What a difference internet and the electronic media have made to India! We saw in 2002 how terrible incidents like the riots in Gujarat were literally brought into our living rooms. One shuddered to think of the people who suffered because of the riots. The riots by themselves were not a new phenomenon. Gujarat has had its share of riots, like many other States in India, for many decades. In fact for all the criticism against Narendra Modi’s Government, Gujarat has had no riot since that one in 2002. That’s not the topic of my post, however. I ask today why a section of the media and some NGOs go on relentlessly about the Gujarat riots of 2002, but don’t speak of (with even a fraction of the intensity and passions they show for Gujarat) on the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland in 1990?
As I said, perhaps one reason is that we didn’t have such massive electronic media coverage or use of the internet in those days. I guess this applies in equal measure to the Sikh Massacres in Dehi and elsewhere in 1984. These are wrongly called Anti-Sikh riots because they were more in the nature of a pogrom against one particular community, while in conventional riots victims are usually from different communities alike. The mass exodus under threat of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland didn’t get the attention the sad event deserves. More than 20 years have gone by and their plight remains pretty much the same. This article by the noted journalist Tavleen Singh in the Indian Express throws light on those dark days.
Rahul Pandita has written from his heart about the main issues and incidents that took place in those turbulent times in, “Our Moon Has Blood Clots.” Do read this to get an authentic account of what actually transpired in the Kashmir Valley in those days. As you know, the Valley is a Muslim majority area and one of the few places in our country where the Hindus are a minority. The crusaders for minority rights seem to focus on Muslim and Christian minorities but do not espouse the cause of the Kashmiri Pandits who too were minorities.
The facts seem to be as follows. From the ’80s, the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir faced infiltration from a hostile neighbour, Pakistan which aided and abetted the training of young men indoctrinated in Jihad in POK or Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The Government of India at that time did not do much to curb this, perhaps not wanting to stir the communal pot in the Kashmir Valley. In 1990, the Chief Minister of J & K, Farooq Abdullah is supposed to have gone abroad on vacation when the jihadis struck with vociferous local support. In a clearly orchestrated move, thousands of Kashmiri pandits were forced to leave their homes. There were many cases of rape and murder, arson and looting, and much worse. Marauding gangs took over houses left behind in haste by the fleeing Pandits. As far as I know very few, if any at all, have been brought to book for the atrocities on that time.
The Kashmiri Pandits have had to rebuild their lives wherever they fled to, with limited help from successive Governments. There have been talks from time to time of efforts to attract them to return to their homeland but these have largely been ineffective. We pride ourselves on being a secular country and some of our most vocal supporters of secularism boast of their fight for the minorities of India. It is tragic that their enthusiasm and fight for the minorities has ignored the Kashmiri Pandits, even two decades after those horrible days.