Return of Hindus to Kashmir - I
by Mohan Krishen Teng on 28 Oct 2011 15 Comments

The ethnic cleansing of the Hindus of Kashmir in 1990 was one of the few episodes after the Second World War in which a whole community of people was subjected to genocide and driven out of its natural habitat.

The terrorist violence with which the Muslim Jihad in Kashmir commenced in 1989 aimed to achieve a number of military objectives which the militant regimes and the Jihadi war-groups considered essential for the liberation of Jammu and Kashmir from ‘Indian occupation’. The ethnic extermination of Hindus was one of the primary objectives of the Jihad. The Hindus of Kashmir formed the Sanskrit component of the social culture of Kashmir and provided the Muslim majority state its secular identity. More importantly, Hindus formed the frontline of the resistance against the separatist movements in the State, which the Muslim separatist forces carried on for decades with the support of Pakistan.

Ever since the commencement of their exile, Hindus have been waiting for their return to the land of their birth, reiterating from time to time their resolve to return to their homes. The response of the Indian State to their remonstrations was always feeble and continues to be so; mainly because of the inability of the Indian political class to recognize the real import of the terrorist violence and its ineptitude in dealing with the Muslim Jihad with any firmness. The Indian political class closed its eyes, like ostriches, to the death and devastation that the terrorist violence brought to the Hindus of Kashmir and to the Hindus of the Muslim majority districts of Jammu province.

The Indian leaders never mustered courage to face the Jihad, without which the return and rehabilitation of the Hindus could not be achieved. Instead the Indian political class adopted a surreptitious policy of compromise with the Muslim separatist flanks. The Indian political class ascribed the terrorist violence to the alienation of the Muslims in the State which it traced to the inability of the political system to recognize the genuineness of the Muslim struggle for a separate freedom in Jammu and Kashmir. Assuming a position in between the Jihad and the Hindus of the State, the Indian political class sat on judgment on who had done what in the state, to fix the responsibility for Muslim alienation and the consequent upheaval in the State. Expectedly, the Jihad triumphed and the Hindus continued to smoulder in exile.

Genocide of Hindus

The genocide, the Hinds in Kashmir were subjected to and the exodus forced upon them by the terrorist regimes right from the moment they began their military operations in the State, was undertaken in accordance with a well laid out plan. The plan envisaged the ethnic extermination of the Hindus in the Kashmir province and the Muslim majority regions of the Jammu province to bring about the de-Sanskritisation of the part of the State situated to the west of the river Chenab and prepare the ground for its separation from the Shivalik plains, situated to the east of the river Chenab. The division of the State in between India and Pakistan had been proposed as a basis for settlement of the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir, by the United Nations mediator on Kashmir Sir Owen Dixon in 1950. When the terrorist regimes, extended their military operations to the Muslim majority districts of the Jammu province, they followed the same "scorched earth", policy there to bring about the ethnic extermination of the Hindus. In Kashmir as well as the Jammu province the first bullets fired by the militants were received by the Hindus.

The Hindus had always formed the frontline of the peoples' resistance to all forms of Muslim separatism in the State. The Hindus had fought for the freedom of the State from the British rule and when the freedom came, they had paid the heaviest price to defend it against the invading forces of Pakistan in 1947. Not many people in India know that more than thirty eight thousand of Hindus and Sikhs were killed by the invading armies across the territories of the state they over ran.

The first staggering blow which the Jihad delivered to the Hindus in Kashmir was the assassination of Tika Lal Taploo, a Kashmiri Pandit leader, who was widely respected in his community. A member of the National Executive of the Bharatiya, Janata Party, Taploo was an indefatigable man, who had fought untiringly against the marginalization of the Hindus in the State. Taploo was given a tearful farewell by thousands of the people of his community, who accompanied his funeral procession. While the funeral procession, carrying Taploo on his last journey, wound its way through the streets of Srinagar, stones were pelted on it.

The terrorist violence struck the Hindus in its full fury in January 1990. The death and destruction
it brought to the Hindus was widespread. Not much of what happened those days in Kashmir is known in the rest of the country as a concerted campaign of disinformation was carried on to camouflage the ravages the community of the Hindus was subjected to. By the end of the year, the death toll of the Hindus had risen to about eight hundred.

The white paper on Kashmir, the Joint Human Rights Committee, Delhi issued in 1996 noted : "A computation of the date of the massacred the Hindus on the of the reports in the local press, news papers published in Srinagar, and the other townships in Kashmir, reveals that the number of the Hindus killed ran into several thousands". The White Paper notes further "Among the killed were several hundred Hindus who were reported missing. Among the missing were many Hindus whose bodies were never identified and were disposed off by the State Government agencies at their will. Many of the Hindus still to be unidentified were Hindus."

The chaotic manner in which information about the killings were reported is shown by the following wireless message, transmitting information of the death of two Hindu men, in Srinagar to their kin in Jammu, "To SSP Jammu L.B. No: 13 from Police Control Room Srinagar, 25/6/1990. Please contact Shri Makhan Lal Sumbli H.No: 28 Bhagwati Nagar and inform him about the death of Som Nath S/o Shri Lassa Koul and Chaman Lal S/o Shyam Lal R/o Pattipora Bala, Chattabal, Srinagar, the above dead bodies were lying unidenified at Ali Jan Road. Signature of officer 1920 ToR, S.P. Police Control Room."

As the Jihadi war groups and the terrorist regimes settled down to carry on a prolonged war of attrition in Jammu and Kashmir, they changed their tactics. They reduced the frequency of sporadic surprise strikes on specifically identified targets to pre-planned major military strikes on Hindu localities to carry out mass-massacres. The mass massacres were brutal and had staggering effect on the entire community of the Hindus in the State. The massacres were carried out at different places in the Kashmir province : at Sangrahampora where eight people were killed; at Wandahama in North Kashmir, in January 1998, where twenty three Hindus were killed; at Anantnag in South Kashmir, where twelve Bihari labourers were killed in July 1999; at Chattisinghpora where thirty-six Sikhs were killed in March 2000; at Pahalgam, where thirty-two Hindus, including twenty-nine pilgrims to Amarnath Shrine, were kill in August 2000; and at Nadimarg, where twenty-four Hindus were killed in March 2002.

In the Jammu province, the mass massacres were widespread and the death-toll heavier. Seventeen Hindus were killed in Kishtwar during 13-14 August 1993; sixteen Hindus were killed in
Kishtwar in January 1996; Seventeen Hindus were killed in Simber, Doda in May 1996; twenty-nine Hindus were killed in Dakhikot Prankot, Doda in January 1998. Eleven Hindus (defence committee members) were killed in Dessa, Doda in May 1998; twenty nine Hindus were killed in Chapnari Doda, in June 1998; twenty Hindus were killed in separate terrorist attacks in Chinathakuri, and Shrawan, Doda in July 1998; seventeen Hindus were killed in Surankot Poonch in June 1999; fifteen Hindus were killed in Thatri, Doda, in July 1999; seventeen Hindus were killed in Manjakot Rajouri in March 2001; fifteen Hindus were killed in Cherjimorah, Dodain July 2001; Sixteen Hindus were killed in Sarothdhar, Doda in August 2001; Thirty four Hindus were killed in Kaluchak, Jammu in May 2002; twenty-nine Hindus were killed in Rajiv Nagar, Jammu in July 2002; seventeen Hindus were killed in Udhampur in March 2003; twelve Hindus were killed in Surankote, Poonch in June 2004; ten Hindus were killed in Budhal, Rajouri in October 2005; three of a Hindu family were killed in Chaal, Udhampur in April 2006; thirty Hindus were killed in Thana Kulhand, Doda in April 2006.


The Indian State failed in its rightful function to protect the Hindus in Kashmir from death and destruction, the terrorist flanks brought to them, they were left with no other course except to leave their homes to save their lives. The massacre of Hindus was timed to eliminate them physically and at the same time fill their hearts with terror to force them to leave Kashmir. The Hindus, unable to believe that they would be abandoned by the Indian state to face the Jihad as best they could offered themselves as easy targets for the terrorist flanks and allowed hundreds of their brethren to be killed. But as the holocaust enveloped them, they left their homes and hearths to save their lives and the lives of their children.

The White Paper on Kashmir noted: "A deliberately designed two-pronged plan to dislodge the Hindus from Kashmir was surreptitiously put into operation by the various terrorist Organisations. Several hit lists were circulated all over the Valley, in towns as well as villages. The hit lists were accompanied by rumors about the Hindus who were found by the militants to have been involved in 'Mukhbiri', complicity, with the Government of India. The rumors were deadly, because they made life uncertain".

The while Paper noted further: "In a number of towns and villages, the local people issued threats from the mosques and spread rumors charging the Kashmiri Hindus of conspiracy and espionage in order to break their resolve to stay behind. Larger number of prominent men among the Kashmiri Hindus, social workers, leaders and intellectuals were listed for death. Most of them escaped from the Valley secretly to avoid suspicion and interception.". The attack was open. The White Paper noted: "In the rural areas of the Valley, cadres of the secessionist organisations and their supporters, almost of every shade and commitment, the supporters of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front in the vanguard, did not hide their hostility towards the Hindus. At many places, even in Srinagar and the other townships, of Kashmiri, Hindus were openly charged of espionage for India. The indictment spelt death".

The exodus of the Hindus picked up pace as the summer set in. By the end of the year 1990, the larger part of the Hindu community of Kashmir had left. The rest followed as the terrorist violence intensified.

While the Hindus began to leave Kashmir the Jihadi flanks unfolded their plans to destroy the Sanskrit heritage of the Kashmir. The homes the Hindus left behind, were ransacked and after their properties were looted, burnt down. Within four years of the onset of the terrorist violence in Kashmir, 18,000, Hindus houses were burnt down, bombed and demolished. The White Paper on Kashmir noted: "Many of the houses were torched and during the last four years about 18,000 were either burnt down or destroyed. Many of the homes, which were not burnt, were occupied by mercenaries serving the militant organisations. The premises of the business establishment, shops and commercial establishments were also taken over by the Muslim activists who supported the militancy. In the rural areas, agricultural lands, orchards, and the lands attached to the burnt Hindu houses, were nibbled away by Muslim activists supporting various terrorist organisations. The cattle and the livestock left behind by the Hindus were sold for slaughter". In due of course of time as the militancy continued to ravage the province and the Muslim separatists forces and the Jihadi flanks gained the upper hand the Hindus were dispossessed whatever they owned their land, dilapidated structures of their homes, business establishments and other assets by what came to be called the distress sales.

The depredations the terrorist regimes wrought did not end with the destruction of Hindu localities, homes and properties. They attacked the temples and Hindu places of worship with iconoclast zeal. The minister of State for the Home Department of the Government of India told the Indian Parliament on 12 March 1993, that thirteen temples were desecrated and demolished in 1989, nine temples were damaged and demolished in 1990, and sixteen temples were damaged and demolished in 1991. The White Paper on Kashmir noted: "The actual number of temples demolished and damaged in Kashmir was much larger and vandalism to which the Hindu Shrines were exposed was widespread".

In the aftermath of the demolition of the Babri Majid, the militants and the Muslim mobs joined to attack the Hindu temples and places of worship. On 7 December, 1992, one day after this demolition of the Babri Majsid, two temples, one in Anantnag and one in Srinagar were burnt down. During the night of 7-8 December, thirteen temples : one each in Kulgam and Sopore; two in Tangamarg; three in Srinagar; and two in Tangamarge; three in Srinagar, and one each in the Anantnag, Uttrasu, Shadipur in Sumbal, Pahalgam and Verinag, were damaged and burnt down. On 9 December two temples were damaged and burnt down at Trehgam and Pattan. The demolition of the Hindu temples continued after 9 December, for many more days taking the number of the temples, desecrated damaged, demolished and burn down to thirty-nine. The White Paper on Kashmir noted: "After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the wanton destruction of the temples in Kashmir was reported by the press, though reservedly. Angry demonstrations and protest against the desecration and systematic demolitions were held by the Hindu refugees in Jammu and the other parts of the country". The protest evoked no response from the State Government or the Government of India.

The ancient ruins of the Hindu temples, most of them protected monuments of the Archeological Department of the State and the Archeological Department of the Government of India, were also subject to attack. The archeological remains of the ancient Hindu temples stood as an eloquent testimony of the Hindu heritage of Kashmir. The temple ruins were sacred to the Hindus, who visited them as a part of their tradition. At many place the ruins were dug up, in order to obliterate their last traces.

The Hindu religious places where Hindu cultural and social institutions and organisations were
located were subjected to bomb attack or burnt down. The Hindu educational institutions were burnt down or taken over. The entire organization of Hindu schools and colleges run by the Hindu educational societies including the institutions run by Hindu Educational Society, Dayanand Ayurvedic organisation and the Vishwar Bharti Trust were seized and taken over by the Muslim organisations supported by the militant flanks.

Reversal of Genocide

Genocide of the Hindus in Kashmir and their exile for decades has changed the geographical alignments of their community in the province of Kashmir and destroyed their social and economic base. The terrorist violence has obliterated the Hindu religious heritage of Kashmir and almost effaced the Hindus cultural identity. The return of Hindus to Kashmir can assume meaning and effect only in case the genocide is reversed. The issues which form the core of their return are : (a) the reconstruction of their economic and social base; restoration to them of their homes, land, properties, business establishment and institutions and assets; (b) recognition of their right to freedom of which the content is determined by the imperatives of secularism rather than the Muslim majority identity of the state; and (c) acceptance of their territorial claims in Kashmir in case of any settlement with the Muslims of Kashmir to reorganize the state into a separate Muslim sphere of power on the territories of India inside India or outside India.

No one can expect the Hindus to return to Kashmir without their sources of livelihood being restored them and a level of economic security ensured for them. They have lived as refugees in Jammu and the other part of India for two decades. They cannot be sent to live in Kashmir as refugees in impoverished camps at the charity of the world.

The Indian political class should realize that the Hindus have lived, almost all over the six decades of the Indian freedom, within the space provided for them by the precarious balance between the commitment of the Indian people to secularism and the Muslim majority identity of the State. The Indian leadership should realize that the Jihad has severely impaired this balance and obliterated the space for the Hindus to live in Kashmir. It must be noted that any attempt to force the Hindus to accept to live in the space earmarked for them by the Muslim identity of the State will prove disastrous for them.

For those who rule India, the return of the Hindus may be a mere change of face, the Muslim identity of the state is given. But for the Hindus of Kashmir it is a moment decision which will determine the future of their generations. The Government of India must apprise the Hindus of Kashmir about the baseline of its approach to any future settlement it is committed to reach with Pakistan on the one hand and Muslims of the State on the other. The Hindus do not want their return to be used as a first step towards turning Jammu and Kashmir into a separate Muslim sphere of power on the territories of India but independent of its constitutional organization.

The return of the Hindus to Kashmir is a historical necessity, not only for the Unity of Jammu and Kashmir, but for the unity of India. Any cosmetic effort to bring about the return of the Hindus to Kashmir, aimed to provide a secular face to what the Indian political class has brought about in Jammu and Kashmir, during the last two decades, will spell disaster for the Hindus and perhaps lead to developments which do not auger well for the whole country.

Prof MK Teng is Political Adviser, Panun Kashmir, and retired Professor & Head of the Political Science Department, Kashmir University, Srinagar
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