The cold, dark night of January 19, 1990 had stirred into life the worst nightmare of Kashmiri Pandits living in the valley. It had snatched away from them not only their homeland— but it had also made them devoid of relishing the scintillating apples and apricots of the valley; of the luxury of eating ice cream by the Dal Lake; of the pleasure of tasting the water from the endless fresh springs; of bowing down at the Aishmuqam astaan of Zain-ud-din Wali— instead having to see Salman Khan do the same in his movie ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’— devoid of knowing what it would be like to see their children running up and down the Hari Parbat Hill; of being able to touch the soft snowflakes during the heart captivating amorous snowfalls; of being able to feel the elegant peace and fragrance in the atmosphere during the Kashmiri monsoons.

Echoing from all sides, there was just one message for the Sikhs and Hindus living in Kashmir— “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive”— either convert, leave the land or die. There were declarations by mosques which termed the Pandits of the valley as ‘Kafirs’, an odious word referring to a conceited person whose haughtiness makes them an ingrate rebel against God.

Even 30 years later, the Kashmiri Pandits shiver, remembering the night that forced them into the ghastly exodus. The night witnessed a plethora of macabre happenings— from the Kashmiri Pandits finding themselves abandoned in their fate, stranded in their own homes, encircled by rampaging mobs, witnessing the true face of an intolerant and radical Islam. Their pleadings for help were incessant, but not a single soldier came to their rescue. The foreboding of the impending doom was too overpowering to let them have even a wink of sleep.

Threatening the Kashmiri Pandits with dire consequences became a routine ‘mantra’ for the Muslims to force them flee from Kashmir, through frenzied shouts and blood-curdling sloganeering:

“Kashmir mein agar rehna hai, Allah-ho-Akbar kehna hoga”

(Anyone wanting to live in Kashmir will have to convert to Islam.)

“Kashir banawon Pakistan, bataw varaie, batneiw saan”

(We will turn Kashmir into Pakistan with Kashmiri Pandit women, but without their men folk.)

“La sharqia la gharbia, Islamia! Islamia!”

(From East to West, there will only be Islam.)

They were forced to leave their homelands, give up everything they possessed and flee to places they were completely unfamiliar with. Many of them died, leaving behind their sacrifices to always be remembered, and for those who survived— it was only their strength, the resilience they possess that aided them to get through all odds. The scars of brutality are still carried by them today, but are seldom seen by anyone.

It was after 30 long years that the Indian cinema finally woke up or rather, gathered the courage, to film the movie “Shikara: The Untold Story of Kashmiri Pandits”,which was to show the actual sufferings, genocide and destruction faced by the Kashmiri Pandits during the exodus, as claimed by the producer of the movie, Vinod Chopra. But, it came out to be an ordinary love story, not having much to do with what actually happened to the Kashmiri Pandits in those three weeks of January 1990— yet again hiding their scars from the world. The exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits, today, is treated no less than a forgotten tragedy.

Ishani Singh, Amity International School, Noida


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