A couple of weeks back, a neighbor's relative who I didn't know before, came to see me at my residence. After speaking about my writings for a while, he revealed the main purpose of his visit. He had an old letter, dated 22nd September 1990, which was written to the Editor of one of the largest dailies of Kashmir at that time. He wasn't sure if it was carried by the newspaper then or not, but he wanted me to read it & highlight it, since as per him, the young Muslims of Kashmir need to know about it.
The letter was addressed to the Muslims of Kashmir. Given its date, it seems to have been written after some months of Pandit exodus. What makes this letter authentic is that it was written by the 23 prominent Pandits of Kashmir who had themselves migrated, few months ago. The signatures at the end of the letter are of: Brij Nath Bhan, M.L Dhar, K.L. Kaw, Kanya Lal Raina, G.N. Daftari, Moti Lal Mam, C.L Kak, Chuni Lal Raina, M.L Munshi, B.N Gunjoo, Ashok Koul, C.L Parimoo, Pushkar Nath Bhat, Prem Nath Kher, R.K Koul, M.L Razdan, Pushkar Nath Koul, B.N. Bhat, Moti Lal Koul, Ashok Dhar, Kamal Raina, H.Koul & S.N Dhar. I had always heard the two versions – Muslims & Pandits giving their side of story, but this letter is very interesting, in which well-known Pandits narrate the actual situation & the reasons for their flight from the valley.
The letter begins by admitting that the Kashmiri Pandit community was made 'a scapegoat' by Jagmohan, some self-styled leaders of their community & other vested interests. The writers call their exodus, 'a drama', enacted by BJP, RSS & Shiv Sena, 'in connivance with the State administration' & 'the main characters were played by Advani, Vajpaee, Mufti & Jagmohan'. The Indian rule has been termed as the 'Indian occupation' and it has again confirmed the much hyped "plan of massacre of large section of Muslims, especially in the age group of 14-25', with an intention to paint the mass uprising as 'communal flare up' & the subsequent killings as 'fight against communal forces and restoration of law & order'. It also draws attention to the foreign journalists being asked to vacate & the restrictions on the local press, then.
Calling H.N Jattu, 'a stove mechanic turned politician & Farooq Abdullah's lackey (actual word might sound improper)', the letter accuses him to have begged the Pandits to migrate. The writers confess that they were told that their migration was 'vey vital for preserving & protecting the Dharm & the unity & integrity of India'. They were also told that it would pave way for realizing the dream of 'Akhand Bharat'. They claim to have been told that it's a war between Hinduism & Islam. They were, however, promised rehabilitation 'as soon as the people of valley were silenced & made to surrender'. Assurances were given to them 'in the name of all gods & deities' that they shall be looked after and they were threatened of 'dire consequences' in case they didn't agree. Then the letter goes in detail, explaining their miseries in Jammu at the hands of Dogras, who they have termed 'Dangars' (uncultured) in this letter. It further reads that 'we feel ashamed to admit that we were fooled & were willing to become fools' and 'we also feel ashamed to admit that we have not only betrayed our motherland but even those who have given us love, affection & respect for centuries together'. It says that they also feel ashamed to have become 'tools in the hands of enemies of our nation' & 'for not participating in the freedom struggle of our motherland from the alien rule'. While admitting that their connivance with the state has helped to communalize the freedom struggle, instead of them being its part, they seek 'forgiveness from the Kashmiri Muslim brothers in the true spirit of Islam & the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (saw)'.
In the end, the letter categorizes Pandits into three sections: The first are those who were already settled in Jammu in their own houses, who they accuse of treating the migrant Pandits as 'invaders' while enjoying the migrant benefits by 'fraud & proxy'. The second category consists of those Pandits who came from the 'slum areas of Habba Kadal, Ganpatyar, Rainawari etc' having no property worth its name back home and with no permanent income in the valley. This category, they say, was happy with the relief and didn't want to go back. They claim this category to be more vocal against the Muslims of Kashmir. The third category is of those Pandits who came from well-to-do families and had properties 'worth lacs in the valley'. These were in the majority & were eager to return home.
The letter ends by an appeal to the UNO to implement its resolutions & compel India to fulfill its promises made to Kashmiris. It 'salutes the valor & courage of Kashmiri Muslims' being shown against the 'onslaught of occupational forces'. The last sentence of the letter reads as: 'May our dream of living in a free, independent & prosperous country of Jammu & Kashmir be fulfilled very soon'.
Anybody who wants the copy of this letter can have it from me. It's pretty old but quite readable. This is not to say that every Pandit was in willful connivance with the state but the fearful atmosphere created by the flight of their elite, in close coordination with Delhi, left common Pandits with no option but to leave for the safety & security of their families, as the tricks of Delhi weren't clear to them.
Mehboob Makhdoomi is a Harvardian & an MBA from Pennsylvania University (IUP) United States with a Research degree from Cardiff University, United Kingdom.