Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits
by Aditya Raj Kaul on 21 Jan 2009 9 Comments

[On 19 January 1990, Kashmiri Hindus were asked to quit home and hearth in their own country. Lakhs were killed, homes looted, girls and women subjected to unspeakable atrocities. The Central Government provided them refuge in camps lacking even basic amenities. Today, even after 28 years, they have not been adequately rehabilitated, nor serious attempts made to help them return home with honour. As the world and much of the nation’s political elite remained mute, Hindus observed 19 January as Kashmiri Hindu Displacement Day – Editor]

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day
What hours, O what black hours we have spent…

                                                    - Gerard Manley Hopkins

19 January 1990. Kashmir was breathing still; Kashmiri Pandits lay hidden like frightened pigeons in their own nest. Today on behalf of my fellow brothers and sisters, I wish to revisit the pain of separation from my own home 19 years ago, when the cruel hands of Allah-wallahs butchered members of my community for being ‘idol worshipers,’ for rejecting the call for unholy jihad and for siding with their own nation, India.

The marauders played dire warnings from mosques which pierced each nerve of anybody with a Hindu name. As the sun turned pale, the exhortations became louder, and three taped slogans repeatedly played their terror: 'Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai' (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah is great); 'Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa' (What do we want here? Rule of Shariah); 'Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san' (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women, but without their men).

The roots of this unparalleled tragedy lie in 1986 with a well-planned strategy to expel Hindus from the valley. By 1990, the populace saw its age-old temples turned to ruins and their own lives at risk. As Pakistan stepped up its campaign against India, new Islamic terror outfits suddenly mushroomed in the state. As Jamait-e-Islami financed all madarsas to poison them against the minority Hindus and India, Pakistan instigated youth to launch Jihad against India. A terror strike so meticulously planned was terrifying. Camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) began training innumerable Muslim men, and India witnessed the emergence of the bloodiest Kalashnikov culture in the valley. The victims were innocent and non-violent Kashmiri Pandits.

Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah abandoned his responsibilities. Today, 22 years later, his son Omar Abdullah has assumed the same majestic throne, but one wonders if like his father he will leave the minority Hindus helpless as always, or rise above politics and religion to create space for Pandits in their valley?

When Farooq Abdullah escaped underground, Jagmohan took the reigns as Governor of the state. Despite the difficult socio-political situation, he displayed remarkable leadership in helping Kashmiri Pandits receive safe shelter. He charted out an exceptional strategy to counter Islamic fanatics and opened his Durbar (Office) to the public irrespective of the time. He visited the families of martyred Hindus.

Regarding one such meeting with the family of Satish Tickoo, murdered by JKLF goon Bitta Karate, he wrote in ‘My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir’- “In Habba-Kadal, except for the long row of our vehicles, nothing was seen on the streets. The afternoon rain appeared to have soaked the houses with depression. The few windows that were open were without even the usual dim light. The dark clouds overhead completed the picture of gloom… The house of Tickoo was like a shattered nest. Everything lay scattered. The grim atmosphere around told the tale more vividly...”

He further wrote, “As I was about to leave, Satish’s uncle who was a bit vociferous and assertive, insisted that I should go upstairs and see the family deity. I agreed. A calm majestic figure was soon visible. It looked so imposing even in the darkness… With tears in their eyes, the family members thanked me and the accompanying officers. We were all moved over the sad plight of the family”.

Yet what mirrored my anxiety of 19 years: “Looking at the compact and enmeshed houses, and the by-lanes which acted like fine threads of a well-knit fabric, I wondered how these families, who had all their Gods and Goddesses here, and had deep roots in the soil, could leave and settle in distant and unfamiliar lands. Sometimes life is unaccountably cruel. And we human beings have, perhaps, no option but to suffer – suffer in silence, or wail”.

Satish Tickoo was not the lone martyr who fell to the bullets of so-called revolutionaries. Tika lal Taploo, Nilkanth Ganjoo, Sarla Bhat, and countless others followed the target list of JKLF and other terror outfits backed by Pakistan financially, psychologically and politically. An absentee government, collapsed administration, and a petrified community saw despondency set in. As the moonlight of 19 January 1990 wore itself out, despondency gave way to desperation. Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits across the valley took an agonizing decision to flee their homeland and save their lives and religion from rabid Jihadis

Thus did a twentieth century Exodus take place.

Pandits left the valley, approximately 3.5 lakhs. Nearly one thousand Pandit men, women and children were slaughtered in 1990 alone by the soldiers of Islam, though official figures logged only 209! Alas! Soon the J&K government may disown the entire Pandit community as aborigines of Kashmir.

Nineteen years later, a few hundred frightened Pandits still live scattered across the valley in far-flung areas, hoping against hope for peace and for their brethren to step on the snow once again.

This 19th year embarks upon a history of bullets to makeshift camps in Jammu in tortuous summer heat, to snake and scorpion bites, and dreadful diseases. Seven camps in Jammu are an uninhabitable asylum for around 50,000 Pandits. The only perceptible change is an upgradation of some to permanent structures.

My heart bleeds when I watch communal-turned-pseudo-secular Kashmiri separatists grab the headlines, while the plight of Pandits is dismissed as a non-issue. It isn’t the so-called Azaadi that the people of Kashmir desire. They long for an immediate crackdown on terrorists, an end to the separatist elements and those unbearable puppets in the Valley – so normalcy can return. Though sidelined for now, the political patronage they enjoy could soon see Hurriyat and JKLF once again spreading terror and hatred.

An entire community uprooted from its ancestral land is today struggling for its identity. The weak-kneed Indian state shamelessly panders to Islamic terrorists and separatists who claim they are the final arbiters of Jammu & Kashmir's destiny. A part of India's cultural heritage is destroyed; a chapter of India's civilization has been erased. But our jholawallah brigade unabashedly turns its back to the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. For them ‘Hindu sorrow inflicted by Islamic terror’ is a truth too harsh to accept. Thereby hangs a tragic tale completely wiped out from public memory.

I am as old as the terrorism in the Valley. In these 19 years, the only time I felt the breeze of my land was through the closed windows of my airplane. She beckons me and I too am desperate to grab her serene quilt. My mother summons me, I shall answer her call soon, very soon…

The author is a founder member of Roots in Kashmir and United Students; he can be reached at

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