While Farooq Abdulla and his National Conference was in office, in the State, and Rajiv Gandhi and the Indian National Congress were strutting about with plumes of power in Delhi… The quote below has historical and informational value at par with those pertaining to Netaji Subhas Bose under Gandhi-Nehru regime since the eve of India’s independence in 1942, when the die-hard nationalist was raising the National Flag in Port Blair.
The quote is a part of larger essay written as an open letter to Ayesha Begum, erstwhile well-known actress whose maiden name was Sharmila Tagore.
Srinagar, January 4, 1990. Aftab, a local Urdu newspaper, publishes a press release issued by Hizb-ul Mujahideen, set up by the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1989 to wage jihad for Jammu and Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan, asking all Hindus to pack up and leave. Another local paper, Al Safa, repeats this expulsion order.
In the following days, there is near chaos in the Kashmir valley with chief minister Farooq Abdullah and his National Conference government abdicating all responsibilities of the state. Masked men run amok, waving Kalashnikovs, shooting to kill and shouting anti-India slogans.
Reports of killing of Hindus, invariably Kashmiri Pandits, begin to trickle in; there are explosions; inflammatory speeches are made from the pulpits of mosques, using public address systems meant for calling the faithful to prayers. A terrifying fear psychosis begins to take grip of Kashmiri Pandits.
Walls are plastered with posters and handbills, summarily ordering all Kashmiris to strictly follow the Islamic dress code, prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks and imposing a ban on video parlours and cinemas. The masked men with Kalashnikovs force people to re-set their watches and clocks to Pakistan Standard Time.
Shops, business establishments and homes of Kashmiri Pandits, the original inhabitants of the Kashmir valley with a recorded cultural and civilisational history dating back 5,000 years, are marked out. Notices are pasted on doors of Pandit houses, peremptorily asking the occupants to leave Kashmir within 24 hours or face death and worse. Some are more lucid: “Be one with us, run, or die!”
Srinagar, January 19, 1990. …. Curfew is imposed as a first measure to restore some semblance of law and order. But it fails to have a deterrent effect.
Throughout the day, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists use public address systems at mosques to exhort people to defy curfew and take to the streets. Masked men, firing from their Kalashnikovs, march up and down, terrorising cowering Pandits who, by then, have locked themselves in their homes.
As evening falls, the exhortations become louder and shriller. Three taped slogans are repeatedly played the whole night from mosques: “Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai” (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar); “Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa” (What do we want here? Rule of Shariah); “Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san” (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men).
In the preceding months, 300 Hindu men and women, nearly all of them Kashmiri Pandits, had been slaughtered ever since the brutal murder of Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, noted lawyer and BJP national executive member, by the JKLF in Srinagar on September 14, 1989. Soon after that, Justice N K Ganju of the Srinagar high court was shot dead. Pandit Sarwanand Premi, 80-year-old poet, and his son were kidnapped, tortured, their eyes gouged out, and hanged to death. A Kashmiri Pandit nurse working at the Soura Medical College Hospital in Srinagar was gang-raped and then beaten to death. Another woman was abducted, raped and sliced into bits and pieces at a sawmill.
In villages and towns across the Kashmir valley, terrorist hit lists have been floating about. All the names are of Kashmiri Pandits. With no government worth its name, the administration having collapsed and disappeared, the police nowhere to be seen, despondency sets in. As the night of January 19, 1990, wears itself out, despondency gives way to desperation.
And tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits across the valley take a painful decision: to flee their homeland to save their lives from rabid jihadis. Thus, takes place a 20th century exodus. …
Let’s never forget our history.