By Shrawni Sas:
There is a rumour associated with ‘Kheer Bhawani’, a revered Hindu temple in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, that if the colour of the spring water surrounding the shrine turns into black, a catastrophe is expected. This rumour did come true on the night, referred to as ‘Black Day’ for the Kashmiri Pandit community.
“Assi gacchi panunay kashir, batav rostuy, batenein saan” (We want our Kashmir, without Kashmiri Pandit men but with their women).
“Aye zalimon, aye kafiron, Kashmir hamara chorh do.” (Oh merciless, oh infidel, leave our Kashmir)
These slogans, announced on loud speakers on that macabre, cold night of January 19, 1990 still plagues the Pandits, sending shrivels down their spines and bringing tears to their eyes when they narrate their story. “Raliv, galiv ya chaliv” (Assimilate, die or leave). With only these options left, they decided to vacate their ancestral houses and they started moving to Delhi and Jammu.
The Kashmiri Pandit massacre dates back to 1989 when Tika Lal Taploo, an eminent lawyer was killed by terrorists in front of a huge crowd in Srinagar. Every single day after January 19 1990, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were killed mercilessly, women were raped, children and elderly people were also not spared. Their houses and temples were brought down to ashes. A renowned teacher, poet and a scholar, Sarwanand Kaul Premi and his son were robbed and killed by hammering nails at the centre of their forehead and their eyes were gouged. Girja Kaul was gang raped and was then cut alive into half by a carpenter’s saw. B.K. Ganjoo, who hid in a rice sack was shot dead in that sack and his wife was forced to eat the blood-soaked rice by the terrorists. P.N Kaul was skinned alive. Words aren’t enough to describe the atrocities the Kashmiri Pandit community had to go through.
Not able to acclimatise to scorching heat; sun strokes, heart attacks and extreme psychological trauma became the leading causes of death for Kashmiri Pandits who went to the refugee camps. More than 5000 people lost their lives due to the unhygienic conditions in the tented camps. Paucity of water, 15-18 hours of electricity outage, seepage in the shoddy rooms and no cremation grounds in or near the Jagiti satellite township in Jammu caused an outrage amongst the Kashmiri Pandits.
The Kabali attacks of 1947, the 1990 exodus and the insouciant attitude of all the political parties have obliterated the Kashmiri Pandit community to a very large extent. No medals were given away, no protests were carried out and not a single person was convicted for these mass killings.
Due to displacement from their own home, what occurred next was a complete socio-economic, religious and cultural erosion of the community. The majority of the younger generation of Kashmiri Pandits, after deracination, were born outside Kashmir and hence got adapted to different environments due to which most of them are not well-versed with the culture, festivals, tradition and language of the community. With the turmoil brewing up again in the valley, the newer generation is apprehensive about going and settling back in Kashmir. There are still many youngsters who have not been able to visit valley while the many who did, in spite of having their own homes, had to live like tourists in hotels.
Whenever rehabilitation schemes were concocted for the Pandit community, they became victims of terrorists attacks. 23 Kashmiri pandits in Gandherbal district (1998), 26 pandits in Udhampur district (1998) and 24 pandits in Pulwama district in the year 2003 were killed. These incidents are enough to understand that many do not want these Pandits to return to the Valley.
Being the victims of both, political opportunism and targeted killings, the total number of this community has drastically reduced to 2700-3400 in the Valley which is alarming.
For people belonging to the younger generation, one thing is clear – there is no going back.