Kashmir: Ethnic cleansing, exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and the continuing crisis

Lalit Shastri

Handwara- Indian flag was torn apart from the flagpost
Handwara- Indian flag was torn apart from the flagpost

 

 

 

The politicians in India have allowed the Kashmir situation to deteriorate for too long. But for the Army presence, the Hurriyat leaders and the terror outfits along with the State actors in Pakistan, who scripted the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes and made them refugees in their own country, would have turned Kashmir into another war zone like Syria or Iraq. There has to be pro-active action in Kashmir before it is too late…

The situation is on the boil in Kashmir where there have been Incidents in quick succession that point the finger at the radical elements who appear to be working overtime not missing any opportunity to target the non-Kashmiris and tarnish the image of the Army.

First there was the clash on the National Institute of Technology (NIT) campus in Srinagar when the non-Kashmiri students had lodged a protest and opposed the rejoicing and raising of pro-Pakistan slogans by the local students on India’s defeat in the T20 World Cup Cricket knockout match against West Indies. The situation took an ugly turn when the non-Kashmiri students were not allowed to meet media-persons outside the NIT gate and were brutally beaten up by the police. A few of these students who were critically injured were taken to hospital with broken bones. The non-Kashmiri students at NIT-Srinagar, who received threats, want that either their institute should be relocated or they be allowed to migrate.

The situation in Kashmir took a turn for the worse following the death of four civilians during protests at Handwara and Kupwara in North Kashmir on 12 April 2016.  The situation got ignited and there was firing at Handwara when an Army picket was ransacked and a mob tried to set it on fire. The Indian flag was also torn off its mast after the rumour that a security personnel had molested a girl had spread like wild fire. The girl in question has even denied being a victim of any such incident.

For several decades the politicians have allowed the situation in Kashmir region to deteriorate. So many boys in Kashmir valley, who were not even in their teens, had been radicalised to such an extent even in the pre-1971  war days that they missed no opportunity to target tourists visiting Kashmir from other parts of India. As if trained to follow a set pattern – they used to follow the tourists, generally in isolated parts of downtown Srinagar, and then, as if playing a role they were trained to perform, these kids would hurl abuses at the tourists and run away from the spot.

The NIT and Handwara incidents should be treated as a manifestation of the subversive activities of the anti-national forces in Kashmir, who have the backing of the hurriyat leaders drawing sustenance from Pakistan. After its successive defeats in conventional wars, Pakistan is also using terrorists from its soil to strike targets in Kashmir and other parts of the country to keep India engaged in a low intensity war.

To understand the game-plan of the forces who want to secede from India, one will have to look closely at the ethnic cleansing and exodus of Kashmiri Hindus in January 1990 when they were targeted by the Islamic radicals in Kashmir.

A Report of CSIS South Asia Program with the Kashmir Study Group by Teresita C. Schaffer titled “Kashmir -The Economics of Peace Building”, relies on the Indian Census of 1989, which counted 123900 Hindus living in the Kashmir region of Jammu and Kashmir, and goes on to point out that the vast majority of the minority Hindu population had left the Kashmir valley in 1990 after a spate of violence and attacks targeting  their community.

The Report underscores, on the basis of limited census figures available from 2001, that the number of those who were forced to join the exodus and become refugees in their own country is around 100000. However the number of Kashmiri Pandits registered as refugees in Jammu is 140000. The Central Government pays a monthly compensation of Rs. 850 per migrant family of four across states where these families are now located.

It is also reported that of the approximately 24000 Kashmiri Pandits employed by the J&K Goverment prior to the 1990 exodus, only about 3000 were left in government service after the minority Hindu population was driven out of the State.

Indian Defence Review has also published a piece under the heading “Kashmiri Pandits offered three choices by Radical Islamists” by Col Tej Kumar Tikoo. It is based on his book “Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus”

Tikoo wrote: “On Jan, 04, 1990, a local Urdu newspaper, Aftab, published a press release issued by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, asking all Pandits to leave the Valley immediately. Al Safa, another local daily repeated the warning.These warnings were followed by Kalashnikov-wielding masked Jehadis carrying out military-type marches openly. Reports of killing of Kashmiri Pandits continued to pour in. Bomb explosions and sporadic firing by militants became a daily occurrence.

Tikoo quotes the former Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, M M Khajooria who said: “The mischief of the summer of 1989 started with serving notice to the prominent members of the minority community to quit Kashmir.”

The notice said, ‘We order you to leave Kashmir immediately, otherwise your children will be harmed- we are not scaring you but this land is only for Muslims, and is the land of Allah. Sikhs and Hindus cannot stay here’. The threatening note ended with a warning, ‘If you do not obey, we will start with your children. Kashmir Liberation, Zindabad.”

Postscript: The Handwara firing and what happened at Srinagar’s NIT cannot be viewed as isolated incidents.  There is a larger conspiracy against the sovereignty of the nation. The conspirators are the radicalised Muslims. They were behind the ethnic cleansing and exodus of Hindus from Kashmir. The same people hoist the Pakistani flag and raise pro-Pak slogans in Kashmir valley and want the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, an emergency law that provides legal cover to the armed forces operating in disturbed areas from prosecution. They will do anything to discredit the Army because till the Army is there the cessationist elements in Kashmir and their Pak handlers will never succeed in their nefarious designs. It is high time those who shout from rooftops to maintain the cultural identity of a region should become proactive and ensure the Kashmiri Hindus return to their homes. This will be the first step towards restoring normalcy. Of course it will also be the constitutional responsibility of the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir to protect the life and property of the minority Hindu community.

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