Remembering Our Own ‘Kristallnacht’
By the time you receive your copy of Naad (January, 2020), we would have just gone through the renewed pain of remembering the Nishkasan Day, the Night of Jan 19/20, 1990. Those of us who where eye witnesses to the events of that night and who are still alive, must be wondering whether our countrymen and women or the political parties that rule us, have drawn any lessons from the events of that night- a night that proved to be a turning point as we approached our seventh exodus from Kashmir, ever since the arrival of Islam in the Valley in the 14th century.
Our community is quite fond of comparing our situation to the Jews, and for right reasons. However, our similarities to their situation cannot be extended beyond a point. Nevertheless, I would like to bring forth one situation which the German Jews suffered in 1938 at the hands of Hitler-led Nazis. On November 9 and 10, 1938, Nazis torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. History remembers this day as ‘Kristallnacht’, or the Night of Broken Glass. During the mayhem over two days, some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. This event reminds us of what happened to us on Jan 19/20 night. However, the similarity to some extent, ends there.
Many factors saved us from total annihilation on this night, though the objectives of the Pakistan-sponsored (Policy implemented by its notorious Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI) Islamists, who are known by various names in Kashmir, i.e., separatists, militants, Jihadis, radicals, terrorists, Salafists, Wahabis, even (in some cases),‘mainstream politicians’, were fully met. Starting this date, over a period of nine months, the Valley was almost entirely cleansed of Pandits, the only community with significant numbers that professed different faith from the other community whose overwhelming presence represented 95 % of the population.
As we complete 30 years in exile, looking back at those events in the light of many revelations, few things stand out.
Why was our ethnic cleansing entirely overlooked by the powerful institutions of this country; the central government, political establishment, the media, the civil society, academia, human rights groups and everyone else who mattered? Some of these institutions were mandated by the constitution of the country as also by their own ethical standards to protect us, report about us and highlight our plight. But they did not do so.
ISI had correctly assessed the reaction of the Indian State; its administrative machinery, the civil society, political parties and the media. The muted reaction of the Indian State to the happenings of 1986, in Anantnag district, had convinced them that any Indian reaction could be managed.
As far as the press was concerned,the ISI was confident that their own well-crafted and finely orchestrated disinformation campaign, would neutralize any negative fallout in the media. Their disinformation campaign had succeeded in obfuscating the reality by projecting the orchestrated tradition of Kashmiri Muslim’s tolerance and faith in secularism. The civil society, dominated as it was by the left-liberal intellectuals, would not pose any serious challenge. In the opinion of the perpetrators of violence, the political parties in India, egged on by the media, were likely to get involved in the ‘communal’/ ‘secular’ debate; in the process, masking the news about the violence let loose on Pandits in the Valley and our eventual exodus.
Later events would prove that the assessment of Islamists was almost entirely correct. The apathy with which all sections of the Indian society reacted, encouraged the radical elements and their armed militants to increase the tempo of violence. At the same time, indifferent attitude of the government, the civil society and the media towards the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, made the latter aware of the illusion of Indian secularism.
Why did not the Army, stationed at Badami Bagh / airport in Srinagar or the BSF/CRPF intervene to save us that night. Even hardcore militants have now accepted that a flag march of the central security agencies through the streets of Srinagar and other threatened towns/ villages would have ensured the dispersal of tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims who had poured on the roads. This would have instilled confidence among the Hindus who faced a life-threatening situation.
The role of Mufti Mohammad Syed, the first Muslim Home Minister of the country (A Kashmiri too), has increasingly come under the scanner. After all, as the undisputed boss of all central agencies, including the IB and central police forces, he could not have been unaware of the situation in Kashmir. His one clear instruction to the officers of BSF/ CRPF would have saved the situation on the night of Jan19/20 when KPs were close to being completely wiped out. What is worse, he was personally contacted by some of his KP political friends, yet he did nothing.
Prior to the happenings of this night, Mufti’s role in the communal riots of south Kashmir in 1986, in which a number of Hindu temples were destroyed and idols desecrated, has by now been well documented, including by those who knew him quite well.
The kidnapping of his daughter, Dr Rubaiya Syed by JKLF terrorists and release of five dreaded militants to secure her release while he was the Home Minister of the country, is now considered to be a stage-managed affair by him to carve out a political space for himself in Kashmir by endearing himself to the huge separatist lobby in Kashmir. Subsequent events of him forming PDP and its dalliance with separatists lend credence to this argument.
After the exodus of Pandits that saw them dispersed to various parts of the country and abroad, a huge segment sought shelter in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi. Many families spent days and nights in shivering cold nights of north India, on foot paths for days on end. Such was the apathy of the establishment. That these refugees lived a pathetic life in torn tents and snake infested grassy rubble (where such camps had been established) till as late as 2006, when Two room Tenements were constructed, is a sad commentary on the callous state of our bureaucracy and political class.
The present government at the centre has taken some bold decisions to address the complicated problem of Jammu and Kashmir. Nevertheless, till Kashmiri Pandits do not go back to Kashmir in a secure environment with honour and dignity, for us we would not have redeemed our pledge to reclaim our ancestral land- Mauej Kashir.
– Col. Tej K Tikoo