Over five lakh Kashmiri Pandits were forced, almost overnight, to leave their homes, packing whatever they could, to escape the genocidal campaign unleashed by the Islamic radicals.
Kashmir resonated with anti-India and anti-Hindu slogans – “Oh merciless, oh infidels, leave our Kashmir”; “If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allahu Akbar”; “We want Pakistan, along with Hindu women but not their men.”
The idea was to create an Islamic state of Jammu and Kashmir akin the concept of ISIS with the similar mindset of keeping the Hindu women as sex slaves and beheading the men.
The pious Mosques became the nerve centre for terror activities in Kashmir. The law and order situation collapsed; kidnappings, killings, and rapes became rampant. Terrorist organizations like the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Hizb-ul Mujahideen issued open threats to Kashmiri Pandits. They were given three choices – convert to Islam, leave Kashmir, or perish.
Similar to the model of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, Pakistan backed militants unleashed terror on innocent Pandits and went on rampage killing hundreds of prominent Kashmiri Pandits, raping women and not even sparing kids as young as eight, who were shot dead, point-blank.
On 4 January 1990, Srinagar-based newspaper Aftab released a message, warning all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately. On 14 April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-Safa republished the same warning. Both the warnings came from Hizbul Mujahideen.
Walls were pasted with posters with threatening messages to all Pandits to steadfastly follow the Islamic rules which included abidance by the Islamic dress code, complete ban on alcohol, cinemas, and video parlours and stringent restrictions on movement on Kashmiri women.
Pushed against the wall, the minority Kashmiri Pandits fled the valley, almost overnight. Half a million Pandits were displaced, marking the largest-ever exodus since India’s partition in 1947. By the end of 1990, all of Kashmir was almost cleansed of Pandits.
Although most Pandit families left Kashmir in 1990, a few hundred families stayed. The horror of persecution always hovered over these Pandits. In 1997, 1998 and 2003, three brutal massacres happened in Sangrampora, Wandhama, and Nadimarg in which 07, 23, and 24 Kashmiri Pandits were mercilessly killed. The massacre was a clear signal to other Pandits – do not to return to the homeland as the minority community slowly took refuge in Jammu and other parts of the country.
According to a Jammu based defence expert talking to the EurAsian Times on the condition of anonymity – Kashmiri Pandits could have easily retaliated against the Muslims, in Jammu where they now formed the majority or anywhere else in the country where they not only outnumbered the Muslims disproportionately but also had the unconditional support of the masses.
However, till this date, there is not even a single case of retaliatory attack by a Kashmir Pandit on a fellow Muslim. This is truly admirable. This is a story which the global community must be made aware of. Why not a Nobel Peace Prize? The Indian Government must put the case forward, states the expert.
As SK Koul writes, despite facing the brunt of Islamic terrorism, the Kashmiri Hindu community remained an embodiment of patience, tolerance and perseverance. This community neither resorted to crime nor begged anyone for alms and neither retaliated against fellow Kashmiris, despite all the savagenesses.
We tolerated hardships and worked hard for our livelihood. We managed to educate our children and prepared them for the battle of life by picking up books and not stones or guns.
We never instilled in them the sense of revenge but inspired them to strive for excellence in all fields. We inculcated positive, constructive and patriotic values in their hearts which helped them to thrive in a hostile world.
The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits.