Protest in Kashmir
Kashmiri youth clashes with paramilitary forces and J&K police personnel after Friday prayers outside Jamia Masjid in Srinagar | ANI Photo
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The generation that grew up then (in the 1990s) was surrounded by violence. The only argument that prevailed was one of violence. We were forced to remain indoors for months together, caged in our own homes like criminals. The enforced imprisonment gave us time to read why this was happening to us. We read Kashmir’s history, Kashmir’s literature of conflict and its literature of resistance. We got to know of the string of broken promises by the likes of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The erosion of democratic processes through a series of rigged elections. The toppling of governments at New Delhi’s behest. The suppression of dissent with brute force. The politics of militarization. And Delhi’s stick-and-carrot policy that was an appalling mix of ‘democracy’ and ‘martial law’.

Yet another aspect of the times was the armed militancy. Rebel outfits would plan and execute deadly attacks not only against government forces, but also those they perceived as ‘collaborators’, ‘mukhbir’ (informers) or ‘Indian spies’. Hapless citizens would often find themselves caught between two guns. In several attacks carried out by militants, some innocent lives too would be lost in the crossfire. The people of Kashmir had become ‘cannon fodder’ and ‘collateral damage’ for both the Armed Forces as well as armed guerillas. Hundreds would be injured in grenade attacks that would miss the intended target and explode at crowded places instead. In 1989 and 1990, militants targeted and killed both Muslims and Pandits who they thought were close to the ruling establishment, the state’s bureaucracy, the Armed Forces, intelligence agencies, and so on.

Anyone suspected of being a mukhbir by militants would have to face their bullets. And anyone seen as a sympathizer of the anti-State movement would be targeted by government forces. If the Armed Forces killed a civilian, they would call it ‘collateral damage’ and regret the killing. Sometimes, they would use terms like ‘error of judgment’, ‘mistaken identity’ or an ‘aberration’. Militants, too, would regret civilian casualties in grenade attacks. Civilians could not say ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘thank you’ to either the Armed Forces or the armed rebels. Those with guns enjoyed the ‘azadi’ to kill, and the civilians at the receiving end did not have the azadi to even mourn their death.


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A.S. Dulat, in Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years, noted that India’s intelligence network and infrastructure in Kashmir grew during Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership. According to him, 1989 onwards, armed militants were trying to destabilize J&K at Pakistan’s behest. They would target pro-India Kashmiri Pandits and those working specifically for India’s intelligence agencies. As recorded in the previous chapter, Neel Kanth Ganjoo, a Pandit judge who had sentenced Maqbool Bhat to death, was gunned down by the outfit in an act of revenge. Other Pandits killed by militants in 1989–90 included Lassa Koul, director of Doordarshan, a government broadcasting organization accused of anti-Kashmir and pro-Delhi propaganda. Dulat was then the station head of the IB in Kashmir and his colleague was shot dead by the JKLF on 3 January 1990. Dulat writes that most IB officers in Kashmir were Kashmiri Pandits. They lived among the people and made for easy targets.

Militants also targeted several Muslims who were members of the pro-India NC or worked for spy agencies and the Armed Forces. Clearly, their strategy was to create fear among anyone with a pro-India affiliation and convert them to their ideology. On 21 August 1989, JKLF militants killed Mohammed Yusuf Halwai, a staunch NC block president from downtown Srinagar. Moulana Masoodi, as mentioned in Chapter 4, was gunned down by Hizbullah militants. Dulat writes in his memoir that the first IB officer to be killed in Kashmir, in Anantnag district, was from Bihar, R.N.P Singh. Kishen Gopal was killed in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on 9 January 1990, followed by M.L. Bhan in Nowgam on 15 January and T.K. Razdan in Srinagar on 12 February. These were all targeted killings that were ideology-driven and not religion-specific.

Some Kashmiri Pandits associated with Right-wing groups like Panun Kashmir and Roots in Kashmir claim that their community faced an ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’. This is far from the truth. Far more Muslims were targeted by militants than Kashmiri Pandits. In March 2010, the J&K government said on the floor of the Legislative Assembly that 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by militants from 1989 to 2004 (in fifteen years). A total of 38,119 Kashmiri Pandit families were registered with the government, of which 24,202 migrated in January 1990. According to official figures, the total number of Pandits stood at 1.5 lakh at the time of migration. Pandits represented less than 5 per cent of the total population. At present, the government claims 60,452 families are registered with it, of which 808 families (3,500 people) continue to live in the Valley.

In 2010, Basharat Bukhari, senior NC leader and a former minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government in 2016, had asked a question regarding the status, migration and killings of Kashmiri Pandits to the then revenue minister, Raman Bhalla, in the Assembly. In response, Mr Bhalla said, ‘219 Pandits were killed in Kashmir from 1989 to 2004. From 2004, no killing of any person from the community [Kashmiri Pandits] took place till now.’ Raman Bhalla also said that 808 Pandit families consisting of 3,445 people had never migrated and still lived in the Valley.

In stark contrast to government figures, Panun Kashmir exaggerates the number of Kashmiri Pandits killed in the Valley with the intention of branding Kashmir’s political movement for self-determination as an ultra-radical Islamist movement. On its website, Panun Kashmir claims that over 1,000 Kashmiri Pandits were murdered, which is factually incorrect. They also allege forced conversion to Islam, which is untrue. The radical organization has failed to back and substantiate its horrific claims with facts. This is not to say that the Kashmiri Pandit community did not suffer, which will be dealt with in some detail in a later chapter.

Growing up in Kashmir in the horror-filled 1990s was nightmarish. It was a battle for survival, as if a sword was constantly hanging over one’s head. For a child, the constant sight of the gun, whether in the hands of Indian military personnel or Kashmiri militants, was a constant reminder of the harsh reality of the times. The sloganeering during massive anti-State demonstrations was tempting, but the bullets piercing human bodies and the wails of mothers, sisters and wives forced one to be pragmatic. Mourning had become a routine affair, as if it was Kashmir’s destiny.

The pro-freedom songs had lured many young people to tread a path fraught with dangers and serious ramifications. Young men in their thousands had crossed the LoC to receive arms training in camps run by the Pakistani Army and its spy wing, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). I was too young to take such a life-turning decision then, of fighting the State with a gun in my hand. All my hands could handle well were a cricket ball and bat, as an off-spinning all-rounder, and a pen, which I hoped to put to good use in the years to come.

This edited extract from Kashmir: Rage and Reason has been published with permission from Rupa Publications.

 

 

 

 


Also read: ‘Bezzati ho gayi’: Why honour compels India & Pakistan’s regiments to fire across LoC


 

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14 Comments Share Your Views

14 COMMENTS

  1. More Kashmiri muslims were killed by Millitants than Kashmiri Pandits. It is a fact. One fact which no one knows, is that Kashmiri pandit community has always collaborated with the ruler. They were the active supporters of Afghan rulers and enjoyed leverage and even got access to the darbar at Kabul. When Kashmiris protested against tyrant dogra rule. Many Kashmiri muslims got killed on 13 July 1931, none among them was a pandit. What happened to them in 1990s was tragic. But it is hard to believe that 7 lakh armed forces couldn’t give protection to 1.5 lakh Pandits. Reason is simple, Pandits were lured into migration by Jagmohan by ensuring them a return after a general massacre of Kashmiri muslims. The forcible denial of access to foriegn media houses and agencies to valley and deporting many foriegn journalists from valley just before migration is an open evidence.

  2. Thank you for setting the record straight, Mr Geelani. My hope is that peace will return to Kashmir as will the Pandits.

  3. I am a Kashmiri pandit and have faced struggle & difficulties of living in refugee camps in Purkhoo, Muthi just like many others because our religion was not same as of the majority in Kashmir. The slogans still haunt Kashmiri Pandits as they were made the easy targets(had nothing to defend their homes and properties) as the community was oriented towards education rather indulging in Fights believed their neighbours have their backs that turned out to be a illusion soon when lakhs of locals came out on streets to shout “chaliv, Galiv yaa Raliv” means either “run , get killed or convert”. Sarla Bhat a nurse was gangraped before being killed and her naked body was thrown on the street. The killers of Ravinder Pandita of Mattan danced over his body. The bodies of Brijlal and Choti were tied to a jeep in Shopian and dragged for 10 km. All this shows how dominant the society is in Kashmir. I don’t think women deserve to be killed so brutally like this as “Islam” is considered a religion of Kindness. Also, she had nothing to do with the administration. Have many stories of such ignorant people who had nothing to do with Indian administration.
    It was out of hatred or may be different beliefs that still people there can’t believe the pain and trauma we went through. Killing even one innocent human is horrible and this article is about exagerrated numbers by Panun Kashmir. That shows the mentality and how human life is just about aggressive demonstrations & killing people who act as per their choice in the UT.
    Dominance in Kashmir is evident from these slogans :
    “Agar Kashmir Main Rehna Hoga, Allah-u-Akbar Kehna Hoga” .

  4. How does it matter anyway? The fact that there is a minimal percentage of kashmiri Hindus in the valley stands on its own and speaks for itself. Where were the kashmiri muslims in the 90’s when this genocide took place. Why didn’t they take a stand for their Hindu comrades?

  5. Many intellectual even the print media are saying these type of lies
    The facts is not just jklf even kashmiri Muslims were also part of this

    Who gave the speeches from masjid in loud speaker

    How lakshs and thousands people of mobs
    No they are not just jklf they were kashmiri Muslim too
    But left wing like the print scroll in ndtv they are all in denied mode

  6. The only reason why these Kashmiri Pandits are being used to abuse and guilt trip Muslims is because they are Brahmins. Yes, the numbers are highly exaggerated. Most of them ran away and spread lies.

    • Yeah because you were not there, none from your family got killed so surely how does it will even matter to you.

  7. Just another propaganda blog to divert from the reality of islamic extremism , how can you b so ignorant and heartless,
    There are a no. Of documentaries and news reports from international organizations and channels like bbc , showing the plight of helpless kashmiri pandits targeted solely becoz they were non-muslims. Are these organizations also run by right wing hindus?

    Nevermind, kashmir will continue to burn and face its karma as they are having curse of thousands of families which were forced out of there ancestors homes.

  8. Just another propaganda blog to divert from the reality of islamic extremism , how can you b so ignorant and heartless,
    There are a no. Of documentaries and news reports from international organizations and channels like bbc , showing the plight of helpless kashmiri pandits targeted solely becoz they were non-muslims. Are these organizations also run by right wing hindus?

    Nevermind, kashmir will continue to burn and face its karma as they are having curse of thousands of families which were forced out of there ancestors homes.

  9. Just another propaganda blog to divert from the reality of islamic extremism , how can you b so ignorant and heartless,
    There are a no. Of documentaries and news reports from international organizations and channels like bbc , showing the plight of helpless kashmiri pandits targeted solely becoz they were non-muslims. Are these organizations also run by right wing hindus?

    Nevermind, kashmir will continue to burn and face its karma as they are having curse of thousands of families which were forced out of there ancestors homes.

  10. Why then Pandora were asked to flee from the valley leaving behind their women and surrounded at night for hours together.Why you are making a mockery of their helplessness.Then to what lows will you to stoop to in protecting Kashmiri militants bent upon ethnic cleansing . You seem to mean the militants were simply targeting Indian sympathizers which amounts to an attempt at ethnic cleansing .Please point out why Govt of the State did nothing to stop this exodus and what leftists were doing to protect their countrymen.

  11. Did the left wing anytime has shown any sympathy towards Kashmiri pundits? They were busy making justification for the killing.

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