A day to remember in grief and sorrow

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14 Sep 2012

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Autumn is the prettiest season in Kashmir. After the balmy August sun, September in the valley is cool with a slight chill in the air. As the leaves of chinar trees change colour to bright orange, the valley turns auburn, and resembles a beautiful painting.

Twenty-three years ago, as always, September brought with itself a nip in the air, flaming orange leaves and a lovely autumn Sun. That year, September also brought with itself tragedy and betrayal. However no one knew that, till the morning of September 14.

On September 14, 1989, 59-year-old lawyer, politician and social worker Tika Lal Taploo, fondly known as Lalaji, stepped out of his house as usual to go to his office. He had barely walked a few steps when eight bullets were pumped into his body.

Lalaji succumbed to the bullets, but not before he chanted ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ one last time.

A feisty lawyer known for his spell-binding oratory, vice-president of the Jammu & Kashmir unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Tika Lal Taploo became the first Hindu victim of the jihadi violence that was to engulf the Valley in the following days, resulting in many more targeted killings of Kashmiri Pandits and eventually leading to their exodus from the Valley.

But that fateful morning of September 14 no one knew all that was going to happen. The minuscule minority of Pandits had seen some signs of unrest before this, but no one was prepared for the betrayal by their own neighbours. Grief poured on the streets of Srinagar as never before and thousands took part in Lalaji’s funeral procession.

Tika Lal Taploo, a staunch nationalist, was among the first to raise his voice against jihadi violence. Not known to mince words, or cloak the truth, it was no surprise that he was chosen to be the first martyr amongst the Hindus of Kashmir.  By silencing the bravest voice amongst them, the jihadis signalled to the Pandits that this was a fight to the finish.

That autumn proved to be treacherous. Neighbours suddenly turned hostile and gunshots began reverberating everywhere. Pandits were treated as ‘agents’ of the Government of India and were suddenly looked at with suspicion. ‘Hit lists’ were made with their names on them, indicating who would be the next target.

Slogans like “Yahan kya chalega, Nizaam-e-Mustafa” (We will have Law of Sharia here), “Hum kya chahte? Azaadi” (We want freedom), “Kashmir mein rehna hai to Allah-o-Akbar kehna hai” (If you choose to live in Kashmir, you will have to say Allah-o-Akbar) were heard everywhere. The Pandits were ultimately given three choices –  ‘die, flee or convert’.

A small community, with numbers seriously stacked against them, the Pandits had no choice but to flee. They left their homes, their dreams, their aspirations, and became refugees in their own country. Twenty-three years later, the killers of Tika Lal Taploo are still roaming free as are the murderers of hundreds of others who were killed after him.

Pandits are still refugees in their own country pining for their home and land. This tragic ethnic cleansing that has happened in independent India has received very little media attention.

Twenty-three years later, no one has been punished for the heinous crimes against this tiny community, their homes in Kashmir have either been burnt or occupied, their temples have been destroyed. With every passing year in exile their 5,000-year-old history is getting eroded.

The biggest tragedy of the Pandits, however, is not their burnt homes and lost heritage, it is their complete absence from the ‘Kashmir narrative’. Whenever there is any attempt to solve the so-called ‘Kashmir riddle’, Pandits are always missing from the picture.

The Government of India always ‘reaches out’ (read appeasement via financial packages) to separatists, but never has it made any attempt to reach out to Pandits. Recently the Government of India appointed a group of interlocutors to address the issues of Kashmiris. They spoke to Pandits too, but when the final report came there was nothing for them in there.

The unkindest cut for Pandits is that their own Government is seen engaging with separatists and terrorists a lot more than it ever engages with them.

One often hears that there is nothing preventing the Pandits from going back to Kashmir and that the situation has vastly improved. However, I don’t see what has improved for Pandits.

There is an overwhelming majority in the Valley that still considers Kashmir ‘disputed’, and believes India is an aggressor. How can this small community then even think of going back and living with the same people?

Murderers like Bitta Karate and Yasin Malik roam freely on the streets of Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani still goes around pledging allegiance to Pakistan at every given opportunity. How can anyone expect Pandits to go back and reclaim what is rightfully theirs in this situation?

As the nation solemnly observes Martyrs’ Day today in memory of Tika Lal Taploo and all other innocent victims who became targets only because of their religion, it is very important that we remember everything that happened twenty-three years ago.

The exodus of Pandits is a blot on the secular fabric of our country. We can never truly call ourselves secular as long as there are Pandits languishing in ‘migrant camps’ hoping to return to the land of their ancestors one day.

As beautiful as the Valley of Kashmir is, in its bosom it hides many stories of betrayal and deceit. Truth has been a casualty here. As long as we keep burying the truth under politically correct labels, there can be no long-lasting solutions.

For, where there is no truth there can be no reconciliation either.

Avid Reader, news junkie, always on the move

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  • http://sunitakurup.blogspot.com Sunita Kurup Sapru

    I remember waiting for Ashwin’s movie which released online few months back..it was about over 1.5 hrs of movie..the entire movie I was stuck to the chair shocked at the way people were being treated in Kashmir..sympathetic it was no doubt but then the movie got over..I still sat there staring at the screen as though there would be a part – II of the movie..I had a feeling that the movie had not finished yet…but nothing came up..nothing at all was shown on the plight of KPs who migrated or who are still living miserable lives in shelter homes. How can a movie on Kashmir be complete without showing the condition of KPs??

  • Anil


    Brilliant and touching writing.

    Write more often.

  • Pingback: A day to remember in grief and sorrow

  • commonman57

    Superb. Thanks for sharing. Very well written. Moving.
    Forget about the government, ‘we the people..’ too have failed the Kashmir Pandits. Sorry

  • http://vnseetharam.wordpress.com V.N.Seetharam

    The ethnic cleansing-genocide-jihad or whatever you may call it- the elimination and extermination of the Kashmir pundits from the valley of their ancestors and their own motherland fatherland and their lifeland
    makes such a sad reading proving that the Islamic terrorism and plunder and rape which is the hallmark of the very foundation of that religion which envisages the globe to be a darul islam and the non believers to be kafirs
    has not changed ever since Mohamed Ghor till date.
    None India has the courage decency and honesty to declare that Kashmir was the land of vedic hinduism and saivism. Just because there are more muslims in the valley does it become a part of Arabia or Pakistan. As per this logic, Hyderabad Charminar area, Calicut, and Chandini Chowk too are Muslim land and part of the Darul Islam. When will the politicians and the Left intellectuals as they are called have the courage aqnd conviction to call a spade a spade? Neither the BjP or the Islamic Congress which is the UPA will ever address this issue as in another twenty years Indai will be an Islamic nation. This is a reality and is tragic as it is proven in History Islam does not rest until it achieves its very purpose of Islamic global empire is made real.

  • http://twitter.com/dv_tvit dv-DivineVision

    A day in the future and not too far away…Kashmiri Pandits will have their own enclave in the heart of Srinagar.
    A sad day for Indians. Jai Maa Kshir Bhawani.

  • Vineet

    We have failed our Kashmiri Pandits brethren.

    I remember it was December of 1989 that one beautiful Kashmiri Pandit couple had come to attend wedding of my cousin. I was 12 years old then. A few months later came to know how they had to flee and how they were living in Delhi in some settlement. Did not comprehend the enormity then.

    The “napunsakta” of Congressis and general tolerance of Hindus is responsible for it.

    Even now the Gulf paid “Indian” channels dont have the guts to call spade a spade. Look at recent mumbai violence and mindless muslim reaction to a movie.

    Still it will be called the Religion of Peace.

    BJP, who supposedly represented Hindu interest should get up and take notice. They will fall flat between two stools, Muslims will not vote for it and disenchanted Hindus will move elsewhere.

    If Nitish and “psuedo secularists” want to separate ways, then so be it.

    There is a strong undercurrent from Hindus and politicians should take notice. BJP, if they have brains, should combine governance and nationalism as their plank.

  • Sat

    Thanks for sharing and my sympathies. Let us see if any TV chanells carry any program today on KP. In India, if you are not part of a vote back, you would be slowly pushed to fringes and made further weak. When appeasement is the mantra, which politician is going to care for a miniscule minority. sometimes, i wonder if democracy is effective. Sheer arithmatic of democracy system may not allow well meaning and fearless leaders to take the reigns of the country. Appeaser gets elected and lets the country down. Is there any hope?

  • http://twitter.com/prashanthkpp Prashanth K.P.

    Oh! The Pain, the grief, the despair, the despondency and the sheer helplessness is all encompassed in this anthology.
    Indeed, how more painful can it get than when one gets exiled from one’s own country, an exile obtruded and thrust upon them, the Kashmiri Hindus, by an establishment that predisposes vote bank politics, minority appeasement and generic religious preference. The Congress Party is the whole and sole cause as well as effect for this prejudice handed out to its citizens for the sake a bunch of anti-national terrorists who by law, have no right to be alive even.

    Interlocutors! Grrr! A bunch of jokers they have turned out to be, who have solicited the invitation of a Kashmiri Muslim Terrorist from USA, lavished upon his hospitality and eventually produced a report which invariably **SELLS** J&K to Pakistan as perhaps has been directed to do.

    However much is written will not suffice to even fractionally share the gigantic loss our Kashmiri Hindu brethren have suffered and continue to sustain.

    All I can do is to join you all too in your pain and sorrow and wish that a day will come, very soon, that will see you all in your rightful abode and those who have illegally occupied you homes be exiled or deported to their rightful place across the border.

    Sunanda, an articulation par excellence!

  • Prasad

    Thanks for the article. Let Tika Lal Taploo’s sacrifice be remembered forever. The current mainstream media is totally sold out. No wonder that they are not interested in the causes that affect our country and don’t even find it worth to mention the plight of KP’s on this day. I wish that niticentral will get more readership.


    “The Government of India always ‘reaches out’ (read appeasement via financial packages) to separatists, but never has it made any attempt to reach out to Pandits”. So it is all about dole.

  • http://twitter.com/bhatialalit lalit bhatia

    We can feel the pain with the excellence in your writting. I too am close to some KP’s and just last year I have been to their colony in Muthi camp, Jammu. But with our system and govt. sorry to say, there can be no long-lasting solutions for my KP’s. Let’s hope the best for you and all my KP brothers/sisters and I am sure where ever they go, they will excel. Keep writting. You are indeed very good.

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