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Exodus 1990: An Unsung Story of Kashmiri Pandits

30 years of a dreadful event that still frightens the sufferers and the ensuing tales are substantial to press the redemption of dues. 19th January of 1990 is a horror for thousands of Kashmiri Pandits, who await rightful affirmation.

There has been a long history of atrocities faced by the Kashmiri Hindus even before the day of the exodus. The genocide took place after a Srinagar based newspaper Aftab published a message asking all the Hindus in the valley to leave immediately. Masked goons with armed weapons used to force the locals to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time. On the night of 18 January, a blackout took place in the Kashmir Valley to instil fear inside Hindus who lived there, asking for their purge.

We all have a different kind of emotional attachment to our homeland, places from where we belong. Something nobody can take away from us, somewhere we are always welcomed. But what do you do when one day, everything is taken away from you? We’re all privileged in one way or another, there are always going to be people who have it worse than you, which is the ultimate argument people bring every time we face hardships, but when it comes to the horrors these righteous people went through, they have the utmost right to call other people privileged and claim that they did have it worst. So many of these people had to leave their women behind. When does it ever happen that you stop feeling safe in your own home? The pain of leaving everything behind is enough, but the pressure and fear of starting over? Enough of overlooking their sufferings. When your fight for a cause is restricted to support one particular community, then your fight is meaningless and futile.

30 years later, some would say that it has been long enough and these people are well settled but that’s just the proportion of them that have made themselves able to share their stories. Many of them didn’t even survive the exodus. And it was never about being settled with your new life, it was and always will be about their inability to go back to their homes, or rather houses that turned into ash.

Protests and movements for Kashmiri Pandits
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Many Kashmiri pandits who were born after their families had fled Kashmir, feel a strong affinity for Kashmiri culture. Just like Punjab, Kerala, Rajasthan and many other Indian states, Kashmir also has a separate culture. Kashmiris have their own prominent dishes cooked at different Kashmiri festivals and their very own music. We surely do remember studying about dance, food, language, and clothes of different states but why did our textbooks lack this evidence about Kashmir? Where did the Kashmiri culture go?
Kashmir has its very own language known as Koshur which isn’t spoken a lot, as, over these years the circumstances have snatched Kashmiris of their mother tongue, making them distant from their own culture.

Aayush Raina a Kashmiri Hindu student said “I never got to live in Kashmir. I was born post exodus and my parents never talked about it, at least in front of me. I used to ask them why we don’t live in Kashmir if we’re Kashmiri, they would say that we migrated out of Kashmir and digress from the subject. Little did I know the things they had to face. We’ve lived in exile for 30 years now, refugees in our own country. My people were forced to leave their homes overnight due to the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir. The place they were fleeing for their lives was once their home and the people standing against them were once their own. The people you see on the streets these days opposing a mere shut down of internet, yeah, they weren’t there at that time. Our elders protested as much as they could but they were less in number. Their voices went unheard. For years, life moved on and the pain was suppressed with responsibilities to give their families a better life but the wounds are still open. They seek justice. They seek their homeland. Our genocide is finally getting acknowledged. But there are many who disregard this brutal ethnocide with false narratives. This disheartens me. They ask us to forget it because we’ve lived privileged lives. Well, I can’t! I’m not privileged enough to forget the brutalities my people faced. The men killed, women and children abducted, raped and slaughtered. I’m not privileged enough to forget that while most of us, including my parents, were able to build a life out of the ashes, many weren’t, they’re still living in refugee camps.I’m not privileged enough to forget the pain.”

Our Kashmiri brothers have demanded justice at every step but they were always denied the same. People even failed to acknowledge their history. Indians who flee Pakistan prior the partition were given all kinds of aid from the government, they were provided with land to start a new life when they came prepared with resources, but what did the Government do for Kashmir Pandits when all they could bring with them was themselves alive? Kashmiri Pandits are the most suffered yet neglected group of people. The Government completely ignored their existence and saw them as nothing but vote-banks.

After decades of struggle and striving for recognition, finally when the history of Kashmiri Pandits came to the knowledge of the common man, a lot of people very easily overlooked it that it happened long ago, or see it as an act of publicity or gaining sympathy. A fraction of India still looks at them as the problematic committee. A trailer for a movie called Shikara which is based on the real life events that took place due to the exodus and highlights the story of the 30 years of exile, recently came up on the Internet and within 10 days of its launch, the trailer had 26,000 dislikes, even after 30 years. That speaks volumes.

We as a nation have failed them multiple times. They deserve nothing but our utmost support and respect always. We will never forget the horrors they faced and shall hope one day, they return to their homes that await them.

Avni Dhawan
University of Delhi

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Written by Avni Dhawan

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