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There are many caste, sub-castes and communities in India who have been residents since thousands of years. India’s population is over 1.25 billion today and man for man it is the most diverse country in the world. One of the many prominent communities is that of the Kashmiri Pandits.
So who are Kashmiri Pandits?
They are Kashmiri-Hindus and are a part of the bigger Saraswat Brahmin community. They belong to the Kashmir Valley, a mountainous region in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. They are now the only remaining Hindu community that is native to Kashmir.
So what happened to Kashmiri Pandits? How many Kashmiri Pandits were killed in 1990? We will tell you all we know about them right here.
What Happened in Kashmir in 1990?
The Kashmiri Pandits were favoured during the Dogra rule [1846-1947]. Almost 20% of them left the Valley because of the 1950 land reforms enforced by the Indian government. In 1981 Kashmiri Pandits formed only 5% of the population in Kashmir. However, their real problems started in the early 1990s when the valley was overrun by radical Islamists and militants. They began to be harassed, threatened and persecuted when the militancy erupted.
Then came the fateful day of January 19, 1990, when mosques issued declarations that Kashmiri Pandits were non-believers [Kafirs] and that all the males should leave Kashmir, either convert to Islam or be killed. The people who chose to leave Kashmiri were asked to leave their womenfolk behind. The Kashmiri Muslims were told to identify Kashmiri Pandits’ homes so that they could be either converted or killed.
Kashmiri Pandits Exodus Begins
It is still not clear how many Kashmiri Pandits left after this diktat by the militants. According to some sources about 100,000 of the 140,000 Pandits living in Kashmir were forced to leave in the 1990s. Some sources quote a higher figure saying that almost 150,000-190,000 Pandits left from the population of over 250,000 to 800,000 Kashmiri Pandits. So the waters are still very muddy on this long festering and thorny issue. However, no one argues against the fact that many Kashmiri Pandits did leave the beautiful valley because of the threats against them.
According to surveys done by various organizations including Kashmiris themselves around 399 Kashmiri Pandits were killed by militants in the period 1990 to 2011. About 75% of them were killed in the first month of insurgency itself. No wonder Kashmiri Pandits are still traumatized by the chain of events that have taken place in Kashmiri right from 1989 when the first signs of trouble became painfully visible.
A Movie has Generated Interest
Even though Kashmir always is in the news because of issues like the daily skirmishes between Kashmiri youths and the army, the politics over this serene beautiful state and the alleged support to the militants from Pakistan of late the media is covering the state more than usual. One of the reasons is the recent release of a new film based on the plight of Kashmiri Pandits named Shikara. The film has been directed by famous Kashmiri director Vidhu Vinod Chopra and is a love story at its heart despite the strong political overtones of the movie. The film was screened for select audiences in New Delhi and veteran politician L.K. Advani became emotional after watching it. Director Chopra reached out and tried to console him.
That Day When Blood Flowed!
The makers are claiming that Shikara was mostly shot in locations in Kashmir and only minor sets were used in Mumbai and Agra. Some scenes were shot at Wandhama near Ganderbal which was the site of one of the biggest massacres of Pandits in Kashmir in recent times. In 1998 in Wandhama 23 Kashmiri Hindus including four children, nine women and ten men was cruelly killed to teach a lesson to the Hindus still living in Kashmir and the Indian army and the central government.
Reel vs Real Story
Shikara has received mixed reviews from the press with some publications calling it a film worth seeing while same have opined that it is largely one-sided and shows only the Kashmiri Pandits’ side of the story. Some are calling it as a movie which has a good fictional love story but is weak in history. It is their way of saying that the reel side of the problem was not the real problem occurring in the valley. To some extent it is true because the film does not shed much light on why the radicalization of Kashmiri youths happened in the first place.
The Community has Spawned Many Achievers
Kashmiri Pandits have made their mark on almost all the fields in India including politics, the administration, music, films, sports and writing. Some of them are known all over the country like veteran Bollywood actor Anupam Kher who is a very talented and has won numerous awards for his work both in India and abroad. Kher is one of many Kashmiri people who have spoken about the rule of brute force that is taking place in the valley due to which they cannot go back to their homeland. Today there are barely 2,700 to 3,400 Kashmiri Pandits who live in their beloved state.
The Pain of the Kashmiri Pandits
Today Kashmiri Pandits are a forlorn group of people who have mostly given up their dream of going back to their beautiful state because of the danger still lurking there. Even though there is a large Indian Army presence in Kashmir, the Pandits still feel unsafe there. Today there is a war of opinion raging in India about Kashmir and in this bitterness people seem to have forgotten what really is as stake. A group of people have been removed by using violence, called genocide by many Indians, and made to live like refugees in their own country. The future of Kashmiri Pandits is hanging by a thread even as they are trying to settle down in different parts of India. When you are deprived of your homeland it feels like you have lost your soul. Ask any Kashmiri Pandit!