On September 14, 1989, 59-years-old Bharatiya Janata Party leader and a beloved Kashmiri Pandit, well known for his love for the community and country, Tika Lal Taploo, was brutally murdered in broad daylight. The recently released film, The Kashmir Files, has dug up the old wounds of atrocities faced by the Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. Over 32 years have passed, but those who were massacred and forced to leave the valley are still waiting for justice.
September 14th is observed as Martyrdom Day in remembrance of Taploo, who was officially the first Kashmiri Hindu murdered by first wave of Kashmiri terrorists. It is argued that this wave of Kashmiri Hindu exodus started with the murder of Tika Lal Taploo and led to the murder of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, with lakhs leaving the valley as Islamists called for them to convert, leave or be killed.
Life of late Taploo before joining politics
Tika Lal Taploo was born in 1930. He did his matriculation from Punjab University in 1945 and completed MALLB from Aligarh Muslim University in 1958. Initially, he was refused admission to the University along with other Kashmiri Pundits. He sat on the protest that led to his admission. After completing his post-graduation in Law, he joined Kashmir Bar Association and continued to fight for justice. In 1971, he got enrolled as an advocate at Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Taploo’s participation in agitations during emergency
Tika Lal Taploo was a long time member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). In 1975, while India was under emergency announced by Congress-led government under then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Taploo participated in agitations against the government. Lok Sangagh Samiti, under the leadership of Jaya Prakash Narayan, had called for agitations across the country. Tika Lal participated in the agitation at Lal Chowk in Srinagar along with other colleagues.
He and his two associates Madan Lal Khashu and Shiban Ji Pandita were arrested by the police. Reports suggest he had to face police atrocities and was handcuffed while being taken for producing before the Magistrate. Taploo and his colleagues were dragged through markets while being taken to court. The torture he had to face led to protest by the advocates. He had remained in jail for months and was later released honourably.
Popularity and political alliance put a target on his head
Taploo was a fearless leader. He lived in Habba Kadal Constituency, which was dominated by Muslims. Still, he was loved and admired by the majority of the people in the constituency. Famous by the name ‘Lalaji’, Taploo was a courageous person who stood tall to bring the communities together while terror organizations tried to cause unrest in the valley. His popularity and the fact that he was a BJP leader put a target on his head.
Days before his murder, he took his family to Delhi and left them there to ensure their safety. On September 8, 1989, he returned to the valley. Just four days later, he was attacked at his residence in Chinkral Mohalla on September 12, 1989. He escaped the attack unhurt.
On a fateful day, Lalaji was heading to the High Court when he noticed a crying little girl of a Muslim neighbour. Upon enquiry, he found out that the child was crying for some stationery. He handed over a Rs 5 bill with a broad smile and left for work. He barely walked a few meters when three men with covered faces confronted him.
One of them approached Taploo, took out his weapon, and before anyone around could react, Taploo was shot dead. They fired eight rounds non-stop. The news of his death spread like wildfire, and the entire nation was in shock.
Javed Ahmed Mir alias Javed Nalka was believed to be behind the murder of Tika Lal Taploo. Reports suggested Taploo’s murder was well planned, and the killers knew his daily routine. It was believed Nalka executed the murder as a retaliation to the efforts made by Taploo to send bricks and funds for the construction of Bhavya Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.
Taploo received a tear-filled farewell. Top leaders including LK Advani, Kedar Nath Sahni and others attended the funeral procession. There were hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus in the procession to pay respect to the beloved Kashmiri Hindu leader. Miscreants and members of terrorist organization JKLF tried to disrupt the procession by pelting stones but could not succeed.
He was survived by his wife Sarla Taploo, who was a school teacher. Later, she also joined BJP and contested the Assembly election in the valley. Sarla passed away on December 30, 2021, 32 years after the murder of her husband.