19th January, 1990 – refers to the series of anti-Hindu pogroms and attacks that took place shortly after the inception of the Muslim-dominated insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir in 1989, which eventually forced Kashmiri Hindu Pandits out of the Kashmir Valley.
The peak phase of the exodus was in the early 1990s, when Kashmiri Hindus, as a result of being targeted by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and other pro- Pakistan Islamists insurgents, fled from the Kashmir Valley to seek refuge elsewhere in India. As of 2016, only 2,000–3,000 Kashmiri Hindus remain in the Kashmir Valley compared to approximately 300,000–600,000 in 1990.
Consequently, 19 January 1990 is widely known by Kashmiri Hindus as “Exodus Day”, in memory of the Kashmiri Hindus who were either killed or forced out of Kashmir.
Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to leave their homes, their businesses, their properties and most importantly their feelings, are still being called refugees or migrants while they aren’t ‘migrants’ in real sense.
Story of a Kashmiri Pandit: The story started in October 1989 when Muslims started targeting people of our community. They raised the slogan ‘Yahan hum bnayenge Pakistan, Bhaton rosti Bhatniyon Saan’ which means we’ll make Kashmir like Pakistan without Kashmiri Pandits but will keep Kashmiri Pandit ladies with us. Then they started giving ultimatum by sticking letters at the doors of leaving Kashmir in one day.
I saw people getting killed, even my neighbour. We were frightened, tensed and wanted to save our lives. My family loaded our baggage in a truck and started our journey to Jammu, the nearest place for rescue. As we reached Banihal, conditions got worse. People spotted us to be Kashmiri Pandits and pelted stones at us. Though the doors and windows of the truck were closed, a stone hit my mother’s ear and within few seconds we could see blood.
The people of Jammu, the Dogras accepted us with love and warmth. We could feel safe sitting next to them. They gave us shelter. To be honest, some of them vacated their own rooms so that we could sleep in them. I will always be thankful for that.
We aren’t migrants. We didn’t leave our houses because we wanted to. We were pushed out of our happy lives in a lifetime of sorrows. I had a triple storey bungalow in Kashmir with 12 rooms. My farm land earned me my monthly expenses. What am I doing here? Surviving on a monthly expense given by the Government to feed my family, living in a quarter given by the Government again. My kids were born and brought up here. I don’t have complaints with the life I’m leading but yes I do have complaints with why I’m leading this life.
The leaders of Kashmir would never want Kashmiri Pandits to return to Kashmir. With a gap of 30 years, I don’t think today’s Kashmiri Muslim generation will be able to adjust with the people of our community. The negative thoughts Kashmiri Muslims have against us in their minds will never let them live a happy life with us. In 2007, I visited my motherland Kashmir with my brother. Since he’s a teacher, many local teachers recognised him. When asked about his identity, the students were told that he’s a Kashmiri Pandit. After their School, the kids ran after us to meet us and to my surprise, they said ‘You people look very normal like us’. I was shocked to hear that. I mean how aren’t they taught that we all are same, we look same, we all are humans.
I would love to go back to my home, my KASHMIR but don’t think anyone wants us to be there. Years have passed, new generations have come but we are still struggling to go back to our homes, to see our little happy world in our hometown.
I AM A KASHMIRI PANDIT AND WOULD LOVE TO GO BACK TO KASHMIR ONLY IF THE CONDITIONS GET NORMAL LIKE THEY WERE BEFORE 1990.
Muskan Langoo, News Producer, JK Media