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The last night together: 19 January 1990

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By Dr Kashinath Pandit

It was the 19th of January 1990. Days were cold and nights bitter though there was no snow on the ground. Around 9 PM, loud and thunderous slogans of Allah-o- Akbar, Pakistan ka matlab kya/ La ila ha ilallah, Islam zindabad, Pakistan zindabad raised collectively by a multitude of humans and relayed through deafening loudspeakers pierced the eardrum. These slogans were not new to Pandits in Kashmir. However, the odd hour, the tumultuous bang and intriguing spontaneity besides shrieking loudspeakers, all spoke threateningly that a storm was brewing in Kashmir.

Suddenly, telephone bells began ringing loud in the houses of most of the Pandits in Srinagar. Mobile phones had not been introduced yet. Each caller on the other end of the line asked his relative, friend or the acquaintance whether they were all right. This question carried more meaning underneath its simple words. The caller told his respondent to come out of his house in that dark and dreary night and see for himself what a strange but alarming scene was unfolding on the streets and squares (chowk) of the capital city of Srinagar.

Scenes on the streets, squares and open spaces in the city were to be seen to be believed. Masses of the Muslim population, young, old, children, and women came out of their homes in the dark night, crowded the streets, gesticulating furiously and yelling slogans like aazaadi (freedom), Pakistan zindabad, Islam zindabad, la Ila ilallah, aazadi ka matlab kya/La ila ha ilallah, Kashmir Banega Pakistan etc. Crowds of people carried from their homes rugs, carpets, mats and furnishing, whatever and spread it out on the streets and squares. They brought wood and lit bonfires to keep their bodies warm. Women and children, strongly clad in winter dress, were noisier. People sat, squatted, danced, shook fists made violent gesticulation as loudspeakers were fixed and microphones blurred a mix of Quranic verses, revolutionary songs, anti-India vitriolic and the supremacy of Islamic faith… Islamism, profuse admiration for Pakistan, stories of the heroes of early Arab conquests, the paradise created by Allah for the pure (momin) and hellfire for the kafir (unbelievers) etc. were the major themes of their outpouring. The crux of these surcharged utterances was that all symptoms of kufr (heresy), but-parasti ( idolatry) and dualism as with the Hindus had to be cleansed from darul salam (the place of peace) meaning Kashmir. Spirited stories of the heroes of early Islamic were recounted to convey Islam’s might of destroying non-believers. This rant continued till wee hours. The message for Kashmiri Pandits was that they were in the line of fire.

Like frightened pigeons, they huddled up in their nests and kept vigil throughout the night. Not a single soul came out of his house. The night-long tirade against non-Muslims snatched whatever remnant of peace of mind was left with them. For the first time in the history of Kashmir, this open and unabashed tirade was let loose against them on such a massive scale.

The administration collapsed. Law and order were thrown to winds. The police deserted their posts. The Hindus could not muster the courage to come out and see their close relatives. Their survival was hanging in balance.

Overnight their Muslim neighbours changed colour. Apparently, as if the Muslims had thrown off the mask they wore for centuries. In a few days, the entire atmosphere changed and the Pandits came to be recognized ‘the other.’

The government was knocked out by a single night of mod defiance and revolt. Next morning not a single policeman was visible anywhere. They had withdrawn to their barracks or hid in their homes. Administrative machinery collapsed, law and order crumbled.

From next morning viz. January 20, 1990, it was the rule of the mosque, the mullah and the Islamists. Loudspeakers fixed to mosque-tops blurred uninterruptedly cautioning the Pandits to leave Kashmir. The refrain of their slogans was: “Asih gatsih Kasheer Bhattav bag air battehnew san ) (We want our Kashmir without Pandit males but with their women folks). This shameful and shocking slogan will shame every decent Muslim.

Hate campaign carried forward through barbaric and inhuman violence, struck fear among entire Hindu community in Kashmir to the extent that anybody prepared to show even the slightest goodwill to them was faced with the threat to life. Al Safa, a local Urdu daily minced no words in telling the Pandits to leave Kashmir within hours if they wanted to save their lives and honour. Loudspeakers fixed to mosque tops blurred a profusion of warnings.

More anti-India demonstrations were staged. Demonstrators were mad with rage, hatred and revenge. Fear-stricken Hindus (Pandits) did not find any source to provide them with the safety of life. In its evening news bulletin, Radio Kashmir (a state-run organ) listed the names of the Kashmiri Pandits gunned down by the terrorists. The gruesome stories unnerved the community members. They did not reach the majority community for protection because the minds and hearts had gone through a metamorphic change. The dynamics of secretive militancy so rigidly drilled into the heads of the actors was of the level that the son returning after receiving training in PoK never disclosed to his parents and family members where he had been and on what mission. Indoctrination was of the level that even parents fear their sons. This is best explained in the television interview which Bitta Karate gave to the security officials after he was arrested and interrogated by security agencies. When asked how many Hindus he had gunned down, he said that he had lost the count after twenty-two.

This was the last night which the five-thousand-year-old indigenous population of Shaivite civilization of Kashmiri Pandits spent together in their homeland. They had somehow braved the cataclysm of eight centuries of Muslim autocratic rule but, alas, the decimation of this ancient and indigenous community happened under the benevolence of “secular democratic” India. Now, ours is a homeless community dispersed over all the four corners of the world.

Epilogue

Muslim United Front floated by Kashmir Jamat-i-Islami alleged that National Conference had undertaken a massive rigging in the assembly elections of1986. Its candidates were manhandled and incarcerated by NC goons. As a reaction, the MUF pledged to avenge NC’s denial of rightgs and oppression. It conceived the plan of raising Kashmir armed insurgency, something for which Pakistan and its ISI were looking for.

Between July and December 1989, while the NC-Congress coalition government was in place in J&K, there were no fewer than 1600 big or small incidents of terrorism, firing, bomb blasting etc. in Kashmir Valley. Hundreds of Kashmiri youth, sympathizers of MUF and activists of Jamaat-i-Islami took Srinagar-Sopor-Kowari and Muzaffarabad route landing in the terrorist training camps established by Pakistan’s top intelligence agency ISI and run by the retired Generals of the Pakistani army. Many of them sneaked back in Kashmir with arms, ammunition and Islamic ideology. Farooq and his party NC was fully informed about their activities. The State police had arrested many of them but in July 1989, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah issued orders of their release from the jail despite the fact that a case of keeping illegal arms and sedition against the state was pending in a Srinagar court of law.

The seventy-odd activists released from the jail on Farooq’s orders in July 1989 belonged to J&K Liberation Front, an anti-India armed organization formed in PoK with the guidance and support of ISI and reinforced by the PoK Diaspora in London under the control of Amanullah Khan originally of Astore. In Kashmir, Jthe KLF armed men found full freedom to indulge in their subversive activities and State government was complacent. Intermittent firing and bomb- blasting became a routine in Srinagar.

On 13 September 1989, JKLF murderers gunned down Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, the BJP Chief of Kashmir province in the broad daylight outside his residence in Srinagar. This sent a shock to the entire Hindu community. On 4 November 1989 JKLF gunmen gunned down Justice Nila Kanth Ganjoo, the judge who had given death punishment to the founder of JKLF, Muhammad Maqbul Bhat for the murder of a Bank officer and a CID inspector. In December, Pandit Avtar Krishen Raina, Deputy Director, Food Supplies was gunned down in his office in Srinagar because he had questioned his subordinates how a truckload of good grains was diverted to the militants.

Indications were clear that the Hindus were in the throes of destruction. Up to 19 January 1990. The exodus day, as many as 20 innocent Hindus were murdered in cold blood. Sensing that situation was getting worse in Kashmir, the Central government then headed by V.P. Singh with Mufti Saeed as Home Minister, sent Shri Jagmohan as the new Governor of J&K. As this announcement was made, Dr Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest saying that Jagmohan was not acceptable to him The crisis was deepening in Srinagar and Farooq took a flight to London to join his wife and whiled away his time in playing golf and going to clubs. The ministers of the dissolved council of ministers rushed to Jammu and occupied government quarters to which they were no more entitled after resigning. The former ministers became key to establishing contacts with the militant leadership whose representatives kept meeting them clandestinely but regularly.
The government had been toppled, law and order derailed. In April Mirwaiz Molavi Muhammad Farooq was gunned down in his home by two or three JKLF gunmen accusing him of having a soft corner for the Government of India. The mobs of Kashmiri Muslims brought out a huge crowd of protestors over the killing of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq. Near Gaw Kadal, some miscreants among the militants fired some shots at the security forces moving in armoured vehicles. As a result of return fire by the security forces, dozens of protesting civilians got killed or injured.

The killing of innocent Hindus of Kashmir was accelerated by the JKLF barbarians after 19 January and in the next, three or four months about 500 of them were selectively killed. Details of these killings have been preserved.

This forced the devastated Hindu community to leave their homeland and seek shelter at a safer place. Interestingly, while the government resigned and the administration collapsed and the Pandits were forced to flee their homes and hearths, not a single soldier of Indian army was seen on the streets of Srinagar or elsewhere. Had the government ordered the city to be taken over by the army on the night of 19 January 1990, the unfortunate Hindus of Kashmir valley would have been saved the exodus and destruction of their properties. In April 1990, Rubiya Saeed, the daughter of Mufti Muhammad intervened, the Home Minister of India at that time was kidnapped by allegedly by the militants and released after three days. It is said that Saifuddin Soz, the Congress leader, negotiated a deal with Pakistani authorities and managed the safe release of Mufti’s daughter. What were the terms of the deal with the militant organizations has had a mystery so far?

By the end of summer in 1990, nearly four lakh Kashmiri Hindus had left their homes and hearths, lands, orchards, shops, business, services, livestock and everything. In penury, they eked out a living in the burning cauldron of Jammu some to be consumed by sunstrokes, some by the reptiles and some by drowning in the canal. The Kashmir radicalized political leadership spread the canard that the Pundits had not fled but were enticed by Governor Jagmohan to leave Kashmir so that ” he would wreak vengeance on the Muslim population.” Such are the vagaries of human nature.
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of the Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University, Srinagar’ knp627@gmail.com).

Kashmir issue: the Norwegian link

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By K.N. Pandita

About a year ago, a Kashmiri Pandit organization named Roots in Kashmir filed a petition with the Supreme Court supplicating for reopening of the subject of ethnic cleansing and violation of human rights of the displaced community. The Supreme Court turned down the petition asserting that it was a twenty-five-year-old issue and culling out the evidence would be an uphill task. However, only some weeks ago, the Supreme Court, while adjudicating the case of Sikh genocide of 1984, gave life imprisonment to one of the culprits. The Supreme Court is also hearing the five hundred year-old Ramjanam Bhumi-Babri Masjid dispute.

The dichotomy in meting out equitable justice to the aggrieved party in an almost identical case, nay actually more recent than the Sikh genocide tragedy, has become a mystery for the displaced community. Reacting to the selective approach of the Supreme Court, various Pandit organizations in Jammu including one with global reach have, during the past two weeks or more, come out publicly with the demand that their case of ethnic cleansing, genocide, extirpation from their homeland, forcible occupation of their immovable properties and vandalizing of their shrines and temples is reopened by the authorities and justice is done to them. Some of them even expect that after the 1984 riots verdict, the Supreme Court of India should, on moral grounds, take suo moto cognizance of the genocide and ethnic cleansing in 1990 that has led to the decimation of the five-thousand-year-old Shaivite civilization of the indigenous community of Kashmiri Pandits. This act of obliteration of a community directly contravenes the fundamental principle of the United Nations that indigenous communities anywhere on the globe have to be provided full protection for survival and perpetuation of their traditions.

The displaced community has other reasons as well to invoke the law of the land, the constitutional propriety of the state and the conscience of the Indian civil society to what gross injustice and atrocities have been perpetrated particularly on the basis of their religious beliefs and traditions.

Sometimes back the Chairman of the UN Human Rights Council, after he visited Kashmir, produced a report for the Council on the status of alleged human rights violations in the strife-torn Kashmir. Sadly, his knowledge of Kashmir turmoil begins with the killing of a militant called Burhan Wane and ends with the few killings taken place more recently as a result of cross firing during encounters between the security forces and the externally supported militants. The Pandit community is fully aware of how this report was manipulated and who the manipulators were. This notwithstanding, their complaint is that the Chairman advertently excluded from his travel itinerary the plight of the displaced community, the genocide and the ethnic cleansing and other atrocities to which they were subjected in Kashmir on the basis of their faith. Whether his account of alleged violations of the rights of Kashmirian civil society is true or not is not the subject of discussion right now. But willfully ignoring their plight and gross violation of their human rights by the Chairman of the UN Human Rights Council puts a big question mark on his impartiality and integrity. It is for the Human Rights Council to decide the essential pre-requisites for a person to be its head.

thMore recently, Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik, Founder and Chief of Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights also visited Kashmir. He is the two-time former Prime Minister of Norway, a country reputed for its commendable contribution to the United Nations’ peace programme and conflict resolution process. In Srinagar, he was reported to have met with the pro-Pakistan accession leaders meaning both factions of the Hurriyat plus the JKLF (Kashmir) chief. He is also reported to have met with the Bar Association of Kashmir and the Chamber of Commerce, both known for their advocacy of Kashmir militancy. After concluding his visit to the valley, Mr. Bondevik travelled to Muzaffarabad where he is reported to have interacted with PoK leaders and particularly with Salahu’d Din, the Chairman of United Jihad Council and the chief commander of Hizbul Mujahedeen, the main armed group fighting the security forces in Kashmir Valley. Additionally, Mr. Bondevik is reported to have visited the LoC on the side of PoK where he must have been shown the sites where shells may have fallen when there are cross-LoC firing and shelling.

There are some hints indicating that the visit of this distinguished human rights activist has had the green signal from both the countries for helping negotiate a solution of Kashmir tangle. Though Bondevik declined that he was on a mediation mission yet recalling the modality of negotiating a peace deal between the Sri Lankan Government and the LTTE which he had conducted painstakingly, we need to give him credit for undertaking an arduous mission. If he is able to forge an equitable deal between the two antagonistic neighbours it will be a landmark event in the history of the subcontinent.

However, we have certain reservations in the context of Mr Bondevik’s Kashmir visit. Essentially, we expect him to be meticulously impartial and unbiased if he wants to reach the core of the problem. Let me list the reservations succinctly. There are some fundamentals of Kashmir issue which cannot be overlooked or underestimated when negotiations are initiated. Kashmir is not only the valley but three regions diverse in everything. There has been an armed insurgency in Kashmir sponsored, abetted and supported by Pakistan. The armed insurgency has led to the genocide and extirpation of a minuscule Hindu minority of the Valley. In early 1990 when religion-based extremist insurgency raised its head in Kashmir the elected government of the State and the Union both failed to provide them with the protection of life and honour. Mr Bondevik did not find it necessary to meet with the representatives of the other two regions or the displaced community numbering nearly half a million, with most of them living in refugee camps. While he found time to visit the LoC on PoK side he did not have time to visit any of the camps of the internally displaced persons or those displaced from the Indian side of the LoC owing to firing and shelling by Pakistani border forces. The scenario eloquently reflects Mr. Bondevik’s own words, “Religion like patriotism is easy to misuse for political purposes.”

The displaced Pandit community strongly upholds the importance of eschewing violence while trying to find a solution to the Kashmir riddle. It is so not only because the members of Kashmir religious minority have suffered wanton killings and ethnic cleansing but also because the Oslo Centre’s basics speak of peace, democracy and human rights. We have also noted that the separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the Hurriyat Conference is seeking “outside help to resolve” an issue which has exactly sprung from his almost identical urge for “outside help” in 1990 and thereafter. He feels proud when Pakistan says that it will extend full help to him and the movement he is leading in Kashmir.

Mr Bondevik claims he has identified the people of Kashmir as the “third party to the dispute”. In the first place, the correct nomenclature would be India, Pakistan and the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Secondly, by using the term “people of Kashmir’” the renowned Norwegian human rights activists has – hopefully unintentionally – excluded the entire segment of about half a million indigenous community of Kashmiri Pandits (Hindus) now living as Internally Displaced Persons outside Kashmir for last twenty-nine years. Neither the State government nor the local civil society, and not any humanitarian agency has taken up their case of extirpation from their homeland and of bringing them back to safe and secure environs. This is tantamount to rubbing salt into their wounds. As such, any deal with the Kashmir majority only and to the exclusion of the indigenous religious minority of Kashmiri Pandits will be a fractured one and not tenable in the eyes of international law and the Charter of Human Rights of the UN.

We have also taken note of Mr Bondevik’s reference to UN Resolutions on Kashmir. We believe that he is fully aware of the causes that made these resolutions defunct and meaningless. These resolutions have become defunct for two reasons. One is that Pakistan failed to fulfill the obligation of pulling out all of its forces and fighting personnel from the part of Kashmir under its illegal occupation, and the second is that according to the Charter of the UN, when two warring countries mutually sign a peace agreement (Shimla Agreement in present case) all resolutions of the UN become redundant. Essentially, the fault lies with the Security Council which has tried to treat an aggressor and an aggressed on an even keel.

Put in simple and forthright idiom, the crux of Kashmir dispute is that Pakistan failed in grabbing Kashmir militarily way back in 1947- 48, and is now trying to take recourse to the double strategy of fomenting armed insurgency on the one hand and asking for peace talks on the other, strangely through institutions that are of highest repute like the one in Oslo which Mr Bondevik is heading.

The displaced Pandits have reacted to this entire scenario. Their global Diaspora has become pro-active and intends to move the matter at all important international platforms beginning with the UNHRC and western parliaments to garner support from the world communities that ardently believe in democracy and human rights. Its objective is to get the world body’s recognition of their ethnic cleansing and genocide. It is satisfying to note that the sane and matured leadership of the displaced community has risen to the occasion so much so that even a legislator, too, has, for the first time, passionately demanded that the case is opened for meting out justice to the victimized religious minority.

I would like to conclude this write-up with one more quote from the distinguished human rights activist from Norway, which will be very apt and very true only if the word Palestine is replaced with “Kashmiris”, viz. “The burden of proof is now on the Palestinians (read Kashmiris) … They must fight terrorism and dismantle its infrastructures in order to make possible progress on the roadmap.”
(The writer is the former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University).

Security Council’s Resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir – an analysis

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By K.N. Pandita

Introductory

Prior to the partition of India on August 15, 1947, and the withdrawal of the British colonial rule, the North Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, one of the 570 odd big or small princely states of the British Indian Empire had to decide about its future once the British paramountcy lapsed. The princely states enjoyed nominal autonomy within the parameters of British suzerainty. What would be their status after the British had left. Continue Reading…

Dismantling cobwebs of confusion

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By K.N. Pandita

Let me begin with spotlight on accelerated counter-terrorist strikes by the valiant boys of General Rawat. No less admiration goes to the gallant State police forces actively collaborating with the security forces. Ability of forces to zero in on the terrorist hideouts takes the wind out of their sails. We know why they target police personnel and their families. Ultimately, it is these brave hearts who will, sooner or later, announce the grand finale of the burial of terrorism in Kashmir. In subtotal, this is the response of the Indian State to the cacophony of initiating bilateral talks with Pakistan. The deception of terror and talks does not work with General Rawat In days to come, the might of the State will show its teeth and the terrorists will be hotly pursued, hounded out and gunned down. Their mourners will retire to heave a sigh of relief. Continue Reading…

Kashmir through the Ages

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By Kashinath Pandit

Part I: Ancient Kashmir

Ancient Kashmirian scriptures call the land as Kashmir Mandala. Many virtues are attributed to it like the land of the spiritualists and of piety. The term Kashmir (or Kashmir) is variously interpreted. Indian antiquarians consider it composed of Ka meaning water in Sanskrit and Meera meaning dried up land. Herodotus and Ptolemy have called it Kaiser and Kasperia respectively. In Khurasan, the western province of Iran, there is a town by the name of Kashmar. However, Iranian etymologists have not established the etymological construct of the word. Continue Reading…

BJP and Jammu region in retrospect

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By K.N. Pandita

Riding the Modi high-tide in 2014 assembly election, BJP Jammu region bagged 25 seats, an unprecedented performance in the State. Traditional parties like NC and Congress received a drubbing. PDP did not find the type of response it expected from the Muslim majority segments of the region. Despite putting its best foot forward by resorting to ambivalent polemics and pseudo-secularist jargon, PDP election strategy then did not go well with the Muslim segments of Jammu region. The voters were conscious of the consequences of saddling a militancy-born political group into the seat of power. The constituencies of NC and PDP considerably shrank in Jammu region primarily because of their ambivalence. Continue Reading…

J&K acceded to the Indian Union

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By By K.N. Pandita

True story of accession is somewhat shrouded in mystery. A number of versions are afloat. Pakistani version is that the accession was never made and the document called Instrument of Accession is a fake one. They also say it was signed under duress. This line of thinking persists with some of our so-called “progressive” historians as well. If not contradicted and falsified vigorously a day may come when those who were premier party to the accession will sing to the Pakistani tune. Continue Reading…

Re-structuring of the RR Headquarter?

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By K.N. Pandita

In a recent issue, the Daily Excelsior of Jammu informed that the Army was contemplating re-structuring of the Rashtriya Rifles Headquarters for better operational capability and strategic and logistic efficacy. Rashtriya Rifles (RR) force was raised soon after armed insurgency surfaced in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. Ever since, the force with headquarters in New Delhi, has been fighting the jihadi armed groups raised in Pakistan and helped to sneak into our side of the border across both LoC and International border. Continue Reading…

The breaking of Kashmir impasse

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By K.N. Pandita

In all probability the stalemate in J&K is finally heading towards an end and the legislators hitherto hibernating in suspended animation are gearing up for resumption of their normal function of law making. The political scenario unfolding now in Srinagar and New Delhi shows that stakeholders were silently working out a formula for breaking the impasse. It seems that good wisdom has prevailed and re-alignment of forces is round the corner. Political parties were given adequate time to cobble a government capable of delivering the goods. Continue Reading…

The penchant for rabble-rousing

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By K.N. Pandita

In early August complete hartal for two days was observed in the entire Muslim belt of J&K State. Kashmir Valley is used to strikes in past decades but Sunday strike had one peculiarity. It was prominently noticeable in the Chenab Valley Muslim belt. That indicates deviation of this region from its known behaviour to calls from valley leadership in the past. Continue Reading…