Since the past 3 decades, the Islamist forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir have been attempting to remove all traces of the Hindu community from the valley. It all started with the infamous exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 comes to mind. However, apart from the exodus of the Pandits, various reports have also cited the mass destruction of temples in the valley, in an effort to erase the very legacy of Hindusim from Kashmir.
Back in 2012, then J&K government, in a written reply to the state assembly in response to the question by a BJP MLA had stated that “Of the 438 temples in the Valley, 208 had been damaged over the years.”
This was due to acts of vandalism at the behest of the militants. According to the government, 57 temples were damaged in Srinagar, followed by south Kashmir’s Anantnag district where 56 temples suffered damage. However, the government had clarified that there was no illegal encroachment of temple land in the valley. The government stated, “A total of 63 hectares of land were under the 436 temples in the valley. There was no case of encroachment on these lands so far.”
However, Sanjay Tickoo of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), a body of Kashmiri Pandits disputed the government figures. According to his claims, “Around 550 temples were damaged and 50,000 kanals have been encroached upon.”
Thousands of Pandits were forced to leave the valley in the 1990s due to the militancy. They had left behind religious places and houses and migrated to other parts of the country. The government had said nearly 75% of the 1,234 structures of the Kashmiri Pandits in Srinagar district were destroyed. “In south Kashmir Kulgam district nearly 85% of the 754 structures have been damaged. In Srinagar district…most of the migrants have sold their property,” the government said.
These statistics are extremely disturbing. Not only were the Pandits shunted out, but the militants also ensured that their religious symbols would cease to exist in the valley. This blatant Islamisation, aimed at removing the very legacy of Hindusim from Kashmir is against the secular nature of the country which needs to be immediately set straight.
Now that Article 370 has been scrapped and the state bifurcated into two Union Territories, the return of Pandits to the valley is a real possibility now and this will lead to a healthy influx of communities, cultures are religions, effectively ensuring the end of the Islamist militants. Moreover, the Modi government should also focus on rebuilding the Hindu temples in the valley in a bid to revive the Hindu legacy in Kashmir that has been wiped off.
Amit Shah is already taking steps to ensure this. According to a report by Zee News, Amit Shah along with senior officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is formulating an “effective policy” for the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the state. It has come to light through reliable sources that Amit Shah had chaired several meetings with the key officials of MHA’s Kashmir division in this connection, a month ago.
According to sources, the central government is planning to build secured residential areas for the displaced Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik on 19th July had hinted that the centre is devising a concrete plan to rehabilitate the Kashmiri Pandits. He also added hopefully that if things go according to the plan, the policy should be announced soon.
Thus, now that Kashmiri Pandits will soon be on their way home, the Modi government in its part needs to take steps to revive the Hindu legacy of Kashmir. As such, the successful return of Kashmiri Pandits will always be incomplete until this legacy is restored.