“There was danger outside the house; there was danger inside the house. Then they had mercy on us and burnt our houses. Now there was danger neither inside nor outside,” said a Kashmiri Pandit about the night of January 19th, 1990.
Unrest was completely visible in Kashmir Valley after 1989. Every day, news poured in of attacks on military convoys or bunkers. Kashmir turned into a war zone. Administration was almost paralysed. Militants were getting more influential, youths were going in masses to cross LoC to get armed and ammunition training so that they can also join the other militants and become part of a jihadi movement called ‘jung-e-azadi’.
During all this violence a community was completely unaware about their dark future and the threats they were going to face. That community was of the Kashmiri Pandits. Hit lists of Kashmiri Pandits were pasted on the mosques and posters warning them to leave Kashmir within 48 hours were thrown at the their doorsteps. Newspapers officially published those posters so that the message could reach a large number of people.
On January 19th, 1990 something happened that changed their lives for ever. In the evening, people in thousands came on the street carrying firelights in their hands, burning tyres and started gathering around the houses of Kashmiri Pandits. Very soon hundreds of loudspeakers began raising terrible slogans and exhortations fitted on the mosques. The noises were deafening. A number of recorded tapes were being simultaneously played at a very loud pitch, causing horrible effects in resonance and permeating the atmosphere with terror and fear of imminent death. Songs were played in the honour of mujahideens, reciting their victory over Russia in Afghanistan and threatening Kashmir as the next target.
‘Jago-Jago subah hui; Roos (Russia) ne baji hari hai; hind pe larza taari hai; ab Kashmir ki baari hai’
‘Naara-e-taqbeer, Allah ho Akbar’
It was a war cry. Within a few minutes, battle cries flew at them from every direction. Mob rushed towards them like poison darts.
‘Hum kya chaahte Azadi! Eye zalimon, eiy kafiron, Kashmir humara chhod do’
Which meant: ‘What do we want? Freedom. O tyrants, O infidels, leave our Kashmir.’
They went as far as to shout slogans like, ‘We want to turn Kashmir into Pakistan, without the Pandit men, but with their women’.
Pandit men asked their women to kill themselves rather than losing their dignity.
Terribly frightened Pandits called Jagmohan, the newly appointed governor of J&K who had taken charge in the afternoon. Although being a very able and experienced administrator, he was also not able to do anything because the administration, he knew, had collapsed completely.
That night was the darkest night ever in the history of Kashmiri Pandits. No one came that night to help them. The slogans did not stop till the early hours of morning. Guns were openly being fired. Songs and slogans were continuously being played. The massacre went on till the morning.
Jagmohan in an interview to Doordarshan said that, “how unaware New Delhi was about the currents and undercurrents of the situation in Kashmir and its ground-level realities became clearly visible when around the time of the massacre, ‘ethnic revolt’ in Azerbaijan and the ‘Rumanian Liberation’ were being telecasted as special programmes on Doordarshan. Only a week earlier, in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, a massive crowd demanding independence from Soviet Russia had attacked the Christian Armenian community, killing hundreds in a bloodied frenzy, and looting their homes and business establishments.”
The next morning, the exodus began, Families stuffed whatever little they could into a few suitcases and slipped away to Jammu, where they had to live a life of refugee. They were made to settle in tents where basic facilities like toilets were also not provided; many of them died because of snake bites and heat. Many Kashmiri Pandits who refused to leave the Valley were brutally killed by the terrorists after 1990. Muslims were also affected badly by the terrorists.
Still after 26 years the condition is same; Pandits are still living in outer areas of Jammu and Delhi in exile; even basic facilities are not provided to them. Politicians in every elections promise them their homeland but it ends at that. They are still waiting for the promises to be fulfilled and justice to be delivered to the victims whose family members were killed by terrorists. The Valley is still waiting for the day when Kashmiri Pandits will return and live peacefully with their Muslim brothers and sisters.
About the Author:
Currently under the process of being an Electronics Engineer. Passionate about reading and writing about Socio-Economic happenings in India. A Neo-liberal by ideology but also respects and welcomes leftist thinking. Believes that debates and discussions are integral part of a healthy democracy. Strongly believes in Gandhian ideology of “Ahimsa”. Wants to pursue career in public service.