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“If We Think Every Kashmiri Muslim Is Responsible For Exodus Of Pandits, We Are Wrong”

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A few days ago, the trailer of the movie Shikara was released; it is an upcoming Bollywood movie directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, starring Aadil Khan and Sadia. As per the trailer, the film is based on the events of 1990, when the Pandit population, living in Kashmir, were forced to leave the valley by the radical elements. This event is popularly known as the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and how they were forced to live in their own country as refugees.

A still from the movie Shikara – it is a Bollywood movie directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, starring Aadil Khan and Sadia.

The trailer forced me to go back to history and find out what happened in Kashmir on 19th January 1990.

The night of January 19, 1990, turned out to be the most violent night, for several Pandits, Sikhs etc. living in the valley – where loudspeakers with words “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galiv” (convert to Islam, leave the place or perish) were announced, and radical people had come out on the streets, chanting highly provocative slogans.

Col. Tej Kumar Tikoo in his book ‘Kashmir, Its Aborigines And Their Exodus’ writes about the experience of that tragic night: “As the night fell, the microscopic community became panic-stricken, when the valley began reverberating with the war cries of Islamists, who had stage-managed the whole event with great care; choosing its timing and slogans to be used. A host of highly provocative, communal and threatening slogans, interspersed with martial songs, incited the muslims to come out on the streets and break the chain of ‘slavery’. These exhortations urged the faithful to give a final push to the Kafir in order to ring in the true Islamic order. These slogans were mixed with precise and unambiguous threats to Pandits.”

These lines mentioned by Col. Tej Kumar Tikoo clearly show why the victims of this event still remember the night with shivers. It is said that around 1,00,000 to 1,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave the valley during that period, to save themselves from the violent situation.

So when the Indian Government abrogated Article 370, it was quite understandable why many Kashmiri Pandits celebrated, because they thought that there is a chance they might finally return to Kashmir.

But after reading this, if we think that every Kashmiri Muslim was involved in this crime, then we are wrong: Sanjay Tikoo who is the head of KPSS, an organisation that looks after the Pandit population in Kashmir, reminisced his experiences of the event. In front of his house, there was a note, asking them to leave Kashmir, but when his Muslim neighbours came to know about it, they supported Tikoo’s family and made sure they did not leave the valley.

This event proved, that still there were people who did not want this event to occur, but he also stated, that even after that fateful night, there were instances, where the remaining Pandit population faced violence. Following this, the relations between the Muslims and Pandits did get affected.

After the many of the Pandit population were forced to leave, the situation in Kashmir deteriorated and there were many reasons for this; which has made Kashmir one of the most militarized regions in the world, and this has definitely affected the population in Kashmir too, in many forms.

Although, if we talk about who was responsible for this crime or what were their vested interests were, even a book might not be enough; but still, one question comes to mind, can this situation be solved, can the people who were forced to leave their homes return back to where they were born and intend to spend their lives?

In my opinion, attempts should be made, by responsible authorities, to ensure that the situation stabilises in Kashmir. This should happen in co-operation with local people because till now whatever has happened in Kashmir, it has not brought any positive impact either for the people living there or the people living in other parts of the country –  all it has led to is hatred.

Hence, all efforts should be taken to make sure Kashmir actually becomes synonyms with heaven and becomes a symbol of religious brotherhood, so that the people who are waiting for years, can finally return to the valley. After all, they too are Kashmiris.

It is not only the responsibility of the Government but also the citizens because the choice is ours: either we continue the conflict-like atmosphere; where no one benefits or we take initiatives to develop the region, which will not only benefit the local population but also the country as a whole. But again, this can only happen if the people of Kashmir and other parts of the country co-operate.

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