Kashmir is India’s poetry. It has as much beauty as it has pain, pain that has seen bloodbath, hatred and gross injustice. No other state in modern India has perhaps seen as much blood and pain as Jammu and Kashmir. The politics of Kashmir, the debates and theories about the valley are unexhaustive. But what is really unnerving is the countless stories of brutality, violence and terror that often go forgotten amidst the debates and politics.
The name Kashmir is believed to be derived from the name of Rishi Kashyap. The land has been the ancient seat of wisdom, the land of saints and ascetics. But modern-day Kashmir is only a walking ghost of its glorious past. The violence made the Pandits leave their ancestral homes and seek safety wherever else they could find it. The poor villagers and shepherds that were left have long been cursed to remain at the mercy of Islamic terrorists. The politicians of Srinagar and Delhi indulge in meetings, elections come and go but the plights of the poor have never changed.
The Kashmiri Pandit mass exodus happened in the 1990s. It has not been a single incident, as many choose to believe. The floodgates opened in 1990, yes, but the trickle of Kashmiri Hindus leaving the lush valley has been flowing before and has continued long after, even to this date.
Hindus in the valley were the greatest threat to radical Islamists wanting to spread their reign of terror in the name of religion. An apathetic government machinery, both in the state and centre had achieved little over the years and it is mostly the poor Hindu villagers who have borne the brunt of hatred and violence perpetrated by Islamist terrorists in the valley.
It had happened in Nandimarg in 2003, on the night of March 23, armed terrorists and even some local youth have gathered Hindu families living in the sleepy hamlet in Pulwama district and fired indiscriminately, killing 24 Hindus, even toddlers. The same horror was repeated three years later in Doda and in Udhampur, on a brutal summer night 12 years ago.
On the night of April 30th, 2006, six terrorists went to the remote, shepherd villages of Tharwa and Kulhan in the Doda District of Jammu and Kashmir. In Tharwa, Three terrorists knocked on the doors of the village head. Using the pretext of having an injured friend, they gained entry into the house and asked for the neighbouring men to gather. The villagers were apparently not alien to such calls, for they are often forced to run errands and provide free labour at the behest of the terrorists. The terrorists even coolly noted down their names in a notebook, then began firing. The lady of the house, Gillu Devi, saw her own son, daughter, daughter in law and little granddaughter fall prey to raining bullets. She had fought relentlessly trying to wrestle the gun away from a terrorist before falling unconscious. The result of the massacre was the death of several poor, penniless Hindus. The assailants had then proceeded to repeat the act in another nearby village, killing 10 others in the same manner. The terrorists kept firing until their ammunition was exhausted.
On the same night, another group of terrorists near Basantgarh in Udhampur District had asked two local shepherds, Mohammad Siraj Ud-din and his son Rukun-Ud-din to guide them to a nearby meadow named Lalon Galla, where a group of Hindu shepherds have camped for the summer. They called the 13 Hindu shepherds they could find and lead them to the forests. This time too, the men followed, believing they were being taken for some carrying or building activity the terrorists needed to be done. At some distance, they were all shot dead.
35 Hindus were killed that night. Sadly that day was not the first, nor the last. The villages in the foothills of Pir Panjal range, like Srinagar, have seen repeated terrorist attacks and killings. In 1998, a wedding party was attacked in Chapnari village where 25 Hindus were massacred in a similar way. Just months before the Doda incident, in October 2005, a group of Hizb-ul- Mujahiddin terrorists had ordered the women in a village in Budhal, Rajouri to cook for them while they gathered the men of the families and slit their throats. These are just some of the examples of the cold-blooded killings of Hindus in the state. In 2000, 32 Amarnath yatris were killed in an attack at the Pahalgam base camp.The incidents have been many, the targets of the attack were mostly Hindus, including women and children.
The 2006 Doda massacre came soon after former J&K CM Ghulam Nabi Azad was elected from this constituency and days before the then PM Manmohan Singh was scheduled to meet Hurriyat leaders in Srinagar for a roundtable conference. The terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba was blamed for the attacks, investigators also suspected the support of the local Hizb-ul-mujahideen commander Mohammad Asaruddin in carrying out the killings. Abu Talha, the dreaded Lashkar commander who was believed to be behind the massacre escaped an encounter a week later. BJP leader and former Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani spoke once again about the ethnic cleansing happening in the state since the 1980s. Condemnations and debates flowed from all quarters, but as usual, peace was, and to a great extent still is, a distant dream in Kashmir.
The Doda-Udhampur massacre was mentioned by several nations while declaring the LeT a terror organisation. A branding that was reinforced after the Mumbai attacks of 2008. International condemnations, sanctions on Pakistani based terror groups and anti-terror operations in Kashmir have been going on for decades. Kashmir is used to headlines and media coverage. But sadly, the systemic and targeted killing of Hindus in the state has never been talked about much. The Pandits have become refugees in their own country, the scattered Hindus of the poor villages have been leaving in small groups since too, to save their lives. The demographic change has been forced into the valley as part of a well-orchestrated plan. Group by group, family by family, Hindus of the valley have been killed and the survivors eventually forced to leave. Governments have come and gone, but none have taken any significant steps towards resettling of Hindus who were forcibly displaced. Worse, few have had the guts to even openly admit that such a thing has ever happened.
Terror claims victims irrespective of their religions, the Muslims of the valley have been the victims of terror too, but the killings of the Hindus have been for their names, their religions, the Hindus have been killed as part of a larger, sinister plan, to scare the other Hindus into leaving their homes, lands and livestock behind and flee the valley. Shamefully for our ‘secular’ nation, the plan has been a grand success in Kashmir. The night of April 30th in Doda was a dark one, but unfortunately, the Kashmir valley is still far from light.