J&K: Return of the Hindu Exiles
by Naveen Kaul on 16 Apr 2015 5 Comments

In the recent days there has been considerable furore on the issue of the return of Kashmiri Hindus inside the J&K Legislative Assembly and outside on the streets of Srinagar valley. The separatists in the valley are orchestrating violence on the streets, raising slogans against the central government’s move to build exclusive housing colonies for ousted Hindu families, to facilitate their return. The Peoples Democratic Party and the National Conference members, led by their respective canny leaders, are raising slogans against the centre’s plan to rehabilitate Kashmiri Hindus in the secured zones.


Almost one generation of Hindus has passed away since the exodus. This generation kept waiting in agony till the end of their lives to return to their native place. The new generation, born in exile or just a few years before the forced exile, has never visited their natal home in these 25 years. Though unfamiliar with the valley, they are as eager as the older generation to know and visit their ancestral land. It is now even more uncertain how many years they will have to wait for a dignified return. How long will Hindus be denied the right to live in their native land as per their wishes?


Before discussing the current events related to the issue, it is imperative to state that no rehabilitation policy by any government has the power to give back to the Hindu community of Kashmir what they have lost over the years. But this is not the place for this discussion. It is unfortunate that secular India took 25 years to discuss the return of Hindus who were brutally hounded out of the valley. But better late than never.


It is well-known that the separatists and mainstream political parties in the valley were directly and/or indirectly involved in the ethnic cleaning of Hindus from the valley. The same parties are now opposing the return tooth and nail. These parties say that Kashmiris Hindus should come and live in their houses as they lived before their displacement – amidst Muslim neighbours – and not demand separate colonies. Quite laughable! Tormentors advising and deciding what the tormented need!


Things need to be put in perspective. The arguments put forth by separatists and mainstream valley-based political parties alike, is that settling Hindus in secured zones will lead to ghettoization and change in demography of Kashmir. They claim it is a conspiracy to change the demographic (read Muslim majority) character of the valley.


But the forces opposing the secured zones should know that the main objective of settling Hindus in secured zones is to ensure speedy rescue to these people in times of crisis. It is easier for security forces to protect people concentrated in few zones than to protect people dispersed across a wide region (which is what made the exodus possible in the first place). It is also administratively and economically viable to man a few segregated places than an entire valley.


The argument of conspiracy does not hold water as Kashmiri Hindus comprise just one percent of the entire population in the valley. Even if each one of them returns, how can that change the demographic character of the valley? Twenty-five years is a long time in the life of any community. In these 25 years, some of the community members have built their lives outside the valley, across India, and some outside India. It is naïve on the part of Kashmiri Muslims to believe that all of them will return to valley.

In such a scenario, the Hindus who do return will not comprise even one percent of the valley’s population; 99.5 percent will remain Muslim. It is therefore incomprehensible how this will lead to change in the demographic character of the valley. More pertinently, even if the Hindu population had been higher, their return could not be tantamount to change in demography as these were the original inhabitants and not a foreign community. The change in the demographic character of the valley occurred with the exodus, and not vice versa.


Kashmiri Hindus cannot go and live in the old neighbourhoods for many reasons. First, many families do not have houses to go back to as these were burnt by the militants. Second, many people sold off their houses in distress. Third, there is a history of involvement of neighbours in their killings. This is not to suggest that all Muslim neighbours were involved, but there were cases were neighbours and known persons facilitated the killings. These are strong enough reasons not to go back to the old localities.


Fourth, even if some houses are intact, the owners cannot go back to such haunted houses – they are no long ‘homes’. Many persons were killed inside their homes. The walls and floors of these houses are soaked with the blood of near and dear ones. Those who witnessed the brutal killing of their loved ones in these houses, and fled to save their own lives, will never dare or care to return to these places with their tortured memories.


The world also needs to know that Kashmiri Muslims have in the last one decade purchased properties across Jammu region, but majorly in few concentrated zones such as Bathindi, Sidhra, Nagrota Byepass, Gujjar Nagar, Bantalab, and Khatikan Talab. When Kashmiri Muslims, not originally from Jammu, have settled in segregated colonies in Jammu province, on what grounds are Kashmiri Hindus (original inhabitants of Kashmir) being denied the right to do so in the valley? If at all there is an attempt to change the demography, it is being done in Jammu and not in Kashmir. Kashmiri Muslims have largely succeeded in their designs because India as a nation has misplaced priorities.


It bears stating that over 400 temples were destroyed and desecrated in the valley, yet there is not a single discussion in the media or political circles. Nearly 2,000 (yes, 2,000 and not over 250 as official figures put it) Hindus were killed in the valley, including many women and children; there was large-scale loot and arson that forced the exodus of Hindus. Yet in the past 25 years the issue may not have been discussed even 20 times in the media or elsewhere.


Successive governments in the State and Center have failed to pursue cases against the guilty. Not a single conviction has taken place. Many of the accused like Yasin Malik and Bitta Karate have publicly confessed and boasted of killing many Hindus. The guilty are not only roaming free, but are accorded VIP treatment, even security. Such are the priorities of secular India!


The big talk of Kashmiriat and integration with the Muslim majority is nothing but a mockery of justice. It is indecent. It is rubbing salt on open wounds. No wonder Mufti Sayeed’s healing touch policy finds little resonance in the Hindu heart. Jo tan laage so tan jaane.


The author was a student of Class 7 when the family had to flee the valley in 1990. They lived in Jammu for several years before finally settling in Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, UP. An expert in software documentation, he has worked with various software firms in the Delhi-NCR region

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