Ashok Bhan Column: Remembering Kashmir Holocaust Day on January 19

Ashok Bhan

Ashok Bhan-

[Ashok Bhan is Senior Advocate, the Supreme Court of India, a Distinguished fellow of USI and Chairman of the Kashmir (Policy & Strategy) Group. The views expressed are his own]

The 19th day of January every year is in memory of victims of the Kashmiri Holocaust of 1990 and continued selective killings of native Kashmiris. It is the day on which all of us must reassert our commitment to human rights.

We must also go beyond remembrance, make sure that the new generation knows this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world, and we must do our utmost so that all peoples may enjoy the protection and rights for which the Constitution of India and UN Charter on Human Rights jurisprudence stand.

On this day in 1990, Pandits, the indigenous people of Kashmir, who remain the target of targeted killings, were expelled from the Kashmir Valley. They became refugees in their own land and sought refuge in Jammu, Delhi and various other places. They left behind their houses and herds, which are now destroyed, sold for peanuts and mostly occupied by the armed insurgents by force.

I am an incorrigible Kashmiri, a victim in exile and a proud member of the Kashmiri Pandit community, an ethnic minority of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is now a Union Territory.

A religious minority whose history and roots have been linked to Kashmir for more than 5,000 years is being forcibly evicted from its natural habitat as part of a concerted plan of ethnic cleansing.

To avenge defeats at the hands of India, sophisticated weapons are being smuggled into Kashmir from across the border by the Pakistan Army and its intelligence agency, the ISI, under Pakistani direction, supervision, and control, and deadly weapons are being pumped into the valley and other parts of the Jammu region.

The Pandit community and the majority of Muslims were the main targets of the armed terrorists. Terror prevailed, hundreds of Kashmiris were brutally murdered, the state government collapsed, and the Indian state was in a state of chaos.

This community was reduced to a tiny minority by cultural aggression in the past, and as a result, according to census figures, the population of this community was 15% in 1947, 5% in 1981, and only 0.1% in 1991.

Of this tiny number, 99.9% of the population of this community was forced to flee Kashmir and live as refugees because they were repeatedly victims of terror, rape, murder, looting and kidnapping.

Around 1,500 Kashmiri Pandits, including women and children, were brutally murdered. Close to 250 religious shrines were burned, and 50,000 peasant families were deprived of their land.

The brutal killings of Kashmiri Hindus began over 30 years ago, on September 14, 1989, when Pt Tika Lal Taploo, a prominent lawyer of the Srinagar Bar Association, was assassinated.

He fell victim to the bullets of JKLF terrorists right outside his house in downtown Srinagar.

Retired District and Sessions Judge Pt Neelkanth Ganjoo was killed at Hari Singh High Street Market on November 4, 1989.

Ganjoo had presided over the trial of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhat for the 1966 murder of police inspector Amar Chand, and in August 1968 he sentenced Bhat to death. This sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1982. Bhat’s execution was carried out in Tihar Prison.

On April 30, 1990, three armed militants abducted Pt Sarvanand Koul, a well-known freedom fighter, teacher and scholar, from Shali village in the Kokernag region of Anantnag district.

His younger son Virendra Koul sensed something was wrong and asked the armed men to accompany his father. He joined his father, but two days later two bodies were found with broken limbs, torn-out hair, and slashed and burned skin.

The dead poet and teacher were 67-year-old Kashmiri Hindu Pandit Sarvanand Koul “Premi” and his teenage son Pandit Virendra Koul.

The late Pit Sarwanand Koul Premi was so popular that the Jammu and Kashmir government decided last year to introduce the Urdu version of the Shrimad Bhagavad Gita and the Kashmiri version of the Ramayana, which the late Premi had authored, in all educational institutions in the state of Jammu and Kashmir for the benefit of students.

There are hundreds of similar stories of gruesome killings, torture, intimidation, looting and robbery of property of Kashmiri Hindus by the terrorists and their local sympathizers.

After individual killings, mass killings of Hindus began, terrifying the remaining families living in different parts of Kashmir. The massacres in Sangrampora, Wandhama, Chatisingpora and Nadimarg alone claimed the lives of more than 60 innocent Hindus and Sikhs of Kashmir, including infants, children, youth, elderly and also women.

India’s then Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral joined mourners in the Kashmiri village of Wandhama on January 28. The Prime Minister was shocked and expressed his heartfelt condolences. He was accompanied by the then Governor K.V. Krishna Rao.

The Nadimarg massacre claimed the lives of 24 Hindu Kashmiri Pandits in Nadimarg village in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on March 23, 2003.

Murder and massacre became the norm, beginning with the killing of police inspector Amar Chand in Nadhal, Bandipora, in 1966 by JKLF terrorists and their so-called founder Maqbool Bhat, who was tried for the inspector’s murder.

Although the insurgency was initiated by the JKLF, it was hijacked by groups committed to Islamist radicalism.

The security situation along the India-Pakistan border remains of great concern. Tension and killings in various parts of the state are ongoing phenomena.

The LG administration and the Central government are primarily concerned with addressing security problems.

However, the problems of Kashmiri Pandits have not been taken into serious consideration except that they are mentioned in the election manifesto of the BJP and general statements from time to time by senior leaders that the reversal of exile in Kashmir is imminent and their (Kashmiri) Pandit problem is a priority item on the political agenda of the Central government.

Kashmiri society today is at a historic crossroads. Its peaceful ethos, its liberal Islam, its culture of Sufi saints, its Kashmiriyat, and its image as a strong citadel of coexistence and pluralistic society have been shattered and devastated by decades of violence by terrorists and mercenaries.

The threat of Islamist fanatics seeking to impose an alien way of life on Kashmiris is serious. The Muslim-majority Kashmiri society is in a state of self-reflection. Their choice of a pluralistic, peaceful, democratic and modern way of life was reflected in their participation in the elections to local bodies and the DDC.

They must seriously confront the events and violence of the last three decades and decide under what socio-political conditions they want to live in the future.

Related posts