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Many Kashmiri Pandits Were Shot Dead By Militants In The ’90s

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Trigger warning: mentions of targeted violence against Kashmiri pandits

It was January 19, 1990. It was the night of the announcement that led to the mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits from the Kashmir valley. The incessant sound of loudspeakers announced that Kashmiri pandits and Sikhs should leave.

The announcements happened in many parts of Kashmir. The whole purpose was to force Kashmiri pandits to leave the valley to supposedly go to their own country: India. In my observation, the jihadi elements are in favour of turning Kashmir towards Pakistan.

Whenever any debates happen on Kashmir, the issue of the mass exodus of Kashmiri pandits is not mentioned seriously. And, if the issue ever comes up, it is nullified by saying that just because some people did it, you can’t blame everyone.

Did it happen because some people wanted it to happen? Do any kind of riots, or pogroms, happen just because some people desire it? No, I don’t think so!

Any kind of mass violence occurs because many people desire to it to do so, not just some people. Take the example of mob lynching. A few people may provoke, a few others have desires, some act on it, while yet others are complicit by witnessing it.

It’s crucial to remember the horrendous act of violence which forced Kashmiri pandits to leave their homes. 

BK Ganjoo From Downtown Srinagar

It was March 1990. BK Ganjoo, a 36-year-old, telecommunication officer’s name made it to the hit list. He had been warned to leave Srinagar. He made a plan to leave the next day. The next morning, some armed men knocked on his door.

They asked about Ganjoo, but his wife told them that he left for his job. But, Ganjoo was right there. His wife urged him to hide in a partially-filled drum of rice. So, he did that.

The armed men entered the house slyly. They searched for Ganjoo, but couldn’t find him. So, they decided to leave. However, a neighbour of theirs, a Muslim woman, had seen him hiding in the drum.

She told the armed men where he was hiding. They entered the house and shot Ganjoo dead, in the rice drum. His wife, Vijay Ganjoo, requested them to shoot her also. But, they left her saying that they are sparing her to cry over his dead body.

Sarwanand Kaul “Premi” From Anantnag

Sarwanand Kaul “Premi” was a renowned Kashmiri poet and scholar. He had translated Tagore’s “Gitanjali” and the “Bhagavad Gita” into Kashmiri. He also had a rare copy of the Koran, which he put in his prayer room.

Secularism runs in his vein. When he was warned to leave the valley by his relatives, he told them not to worry about him. He said that he has a good relationship his neighbours and that they would protect him.

It was the night of April 29, 1990. Three armed men came to Premi’s house. One of them demanded him to give them all the valuables like jewellery, cash, pashmina shawls. They ordered the women to hand over the ornaments they were wearing.

 

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They put all of these in a suitcase and ordered Premi to lift it. When he lifted it, he started to tremble. After all, he was a 66-year-old person. Virender, his son, offered to lift the suitcase with his father. The three armed men agreed.

They assured the women that Premi and his son would be back soon. The whole night passed and they didn’t return.

The police found their bodies hanging from a tree, a day later. They had been shot dead. They appeared to have been brutally tortured.

Girija Tickoo From Bandipora

It was the period when a huge mass of pandits had left the valley. Some of them stayed back. Girija Tickoo’s family had also migrated. But, she had a laboratory assistant’s job in the valley. She had to go to the valley to collect her salary.

Tickoo’s family and relatives warned her against it. But, because she was the sole breadwinner of her family, she had to do it. On one such night, she was abducted by some armed men. 

They gangraped her and hacked her into pieces using a mechanical saw.

The Story Of Vinod Dhar

It was the night of Ramzan. A group of armed men came to Vinod Dhar’s house. They asked for tea. Dhar’s mother offered them the same. After drinking it, they left. Suddenly, Dhar heard the sounds of the firing of bullets.

His family rushed towards the first floor. They were all shot dead except Vinod. Somehow, he managed to hide behind a heap of cow dung cake. That night, these terrorists had shot 23 Kashmiri pandits dead.

 

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In the morning, the patrolling army came. Apparently, his neighbours started wailing over the dead bodies. He shouted at them to stop. Vinod revealed that, “When gunshots were being fired, the people of the village increased the volume of the loudspeaker in the mosque, to muffle the sound of gunfire.”

He was only 14 years old at the time.

Hard To Imagine What Kashmiri Pandits Felt Like

There were  other incidents which reminded us of the exodus of Kashmiri pandits. It was the morning of March 24, 2003.

Over 20 dead bodies of Kashmiri pandits, including women and children, were found. They were shot dead by militants in Pulwama’s Nadimarg.

One of the survivors recalls that they also shot the toddler who was crying. The whole exodus had happened in the name of demanding a free Kashmir. Those who migrated are living in a really bad condition till now.

A woman and man walk hand-in-hand.
A still from the film Shikara featuring a Kashmiri pandit couple in a refugee camp. Photo credit: Facebook.

Those who had some privileges managed to free themselves from the refugee camp, but those who didn’t have so much social or financial capital, continue to live there.

Quoting Rahul Pandita, from “Our Moon Has Blood Clots“:

“In a Paris Review interview, holocaust survivor and acclaimed writer Primo Levi is asked, ‘Are they still strongly anti-Semitic in Poland today?’ ‘They are not anymore. For lack of material!’ he replies. That is roughly what happened in Kashmir as well.”

There has also been recent news of civilian killings in Kashmir. Many newspapers and magazines described this as a return of the ’90s.

__

REFERENCE:

Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita.

Featured image, a still from the film Shikara, is for representational purposes only. Photo credit: Vidhu Vinod Chopra Films, Facebook.
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