29 Years and Counting: Kashmiri Hindus — An Unheard Cry

Asi gachi Pakistan, bata ros ta batanev san” (meaning in Kashmiri: “We want Pakistan with Hindu women and without their men.”)

“Rus ne Baazi haari hai hind pe larza Tari hai ab kashmir ki baari hai” (“The Soviet Union has been defeated, our eye is next on India, and Kashmir comes next for jihad to reign.”)

“Pakistan se rishta kya la ilaha ill Allah” (“Our connection with Pakistan is the Islamic profession of faith.”)

“Hum kya chahte Nizam e Mustafa” (“What do we seek? Islamic rule.”)

“La sharqiya la garbiya, Islamia Islamia!” (No Eastern, no Western, only Islamic, only Islamic!”)

These were the slogans that replaced the adhan in mosques in Kashmir on January 19, 1990 when over half a million aboriginal people of the Indian-administered Kashmir valley were given three choices: to convert to Islam, to flee the valley of Kashmir, or to accept dhimmi status under Islamic sharia law. These aboriginal people were the Kashmiri Hindus.

The background of all this was that in the Kashmiri region of India’s only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir, which has a separate constitution and isn’t bound by the Indian parliament, had released dozens of jihadis in the middle of 1989. They, with their bloodlust for Kashmir Hindus, started a series of brutal serial killings in the community. This series began with the assassination of well-known BJP leader in the valley, Shri Tika Lal Taploo, on September 14, 1989 (which was designated as Martyr’s Day by the Oregon legislative assembly in 2009). The former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, said that he lost a friend, a guide and a zealous party worker. That was odd, as Vajpayee never did anything for him or his community. The events which followed this were the brutal killings of community leaders; their bodies were mutilated and thrown at temples. Women were abducted and gang raped, “Islam aur Pakistan zindabad” (glory to Islam and Pakistan) carved on their loins and then their bodies were chopped up. This reached its apogee when mass killings and mass rapes became frequent, with mosques sloganeering on loudspeakers to excite the local Muslim population. The result of this was that on January 19, 1990, around half a million Kashmiri Hindus had to leave their homeland, which was their habitat from the inception of civilization in India. From then till now, they have been residing in the Jammu region, Delhi NCR and other parts of India. Many of them are still destitute, physically as well as psychologically, with no ray of hope for return and an end of their exile.

Here are the excerpts from a recent conservation I had with one of the most prominent Kashmiri Hindu activists, Mr. Sushil Pandit.

Akash: It is 29 years since the Kashmiri Hindu holocaust; how many families then been able to resettle up to now?

Sushil: We have tried numerous times to go back, but whenever we did, we were welcomed back by massacres unleashed upon us, like the Wandhama and Nadimarg massacre, where magazines of bullets were unleashed upon our infants. Moreover, the Supreme Court of India asked this of the Jammu and Kashmir government in 2016, and they filed an affidavit in response stating that only one family has been able to resettle up to now.

Akash: From the 14th century onward, when Islamic rule was established in Kashmir, there have been seven instances of genocide of Kashmiri Hindus. The one in 1990 was the seventh one; how was this one different from all others ?

Sushil: The biggest difference was this that all the previous ones happened when we were the subjects under a barbaric foreign rule in the medieval period, but this time we were the citizens of a secular, liberal and democratic country which runs on a constitution and is a member of United Nations. Moreover, we had been able to reestablish ourselves in all other instances. When Sikander Butshikan was ruling Kashmir, we faced such a genocide that only 13 families were left alive! This caused such an administrative collapse in Kashmir that his successor (his son) got severely ill, and got cured only by a Hindu Ayurveda practitioner, who, when offered to ask for anything in reward, asked that his people, the Kashmiri Hindus, would be allowed back in the valley. To this, the Sultan agreed, but our dhimmi status was continued.

Akash: Was there any pretext of “silent jihad” before 1990? What was the situation between the 1947 and 1990? What were things like for your people then?

Sushil: We were subjected to state-mandated discrimination in each and every possible form; admission to state institutions and government jobs were the most frequent among them. Let me give you an example of this. Motilal Tickoo was a physics scholar who was on the merit list in the state in his BSc physics graduation, but for the 60 seats in MSc Physics in the University of Kashmir, the first list of 42 candidates didn’t had his name. When he inquired, he was told by the university administration that this was the “Muslim list” and he must wait for the next list of 18 selected candidates. No such list had his name. His college principal explained him that he must seek admission anywhere else in country and leave the Kashmir for Muslims. Due to his merit, he got admitted to Delhi College of Engineering, but being from a financially poor family, he couldn’t pay for his education. He asked the state for a loan. The state gave him the loan, but put this condition: he would have to work for the state. But the oxymoron here is that the State of Jammu and Kashmir also said that they couldn’t guarantee him a job, but he would have to wait for at least a year before acquiring any other job. After his engineering studies, he was in genuine need of money, for which he took a job, but that triggered a warrant against his father’s immovable assets. He had to repay all of that heavy amount.

Akash: What was the social situation there at that time? Were your women harmed or targeted by the Muslim community ?

Sushil: In 1967, there was this case of Parmeshwari Handoo, a Kashmiri Hindu girl who was forcefully married to a Muslim named Ghulam Rasool Kanth, converted to Islam, and renamed “Parveen Akhtar.” We protested a lot. So the then-Prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, sent DP Dhar, her leftist loyalist, to assure us that action would be taken, but only if we retreated back for an interim. We were backstabbed; nothing was done. Zealots rallied throughout the valley shouting “Parveen Akhtar bhi muslman” (implying that even Parmeshwari Handoo had been taken into the Islamic fold). As a community we were psychology shattered.

Akash: Has there been any change in the participation of local Muslims there in this militancy ?

Sushil: Even at the time when we had to flee the valley, the fear of the army was so strong in the hearts of the terrorists and their open supporters that when the army used to march, they would hide when they heard their boots thumping, but now, after analysing the “impotency” of the Indian government, they come out in the open, pelting stones at army jawans and officers while they are carrying out operations for neutralising the armed terrorists. They physically attack the army personnel, abuse them and record it to display on social media, as they have the confidence that nothing is going to be done against them legally by the state.

Akash: Can the then-chief minister of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah, be accused in any manner regarding the holocaust of your community?

Sushil: Well, he freed the terrorists after six months in jail, resigned on January 18, 1990, and fled the country, just a day before our exodus. So yes, it’s quite suspicious.

Akash: How has the role been of different governors in this conflict?

Sushil: In the phase of Islamic militancy which preceded our exodus, governor Jagmohan Malhotra was doing a fine job to control the situation, to the extent that Benazir Bhutto once in a speech said about him that they would make Jagmohan “jag jag moh moh han” with an explicit chopping motion with her right hand across her open left palm (implying that they would chop him), but Indian government didn’t even let him complete his designated tenure. After him, governor Girish Chandra Saxena did a spectacular job as governor of Jammu and Kashmir, as he curbed jihadist militancy to an extent that elections could be held. Then, governor SK Sinha, who was the governor when there was an elected government in the state, with Mufti Muhammad Syed as its chief minister, took a firm stand for the land leased to the Amarnath shrine board to make temporary facilities for pilgrims, against which Mehbooba Mufti (daughter of Mufti Muhammad Syed) launched an agitation, saying that Kashmir was an Islamic land, and this was an attempt to change its demography. The government of India replaced him with NN Vohra. The present governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik, has just begun his tenure, and hasn’t done anything remarkable in this time of extreme turbulence in the region, so we get to observe him for sometime now.

Akash: How has the world reacted to the atrocities upon your community, and what has government done for your people up to now?

Sushil: We in the past never wanted to go international, as we didn’t want to bring shame on our country. The government hasn’t done anything on the ground; in fact, they don’t even recognise it as a genocide. To avoid embarrassment, they have officially termed it as “migration.”

Akash: Do Muslims in Kashmir have any shame or guilt for what they did to your people?

Sushil: Guilt and shame comes when there is acknowledgement; they use the similar tactic used globally, which is denial of crimes.

Akash: Is Zionism and the rebirth of Israel an inspiration for Kashmiri Hindu community and their aspirations ?

Sushil: Yes, it’s quite an inspiration to us.

Akash: Recently, the former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik visited Kashmir on both the Indian and Pakistani sides, and even met jihad leaders in Indian Kashmir. Is this some kind of interference by Norway?

Sushil: Norway’s role in conflicts like the Sri Lankan civil war was questionable, but Bondevik came and met them in his personal capacity. But I believe any sort of interference from any foreign state undermining the sovereignty of India won’t be accepted by the government of India.

Akash: Is it true that there has been some American hand or support in the establishment of Hurriyat in Jammu and Kashmir ?

Sushil: Robin Lynn Raphel, who was the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs at that time in the Clinton administration, was responsible for that, though the left has always tried to ridicule this by saying that she did this to avenge her husband Arnold Lewis Raphel’s (the then-US ambassador to Pakistan) death in the plane crash in Pakistan that also killed the then-President of Pakistan, Zia ul Haq. India has been entangled in ridiculous propaganda theories.

The approach of the Indian government has been spineless to such an extent that they spend billions every year over Hurriyat and other terror sympathisers in order to appease them and “win over their hearts,” and on the other hand, the pro-India and pro-humanitarian voices in Kashmir have been dying from then till now, without anyone giving a damn about it.

There are over 500 “Kashmirs” in India; implying these are those regions of varying areas and populations across the length and breadth of India where law and order are alien. They are governed by either full-fledged sharia diktats or sharia in disguise, and there the non-Muslims aren’t treated like humans, just like anywhere else in the Islamic world.

Anything which is more outrageous than this fiasco of humanity is that there are people, organisations and governments that still don’t find all this outrageous.

All the questions and answers were paraphrased solely by the writer, based on his memory of the conversation. However, for factual accuracy the interviewee was involved in corrections and editing. But only the writer is responsible for each and every word used and the language in which it has been paraphrased.

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