[This article has been submitted by Praveen Koul, a Kashmiri Pandit. Born in
Budgam, his family moved to a refugee camp in Jammu, he grew up listening to stories of his home in Budgam and the atrocities that forced his family to
flee. He hopes of going back to his ancestral home one day]
Today, twenty four years after the day mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits began in valley, a delegation of Pandits met Narendra Modi with memorandum. It said,“Challenge to the idea of Indian Nation state continues in Kashmir in one or the other form. Extirpation of entire Kashmiri Hindu religious minority is one of its worst manifestations. This religious identity has suffered ignobility and tragedy of exodus in the past as well, but the mass exodus of 1990 is one of the worst scars as it happened in ‘Secular, Democratic and Free India’.” Mr Modi said, “No words will ever explain the extent of suffering Kashmiri Pandits experienced. Justice towards the community remains our firm commitment,” His words reaffirm my hope the he remains the only hope for the community.
I still remember the stories of horror i used to hear as a child. The
refugee camp of Jammu was seeing fresh faces each week. Their eyes swollen from grief betrayed the outward calmness. We were lucky to have escaped the selective killings when we migrated in mid 90s. We lost all we had and somehow i feel glad that my family ignored the government assurances of valley being safe for Pandits. Those who stayed were murdered in cold blood. Pandits were selectively called out and shot with no mercy shown to women, children, old or weak. The government response remained meek to the genocide by murderous Islamists. Most of us thought the government was complicit by inaction. Pandits were being eliminated in massacres every day. There was no hue and cry in media, no candle marches for us. Killings of pandits was reduced to a small story somewhere in the newspaper.
A survivor of Nandimarg massacre narrated the chilling events to a
representative of Panun Kashmir that i remember to this day. A day after the
massacre, it was a terrible scene in the village. Blood and body parts were
littered everywhere. At the carnage site, shoes, blankets and lantern were
scattered. A correspondent of a leading English daily wrote, “once a
prosperous village, Nadimarg today presented a look of war ravaged hamlet.
The difference was that instead of helmets of soldiers, the boots and the
caps of the innocent civilians were scattered everywhere. The killers had
dumped the bodies on the spot as if they wanted vultures to eat them. It was
a scene that could even send a cold-hearted person to a virtual shock. A
large row of bodies, wrapped in a shroud, with blood making its way out of
the thin white coffin”.
The cremation was delayed by the administration for the arrival of the chief
minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. But no politician or official of the
administration stayed back for cremation. As the bodies were being lined up
for funeral, an old Pandit who could not walk, wept bitterly at the verandah
of his house and said, “I have not lost just my family. I feel my roots have
ditched me. I will never belong to Kashmir again”.
The then Deputy Prime Minister, LK Advani visited the massacre site. Pandits
were inconsolable and accused Mufti government for not providing security
despite requests made to government. The people shouted slogans against Mr Advani and Mr Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and attacked ‘healing touch policy’. The chief minister had to face serious embarrassment, when Pandits shouted, “we want migration, J&K Police Hai Hai. Healing Touch Hai Hai”. DGP and senior police officials were hooted down. A lone survivor of a family, wiped out in the carnage, shouted at Mr Advani and Mufti Sayeed that he too must “be shot dead”. He asked them, “what for I have to live now, kill me, please, kill me”. He asked Mr Advani what they had given to the Pandit community except for “death and destruction”. When the Pandits demanded dismissal of Mufti government, he told them the NDA government would use Article 356 only in extreme cases.
I never believed Mr. Advani would be able to do much for us. A lot of
massacres in Kashmir took place when NDA govt. was in power. Mr. Advani was Deputy PM and the Home Minister. Despite being a refugee himself, he could not do enough to ensure saftey of Pandits in Valley. Though his government had asked pandits to come back to valley but If government could not protect eight thousand Pandits left in the Valley, how could it talk of return of more than two lakh displaced members of the community. Despite our pain, and the Kargil war Mr. Advani chose to go to Pakistan to declare Jinna a secular. It was hint of shifting ideology. Pandits were once again victim of the hunt for secular votes
I sometimes wonder why, those who refuse to let 2002 go very conveniently
forget us. When a riot is called pogrom but targeted killings of Pandits is
not called a genocide. The champions of human rights see the pain of
minorities in Gujarat but ignore the minorities of Kashmir. Somehow talking about Pandits has become communal and politically incorrect. The commissions and interlocutors who go to Kashmir mostly ignore Kashmiri Pandits. Ethnic cleansing that began in 80′s seem complete but for handful of Pandits who are determined to take back what is rightfully theirs. I see hope in Modi because he talks of Justice for all and appeasement to none. I have the hope that one day he will help us go back to our land, where we belong.