raina was killed, while her husband was injured critically. Gunmen, as usual escaped.

These three attacks and the latest massacre of Sikhs at Chatti Singhpora have shaked remnant Pandits out of complacency. Since then there has been a steady trickle of these people to Jammu. First to arrive were Pandit families from Telwani and Chandrigam in the first week of February. On February 22, four Pandit families from village Fatehpura reached Jammu. One, Bansi Lal told mediamen that they have been forced to migrate after receiving threatening calls from militants. He said, "we were feeling insecure and helpless due to inadequate security arrangements made by the government in the matter". The families said Telvani massacre jolted them and they left their places to preserve dignity and honour. Bansi Lal claimed, "we were harassed and lived in fear. We were surrounded by fear and life was full of agony".

Another group of Pandits, 4 families with 14 members, including 9 women from Akoora (where three families have stayed back) boarded Jammu-bound vehicles under tight-police protection, after receiving threatening calls. They reached Jammu on March 12.

Four more families from Noorpora, Traal fled in wee hours of March 10. Santosh Raina told the media that recent killings of Kashmiri Pandits had made them feel insecure. "We loaded our belongings in the truck a night before and asked the driver to wait at Awantipora on the national highway. Next morning, we pretended as if we were going to Srinagar". Santosh’s husband ran a grocery shop in the village, while her two daughters taught at a local private school. Her brother-in-law Triloki Nath, who had migrated to Jammu in 1991 had been imploring them to come but they stayed back. About not informing her neighbours, Santosh said, "It was not safe to confide in anybody. The killing of four Pandits in Telwani village was a warning".

As Santosh’s sister-in-law belongs to village Pethbugh, where Lalitashorie was killed, insecurity grew stronger. She said though they were all the time feling insecure, her father-in-law Ramchander Raina was adamant not to leave the place of his ancestors. He died about six months back. Presently there are twelve houses of Kashmiri Pandits in Noorpora but most of them are posted in Srinagar, with majority of their family members in Jammu.

Akoora Pandit families said that the militants had issued a deadline for all the minorities to leave the Valley by March 29 or face consequences. Infact, posters had appeared in some villages and even in Anantnag town. Pethbug incident made them believe that the warning could not be taken non-seriously. The families which migrated from Akoora included those of TN Raina (3 membrs), Bihari Lal Raina (5 members), Kanya Lal Dhar (3 members) Ramesh Kumar Raina (2 members), TN Raina (4 members), Surinder Kumar Bhat (4 members), Moti Lal Koul (5 members). Avtar Krishan Dhar, a government teacher, alongwith his brother’s family migrated to Jammu on March 14. He had to abandon his house in Pethbug village on March 5, when terrorists killed Lalitashorie.

Lalitashorie’s husband and two children have also left their native village. TN Raina’s younger brothers and mother had migrated earlier. Rueing his decison to stay back, TN Raina said "All of them have been pressing me hard to come to Jammu. But the difficulty my brother, Maharaj Krishan had to face in getting himself registered as a migrant in 1993, discouraged me from leaving Kashmir earlier".

Following the massacre at Chatti-Singhpora, three Pandit families of Prem Nath Bhat, Vishnath Bhat and Rattan Lal Bhat migrated from Nowgam, Acchabal on April 2.

Meanwhile, Armymen foiled an attempt of separatists to target four Pandit families at Wusan, Ganderbal. They after intercepting a message, asked the families to move to their camp for protection.

On April 5, scores of Pandit Accountant General office employees had a narrow escape, when the terrorists hurled a grenade on vehicle carrying them when it was on way to office. At Budshah Chowk at 10:00 AM, a grenade missed the target and exploded on road side causing injuries to two civilians. This is the second attack on AG employees during the decade-long terrorist violence in the Valley.

The employees have threatened to force closure of office in case authorities failed to provide adequate security to them. They blamed their management for callousness in not prevailing upon the security authorities for ensuring proper security. For the past two months the AG employees have been receiving threatening calls. Despite warnings by the security officials, their bus was not permitted to move via high-security Gupkar zone.

While the attacks on the last outposts of minorities continue leading to the exodus of remnant Pandits, both the state and Central government have been making ‘Proforma’ statements about the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus (see Box0. In the state Assembly, upper house, the BJP leader, Daya Krishan Kotwal embarrassed the government by asking how many Kashmir migrant families had been sent back so far after the NC government came to power. He also demanded setting up of a committee to look after the safety of the Kashmiri Pandit properties.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

Kashmir History and Politics




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