Night of January 19, 1990

During the month of January 1990, fear and threats to Pandits gained momentum, with Kashmiri Muslims joining massive anti-India rallies and processions. Not a day passed without some of our folks getting killed or any government building being set on fire. The prelude to the happenings of the night of January 19, 1990, could not have been more ominous.

The night of January 19, 1990, witnessed macabre happenings, the like of which had not been witnessed by Kashmiri Pandits after the Afghan rule. Those that experienced the fear of that night are unlikely to forget it in their life time. For future generations, it will be a constant reminder of the brutality of Islamic radicals, who had chosen the timing very carefully. Farooq Abdullah, the newly appointed governor of the State, whose government had all but ceased to exist, resigned. Jagmohan, arrived during the day to take charge as the Governor of the State.”2 He took over the charge of the Governor just the previous night at Jammu. He had made efforts to reach Srinagar during the previous day, but the plane had to return to Jammu from Pir Panjal Pass due to extremely bad weather. Though curfew was imposed to restore some semblance of order in the fast deteriorating condition in Kashmir, it had little effect. The mosque pulpits continued to be used to exhort people to defy curfew and join Jehad against the Pandits, while fully armed cadres of JKLF marched unabashedly through the streets of the valley, terrorising them no end.

As the night fell, the microscopic community became panicstricken when the Valley began reverberating with the war-cries of Islamists, who had stage-managed the whole event with great care; choosing its timing and the slogans to be used. A host of highly provocative, communal and threatening slogans, interspersed with martial songs, incited the Muslims to come out on the streets and break the chains of ‘slavery’. These exhortations urged the faithful to give a final push to the Kafir in order to ring in the true Islamic order. These slogans were mixed with precise and unambiguous threats to Pandits. They were presented with three choices — Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive (convert to Islam, leave the place or perish). Tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims poured into the streets of the valley, shouting ‘death to India’ and death to Kafirs. These slogans, broadcast from the loudspeakers of every mosque, numbering roughly 1,100, exhorted the hysterical mobs to embark on Jehad. All male Muslims, including their children and the aged, wanted to be seen to be participating in this Jehad. Those who had organised such a show of force in the middle of a cold winter night, had only one objective; to put the fear of death into the hearts of the already frightened Pandits. In this moment of collective hysteria, gone was the facade of secular, tolerant, cultured, peaceful and educated outlook of Kashmiri Muslims, which the Indian intelligentsia and the liberal media had made them to wear for their own reasons. Most of the Kashmiri Muslims behaved as if they did not know who the Pandits were. This frenzied mass hysteria went on till Kashmiri Pandits’ despondency turned into desperation, as the night wore itself out.

For the first time after independence of India from the British rule, Kashmiri Pandits found themselves abandoned to their fate, stranded in their own homes, encircled by rampaging mobs. Through the frenzied shouts and blood-curdling sloganeering of the assembled mobs, Pandits saw the true face of in tolerant and radical Islam. It represented the complete antithesis of the over-rated ethos of Kashmiriyat that was supposed to define Kashmiri ethos.

The pusillanimous Central Government was caught napping and its agencies in the state, particularly the army and other para-military forces, did not consider it necessary to intervene in the absence of any orders. The State Government had been so extensively subverted that the skeleton staff of the administration at Srinagar (the winter capital of the State had shifted to Jammu in November 1989) decided not to confront the huge mobs. Delhi was too far away, anyway. Hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits phoned everyone in authority at Jammu, Srinagar and Delhi, to save them from the sure catastrophe that awaited them. The pleadings for help were incessant. But not a soldier came to their rescue.

Therefore, Kashmiri Pandits found best protection in huddling together indoors, frozen with fear, praying for the night to pass. The foreboding of the impending doom was too over-powering to let them have even a wink of sleep. The Pandits could see the writing on the wall. If they were lucky enough to see the night through, they would have to vacate the place before they met the same fate as Tikka Lal Taploo and many others. The Seventh Exodus was surely staring them in the face. By morning, it became apparent to Pandits that Kashmiri Muslims had decided to throw them out from the Valley and the State administration was to subverted to intervene and the centre had decided to adopt an ostrich-like attitude. Broadcasting vicious Jehadi sermons and revolutionary songs, interspersed with blood curdling shouts and shrieks, threatening Kashmiri Pandits with dire consequences, became a routine ‘Mantra’ of the Muslims of the valley, to force them to flee from Kashmir.

– Col. (Dr.) Tej K. Tikoo

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