The Bold Voice of J&K

Exodus from the Valley, return – unanimous resolution a melodrama

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Mahadeep Singh Jamwal
During the reign of Sultan Sikander the seventh Muslim ruler in Kashmir (1389-1413) non-Muslim were forced to convert or flee. Many followers of the traditional religions who did not convert to Islam instead migrated to other parts of India. The migrants included some Pundits; the outcome of this shift both in population and in religion was that the Kashmir Valley became a predominantly Muslim region. The successor of Zain-ul-Abidin respected the learning of these Pundits, to whom he gave land as well as encouraging those who had left to return. Brahmins and Buddhist became closest advisors to the throne. The Kashmir was conquered by Akbar in 1587AD. During the rule of Akbar Hindus became secure and also enjoyed high government jobs. It was he, who pleased with their intelligence, gave them the surname ‘Pundit’. The Mughal’s rule was followed by that of Afghans and this period many Kashmiri Hindus converted to Islam, leaving smaller population of Kashmiri Pundits who still practiced the Shaivite religion. The Brahmin Pundits of Kashmir established themselves in the northern area of India, first in the Rajput and Mughal courts and then in the service of the Dogra rulers of Kashmir.
It was during Dogra rule the Kashmir Pundits was a favoured section. The Muslim riots erupted in the Valley immediately after partition of British India and in 1948 as a result of this turmoil majority approximately 20 per cent of them left the Valley. The land reforms of 1950 also contributed to the migration of this community. The major exodus of this community started with the on set of militancy in 1989 and greater number started to leave Valley in 1990 as a result of persecution and threats by radical Islamists and militants. The date 19th January 1990 is the worst morning in the Valley for this community as it was on the date this community was branded as ‘Kafirs’ and continuous threats were poured from mosques that the males had to leave Kashmir, convert to Islam or be killed. The Kashmiri Pundit who was the only remnants of Indianness in the Valley, therefore, was the only resistance in the way of Islamic Jehad. That is why their hounding out from the land of their ancestors became imperative in the design of the secessionists. The situation was so grim in the Valley that the community was compelled to forced migration and administration was a mute spectator and
considered the only way for the survival of this community.
There is ambiguity in the number of Kashmiri Pundits population. The Pundits were only counted and listed as distinct from the category of Kashmir Hindus during census of 1941 and that census listed a little fewer than 79,000 Pundits in the Valley. It’s from this baseline that demographers have sought to work out the number of Kashmir Pundits in the Valley in 1990. They have arrived at is about 1, 60,000 to 1, 70,000 before 1990. According to a number of authors, approximately 1,00,000 of the total Kashmiri Pundit population of 1,40,000 left the Valley during the 1990s. Other authors have suggested a higher figure for the exodus, ranging from the entire population of over 1,50,000, to 1,90,000 of a total Pundit population of 2,00,000, to a number as high as 8,00,000. The clandestine exodus of Pundits has remained controversial. As per government figure in 2010, 808 Kashmir Pundit families comprising of 3,445 people were still living in Valley. The government figures suggest that between 1989 and 2004, 219 members of the community were killed in the region and none thereafter but local organisation of Pundits in Kashmir, ‘Kashmir Pundit Sangharash Samiti’ has put the number of killings as 399 from 1990 to 2011.
From time to time financial packages have been doled out for return of Kashmiri Pundits but as per government claim of October 2015, only one Kashmiri Pundit family returned to the Kashmir Valley since 1990 despite the financial assistance being given for rehabilitation and as of 2016, a total of 1,800 Kashmiri Pundit youths have returned to the Valley since the announcing of Rs. 1,168-crore package in 2008 by the UPA Government. These are the government figures which always plays trickery of mathematics.
To protect the left over property by this community in 1997, The Jammu And Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection And Restraint on Distress Sales) Act, 1997 was promulgated which provides that “Any person who is an unauthorised occupant or recipient of any benefit of any immovable property of the migrant shall pay to the migrant such compensation for the period of unauthorised occupation and in such a manner as may be determined by the District Magistrate”. How this act has provided relief to the migrants no data ever released by the government. But hailing from rulers dynasty of Jamwal clan in J and K, we were privileged by allotment of lands in Kulgam District and many Rajput families settled in this district were also part of the migration process and the immovable property has been taken over by the other community and the Act has failed to get even a single penny from the occupants.
(To be continued)

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