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Martyrs Day: Forgotten Pandits killed by terrorists In Kashmir

In Jammu & Kashmir’s convoluted lexicon, which is mostly dominated by Tehreek-e-Azadi, an individual who fights against Indian rule in Kashmir and, in the course, loses his life is a martyr. Many Kashmiris, especially those who believe in secession from India, will tell you that the Indian state is the “oppressor” in Kashmir.

The narrative is so disingenuous that terrorists in Kashmir are termed martyrs. So Maqbool Bhat, who was founder of the terrorist organisation Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and sentenced to death in 1984 for his crimes, is a martyr.

Similarly, Afzal Guru, who was involved in the 2001 Parliament attack and hanged in 2013, is a martyr. The new addition to this martyr list is Hizb-ul Mujahideen’s terrorist commander Burhan Wani who was killed in an encounter with security forces in July this year. There are many such ‘Shaheed’ in Kashmir. You will find ‘Shaheed Mazaar’ for such people across Kashmir valley.

What has been forgotten, because of predisposition, is that around 700 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in Kashmir which led to their ethnic cleansing. On September 14, 1989, Pandit Tika Lal Taploo was shot dead by a group of terrorists just outside his residence in Habba Kadal, Srinagar. He was a prominent lawyer and Vice-President of J&K unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Taploo’s murder was beginning of the targeted killing of Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. After this incident, gruesome murders would follow so as to threaten Pandits.

To start with, the terrorists assassinated prominent Pandits in Kashmir. On November 4, 1989, Justice Neel Kanth Ganjoo was killed by terrorists in Srinagar in broad day daylight. There was a note stuck on his body which warned of death to anyone who tried to remove the body from the road. Justice Ganjoo, in August 1968, had sentenced Maqbool Bhat to death for killing of a police officer named Amar Chand.

On December 27, 1989, a reputed advocate from Anantnag named Prem Nath Bhat was gunned down near his house. On the night of April 29, 1990, a poet and retired Government teacher named Sarwanand Koul ‘Premi’ of Soaf Shali village in South Kashmir was abducted by terrorists along with his son, Virender Koul. Their dead bodies were found the next day hanging from a tree. Between the eyebrows, they were nailed where tilak is applied. Their bodies had marks of cigarette burns and were shot as well.

Terrorists committed atrocious crimes against Pandit woman. Sarla Bhat, who was a nurse at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura, was tortured, gang-raped and then murdered by JKLF terrorists. Another Pandit woman, Girija Tickoo, who was working as laboratory assistant in a school in Bandipora area of North Kashmir, was gang-raped by terrorists and then cut into pieces by mechanical saw.

After the killings, it was ordered by the terrorists to stay away from bodies and not offer any help to victims or their families. “Hum Kya Chahte? Azadi” was exhibited through killings of minority Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir. The only reason for Islamists was “Azadi Ka Matlab Kya? La ilaha illa Allah” for which Pandits were seen as an impediment. Several massacres took place in the Kashmir valley in the 1990s and early-2000s, such as Wandhama, Nadimarg, Chattisinhgpora, Sangrampora, etc.

In the name of Azadi for Kashmir, such crimes were carried out. Those who committed such grisly crimes are either roaming freely in Kashmir and outside or have become power brokers in the valley now. Some sections of intelligentsia even suggest holding parley with these infamous creatures. Nobody has been convicted in these cases.

September 14 reminds of what Kashmiri Pandits have been through. It also tells us about the failure of the Indian state in protecting its people. These people were killed only because of faith in their religion and nation. I am not sure how many will remember these innocents apart from their own community.

September 14 is commemorated as Martyr’s Day by Kashmiri Pandits. For the last 26 years, the Pandits have been protesting on this day and will continue to do so.

There is not any ‘Shaheed Mazaar’ for them in Kashmir. There is not any memorial in the valley for such people. They are non-existent not only for people in Kashmir but also for their countrymen. Perhaps, when Kashmiri Pandits return to Kashmir someday, there will be a memorial for all those who are victims of terrorism including Kashmiri Pandits. I hope I’d live to see that day.

On September 13, in Jammu, the BJP passed a resolution for the “dignified return” of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley. Frankly speaking, what have such resolutions led to? The BJP has passed many such resolutions in the past. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has failed as far as Kashmiri Pandits are concerned.

For starters, the BJP should address the genuine demands of Pandits, employed under the Prime Minister’s package in Kashmir, who are protesting in Jammu for more than 50 days now.

Before dignified return comes justice. The reversal of the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits without the delivery of justice is farcical and cruel.

(Published in ABP Live)

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