33 Years on, 19th January is still a black day for Kashmiri Hindus !
1. What happened in 1990 ?
In 1989, the then Chief Minister of J&K, Farooq Abdullah, ordered the release of around 70 terrorists between July and December. They had been trained in terrorist camps in Pakistan-occupied J&K.
The top four were – Hamid Sheikh, Ashfaq Wani, Javed Mir and Yasin Malik. They played a major role in promoting insurgency and creating an anti-Hindu atmosphere in the Valley, which made Kashmiri Hindus flee the Valley. The madarasas financed and run by the Jamait-e-Islami also contributed to the radicalisation of the youth in the Valley.
By the end of 1989, the demand to establish the Islamic dominion in the Kashmir Valley and separate it from India had hit the peak. On the evening of 19th January 1990, pro-Pakistan sloganeering started from the mosques in the Valley and mobs started gathering. Posters came up, asking Hindus to either convert to Islam and join the separatists or leave their homes or die.
Thousands of Hindus left through the night. According to a report by Jammu-Kashmir Study Centre, a Delhi-based think tank, by March 1990, more than 90 per cent of the Hindus residing in the Valley had left their homes. They were living in inhuman conditions in camps in Jammu, hoping to go back, but then gradually their hope faded away and a large number of them shifted to other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, most of the Hindu houses were burnt down in the Valley and whatever was left of their movable properties was looted. 19th January is considered one of the blackest days in post-Independence India.
2. Seeking sanctuary
The Hindus who came to cities such as Jammu found themselves seeking sanctuary in a place unlike their home. The condition of displacement is marked by uncertainty, and the Pandit story is no exception to this. Many had thought that their dislocation was temporary and that they would return to Kashmir once law and order was re-established, though dislocation has become a permanent feature of their lives. Out of 1,40,000 displaced Pandits, approximately 36,000 families were settled in displaced persons camps between 1990-2011 until the replacement of the camps by the township of Jagti.
The experience of camp life has been extensively documented by writers including Kashmiri Pandit writers such as Rahul Pandita and Siddhartha Gigoo, who emphasize the sense of alienation they felt in exile, shaped by nostalgia and longing for their home and Homeland in Kashmir.
3. Ray of hope
After almost 27 years, some hope was generated in 2019 with the amendment in Article 370. This was followed by a series of administrative decisions taken by the Modi Government, which gave Kashmiri Hindus, especially Pandits, more hope of returning home. However, the realisation that it is a long haul and not an easy one, seems to have dawned now. “One shouldn’t expect any quick turn-around in the situation, though we are making progress in the right direction”, said a Government official associated with the process. “Return of Kashmiri Hindus is a complex issue. We need to first ensure their safety and security and also create enough economic opportunities for them so that they can come back and live here permanently”, said another senior Government functionary.
4. Panun Kashmir’s Genocide Bill
‘Panun Kashmir’, an organisation fighting for the resettlement and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus, had proposed a Bill for the recognition of the Genocide orchestrated by the radical Islamists in the early 90s. The draft of the Bill was released on 28th December 2019, and was named, ‘Panun Kashmir Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Bill 2020’.
“To help prevent acts of Genocide and other atrocity crimes, which threaten national and international security, by enhancing State of India and its Government capacities to prevent, mitigate, and respond to such Crises”, the objective of the Bill read.
5. Release of the film ‘The Kashmir Files’
Ever since the release of ‘The Kashmir Files’ on 11th March 2022, there has been a surge in public support for the Kashmiri Hindus. The film is inspired by the true stories of Kashmiri Pandits. It takes viewers back to 1989, when conflict erupted in Kashmir due to rising Islamic Jihad, forcing the great majority of Hindus to flee the Valley.
(Credits : Dibakar Dutta, Arun Anand)
On 19th January 1990, posters came up in the Valley, asking Hindus to either convert to Islam, to leave or to die !