The night of 19th January, 1990

‘History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember.’ W. C. Sellar.
The dark clouds were hovering for a long time in the skies of the beautiful valley of Kashmir. Unfortunately, nobody was able to foretell the approaching devastative typhoon that destroyed the socio-historical and religious fabric. The perennial socio-cultural ethos of 6000 years was put to halt. No doubt political Pandits had been discussing the disease in the laboratory of Kashmir minutely since 1947 but all failed to predict the sudden eruption of militancy and Islamic fundamentalism. India, our motherland, was unable to treat the patient. Instead, she was killing the time and putting the patient on chemotherapy.
Some selective killings and occasional bomb blasts coupled with hartals were the sufficient clues for the genius but the eyes slipped the shadows to guess about the coming events. And the darkest night of 19 January, 1990 happened. It will be a shame for the historians who are making history if they miss to record this night as the darkest night in the modern and contemporary history. It will be a total treachery.
It was October 26, 1989. I was travelling by a taxi. I was a bridegroom. An old Muslim woman, the mother of a close friend, and others stopped my taxi in their mohalla. They sang marriage songs. Bonbons were thrown on me. The motherly woman made me to drink a glass of milk. Same motherly woman stopped me in the early hours of January 19, 1990. ‘We had a narrow escape. Army was so near to kill all the Muslims. We went to the mosques to save ourselves,’ she said. The valley was wearing such a look that I failed to utter a word in response. I saw no army man in the whole area.
I will not repeat the immoral slogans that were raised from the minarets of the mosques that night because as per the poet, ‘har waqt ka rona to bekaar sa rona hai’. Anti-Kashmiri Pandit slogans were already echoing in the air. Mosques were used for misinformation campaign. That was the date I felt that ‘Kashmiriat’ had not mingled with the soil of Kashmir. It was only a deceptive ideology thrusted upon Kashmir.
In this world human relationship never dies. Nevertheless, it is also true that enmity between the different persons or communities has devoured ages together. The night of January 19, 1990 has also devoured human relationship and thirty years of exile has aggravated the intensity of the pain of Kashmiri Pandits. Whether historians will or will not record the bleeding wounds of Kashmiri Pandits but there is already a huge stack of published books that have become history already.
It is said that losing one’s homeland is one of the biggest tragedies. 19 January 1990 is the day when KPs became the morsels in the jaws of Islamic fundamentalism and were ousted from the land of their birth. And three decades of forced exile are responsible for snatching the childhood of thousands who were born in Kashmir. The Young KP brigade lost youthful age. Old people lost their crematoriums. That is why in his latest anthology of poems jalta hua pul, published in 2019, Agnishekhar, a well-known Hindi writer and poet includes a poem 19 january: aik antim raat ki kavita:
‘har varsh 19 january ke saath badalta hai/hamaara nirvaasan samvat/ham na chahte hue bhi/ponhanchte hain 1990 ki us bhayavah/huan huan krti ghani andheri raat main……………..yeh thi itihaas ke ant ki raat/yeh thi vichaar ke ant ki raat/yeh thi sauhard ke ant ki raat(Our calendar of exile changes with January 19 every year. Under all circumstances, we reach the dreadful and growling dense dark ravines of that night…That night was the end of the history, ideology and brotherhood).
Most of the Kashmiri Muslims add salt to the wounds even after three decades. They still chatter that Jagmohan manufactured that exodus. That is why Kashmiri Pandits have been demanding for setting up of fact-finding commission. But who cares? And, by the way, what will fact-finding commission do? Facts are inscribed on the writ of water, in the air, in the sighs and sorrows, on the stones and on what not. Published in 2000 Dr K L Chowdury, a noted physician, a poet and a writer, records in his first anthology of poems Of Gods, Men and Militants about January 19, 1990:
‘On that fearful night/I happened to be/ a thousand kilometres away/from the blitz and bluster,/but when I recall/of my horror-stricken sister/who let me hear/through her speaker/the cantankerous uproar/from a thousand loudspeakers and more/hoisted atop the mosques/that rent the valley/exhorting the faithful/to come out of their homes/and throng the streets for a Jihad,/to drive the infidels out,/banish the Pandit males/and subdue their females/
Col Tej Kumar Tikoo in Kashmir: Its Aborigines and their Exodus recounts the night as:
‘Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims poured into the streets of the valley shouting ‘death to India’ and ‘death to kafirs’….For the kashmiri Pandits, the seventh exodus was staring them in the face.’ Jagmohan, the then governor of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, himself, writes in his book My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir:
“Outside, the events were moving with the same feverish speed as in the previous night. The voices of horror, fearful harangue and exhortations, soaked in Islamic fundamentalists’ terminology, filled the air. Crowds were being goaded to gather in mosques…No civil authority seemed to exist. The passivity was unbelievable.”
In 2002 Tej N Dhar in his book Under the Shadow of Militancy( The Diary of an Unknown Kashmiri) published by Rupa & Co writes:
‘The happenings in the winter of 1989-90 confirmed that its character had changed. I was not in the city then, but Girija and the children have frightful memories of the night of 19 January around the time the clock struck the midnight hour, almost like a loud explosion, the loudspeakers fixed on all the mosques of Kashmir valley blared forth the slogan ‘ham kya chhahte ? Azadi.’ It was so sudden and unexpected that people ran out of their beds with sleepy eyes to see what was happening…Enthusiastic crowds poured out on the streets…Pre-recorded cassettes were played from mosques to create the illusion.’
Prem Nath Shad , a poet, equally respected and heard by the Pandits as well as by the Muslims, and who has many Muslim devotional poems at his back, writes about January 19:
so raath/ anigot rotul/kus vani kya vani/kya gov kya bani/asi maa khabrai…………frat frat ara sara/ ghar ghar maatam/nerkaakas gov seenas dub dub/baitathhis gov vaniji vathh/shiban jiyas zan zev gayi nenglith/Sanotshan het buthi buthi den/Papli ditsnas asas pend/sushman bakki bakki mas heot praatun/rinku papas kochhi manz shropp……………bara tala motuk thhuk thhuk voat……..kath mata karitav/pond yana traviv/shur yina vadi kanh/bata yina mangi kanh…booziv booziv ham kya chahta azaadi…… (That densely dark night/ who will speak? what will one speak/ what happened and what will happen?/We never know…..fear and blankness/ every home divulges grief/ Nerkak’s heart thumped/ The heart of Baitathh froze/ Shiban Ji was speechless/Santosh started beating her forehead/Papli plugged her mouth/Sushma pulled her hair out/Rinku shrank in Papa’s lap……the death knocked at every door/…..Don’t talk/don’t sneeze/No child should weep/No one should ask for food/…Listen to the slogan. We want freedom……)
Despite having hope for reunion, Sunanda Nehru Ganju in her book The Stories of Courage in Kashmir published in 2019 says:
‘The miniscule community had been facing death threats earlier but on January 19, 1990, the umbilical cord with Maej Kashir (mother Kashmir) was finally severed when more than three lakh Kashmiri Pandits left the valley after being openly threatened through inflammatory speeches broadcast from the public address systems of the mosques. The night of 19th January 1990 has been permanently embedded in the psyche of every kashmiri Pandit who had to flee from his motherland to never return.’
‘And even I can remember/A day when the historians left blanks in their writings, /I mean for things they did not know.’—Ezra Pound