Table of Contents
   Index
   Secessionist Movements
- Article 370
- Interim Government
- The Plebiscite Front
   Muslim Militancy
- The Gathering Storm
- War of Attrition
   Disinformation Compaign
- Political Alienation
- Muslim Precedence
- Economics of Militancy
   Genocide of Hindus
- The Minorities
- Quit Kashmir
- Darkness at Noon
- The Exodus
- Ethnic Cleansing
   Search for Refuge
- Leave Salary
- Scorched Earth
   Book in pdf format  

Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

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Symbol of Unity

 
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Chapter 5
Search for Refuge

The State Government, awoke to the tragedy, the Hindus faced, after the exodus had reached its peak. The entire administration, staggering under the shock of militant assault from outside and subversion from inside, was unable to provide protection to the Hindus particularly in the areas where their population was denser and where the militant attack on them was severe. In the penny-pockets, where the Hindus were spread in the remoter regions of the Valley, they were almost at the mercy of the militants and their Muslim neighbours. In fact, the abductions, kidnappings, torture killings and criminal assault on Hindu women, were more extensive in rural areas than in the townships, where the incidence of killing was higher. Most of the people killed were shot dead wherever they were found. In the townships, the attack was sudden and effective, because it was aimed at a quicker cleansing of the Hindus in the valley. The elimination of the Hindus provided the militant forces a logistic advantage over the Indian security forces. 

In a situation, where a large section of the Muslims were armed with lethal weapons and had fallen upon their Hindu compatriots, the State Government was under an obligation, to help the minorities, spread over the Valley, evacuate them to safer places and provide adequate transport to facilitate their safe movement. The state Government, however, undertook none of these responsibilities and left the Hindus to make good their escape as best they could. 

For quite some time, while the migration of the Hindus from Kashmir rapidly increased, the State Government watched with stoic indifference the tribulations and the disaster the refugees faced. The upper echelons of the bureaucracy, dominated by the Muslims, were traditionally arraigned into two factions, the local Muslim officers and the officers of the Indian Civil Service, posted in Jammu and Kashmir. Incidentally, most of the officers of the Indian Civil Service posted in Jammu and Kashmir were also Muslims. In the factional balances, the local Muslim bureaucrats, most of them having risen from very ordinary commissions to the high positions of responsibility, due to the political patronage of the National Conference, as well as the Congress Governments, enjoyed precedence over the rest. The Muslim bureaucrats of the Indian Civil Service, bereft of any roots in the State, survived by sheer craft and capacity to ingratiate themselves with the party bosses in power in the State or at Delhi. The Hindus, with their proverbial commitment to secularism, trudged in the fog. 

Both the factions in the State administration supported the processes of the Muslimisation of the State and Muslim precedence. With the onset of the militant violence, both the factions assumed a demeanour of neutrality to the war of attrition that had been unleashed in the State, partly out of fear and partly out of preference. 

In Jammu, where the refugees poured in thousands, the State Government failed to rise to the occasion and provide temporary shelter and relief to the hundreds of thousands of the Hindus sprawling on the streets in the temple city of Jammu. Were it not for the yeoman service of the voluntary Hindu organisations, which immediately swung into action to organise relief for the refugees, hunger and disease would have taken a heavy toll of the unfortunate people, who had suddenly been thrown into the wilderness. No help came from any quarter. Silence of death fell on the liberals, the protagonists of secularism, the radicals and the rest. Gita Bhawan, a temple complex situated in the heart of the Jammu city, adjacent to the Shiva Temple, was converted into a reception-cum-transit camp, where the Hindu refugees arriving from Kashmir, disembarked. 

The various Hindu organisations of Jammu, which had organised relief for the Hindu refugees arriving in thousands from the Kashmir valley, established a broad-based relief committee constituted of several prominent Hindu leaders of Jammu and Kashmir. The organisation was named the Sahayata Samiti. Pandit Amar Nath Vaishnavi, a prominent Hindu leader and social activist, was appointed the Vice-President of the Samiti. Vaishnavi was actually put in control of the function of the Samiti. In Delhi, the other main place, where the refugees arrived in large numbers, the work af relief and rehabilitation was taken up by the Kashmiri Samiti Delhi, headed by Pandit Chaman Lal Gadoo, an indefatigable social worker. 

As the number of the Hindu refugees in Jammu increased rapidly, the State Government issued instructions for the erection of encampments to accommodate the refugees and sanctioned a cash relief of one thousand rupees per month, for every family of five or more members. The Government also sanctioned rations at the rate of 9 kilograms of rice and 2 kilograms of wheat-flour, per head, per month. The cash relief was a mockery for the great Indian republic, which claimed a prior obligation to social justice. The Indian Government could not afford to sustain lakhs of their nationals who were paying the forfeit of their nation. The relief and assistance, provided to the refugees, fell far below the international relief that was provided to the people in war-torn Ethiopia and Somalia. 

The refugees, who were in the employment of the State Government, were not provided any relief and rations. They were allowed to draw their salaries which were ordered to be disbursed to them in the irrespective offices in Jammu. Thirty-two refugee camps were established to accommodate the refugees. Refugee camps were also established at Nagrota, Riasi, Udhampur and Kathua in Jammu. In Delhi as well, refugees camps were established, several of them by Hindu voluntary agencies, to accommodate the refugees and provide them immediate relief. Almost sixty percent of the refugees shifted to rented accommodation comprising one room-sets in Jammu and the adjoining townships. The heavy inflow of the refugees into Jammu suddenly pushed up the housing rents to exorbitant rates. Around fifteen percent of the refugees were temporarily accommodated by their relatives and friends. The rest of the refugees were shifted to be housed in the camps. 

The administrative organisation for the relief and rehabilitation of the refugees was entrusted to a Commissioner of relief. The organisation established sub-offices at various places in Jammu province. Each sub-office was placed under the supervision of an Assistant Commissioner for relief. 

Each refugee family, entered into the Government records as a "migrant family", was furnished with a ration book on which the number of the family members, their names and their addresses were entered and duly certified by the Relief Commissioner. The amount of cash received by the refugees and ration drawn by them, were separately entered into respective columns on the ration books. Counters were established in various parts of the city from where the cash relief was disbursed to the refugees. The rations were distributed from the government run ration shops. 

The disbursement of relief among the refugees was far from a smooth process. Within a few months the whole management of the distribution of relief degenerated into a hotbed of corruption and blackmail. The entire structure and function of the relief organisation was twisted to facilitate the collection of graft. More often, rules and orders were promulgated making the procedure of the distribution of relief more stringent and cumbersome and laying down severe conditions for the refugees to prove their claims. The conditions were changed from time to time to suit the caprices of the Relief Department. Driven from pillar to post, the refugees greased the cogs and wheels of the relief organisation to earn reprieve. 

Exposed to various pressures and without any safeguards to invoke for their protection, the refugees were placed at the mercy of the capricious officers and their touts. A survey conducted among the refugees, who received relief revealed startling facts about the troubles and travails they were made to endure. About 62 percent of the refugees interviewed, accepted having paid various sums, at different points of time, to ensure regular payment of relief to them. About 26 percent of the respondents refused to answer any question about the disbursement of relief. 

The distribution of relief had another and a more interesting aspect as well. The Muslims migrants who had fled away from Kashmir in the wake of the terrorist violence, were listed for relief separately. Strict secrecy was maintained in dealing out cash relief to them as they were not required to collect their payments from the counters established for the disbursement of relief. Nor were they required to fulfill any conditions or subjected to any rules and regulations, laid down to distribute relief. They were accommodated in separate lodgings and not in the camps and most of the lodgings were in the government owned quarters. The special privileges were reportedly given to the Muslims for their safety, which the State Government believed, or at least feigned to believe, was greater than the danger and devastation, to which the Hindus dumped in desolate camps, were exposed. 

The Hindus in Kashmir bad been used as a sheath for Indian secularism in Kashmir where Muslim communalism and separatism had persisted to thrive in one form or the other. Having been pushed out of the arena by the Muslim militant movements they had been left to their fate exactly as the millions of refugees who had come from Pakistan in 1947, had been abandoned unclaimed. 

The Indian leaders never learnt any lesson from their experience. During the struggle for the independence of India, the Congress had promised the people of India protection from oppression, poverty and degradation. The promises were never kept. 

The refugee camps in Jammu and elsewhere and the refugees were soon forgotten and left unattended. Soon the tents were torn but they were not replaced. The improvised sanitary facilities, drainage, drinking water pipes, broke up in a few months after the camps were established. No one in the State Government went to see the camps and the plight of the people living there. The Congress leaders who made a bee-line for Kashmir and the Muslim majority districts of Doda and Rajouri, evaded appeals, the refugees made to invite them to visit the camps. Towards the close of 1993, when the terrorists began to bite deeper and reached the outskirts of Jammu, Farooq Abdullah and then Ghulam Nabi Azad visited the camps. To the consternation of the entire Hindu community, they invited the refugees to return to the valley, in view of the "political process" which the Government of India, proposed to initiate to bring peace to Kashmir. 

Many functionaries of several foreign countries, who came to Kashmir primarily to have a first hand knowledge of the Muslim crusade against India, visited the refugee camps. They were horrified by the hellholes to which, a whole community had been consigned for the fault that they had opposed Muslim secessionism all along the years after India had won freedom. Many of them submitted detailed reports to their governments on the plight of the Hindu refugees living in the camps. 

Living in sub-human conditions, a large number of refugees died of disease, heart attacks and snake bites. Children and old men and women, contracted diseases and ailments which bred in filth and squalor and which were caused by exposure to tropical rains. A team of migrant doctors, conducted a survey of the gruesome conditions in which the Hindu refugees lived in the camps. The survey covered the health of the refugees, who lived in accommodation rented by them. The survey made revealing disclosures about the decay and death, which struck the refugees and the tropical diseases, squalor and poverty and psychological distress to which they were exposed.          

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