Prior to the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, many Muslims in the Kashmir valley would burst crackers outside their houses, celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in a cricket match. When India would have been on the verge of victory over Pakistan, very often lights would be disconnected in the entire valley in sheer disappointment.
This is not propaganda by Kashmiri Pandits or by India, but a reality that has been affirmed by innumerable Kashmiri Muslims who have spent considerable time with Pandits in Kashmir.
They would also turn off the lights on India’s National Holidays, and pelt stones on their houses, if they dared to turn the lights on. Overall, the distinction was very clear, most Kashmiri Muslims dearly supported Pakistan, while Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs were overwhelmingly Indians.
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With our conversation with various Kashmiri Muslims including journalists and traders, the idea of Kashmiri Pandits returning to the Kashmir valley is a distinct reality.
They argue that there is no reason why Kashmiri Pandits would return to Kashmir, as they are getting all benefits from both the state and central government including jobs, ration, reservations, quota in all educational seats and salaries from the government.
On top of that, a majority of Pandits are very well settled in various Indian cities and abroad, and there is no reason for them to come back to Kashmir amid all the violence, unemployment and distrust.
The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits
If you ask Kashmiri Muslims about what led to the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, they will blatantly argue that it was an Indian conspiracy led by governor Jagmohan.
They claim that when the Indian security forces would move in to quell the armed rebellion, and with pro-India Pandits living amongst them, the terrorists might take out vengeance against the Pandits, considering them as Indian sympathizers.
They further add it would have been difficult for Indian security forces to differentiate between Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims, and the forces might unknowingly target the Pandits, which would create furore within the Pandit community, and might further weaken the Indian hold on Kashmir.
Therefore India planned exodus of Kashmiri Pandits so that they could brutally quell the Muslim rebellion.
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Did that mean Kashmiri Muslims would have actually killed fellow Pandits in retaliation for acts of Indian security forces? To be honest they say that Pandits were massacred and forced into exodus not because they were Hindus, but because they were Indians.
Various activists from Kashmiri Pandit organizations clearly lay the blame on Pakistan and Kashmiri Muslims and rubbish the “Indian Conspiracy” which the Kashmiri Muslim youth have been made to memorize.
Pandits vociferously debate that Kashmiri Muslims who went to Pakistan for armed training were not Indian sponsored; people who would pelt stones on Pandit houses were not paid by India; loud announcements from local mosques asking Pandits to leave was not an Indian conspiracy; not offering treatment to Kashmiri Pandits in hospitals after being injured in a terrorist attack was not an Indian conspiracy; burning of innumerable houses of Kashmiri Pandits was not done by India; massacre of hundreds of innocent Kashmiri Pandits was not carried out by Jagmohan; and most important announcement by prominent politicians and former CM asking Kashmiri Pandits to either “Convert to Islam “, “Run Away from Kashmir” or “Get Killed” was certainly not an Indian conspiracy.
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Many seasoned Kashmir Muslim activists, educationists and politicians completely subscribe to the Kashmiri Pandit version and explain that 1989 was a year of madness in Kashmir where youth were enticed to pick Kalashnikovs.
With the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, followed by thousands of lives lost in the Kashmir unrest and Kashmir will never be the same again.