From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Kashmiri Pandits and the hurdles in their rehabiliation
It is 30 years since the “exodus” from the Valley of its minority Hindu Kashmiri Pandit community.
The run-up: 1980s to 1990
- Sheikh Abdullah had died in 1982, and the leadership of the National Conference passed on to his son Farooq Abdullah, who won the 1983 election.
- But within two years, the Centre broke up the NC, and installed dissident Ghulam Mohammed Shah as Chief Minister. This led to huge disaffection and political instability.
- The Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) stepped up its activities, and the hanging of the militant leader Maqbool Bhat in 1984 added to the sense of foreboding.
- In 1986, after the Rajiv Gandhi government opened the Babri Masjid locks to enable Hindus to offer prayers there, ripples were felt in Kashmir too.
- In Anantnag, the constituency of then Congress leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, there was a series of attacks on Hindu temples, and shops and properties of Kashmiri Pandits, blamed on separatist and secessionists.
- Pandits had begun to be targeted. Eminent persons of the community were being shot dead.
The night of January 19, 1990
- Matters came to a head on January 19. By then, the Farooq Abdullah government had been dismissed and Governor’s Rule imposed.
- According to accounts published by many eminent Kashmiri Pandits, there were threatening slogans over loudspeakers from mosques, and on the streets.
- Speeches were made extolling Pakistan and the supremacy of Islam, and against Hinduism. Finally, the Kashmiri Pandit community decided to leave.
The Gawkadal Massacre
- On January 20, the first stream began leaving the Valley with hastily packed belongings in whatever transport they could find. A second, larger wave left in March and April, after more Pandits were killed.
- On January 21, the CRPF gunned down 160 Kashmiri Muslim protesters at the Gawkadal Bridge, which has come to be known as the worst massacre in the long history of the conflict in Kashmir.
- The two events — the flight of the Pandits and the Gawkadal massacre — took place within 48 hours.
How many Pandits left?
- According to some estimates, notably by the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), of 75,343 Kashmiri Pandit families in January 1990, more than 70,000 fled between 1990 and 1992 and continued until 2000.
- The KPSS has placed the number of Kashmiri Pandits killed by militants from 1990 to 2011 at 399, the majority during 1989-90.
- Some 800 families have remained in the Valley through these three decades.
Role of the administration
- The other contentious question about the exodus is the role played by the administration, and more specifically that of the J&K Governor, Jagmohan.
- Newly appointed, he had arrived in Srinagar on January 19.
- The Kashmiri Muslim view of the exodus is that he encouraged the Pandits to leave the Valley and thus gave a communal colour to what was until then a non-religious Kashmiri cause.
- The Kashmiri Hindu view is that this is a disingenuous interpretation.
- They believe that Kashmiri Muslims, with whom they had lived amicably for centuries, drove them out with a vengeance in a frenzy of Islamism that they could not have imagined even months earlier.
- The truth, many commentators have concluded, may have been somewhere in the middle.
The question of return
- Those who had means rebuilt their lives elsewhere in the country — Delhi, Pune, Mumbai and Ahmedabad have Pandit populations, also Jaipur and Lucknow — or went abroad.
- The fleeing Pandits did not think they would never return to the Valley. But as the situation in Kashmir spiraled into a full-blown militancy, return began to look remote if not impossible.
- The longing to return to the Valley did not diminish over the years, though it may have become more an idea than a real ambition.
- Successive governments have promised that they will help this process, but the situation on the ground in Kashmir has meant this remains only an intention.
- There is an acute realization in the community that the Valley is no longer the same that they left behind in 1990.
- In many cases, their properties were either immediately vandalised or sold quickly by the owners to Kashmiri Muslims. Many fell into disrepair.