Why Jan 19 is ‘exodus day’; even though mass killings continued after 1990

By Deepika Bhan
New Delhi, March 19 (IANS)
Every year, January 19 is observed globally as the ‘Holocaust Remembrance Day by the Kashmiri Pandit (KP) community to mourn the loss of lives, homes, livelihoods, language, culture, Kashmir and Kashmiriyat.
It is also a day to remember the failure of the administration, political leaders, civil society and the loss of humanity.
It is not that on January 19 the whole of the community fled Kashmir, many stayed back in the hope that harm won’t come to them. But massacres continued, targeted killings kept on happening, kidnappings, rapes, assaults, loot and arson and general harassment continued.
According to an estimate by a local organisation, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), which carried out a survey in 2008 and 2009, 399 Kashmiri Hindus were killed by insurgents from 1990 to 2011 with 75 per cent of them being killed during the first year of the advent of terrorism.
An RTI filed last year said that 89 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in attacks since inception of militancy in 1990. The numbers are disputed because many Kashmiri Pandits could not get FIRs filed and have no police record.
On March 23, 2010, the then J&K Revenue Minister Raman Bhalla told the Assembly in Jammu that “219 Pandits were killed in Kashmir from 1989 to 2004”.
The numbers may be disputed, but what happened 32 years ago, cannot be negated.
An entire majority population kept its eyes and ears shut even as fanatics danced on the Valley streets and roads, roared from loudspeakers atop mosques, threatening to rape and kill the ‘kafirs’ if they failed to leave Kashmir.
There was no one to stop the mobs that had taken over everything in the Valley; none to put an end to the venomous speeches. The administration had withered away; the police had become non-functional. There was no one the minority community could turn to. Pandit parents were ready to kill their women and girls as the frenzied crowds on the roads meant only violence.
None of the leaders — Farooq Abdullah, the late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Saifuddin Soz, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and others — who claim to be votaries of secularism, were nowhere to be seen.
Farooq Abdullah was the Chief Minister of J&K from 1986-1990. Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister (1989-1990). It was under their watch that terrorism flourished in Kashmir.
The maximum number of targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and all those who were seen as ‘pro-India’, brutal gang-rapes and killing of Pandit women, desecration of temples, kidnappings, attacks and harassment of the Valley’s minority were happening when the two were at the helm.
When warnings were pasted on the doors and walls of KP homes, open threats were published in local newspapers, messages were conveyed to targeted people to leave or die, none from the majority community, no civil society member and none of the political leaders, either in the erstwhile state or in New Delhi, stood up.
January 19 also exposes the hollowness of the country’s top constitutional institutions, which failed to take note of the atrocities, investigate and prosecute all those involved in the persecution and exodus of their fellow citizens.
Three decades after the mass exodus, none of the successive governments at the Centre or in the state set up a commission or formed an SIT to probe the exodus. January 19 is also a reminder of this failure.
(Deepika Bhan can be reached at deepika.b@ians.in)

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