A few days ago, a Jammu based newspaper reported that the Kashmiri Pandits will take up the issue of separate homeland for 700,000 exiled pundits during their proposed meeting with the Home Minister, Rajnath Singh.
Without commenting on the separate homeland within Kashmir, the truth about the Pandit population needs to be brought to the fore. The news report, most probably has taken the figures from, noted columnist AG Noorani's article in Dawn published on July 9, 2016. He writes: "In 1990, on the outbreak of militancy, around 700,000 to 800,000 Pandits fled from Kashmir."
A G Noornai normally undertakes extensive research before writing. However, in this case he has not done the usual digging. It seems he has taken the figures from the biased Indian media. The last census before the exodus was done in 1981. It put the Pandits' number at a little over 124,000 in a total population of 3.1 million.
The Pandits opted for family planning and believed in hum do hamaray do slogan (We too our two). So, if they were 124,000 in 1981, how come they grew enormously (up to 700,000) in nine years.
M Rasgotra writes in Political History of Kashmir. (Kashmiri Pandit Network) writes : "Their (Pandits) share in the Valley's population was down to five per cent as against 15 per cent in the 1941 census with a corresponding rise in the-percentage of Muslims, up from 83 per cent in 1941 to 95 per cent in 1981. The enormity of this injustice perpetrated by a supposedly secular and democratic government on this hapless community stood exposed in 1990, when 300,000 Pandits- men, women and children- fled the Valley under threat of the terrorists' guns and poured into hastily-organised refugee camps in Jammu and other places.
M Rastogra has also given a distorted figure of the Pandits who migrated in 1990. If the total number of Pandits who stayed back in valley is added to the figure, the total population of the community will be 300,3000. According to Khalid Bashir, this means the Pandits registered an incredible growth of 127 percent in nine years.
If the figures are accepted for the sake of arguments, they still strike hard at the figures projected by the Jammu based newspaper. Further, the Al Jazeera in its August 1, 2011 report titled "Kashmir: The Pandit question" on the basis of the average decennial growth rate in the state as a whole, available through the censuses up to 1941 and then the 2001 census, the number of Kashmiri Pandits living in the valley before 1990 is about 160,000 to 170,000. So the number of 700,000 as representing the number of Kashmiri Pandit departures after 1989-1990 is not credible because that exceeds by many hundreds of thousands the total of the Kashmiri Pandit population at the time.
Sumantra Bose in his The Challenge in Kashmir democracy, self-determination and a just peace, on page 71 says approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left the valley during the 1990s.
Iffat Malik has given an increased figure of 150,000 in her Kashmir: Ethnic Conflict, International dispute, page 392. And our own, Khalid Bashir Ahmad in his Kashmir Exposing the myth behind the narrative, page 251 writes: "According to the census of 1981, the total population of Hindus in Kashmir (including non-Kashmiris ) was 124.078. Given the decadal growth of the community from 1971 to 1981 as 6.75 percent, their population in 1991 would have been 132,453."
According to him, the total number of Pandits who left the valley in 1990 is about 124,453.
After migrating from Kashmir, the first thing the migrants did was to register themselves as migrants in Jammu. Not a single migrant skipped registration. In fact, many of them got multiple ration cards. When the fraud was detected, the fake ration cards were simply thrown away.
The government has contested the figures about Pandit killings as well as the figures on migration much to the disappointment of the community. The state government has disclosed on the floor of the legislative assembly that a total of 1,42,202 migrants were registered with the Revenue and Relief Ministry. Another important feature that comes to light is that the tendency of growth of population in Jammu division is quite higher than the other two divisions of the state between 1981 to 1985.
The Panun Kashmir document available on http://www.panunkashmir.org discusses in detail the population of the state as furnished by the 1981 census. "Table 5 depicts the Hindu population at 1,24,078. This includes about 30,000 non-Kashmiri speaking Hindus. Thus, the Kashmiri speaking Hindus number about 90,000 only.
"The growth of population works up to 30% between 1971-81. If its effect is extended to 1990, the increased number of Kashmiri Pandit population will come to some 1,17,000 persons." The document, however, says the population figures of the community as revealed on account of exodus comes to about 2,50,000.
The author is senior editor Greater Kashmir.