On March 21, Rajiv Pandit, a Kashmiri Pandit and member of the Board of Directors at Hindu American Foundation, narrated the story of how his uncle, Ashok Tikoo, escaped getting killed by terrorists Bitta Karate in February 1990. Though Pandit had talked earlier about Tikoo’s escape and how another Kashmiri Pandit, Anil Bhan, was killed instead, he never narrated how his uncle had known Karate before he became a terrorist.
Pandit, in a tweeted threat, said before Farooq Ahmed Dar alias Bitta Karate became a ‘psychopath terrorist’, he was just another kid in the valley who was popular by the name Bitta. He used to play cricket with Pandit’s family, and his uncle used to give him money for school.
After Bitta returned from terror training in PoK, he was given orders to assassinate my uncle. Bitta had another JKLF terrorist watch my uncle leave his home for work, walking through an intersection in Haba Kadal. The plan was to shoot my uncle from behind at close range. 3/n— Rajiv Pandit (@rajiv_pandit) March 21, 2022
After being radicalized, Bitta went for training at a terrorist camp. Upon returning from the camp, he was directed to kill Tickoo. Pandit said, “After Bitta returned from terror training in PoK, he was given orders to assassinate my uncle. Bitta had another JKLF terrorist watch my uncle leave his home for work, walking through an intersection in Haba Kadal. The plan was to shoot my uncle from behind at close range.”
On a fateful day, i.e. February 16, 1990, the terrorist who was watching Tickoo saw him leaving the house at 9:30 AM. Tickoo was wearing a leather jacket that became the identification mark. The information was passed on to Bitta, who then left to assassinate Tickoo. While going to the office, he remembered it was his brother’s birthday, so he went back home to participate in Pooja.
The spotter did not see him returning back home. At the same time, another Kashmiri Pandit, Anil Bhan, had left his house to Haba Kabal for office. 26-years-old Bhan was to get married soon.
The spotter didn’t see my uncle turn around to go home. At the same time of 9:30 am and only a few yards from my uncle’s home, 26 year old Anil Bhan, a Kashmiri Hindu who was soon to be married, also started walking to Haba Kadal for his job, also wearing a leather jacket. 5/n— Rajiv Pandit (@rajiv_pandit) March 21, 2022
Arvind Dhar, a Kashmiri Pandit refugee, quoted Pandit and said Bhan was engaged to a girl from a reputed family in Rainawari. Without indulging in more details, he said the incident shook the entire area.
Yes sir @rajiv_pandit Anil Bhan was engaged to a girl from a respected Family in Rainawari….don’t want to divulge the details….it was shock to entire area….I know the aftermath very well….I have got me back to my memories of that fateful day… https://t.co/5v9S9MeNKa— Arvind Dhar (@TheArvindDhar) March 21, 2022
Incidentally, he was also wearing a leather jacket. Pandit added, “Bitta Karate saw the Kashmiri Hindu man in a leather jacket at the Habal Kadal intersection, believing it was my uncle. He walked from behind, drew his pistol, & fired at point-blank range. You can never forget a mother’s cries at the sight of her dead son in a pool of blood.”
Later, the terrorists had acknowledged killing Bhan under the pretext of mistaken identity. In an opinion piece Pandit wrote in August 2019 after the abrogation of Article 370, he said the incident was a wake-up call for his family. They left the valley the same night with a few suitcases leaving behind everything they owned. A few months later, they came to know that their home was looted and destroyed.
He added when the Government of India abrogated Article 370 and 35A, his family celebrated. “In those Articles lay the seeds of a cleavage between Kashmir and the rest of the Indian nation—one that allowed the state to render many of its residents, second-class citizens,” he wrote.
In his tweet thread, while thanking Vivek Agnihotri for making the film, he said he did not narrate the story earlier as he did not think anyone would really listen.
Why did I never tell this story before? Because despite speaking on behalf of Kashmiri Hindus for 30 years in the US, in Congress and to the media, I didn’t think anyone would really listen. Thanks to @vivekagnihotri, people finally are 🙏. #RightToJustice 8/n— Rajiv Pandit (@rajiv_pandit) March 21, 2022
Who was Anil Bhan?
Anil Bhan was a bright young Kashmiri Pandit with an excellent academic record. Born on June 8, 1963, Bhan had completed his master’s in Agriculture and got appointed as Agricultural Technical Officer in the United Commercial Bank. At a young age, he was promoted to Assistant Branch Manager in the same branch.
On February 6, 1990, when he was walking towards his office at Badshah Chowk, Srinagar, Bitta Karate approached him from the back and shot him at point-blank range. His dead body was discovered by his mother. Pandit mentioned in his thread that her screams were hard to forget. Though the terrorist claimed he was killed due to mistaken identity, his family never believed it. He was survived by his mother, father and sister.
In a research paper by Tajamul Maqbool titled “Narrating the Pandit Exodus: A Study of Indian Administrate Kashmir”, Bhan’s cousin Sanjay Moza was quoted. He said the main reason for his family to leave the valley was his cousin Anil Bhan’s murder, who was shot dead by Karate.
The Kashmir Files
Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files was released in theatres on March 11, 2022. Since its release, it has brought the atrocities faced by Kashmiri Pandits to the mainstream. Many Kashmiri Pandits, who never shared their ordeals are coming out and telling their stories of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990s.