K N Pandita
Great empires and kingdoms have their history of rise and fall. The saying is true but with added weirdness in the case of ancient kingdom of Kashmir. After the Hindu kingdom fell around the third decade of the 14th century, the decay of Hindu society also set in essentially owing to the means of production wrested from their hands. From an era of command the Kashmiri Hindu community degenerated into an era of subjugation and servility which continued uninterruptedly for the next five centuries.
This was not only the era of subjugation but also of making sacrifices. The five hundred years – long-story of persecution and cultural genocide has not been told in full. It was only the one century of Dogra rule (1846-1947) during which the Pandits could breathe an air of freedom. No Pandit had thought that the darkness would once again engulf them when India won freedom from the British colonial rule. Millions of Hindus and Sikhs of this subcontinent were butchered or extirpated from their homes lock, stock and barrel under the “non-violent” national freedom movement led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He became the Father of the Nation — a nation not only of crores of living men and women but also of the crores of men and women who became sacrificial goats to the freedom without fighting.
What did freedom of India in 1947 mean to the insignificant Hindu (Pandit) minority of Kashmir? What did State’s accession to the “free India” mean to them? It meant handing them over from the hands of a benevolent autocrat to that of a crafty despot, the proverbial frying pan to fire. Hari Singh was guided at least by a law set forth in black and white; the Sheikh was guided by nothing but vengeance and ambition.
To Pandit the despotic rule masqueraded as popular rule meant re-enslavement after a century of life without fear; it meant return to the age of darkness and gloom under the rubric of a populist rule. Democracy in Kashmir meant the brute majority force which bulldozed the rights of religious and other minorities. The freedom that came to J&K meant for them the beginning of a new era of forced departure from the homeland as had happened earlier in medieval times.
While the ruling majority in J&K aggressively wrested power, privileges and predominance by flexing majoritarian muscle, the Pandit –- a minority underling– had to bear the brunt of being the “Indian agent”.
Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee rejected “do pradhan, do vidhan do nishan” formula of J&K. He was arrested at Lakhanpur, dragged all the way to Srinagar, house arrested in an isolated room on the outskirts of the city and let die in prison without medical assistance.
On the other hand Ali Shah Geelani, the man who instigated millions of Kashmiri Muslim youth to take up arms and fight the India army for secession from India and accession to Pakistan, was taken by special flight along with his attendants for treatment of his kidney problem at prestigious AIIMS on Government expenses.
Tika Lal Taploo,, the BJP Kashmir chief and a lawyer by profession, was gunned down by the masked jihadi terrorists in the lane leading to his house in Srinagar. It was 14 September 1989. Though the Pandits had been giving sacrifices for six centuries, in one way or the other, 14 September gets embedded in their history as the day of remembrance of their martyrs past and present.
As Tika Lal Taploo came out of his house preparing to go to the court to attend his daily work, outside the main gate of his house, he found a child girl crying and tears rolling down he cheeks. On close examination he found it was the child of his Muslim neighbour adjacent to his house. He lifted the child in his arms, wiped tears from its cheek and tuning to the neighbour loudly called the child’s mother to tell him why the child was crying. The poor mother said that the child was supposed to buy some reading material but she had no money. On knowing that the material would cost five rupees, Tika Lal Taploo took out five rupee note from his pocket, handed it over to the woman telling her that the child has to be in the school and not in home. Placing the five rupee note in the woman’s hand he said, “Get her what she wants and send her to school.”
He turned back past his house gate and had walked only ten steps when the masked gunman fired and Tika Lal lay in the lane in a pool of blood. When his colleagues at the bar heard of the tragic killing, they, mostly Muslims, shut down their work and held a big condolence meeting. The woman in the neighbourhood, whose crying child had been assuaged by Tika Lal, cried, wept, tore her hair in anguish and mourned more than any other mourner.
This happened on 14 of September 1989. One month and twenty days later, on 4 November 1989, Sessions Judge (retd) Pandit Nilakanth Ganjoo, was gunned down by the jihadi terrorists in Maharaj Bazaar, a densely populated and crowded bazaar of Amira Kadal locality in Srinagar. He had just landed at Srinagar airport from Delhi and was headed towards his home.
Justice Ganjoo was hearing the case of Maqbool Bhat, the founder of KLF, who had escaped from Srinagar Central Jail and crossed over to PoK. Subsequently he had re-entered Kashmir along with some terrorists and made a night attack on Pandit Amar Chand, a sub-inspector CID. On the basis of first hand evidence provided by some local Muslims, Sessions Judge Nilakanth Ganjoo had given him death sentence. The terrorists kept a close track of Ganjoo and gunned him down while the Muslim witnesses remained unscathed. Then intellectuals among the Pandits, seniors and community elders selectively became the targets of the gun wielding jihadis. Pandit Premnath Bhat, the eminent lawyer, scholar, social worker of Anantnag was brutally murdered. They made the supreme sacrifice for the “secular and democratic India.”
The reign of terror was let loose against the Pandits and now it became clear that the Theo-fascists were pursuing the plan of ethnic cleansing of Kashmir. Pandit killings took place in their homes, work places, markets, buses, streets, parks and anywhere. Complete lawlessness prevailed and no Pandit killing was either reported by the police or taken cognizance of by the law and order authority. In 1992, a Kashmiri Pandit organization listed more than 1250 Pandit killings and submitted the list to the NHRC.
Whenever any attempt to facilitate their return to the Valley has been initiated, a major incident of terrorist violence against them has occurred. The massacre of 26 Pandits at Wandhama, on the intervening night of January 25-26, 1998; the earlier killing of eight others at Sangrampora in Budgam district on March 22, 1997; the massacre of 26 Hindus at Prankote in Udhampur District on April 21, 1998; and the killing of 24 Kashmir Pandits at the Nadimarg village, District Pulwama, on March 23, 2003; these are the worst of the many examples of the terrorists’ tactic to block any proposal for the return of migrants to the Valley. This genocide and ethnic cleansing have shown the failure of every proposal to resolve the problem of the exiled Pandits. Again, it was this pervasive insecurity that led to the collapse of the proposal to create 13 clusters of residential houses in ‘secure zones’ in different parts of Anantnag for the return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandit migrants from outside the Valley in April 2001.
For the sin of being in a minority, the Pandits are required to pay with blood. What is more, all this “balidan” is made in a secular democratic Kashmir. For the protection of the life, property, and culture of Kashmirian majority, the India law makers had enacted the Article 370 and 35-A. While terrorists took control of the city of Srinagar on the 19th of January 1990, hundreds of thousands of Indian troops remained confined to their barracks in the city cantonment and adjoining army stations. The Kashmir police deserted their posts and hid either in the barracks or in their homes. Not a single soldier was deployed to control the situation. The then Home Minister of India became the Chief Minister of J&K later on.
The life of our forefathers in medieval Kashmir has been bleak and our future seems to promise nothing different. In this situation in which we have been abandoned by man and nature, all that we can do is to hold the stories of sacrifices of our martyrs close to our chest. We shall show them and the brave soldiers of the Indian army or paramilitary forces our respect and promise to keep their memory alive in our hearts.
K N Pandita