Remembering Our Martyrs
It is 31 years since the broad daylight killing of Sh. Tika Lal Taploo by the radical Islamists of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in the vicinity of his house on 14 Sept 1989. Prior to this killing a few Kashmiri Pandits had fallen victims to the rising trend of armed militancy in Kashmir. Such killings had been witnessed since the middle of previous year (1988), initiated through bomb blasts and isolated killings of both Kashmiri Pandits as also few pro-India Muslims in the valley.
But killing of a prominent Kashmiri Pandit, who was the State Vice-President of BJP, a known community activist, popular among both Hindus and Muslims of the area, was to send an unambiguous message to everyone in Kashmir, for the state as a whole and to the rest of the country that Kashmir has now truly risen in revolt and now onwards the armed rebellion will be a no-holds-barred fight against India. However, when dissecting the killing in all its dimensions, it became clear that the message had many other dimensions; at one level it signaled a warming to Kashmiri Pandits that the overwhelming Muslim majority of Kashmir will not treat the former as friends any more, but as its enemy; at another level, it was a clear message to India that the days of resolving Kashmir issue through dialogue and negotiations was over and now Kashmiri Muslims were prepared to fight a Jihad. At the same time, this killing also signaled to Pakistan that Kashmiris were now ready to act as the frontline warriors of Jihad that the former had planned to launch some years back and for whose initiation and prosecution, preparations had been going on for many years under the watchful eye of Zia-ul-Haq and his Islamist supporters within Pakistan.
Consequently, between 14 Sept 1989 and 19 Jan 1990, when the actual exodus began, there were numerous killings. These included well known and prominent members of our community, ordinary young professionals, businessmen, women and even the harmless elderly. What sent shock waves across the community was the brutal manner of these killings; rape of women and ruthless torture of way laid/abducted members of the community, before they were brutally killed.
After our exodus from Kashmir, our community has been observing 14 September every year as Balidan Divas (Martyr’s Day). This year, due to the restrictions imposed by Covid-19 pandemic, most KP Organizations are conducting programmes on virtual platforms. Over the years, AIKS had also been joining this programme initiated by Jammu Kashmir Vichar Manch (JKVM) at B K Ganjoo Park every year. However, this year JKVM decided not to invite AIKS. Consequently, AIKS is conducting its own webinar through which all out affiliates will join to pay homage to our Martyr’s on the eve of Balidan Divas, i.e. 13 Sept 2020. AIKS considers the event as a significant step in building up and strengthening bonds among its affiliates in pursuit of our policy to be the voice of community on important issues.
Such occasions are also a time to assess where exactly we have reached in achieving the most important goal of our struggle in exile, rehabilitation of our displaced community in Kashmir with security and dignity. It is well-understood that Kashmir is a many-layered problem. Our own exodus, though an important issue, is also one of the layers of this imbroglio. This NDA government, during the last 6 six years of its being in power, have taken significant and radical steps to integrate the State with the rest of the country. However, very little seems to have been done in terms of our rehabilitation in Kashmir. What is even worse, some of the recent decisions, like of issue of domicile certificate, etc. were handled in a very ham-handed manner, which created doubts in the minds of our community. AIKS had to bring all these issues to the notice of the Govt. of India for rectification. Subsequently, the Govt did incorporate some changes in the procedure to make the process a little easier for the exiled community. But the overall impression conveyed was that our community’s concerns do not figure in the government’s policy.
Over all, it can safely be surmised that whereas at the highest level decisions taken/implemented will strengthen the Union Territory’s bonds with India, however, for Kashmiri Pandits the dream of returning to Kashmir is still as far away as it was before. However, it is also a fact that displaced Kashmiri Pandit mostly agrees on two points; first, if any government has the will and the power to rehabilitate us in Kashmir, it is this NDA government and second, as long as this government is in power at the centre, we can continue to hope that we will go back. Therefore, we survive on hope. END
-Col. Tej K Tikoo (Retd.)