Asia-Pacific, India, Human Rights

The Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus: A Tale of Pain and Suffering

Kashmir, once known as the “Paradise on Earth” has not only changed but has become the biggest controversy of the decade. Now, known across the world as the land of terrorism, Jihadis and stone pelters along with the fields of saffron, the once beautiful Kashmir has now transformed into something that no one wants to be part of. Nonetheless, for the Kashmiri Hindus denizens of the state, violence is nothing new.

Since the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Dominion of India by Maharaja Hari Singh in 1947, the state has been in a continuous state of hostility. It all started with the first Indo-Pak of 1947, popularly known as First Kashmir War.

Some History

A secular state with 77% Muslims (census in 1941) was ruled by a Hindu ruler, who worked for the betterment of the people of his state. The Royal house of Jammu and Kashmir has been ruling over the secular state since 1846. However, what happened on January 20th 1990 changed the course of history for the Kashmiri Hindus and the state itself. The accession of the state in the Dominion of India saw the political figures fighting over the decision of being independent. The decisions of Maharaja Hari Singh resulted in the Indo Pak War which led to the Azad Kashmir.

The power of the state went to the self-styled “Sher-e-Kashmir”, Sheikh Abdullah. Kashmir Conspiracy Case saw Sheik arrested for the sedition along with 22 other politicians, but as a diplomatic decision, the case was withdrawn in 1964. In 1984, Ghulam Mohammad Shah (son in law of Sheik Abdullah) snatched power from Farooq Abdullah (son of Sheik Abdullah) and became the chief minister of the state.

The Kashmiri Hindus Nightmare

As soon as he became the chief minister, he started a project for the construction of a large mosque on the grounds of an ancient Hindu temple. This led to the large demonstrations and marches by the Hindu faction. GM Shah returned to Kashmir and said the 4 words that led to the one of the worst genocide of the Kashmiri Hindus that country has ever seen: Islam khatrey mein hey (Islam is in danger).

This exclamation of him led to extremists attacking the Kashmiri Hindus. The reports told about the incidents where the Kashmiri Hindus were murdered and their properties along the ancient temples destroyed. South Kashmir along with Sopore was the worst hit area. Towns like Vanpoh, Anantnag, Fathepur, Lukbhavan and Salar saw the extremists plundering the temples and destroying the homes of Kashmiri Hindus. This resulted in Kashmiri Hindus leaving the valley in the fear of their life.

The Warning to Kashmiri Hindus

However, before January 20th 1990, the Urdu newspapers Aftab and Al Safa published a press release by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, asking all the Kashmiri Hindus and Pandits to leave the Valley immediately. The warnings in the newspapers were followed by Jihadis with Kalashnikov and military marches. The everyday threats were nothing new for the Kashmiri Hindus, but what happened on the night of January 19th and the morning of the 20th left them in fear for their life and made them flee from their homeland. The night before the exodus was filled with the messages for Sikhs and Hindus alike: Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (Convert to Islam or leave the land, or die).

This was just the beginning. The following months saw Kashmiri Hindus killed, tortured and raped. The year-end saw about 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits escaping the Valley and taking refuge in Jammu and other states, including other countries.

Militancy

After the exodus of 1990, militancy in the state increased. Militants called the genocide “Ethnic Cleansing”. The years following the exodus saw the killing of the Kashmiri Pandits that were present in the state. In 1998, the Wandhama massacre happened. 23 Kashmiri Pandit Hindus were killed. The innocent victims were four children, nine women and ten men. The massacre is said to have been committed by Abdul Hamid Gada of Hizbul Mujahideen (a terrorist organization). It coincided with the Shab-e-Qadar, the holiest night of the month of Ramzan, when the believers stay awake until the dawn. Gada was shot by the Indian security forces in 2000. Along with the murders, the homes and various temples were also destroyed by the militants.

The worst part of these horrific incidents were not just the murders, but the way they were killed. These deaths brought forward the inhuman practices that militants used: strangulation by using steel wires, impaling, burning alive, bleeding to death, hanging, branding with hot irons, gouging out vital organs, drowning alive, lynching and dismemberment of human bodies. The victims were sometimes not even allowed to be cremated according to their rites. Terrorists often performed death dances after killing the innocent Kashmiri Pandits.

Fact Sheet of the Atrocities Against the Kashmiri Hindus

Educational Institutions burnt, damaged forcefully occupied 105
Religious & Cultural Institutions Destroyed/burnt, damaged (Temples/Ashrams/Dharamshalas) 103
Business houses destabilized (Including shops looted/burnt, factories looted/burnt, occupied) 14,430
Agriculture dependent families deprived of their land and source of income 20,000
Horticulture dependent families deprived of their resource 12,500
Houses Burnt more than 20,000
Houses looted 95%
Torture killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley more than 1,100

A Wish for Kashmiri Hindus

The Kashmiri Hindu diaspora has settled across the world. All of them are waiting for the day they would be able to come back to their homeland. The innocent Hindus are still facing hate in their own homeland, not by their neighbors, but by the terrorists who want nothing but their skewed view of Islam and Muslim domination to come true. Nevertheless, the Kashmiri Hindus still want to return to their homeland and live peacefully with their Muslims neighbors. Though, it was the Kashmiri Hindus who faced the worst in the state, the people living there, whether Kashmiri Hindus or Kashmiri Muslims, are still living in a constant world of fear.

About Shagun Benipal

Writer by day, reader by night, Shagun is known for her love of coins, old photographs and books. She loves to share her thoughts on politics, world and space.

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