SC recalls exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, but justice seems to elude community

The abrogation of Article 370 and the Supreme Court verdict has been welcomed by the community.

New Delhi: After repeated rejections of various pleas by different Kashmiri Pandit outfits and individuals concerning the forced exodus from the valley, the Supreme Court finally made a mention of their plight.

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The mention, however, falls short on extending justice to the community which has been waiting for justice and closure for the past 34 years.

The community, which is in a minority in the valley, became the first target of the Pakistan-sponsored terror network. Seen as pro-India, the minority was also targeted for their religion. Hundreds were killed, kidnapped, many KP women were raped and gang-raped. Many of the community’s temples were burnt down and desecrated, their properties were looted, many lands and houses were grabbed. Friends became foes and many neighbours turned out to be informers guiding the terrorists in their attacks on their minority neighbours.

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Political and administrative support had become non-existent. The then J&K government under Farooq Abdullah failed to safeguard the minorities, especially the Kashmiri Pandits. And finally, the community was forced to leave their homes and hearth, with the first mass migration taking place in the intervening night of January 19- January 20, 1990.

Over seven lakh members of the community suddenly became refugees in their own country and were forced to live in tents and pitiable conditions in Jammu, Delhi and other parts of India.

Their plight did not end with this. FIRs of the crimes against them were hardly registered. Many of their abandoned properties were looted and usurped.

The community leaders have been demanding a commission of inquiry or an SIT to probe the crimes and the exodus for the past three decades. But, none of the political dispensation at the Centre or state paid any heed. Except for a few doles, the community was left to fend for itself.

The December 11 judgement on Article 370 makes a mention of the mass exodus. “There was a mass exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community, threatened for their life and property, changing the very cultural ethos of Kashmir. There has been little turn-back despite three decades on this issue.”

Supreme Court judge Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul in the judgement says under the headline — 1989-1990 onwards: Another troubled time – “God and nature have been very kind to the Kashmir Valley. Unfortunately, the human species has not been so considerate. The 1980s saw some troubled times culminating in the 1987 elections, which saw allegations and counter-allegations. There was a growth of fundamentalism fuelled from across the border. The 1971 creation of Bangladesh was not forgotten.

“Unemployed and frustrated youth were trained as militia and were sent back into Kashmir to create chaos. It was a major change for people who, irrespective of faith, were known for peace and tolerance. The Kashmiri Shaivism and Islamic Sufism were taken over by such militant tendencies.”

He also writes about the impact of the terrorism on the co-existence of the majority with the minorities. “The bottom-line is that today’s generation aged 35 years or younger have not seen the cultural milieu of different communities, which formed the very basis of the society in Kashmir.”

In the epilogue of his judgment, Justice Kaul says, “…There was a troubled situation at the ground level, which was apparently not redressed. It culminated in the migration of one part of the population of the State 1989-90. It is something that our country has had to live with and without any redressal for the people who had to leave their home and hearth. It was not a voluntary migration.”

Although, the apex court says that there has been no redressal for the people forced to flee, it does not order any probe to uncover the plot and the faces involved and neither does it ask the government to take a meaningful decision on their rehabilitation in the valley.

The Supreme Court stresses on restoring the cultural milieu between the communities in the valley and suggests the setting up of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“In order to move forward, the wounds need healing. What is at stake is not simply preventing the recurrence of injustice, but the burden of restoring the region’s social fabric to what it has historically been based on – coexistence, tolerance and mutual respect,” says Justice Kaul.

While the Supreme Court believes that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can help the people in J&K, the Kashmiri Pandits feel that justice is not being served to them.

The community feels that they have been uprooted from the valley and their return is only being talked about as no concrete action is being taken. The community leaders say hundreds of their members were killed, but the FIRs are not there at all and no movement has taken place in the cases which are registered. They also want their properties which have been grabbed should be freed.

The abrogation of Article 370 and the Supreme Court verdict has been welcomed by the community.

But their demand for a commission of inquiry into the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits during militancy in the Valley which also led to the exodus of over five lakh members of the community and other minorities is genuine. No investigation or commission of inquiry has been launched so far. This is what the community says is the injustice and they want redressal on this first. And it is here that the successive governments and other Constitutional bodies have failed.

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