It has been more than three decades, when on January 19 began an almost near complete exodus of Kashmir’s largest religious minority, Kashmiri Pundits, in the year 1990. Such massive was the scale of exodus that out of nearly 70,000 families in 1989, only about less than 900 families were left by the year 2020, which is nearly a loss of 97% of entire Kashmiri Pundit community that existed before 1990 in Kashmir valley. Today Kashmir valley is almost completely empty of Kashmiri Hindus except 5000 people or so living mostly in secured fortified colonies.
It is wrong to call this tragic, humiliating and violent exodus of Kashmiri Pundit community which began on January 19, 1990 as “voluntary migration”, which infers that Kashmiri Pundit community willingly and happily left Kashmir valley almost all of them together of their own will. If anyone says so, it is a plain lie and we must not pass it on from here onwards. All uch false explanation should be exposed, and debunked. I myself belong to the younger generation of Kashmiri Muslims that was born after 1990 and our account of what happened to Kashmiri Pundits is primarily what is told to us by our father’s generation. We shoud straighten the accounts and tell truth top our younger generation.
The infamous “Jagmohan Conspiracy theory”, which has no takers internationally (except in Pakistan) that has been artificially pushed by some sections is more like rubbing salt in the wounds of our Kashmiri Pundit community as it maligns them of being an accomplice in violence against Kashmiri Muslims. Most displaced Kashmiri Pundits feel deeply hurt by this fraudulent and malicious propaganda that basically says that Kashmiri Pundits left Kashmir valley on the insistence of the then Governor Jagmohan, so that Kashmiri Muslims could be subjected to violence. This is such an unfortunate narrative, which basically vilifies Kashmiri Pundits. Things are made worst by the proliferation of toxic Hindu phobia that has grown exponentially in some sections of Kashmir valley in last three decades. We should now start talking about what befell this community, as the reality stands; also about nearly 200 Hindu temples that were damaged, destroyed and desecrated after Kashmiri
Pundits were thrown out of Kashmir valley. Even today, some of few functioning Hindu temples remain under heavy armed security amidst many incidents of violent and bloody attack on Amarnath Yatra pilgrims many times in the past decades. At a time when things are becoming tough even for Muslim followers of Kashmir’s Sufi Muslim traditions, who are ridiculed by orthodox Kashmiri Muslims, one can imagine the kind of atmosphere that now prevails amongst young Kashmiri Muslim men and women for Hindu religion and its followers. How can we ensure that Kashmiri Pundits won’t face this toxic Hindu phobia that has now engulfed Kashmir valley, if they chose to return back to Kashmir valley?
Many Kashmiri Muslims cite lack of economic opportunities as biggest hurdle for return of Kashmiri Pundits, but I feel that death of the secular and moderate Kashmir that used to exist before 1990, when Kashmiri Muslims and Pundits lived harmoniously for centuries is the biggest stumbling block. Kashmir of today is very intolerant and religiously radicalized place, where there are few takers for modern, progressive and secular values. An entire 3 generations of Kashmiri Muslims have grown up without ever seeing or talking to Kashmiri Pundits and there has been an almost complete lack of religious diversity in Kashmir valley for last 3 decades.
However, return of Kashmiri Pundits is extremely essential to preserve Kashmir’s fast evaporating former secular, Sufi and moderate social character, which fell apart after Kashmiri Pundits left Kashmir valley. We as a Kashmiri Muslim community in Kashmir valley must reject the fraudulent “Jagmohan Conspiracy theory” that humiliates Kashmiri Pundits rather than empathizing with them. We must also, if possible, work for de-radicalization of our younger generation by re-introduction of secular and inclusive values that used to be hallmark of Kashmiri identity. Return of Kashmiri Pundits is a must, more than for Kashmir’s Muslim community, otherwise the old, charming, happy, carefree, secular, moderate Sufi Kashmir of rishis and Sufi saints will disappear forever.
Javed Beigh is General Secretary People’s Democratic Front (Secular)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK