...the KP Holocaust Day!!!
...the KP Holocaust Day!!!
“wohh shaam kuch ajeeb thee, yeh shaam bhi ajeeb hai
wohh kal bhi pass pass theyy, wohh aaj bhi kareeb hai”
Even 22 years from that catastrophic night of 19th January 1990, I can not forget the weird eerie soul churning howl and chill of that night in
This will be one long post… much like the 20 long dark years my community has spent in a forced exile. As I sit here thinking of that night - a chill still runs down my spine.
Kashmiriyat – if anything like that existed had been eroded and molested by the majority in the valley leading to total subjugation of the minority Pandits. Pandits were held to blame for everything – be it excess snowfall or failed crops – because centre/India was to be blamed for it and Pandits were Indians at heart. Everything was a ‘center ki chaal’ and what could be easier than hapless Pandits to blame… Pandits had just borne in 1986 the brunt of the muslim ire – when Dogra’s in
Scarred by decades of abuse by the majority – Pandits witnessed a mini exodus from Anantnag district in 1986 – when scores of Pandit families left the valley – totally disgusted with their life as a Hindu minority in what was supposedly a Hindu India. Living as a minority in an Islamic shadow is not easy. This was the sixth recorded exodus of Hindus from in recent past – the 12th overall.
The Build up…
Pakistan’s General Zia has been sulking and hurting after his failure in getting quick success with the Khalistan movement – and had been working on opening additional fronts against India – to keep alive the Pakistani national philosophy of a 1000-year war with India; a theory openly propounded ironically by his predecessor whom he got overthrown and killed. Irrespective of their political or social leanings, the Pakistani government and ISI have always had the same agenda against
And even the victims of this war admire the cunning perfection with which
ISI couldn’t have got it easier – they already had numerous terrorist training camps running for Khalistan insurgency and for the Afghan operations – they had little to do to get Kashmiri’s trained in handling Kalashnikovs, AK47s, grenades, IEDs, rocket launchers- words which sprang up in the Kashmiri lexicon suddenly in 1989 and became better known than “A for apple” to even the kids on the street. They got easy recruits – snaring the loosing MUF candidates (a political front for the
If a failed or rigged election were to be the sole cause, then UP and
Extremist Islamic wave…
A large mass of red-white chequered headscarf wearing mullah’s had invaded
And Oh boy!!! What a splendid job they did. Suddenly in 1988, the locals started speaking a different language altogether. Kafir, jihad, unIslamic – such terms became known prominently. I still remember the day at a century old premier Christian missionary run school in
Aura of 1989
1989 – was the watershed year of sorts. For the valley and the world at large…
ISI and their honcho’s in Kashmir – JKLF, Hizbul Mujahidin et al, had whipped up a feeling all over
Pandits were carefully selected out and killed in the most cold blooded fashion by the JKLF terrorists – Bitta Karatey alone owning up to a couple of dozen Pandit killings. Scores of Kashmiri Pandits – prominent or unknown – were killed all over the valley – just merely by branding them informers or traitors. And no one questioned them – not even those who today swear by Kashmiriyat; because this was all part of the operation towards the goal of Nizam-e-Mustafa. Teachers, poets, scholars, leaders, lawyers, nurses, peons, officers, shopkeepers – irrespective of logic were gunned down from close range – just because they were Hindus.
Terror groups resorted to publishing lists of people they intended to kill – called “hit-lists” in local Urdu dailies. A scan through the 1989-90 archives of ‘Aftab’, “Al Safa” and other local dailies would give an idea of how dogmatic the environment was. Posters erupted around the downtown asking Pandits to “raliv, chaliv ya galiv” – (join the movement, leave
Ending 1989: At the end of 1989, an interesting turn of political events was also unfolding in the rest of
And the drama that followed was the right culmination 1989 needed. Abduction of Home minister’s daughter Rubiya Syed was staged and a weak centre yielded by releasing dreaded terrorists like Hamid Sheikh and Yasin Malik amongst others…
A mass frenzy of celebrations followed in the valley – with the released terrorists being openly carried around in the downtown in processions. Law and order were like a polar bear in
A battle was won. The war couldn’t be difficult. The tone and behaviour of the common man on street suddenly changed – my friends were suddenly talking of Azadi and Islamic rule, the language was full of technical terms around guns and war. They suddenly knew how many rounds a AK47 could fire, how many bullets a magazine had, what response times a Kalashnikov was like. By now, surprise guerilla attacks, cross fires, grenade or bomb attacks in city, shootouts at government offices or army camps were common place and daily happenings. By now the kids could tell the sound of a Kalashnikov fire from the AK47, and predict the distance at which IED or a grenade attack must have happened from just the sound of it. Black-outs and bandhs were common events. Schools and colleges stayed more closed than open. Daring to switch on a light during a blackout promptly invited a shower of stones. There were few Pandit homes without shattered glass panes by end of 1989. We stopped replacing the broken ones after sometime, and instead got wire mesh installed on the out side of the windows. Examinations were getting disrupted… normal life was in chaos. Yet, government was asleep.
Jihad was in the air… merger with the wider Pan-Islamic world was just a few steps away. Veils and burkha’s suddenly became predominant common sight– in an otherwise fashion aware society. Hindu’s were getting marked out and standing apart. The belief that
All this had left Pandits totally confused, clueless of the nefarious activities happening in covert and scared. I still remember the fear and chill the re-broadcast of serials like “Tamas” or news of riots in
Events leading to that night…
January 1990… the political chaos all over
Rumour mills were churning out weird stories each day. One night, it was a mass hysteria in Srinagar – when some mosques blared out warnings that they must immediately collect and horde as much drinking water as possible – because Indian government had ordered annihilation of all Kashmiri’s by poisoning of the water supply system. Preposterous and illogical that this may sound – the whole city was busy filling up water in even in the smallest cup and bowl in the house. Yeah!!! Pandits included… after all it was the same tap water everywhere. But did anyone question who caused this frenzy and spread this insane rumour – one dare not question.
Broadcasts from Radio-POK (what they call Azad Kashmir Radio) were interesting – there used to be more religious fervour and war-songs than news. And locals were hooked. Even Pandits regularly tuned in to know how worse it could get…
“Jago jago subaho hui, Khoon-e-shaheeda rang layaa, fateh ka parcham lehraya, jaago jaago subah hui…”
- a war song sung by non-Kashmiri singers of Muzaffarabad was one of the many war songs on air all the time. Soon these were also being played in mosques in the valley over mega-phones to incite passion for jihad. News reports from POK radio were the most hilarious though – one day you would be told that a 1000 Indian soldiers were buried alive by the valiant Islamic mujahideen, or that Srinagar was being readied for a JKLF to take the oath of power, or that Pakistani backed terrorists had captured the radio and TV centers (something seen in European revolutions through 1989) or that JKLF and Hizb were just about to march onto Delhi. Rhetoric like, people of Pakistan will offer next Friday prayer in Id Gah in Srinagar and the week after that in Jama Masjid in Delhi was common speech on those waves. And the masses were lapping it up in
The presence of security forces was still far and few. One could see only 2-3 pickets yet – around Residency road and Lal Chowk areas, and guarding Secretariat and few other important government landmarks. Otherwise, the security presence in downtown or the civil lines was absent. Few sensitive areas like Maisuma, Gawkadal and areas in downtown had witnessed clashes and guerilla attacks on the pickets CRPF tried to set up.
The lack of law and order was getting questioned and there was clear evidence that Farooq was not interested or capable of controlling the situation. How could he anyway, given that he barely was present in the country.
Despite what Kashmiri Muslims today say about Jagmohan – anyone true to his soul who lived in
The central government probably thought that Jagmohan’s popularity with the masses and his reputation would help soothe the hysteria in the valley and things would settle down. But Farooq got alarmed – he knew his inefficiency would get exposed now. In
That night…19th January 1990
Farooq’s decision to quit had left the state in confusion… His party cadre’s were restless and chaotic. The ISI’ honchos were alarmed. They feared Jagmohan’s return would send the people back many steps – he being the efficient administrator people had already known him to be and his goodwill with the masses. The mosques all over the valley became hyper active that night. Suddenly there were slogans and frenzied songs blaring from all mosques in the valley. Rumours of an Arab political delegation being in
“Islam khatre’ mein hai” (Islam is in danger),
“Aes gacche’ Pakistan, Batav ros’ te’ batnev saan” (we want
“Mujahid’on aage bhado” (Warriors of allah – move ahead)
“Yahan kya chalega – Nizam E Mustafa” (What will rule
"Kashmir mein agar rehna hai, Allah-o-Akbar kehna hai" (Only those who believe in Allah -(only Muslims) can live in Kashmir)
“Hum kya chahte, Azadi” (we want freedom)
“La ilah Illalah –
“Indian dogs – get out”
“Battav ya raliv, chaliv nate’ galiv” (O Pandits – either join us, flee or die)
…and many more.
It was a night of chaos and madness. The scary environment those eerie slogans echoing from frentic mobs created throughout the night can not be explained - one had to live that trauma to know it. Pandits were taken by shock by this sudden event – given that they had no clue on why and what was happening and neither did they know what rumours and discussions were on inside the mosques – till much later. Pandits, particularly those in the Jamat-e-Islami stronghold areas of downtown were shrunken by fear, like the animals sunken in their holes when a pack of tigers is on prowl. The sound of loudspeaker sloganeering was the most scary one – each household too scared to even switch on their lights.
Around before mid-night, groups of people started streaming through the lanes and bylanes, streets and nooks of the city – marching towards the Lal Chowk area – shouting usual slogans. At several places, the mosques ordered Hindu’s to move out of their homes and join the march as well. They were planning to assemble in Lal Chowk in large numbers – maybe a crowd of 200,000 to 300,000 people and then attack and capture the AIR Radio station and Doordarshan – much like the revolutions in
There was no chance of recovery thereon.
The ISI honcho’s – disappointed with the failure of the human wave in achieving the ‘one push’ were left directionless. Jagmohan was in city next day and went on television appealing to the general masses to use common sense and restrain. I remember his words like “I have not come here to govern or rule, I have come here to work as a nursing orderly to serve you, to help heal the wounds you have and be your servant”… In the days that followed Jagmohan in his usual way went about meeting people in open darbars in the valley – even though the secretariat was in
And the Exodus…
ISI and their honchos were in a panic – they went about increasing their attacks on Pandits and published more hit-lists, killing Pandits all over the valley everyday. Muslim neighbours came to us requesting us to leave the valley till was safe to come back, since they felt they would not be able to protect even close friends and neighbours –were an armed group of terrorists to show up at their neighbours doorstep. Posters threatening Pandits of dire consequences and directing them to leave the valley were showing up on doors and outside temples. Pandits were in a shocked state – frustrated that the government was unable to stop their massacre. Pandits had no option but to leave the valley – all believing temporarily – for safer areas. Most Pandits left their homes set, stocked and ready – expecting to return just a few weeks later once things were calmer – not knowing the return was not likely for decades. Pandits left in trucks, buses, tempo’s whatever means they could find…from villages and nooks of the valley – towards
Pakdo padko - Jagmohan ko pakdo…
ISI and their honcho’s saw this as a good opportunity to discredit Jagmohan’s efforts in the valley. Had they not done it quickly enough, the mass connect Jagmohan was re-establishing with Muslims would have killed their efforts totally. Word was spread that Jagmohan had ordered the firing at the crowds in Lal Chowk and Gaw Kadal on 19th Jan night – little logic was used to understand that he was not the governor at that moment. It was officers of Farooq’s regime who were still officiating. Rumours were spread in the valley that Jagmohan has gone to Pandits and asked them to leave the valley – so that he could conduct massive military operations killing all muslims, and they could return once they operation was over. This canard was repeated daily over and over again… and as they say, repeat a lie a thousand times and many believe it’s a truth. That’s the truth a Kashmiri muslim believes today.
Few used their logic – there existed no Pandit leadership at that time (not even now) – where Jagmohan could have conveyed this message to. Did Jagmohan go around visiting Pandit homes – telling them this secret plan. Pandits were spread few and far in between all over the valley. Was it Jagmohan who was pasting those posters at our doorsteps in the night? Was it Jagmohan who killed poets, teachers, social workers, nurses selectively? Did he go around branding Pandits as traitors and informers, and writing up those hit-lists? Did he know Kashmiri language enough to coin and shout those slogans – “raliv chaliv ya galiv”, “Aes gacche’ Kasheer, Batav ros’ te’ batnev saan”. Did Jagmohan go around shooting down Tikka Lal Taploo, Pt. Sarwanand Premi or Lassa Koul or the hundreds of other Pandits… did he go around stoning Pandit homes…? Did he go around gouging the eyes from Premi's dead body and cutting body of other victims on a bandsaw mill? Was Bitta Karatey trained and sent by Jagmohan?
If he really told Pandits to leave – I have a big grudge against him for not coming to my home and telling this to my family.
Rumour mongering is a strong Kashmiri trait – and this is the longest and strongest one ever. Ask a kid in valley today who Pandits are – a kid born in late 80’s or early 90’s… someone who has not seen or known a Pandit or doesn’t know what happened then – and you are likely to hear an answer like “Pandits are kafirs/infidels – informers and enemy of muslims who were taken out of Kashmir by Jagmohan”. Yeah… and Islam is the longest living religion…in existence since pre-human era.
Another interesting fact of late January 1990. We lived in the civil lines area of Jawahar Nagar (now renamed to something like Islampur or so), and happened to have 4-5 sikh families in our close neighbourhood. When family was in dilemma about the exodus – they would come to consult and confer on what to do as well. We seldom talked this to other Pandits – as much as to them. Yet suddenly one day this stopped. Turns out that Simaranjit Singh Mann had arrived in the valley – and met with the Jamat-e-Islami leadership and other ISI backed groups. Khalistani terrorists were afterall of same parentage. Mann had clearly threatened to retaliate against Muslims in other parts of
Without a God-father in the otherwise 80% hindu
In hindsight, Pandits did have a hope that the Hindu’s of
Pandits – were just one thing – 700,000 unwanted Hindu’s in a supposedly Hindu country…refugee’s in their own land. Exiles’ from their own homeland. Aboriginals evicted from their roots…
Ami pana so'dras nAvi ches lamAn
Kati bozi Day myon meyti diyi tAr
Ameyn tAkeyn poniy zan shemAn
Zuv chum bramAn gara gatshaha.-Lal Ded (14th century Kashmiri Saint and Poetess)
With a rope of loose-spun thread am I towing
my boat upon the sea.
Would that God heard my prayer
and brought me safe across!
Like water in cups of unbaked clay
I run to waste.
Would God I were to reach my home!