Kashmiri Pandits: An unending saga of tragedy

COLUMN

It was on this day in 1989 that prominent Kashmiri Pandit and local BJP leader Tika Lal Taploo was gunned down by terrorists in a downtown area of Srinagar. Taploo, an advocate, was shot as soon as he stepped out of his residence to go to the court for work and he succumbed almost instantly, although the locals rushed him to a hospital.

It was not a one-off killing but marked unfolding of a gory and well-crafted design of Pakistan and its proxies in Kashmir where terrorism was gaining foothold.

From then on, terrorists killed, one by one and in groups, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits in a targeted manner. Many women belonging to the minority Kashmiri Pandit community were raped, before being murdered. Such targeted killings and rape crimes created an environment of extreme fear for the miniscule community of Kashmiri Pandits and they started leaving the Valley. Over the next few months, the entire Kashmiri Pandit community, with an estimated population of 4 lakh at that time, left the valley as the governments at the Centre and in the state watched as mute spectators.

Their tragedy has been worsened by the fact that even 30 years after the crimes committed against them, nobody has been punished. The gruesome killings, including massacres, and rapes have gone unpunished due to the lack of will on part of the administrations and governments of Jammu and Kashmir and failures on the part of judiciary.

Since September 14, 1989 marked the beginning of the killing of Kashmiri Pandits and their ensuing exodus, the community observes this day as the ‘Balidaan Diwas’. This practice has been going on for the last 30 years even as the community waits for their safe and honourable return to their ancestral land.

The community, which has gone through immense problems even after their displacement, continues to await concrete steps on their return to Kashmir but none has been forthcoming so far. The successive governments at the Centre as well as in Jammu and Kashmir have repeatedly said that the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley was a top priority but the results are yet to be seen. At the same time, some political parties, associations and individuals, have been cashing on this tragedy of huge magnitude.

The latest in the series is actress Kangana Ranaut, who likened herself to a Kashmiri Pandit victim after merely a shed in her office building was demolished by BMC in Mumbai. This was an example of how the biggest human tragedy of recent times is trivialised.

People like her need to be reminded that exodus of Kashmiri Pandits meant their uprooting, irreversible thus far, and not just dismantling of some exteriors of their houses. It marked rendering of lakhs of well-educated people homeless, with tents becoming their shelter for months and years. The crime against them amounted to ethnic cleansing, which in no manner can be reduced to the trivial matter of bringing down of a shed of a building.

The community has not been able to return to their ancestral land for 30 years and is still counting.

Kashmiri Pandits have been failed by everyone, be it the governments at the Centre or in Jammu and Kashmir, and their plight has been forgotten.  Their tragedy is just an issue, raked up whenever some individual, association or political party wants to earn some vested returns.