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Why SC’s refusal to probe the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits is a travesty of justice

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a plea seeking probe and subsequent prosecution in the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits which took place during 1989-90.

The plea sought probe and prosecution of various persons, including terrorist turned ‘leaders’ Yasin Malik and Bitta Karate, for the heart-wrenching crimes committed against the Pandits.

A bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud held that almost 27 years have passed since the event took place, hence it would be “very difficult” to gather evidences in the cases of murder, arson and looting which led to the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley.

It was in 1989-90 when Islamic terrorism raised its head in Kashmir. The Islamists systematically targeted the Kashmiri Pandits and lynched at-least 700 of them. Scores of Pandit women were raped, their houses were looted and burnt down. Many Hindu temples were desecrated. And finally Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley, which they fondly used to call home.

This macabre event underlined a clear breakdown of law and order. It was an abysmal failure of democracy. Open threats were given to the minorities (Hindus), hit lists were made and innocent Hindus murdered in broad daylight. The state administration failed to protect the Kashmiri Hindus, control the carnage against them and prevent their subsequent departure from the Valley.

Senior journalist and author Rahul Pandita in his book Our Moon has Blood Clots, has chronicled some of the most brutal murders of Pandits at the hands of the Islamists. He has recounted how the Kashmiri Pandits became “nobody’s people” when the genocide took place. He writes:

“Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits were tortured and killed, and about 350,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country.”

While the official figure of Jammu & Kashmir government pegged the casualty of Kashmiri Pandits at just 219, estimations suggest point to a figure close to 700. After the dust settled down on one of the worst human exoduses the country has ever seen, the Kashmiri Pundits started to hope that justice would be delivered to them one day.

To ensure that, as many as 215 FIRs were filed. None of them reached a logical conclusion. Not even a single person has till date been convicted for the gruesome crime.

It is also a known fact that the Kashmiri Pandits who are living in exile, could not properly join the investigation process as their homeland was not even suitable for a brief visit. In such a case investigations should have reached out to them, but that never happened. Till date the investigation reports by the local police continue to be available. The police could have launched the proceeding to prosecute the accused. The state government, the Centre, the judiciary could have done the needful, but unfortunately that never happened.

The Supreme Court, the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, could have looked into all aspects of the cases. But by refusing to entertain a plea seeking probe and prosecution of the guilty, the Supreme Court like many before it, has simply shut the door on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits.

I decided to reach out to the Pandits themselves to hear their reactions:

If you have a Ram Mandir-Babri case for 150 years, an anti-Sikh riot case for 34 years and if you can reopen the Gujarat riot cases suo motto then in Kashmiri Pandits’ genocide case when both the accused and the witnesses are still available, how can the Supreme Court say that the evidences won’t be found? It is the job of the investigative agencies and the prosecutions to tell the court that the evidences can’t be found. But the Supreme Court can’t presume so.

 Amit Raina, who represents Roots of Kashmir, the organisation that filed the appeal in the Supreme Court

 “amazing” and “shocking,” Such an Order is unheard of in any place where genocide has taken place in such a large scale. We are hugely disappointed and are trying to grapple with it.

– Dr Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of Panun Kashmir

It is very unfortunate. Kashmiri Pandits who have been persecuted and killed 27 years ago are yet to get justice from the law of the land and at the same time the separatists continue to have a field day.

– Sanjay Ganjoo, president of Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch.

The Supreme Court has made a huge error of judgement. This is a clear case of miscarriage of justice. We are going to fight it.

– Sushil Pandit, founder of Roots in Kashmir

Finally, if the Bangladeshi judiciary can grant death sentences to Islamists for the 1971 genocide more than four decades after the event, then why aren’t we doing the same for our people?

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Saswat Panigrahi
Political writer, policy observer.

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