Almost 3 decades back, Kashmiri Pandits, who constituted over 5 per cent of the population of the valley were told to leave the Kashmir valley. According to a book by Rahul Pandita titled ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits’, the Hindus in Kashmir valley were given an option to either convert to Islam or leave the valley, as they were Kafirs or infidels and ‘informants’ that jeopardized Islamist terrorism brewing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Hit lists were being generated, threatening letters were being put out every week aimed at Kashmiri Pandits, and their gruesome murders and rapes were on the rise. The loudspeakers in mosques announced that the male Kashmiri Pandits who were leaving the Kashmir valley, leave their women behind. Kashmiri Muslim terror groups issued warnings on newspapers to get Kashmiri Pandits to leave. In 1998, the Wandhama massacre of Kashmiri Pandits took place where not even children were spared by the terrorists, who termed it as part of their separatist movement. The Kashmiri Pandit genocide involved the murder and rape of thousands while, over 600,000 to 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits turned refugees in their own country, cleansing the valley of its Hindu population, one that followed the truly indigenous ways of the valley for thousands of years.
The majority of the Hindu families who landed gentry in the valley had to leave their homes, as the radical elements of Muslim majority region did not want Kafirs in their area. These families of Kashmiri Pandits who lived various cities of northern and western India are waiting to return to their homeland.
As the Modi government has decided to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two union territories, the path for resettlement of the persecuted minorities has become clear. Jammu & Kashmir will now become a union territory with an elected assembly like Delhi, while Ladakh, which has often suffered neglect from the Kashmir centric state government, would also become a union territory with an administration that runs on the lines of that of Daman and Diu.
The internal security and law enforcement of the region would be hand of Lieutenant Governor and therefore, under central government. The Amit Shah led Home Ministry would be directly responsible for the sensible issues of the region. Therefore, Kashmiri Pandits who are willing to move back to their homeland would feel safer.
Over 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits had to leave house and property when under the rule of Farooq Abdullah who was Chief Minister of the state from 7 November 1986 to 19 January 1990. The state government led by Abdullah was unable to stop to extremist elements from attacks on minorities. In late 1980s, when the exodus of Hindu population started, they were estimated to be around 6-7 lakh out of more than 50 lakh people living in the valley. As of 2016, only 2-3 thousand Kashmiri Pandits remain in the Kashmir valley.
“Article 370, which prevents people from outside to come into Jammu and Kashmir, died the day Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of Kashmir,” said Subramanian Swamy, senior BJP leader and nominated member of Rajya Sabha while he spoke in support of bill introduced by Amit Shah.
Previously, in his speeches and actions, Amit Shah has made it clear that Kashmiri Pandits will no longer be denied their due. They are a persecuted community which faced heart wrenching violence bordering on ethnic cleansing and genocide followed by decades of neglect by successive governments. It is time to make amends for the wrongdoings of the past and facilitate a mass rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir valley.
The 2019 general election manifesto of BJP promised ‘safe return of Kashmiri Pandits’. “We will make all efforts to ensure the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits and we will provide financial assistance for the resettlement of refugees from West Pakistan, Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb,” reads the manifesto.
The abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, empowering the centre to manage the law and order situation in Kashmir, will pave the way for the party to deliver on its manifesto promise on ensuring the return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland.