Thirty years of Kashmiri Pandits exodus; community awaits return to homeland

Thirty years ago on this day, the land of Jammu and Kashmir saw the beginning of the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits following a genocidal campaign launched by the terrorists.

As the slogans of “Ralive, Tsalive ya Galive (convert to Islam, leave the place or perish)” reverberated from the mosques and streets, the Kashmir Pandits were forced to flee their homeland.

Some local newspapers also published advertisements by terrorist organisations warning Pandits to leave the Valley. Lakhs of Pandits left the Valley, after January 19, 1990, as they were targeted by extremists, virtually turning them into refugees in their own country.

January 19, is remembered as the ‘Exodus Day’ by the Kashmiri Pandits as it marks the exodus of the members of the community from Kashmir.

As columnist Sunanda Vashisht would recall during a US Congressional hearing on human rights that Kashmir has witnessed “ISIS level of horror and brutality”, some 30 years before the West was even introduced to the “brutalities of radical Islamic terror.”

She would further note how on the night of January 19, 1990, there were voice blaring from all mosques in Kashmir that they wanted Kashmir with Hindu women but without Hindu men.

“Where were they (advocates of human rights) on the night of January 19, 1990, when there were voices blaring from all mosques in Kashmir that they wanted Kashmir with Hindu women but without Hindu men? Where was the saviour of humanity when my feeble old grandfather stood with kitchen knives and an old rusted axe ready to kill my mother and I in order to save us from the much worse fate that awaited us?” she had asked.

Journalist Rahul Pandita’s book – Our Moon has Blood Clots – mentions the killing of political activist, Tika Lal Taploo in September 1989 and several other such incidents.

In 2010, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir noted that 808 Pandit families, comprising 3,445 people, were still living in the Valley and that financial and other incentives put in place to encourage others to return there had been unsuccessful. According to a J-K government report, 219 members of the community had been killed in the region between 1989 and 2004 but none thereafter.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley, members of the community took to social media to post videos of themselves by narrating the “Hum Aayenge Apne Watan” dialogue from an upcoming flick, ‘Shikara’, with the hope that they would return to their homeland one day.

In July last year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had said in the Rajya Sabha that the central government is committed to bringing Kashmiri Pandits and Sufis back to the Valley saying a time will come when they will offer prayers at the famous Kheer Bhawani temple.

The Mata Kheer Bhawani temple is one of the holiest shrines of Kashmiri Pandits, located about 14 kilometres east of Srinagar.

Last September, a delegation of the Kashmiri Pandit community met the Prime Minister in Houston and thanked him for the historic decision to abrogate Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Prime Minister Modi acknowledged the hardships endured by the community following their exodus from their ancestral homeland back in 1989-1990 due to militancy.