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Puji Badleyem (Only the Butchers have changed)

In Kashmir, we have a saying, at times attributed to the great poet Mahjoor (1887-1952), in the form of a lament of a sheep, that loosely translates as,” Only the faces of my butchers have changed – tools of oppression remain the same,”! I was reminded of this quote while going through an article by Prof Satish Ganjoo about the Seven Exoduses that our community has gone through over the last 1000 years. From the time Islam became the court religion of Kashmir in 1339 AD, almost every Muslim ruler has tried his best to erase all traces of the Hindu and Buddhist roots of Kashmir, convert the populace to Islam and destroy their places of worship. Tyranny and religious bigotry have been rampant in Kashmir for the last 10 centuries, resulting in shrinking of Kashmiri Hindu population to less than 5% of the total population by 1947.

It is interesting to note that during the reign of the Shahmir Dynasty (1339-1555), various rulers offered three choices to their Hindu populace: Convert to Islam (Ralliyv), Leave the kingdom with your bare bodies (Tchalliyv) or, get killed (Galliyv). The same three choices were offered to Kashmiri Pandits in the 1986-1990 period by the jihadi foot soldiers of a militant Islam. So, over 9 centuries, for Kashmiri Pandits, nothing had changed. The language, thought process and tools of oppression remained same even while the names and faces of the oppressors changed.

Sultan Shamas-u-Din, (1339-1342), the founder of Shahmir dynasty was greatly influenced by Islamic missionaries, preachers, sayyids and Sufis from Persia, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, some of whom had entered Kashmir to escape the wrath of Timur. These included Sayyid Jalal-ud- Din, Sayyid Taj-ud-Din, Sayyid Hussain Simnani, Sayyid Masud and Sayyid Yusuf. Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (Shah Hamadan) entered Kashmir with his son, Mir Muhammad Hamadani and over 1000 followers. Hamadani had very clearly expressed his thoughts about handling non-Muslim populace in his “Zakhirat'ul Maluk” wherein he set out the ‘norms; for Muslim rulers to follow:

  1. No fresh constructions of Hindu temples and shrines for idol worship to be allowed.
  2. No repair for the existing Hindu temples and shrines.
  3. Non-Muslims not to be allowed to ride a harnessed horse.
  4. Non-Muslims not to be allowed to carry arms.
  5. Non-Muslims not to be allowed to wear rings with diamonds.
  6. Non-Muslims not to be allowed to build houses in the neighbourhood of Muslims.
  7. Non-Muslims not to be allowed to weep or wail over their dead.
  8. Non-Muslims not to be allowed to deal in or buy Muslim slaves.
  9. Muslim travellers to be allowed lodging as guests in Hindu temples and shrines
  10. Non-Muslims, who show willingness to convert to Islam, shall not face any problems.
  11. Non-Muslims shall wear a dress different from Muslims for differentiation.

Sultan Shihab-ud-Din (AD 1354-1373) was the one who started destruction and desecration of temples as a state policy to terrorize Kashmiri Pandits. Many temples in Srinagar and the magnificent temple of Vijeyeshwar at Bijbihara fell victim to the mad zeal of this despot. As per historians, mass conversions, mostly from the non- Brahminical castes, took place during this time, mostly to gain royal favours or, to escape punishments. The snobbish high caste Kashmiri Brahmins looked down upon these neo-converts as betrayers of the faith. And, ironically, it was some of these neo-converts who caused maximum damage to the faith of their ancestors. The worst offender that comes to mind is one Suha Bhatt, who, after embracing Islam, took the name of Saif-ud-Din. He was appointed Prime Minister by Sultan Sikandar Shahmiri (1389-1413) and along with Mir Muhammad Hamadani, son of Shah Hamadan, he egged on Sikandar to start a vile campaign of death and destruction of Brahmins as well as Temples of Kashmir. The iconoclastic Sikandar’s zeal to destroy the magnificent heritage of Kashmir has been documented by historian Jonaraja (1389-1459) in his Dvitiya Rajtarangini. Another historian, Hasan b Ali, who compiled Tarikhi-i-Kashmir during Mogul King Jahangir’s era (1605-1627 AD) has commented,” This country possessed from the times of Hindu rajas many temples which were like the wonders of the world. Their workmanship was so fine and delicate that one found himself bewildered at their sight. Sikandar, goaded by feelings of bigotry, destroyed them, and levelled them with the earth and with the material built many mosques and khanqahs. Jonaraja notes in his Dvitiya Rajtarangini that, “The Sultan forgot his kingly duties and took delight day and night in breaking images … He broke images of Martanda, Vishaya, Ishana, Chakrabrit and Tripureshvara …… There was no city, no town, no village, no wood where Turushka left the temples of the gods unbroken.

  1. First Exodus: As per Hasan, the First Exodus of Kashmir’s Hindus was prompted by Sikander’s firman that if a Hindu does not become a Muslim, he must leave the country or be killed. W.R. Lawrence in his book ‘Valley of Kashmir’ (1895), mentions that the Brahmans of Kashmir were given three choices - death, conversion, or exile. “Many fled, many were converted and many were killed, and it is said that Sikandar) burnt seven maunds (260 kg) of sacred threads of the murdered Brahmans”.
  2. Second Exodus: Ali Shah - the Tyrant (AD 1413-1420), son of Sikandar Butshikan caused the Second Exodus. He too was assisted by the venomous Suha Bhat who continued as Prime Minister. It was Mir Muhammad Hamadani who advised Ali Shah to impose Jazia on Hindus who still were clinging to their faith.
  3. The Third Exodus took place during the reign of Fateh Shah (AD 1510-1517), a weak Sunni ruler during whose time a fanatic Shia preacher, Mir Shams-ud-Din Araki, the founder of Nurbakhshiya order of Shias, visited Kashmir (1477 & 1496). Again, we find the evil hand of a neo-convert, Malik Mussa Raina (originally Som Chandra) assisting Araki. A khanqah was built at Zadibal (Srinagar) by Araki after demolishing a famous Hindu temple and he is said to have forcibly converted 24000 Kashmiri Brahmins to the Shia sect.
  4. The Fourth Exodus took place during the reign of Aurangzeb (1658-1707); his governors Iftakar Khan, Muzaffer Khan, Nassar Khan and Ibrahim Khan terrorized Kashmiri Hindus, as per the commands of Aurangzeb, building pressure for conversion to Islam. In desperation, a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits led by Pt Kripa Ram Dutt of Mattan met Guru Teg Bahadur at Anandpur Sahib in May 1675, requesting for protection. By November 1675, Aurangzeb had martyred Guru Teg Bahadur at Delhi and, let loose a reign of terror on Kashmir’s Hindus, ultimately leading to their Exodus.
  5. The Fifth Exodus took place during the reign of Mughal King Muhammad Shah Rangila(1719-48). Post Aurangzeb, Mughal empire lost steam and the central authority in Delhi became weak, emboldening the satraps and local governors. In AD 1720, Mullah Abdul Nabi, also called Muhat Khan, was appointed as Shaikh-ul-Islam for Kashmir and he let loose a reign of terror for Hindus. He established his seat in a mosque, assumed the duties of the administrator under the title of Dindar Khan and started harassing Hindus, leading to many of them to leave the valley.
  6. The Sixth Exodus took place during the horrific Pathan Rule (1753-1819). W.R. Lawrence calls it the “reign of brutal tyranny.” The barbarous Afghans employed every wild, inhuman, primitive, ferocious, cruel, and brutal method to suppress the Kashmiri Brahmans and force conversions. This period can be termed as the darkest period in the blood-soaked history of Kashmiri Hindus. Mass migration is said to have taken place during this period.
  7. The Seventh Exodus: While mass migration of Hindus from Kashmir took place in January-April 1990, one needs to look at the troublesome six decades (1930-1990) that set the stage for the ultimate exodus in 1990. This Exodus had several milestones, each of which contributed to the final event. These include:
    • 1930-31: The stage gets set for communal violence in the garb of an Anti-feudalism agitation. Communal passions were aroused because the King was Hindu. Shiekh Abdullah set up his political party Muslim Conference to fight the feudal Dogras. The cunning Britishers were seeking to control Maharaja Hari Singh of J&K. On July 13, 1931 there was a massive communal outbreak that shook the state. Hindu shops and property were burnt and looted at Maharaj Gunj, Ali Kadal, Bohri Kadal and Vichar Nag. The impact of this riot was felt across the state, particularly in the Muslim dominated areas of Jammu province - Kotli, Bhimber, Rajouri, Mirpur etc. Everywhere, Hindus & Sikhs faced the wrath of marauding Muslims, resulting in not only loss of life and limb, property but also, in forcible conversion of Hindus/ Sikhs to Islam. It is interesting to note that Communication and reports prepared/ submitted by/to various officials of the British Raj stand testimony to these cruel acts of 1931-32. These riots made several Hindu families to shift from Kashmir
    • 1947-48: The period of 1947-48 was extra traumatic for Kashmir because the barbaric Qabailis (Pashtun tribesmen) led by Pakistani Army regulars in civil clothing attacked Kashmir via Baramulla, causing widespread deaths, looting and large-scale migration of Hindus & Sikhs from Muzaffarabad & Baramulla (October 1947). Hindu villages were looted, women raped and killed, burnt at times by their own families to prevent their falling into hands of the barbaric hordes. When the Indian Army reached Kashmir to confront the Pakistan Army masquerading as Qabailis, they turned tail. Most of the Kashmir province territory was liberated by the end of 1947. A very interesting fallout of the 1947-48 crisis was that all Hindu & Sikh refugees from Muzaffarabad, Baramulla & Uri were encouraged to move on to Jammu instead of allowing them to settle in Kashmir valley. This was done with an eye on affecting the demographic balance of Kashmir. Several Kashmiri Hindus left Kashmir in the wake of Qabaili attack, followed by the establishment of a blatantly pro-Muslim govt in J&K.
    • 1948-53: Power was transferred to an unelected ‘govt’ in J&K by a benevolent Nehru in 1947 with special privileges. Once in power, Shiekh Abdullah and his cohorts started working on converting Kashmir into a Sheikhdom. In one stroke, Kashmiri Pandit landlords were deprived of their land without any compensation. All Muslims, irrespective of their current financial and other status were declared ‘backward’. 80% jobs and promotions were reserved for Muslims. In August 1953, Nehru had to get Shiekh Abdullah dethroned due to his anti-India activities. By then, the educated Kashmiri Hindus had started migrating to Delhi and other cities in search of better job opportunities.
    • 1963-64 Moye Muqqadas Agitation: In a bizarre series of events, the Holy Relic of Prophet Muhammad suddenly went ‘missing’ from the Hazratbal shrine in December 1963. All hell broke loose in Kashmir with reverberations felt as far as East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The processions and open display of anti-India anger sent a chill up the spine of the miniscule Kashmiri Pandit minority. Petitions were sent to Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri by terrified Kashmiri Pandits to ensure safety of their homes & hearths. Much has been written about the politics of the theft of the relic and its subsequent ‘recovery’ on January 4, 1964. The agitation, however, continued unabated till the Relic was put out for public display(deedar) on February 6, 1964, after verification by a host of politico-religious leaders.
    • 1967 -Parmeshwari Handoo Conversion Agitation: This is perhaps the only time that the Kashmiri Hindu community rose to protest the mishandling of a case of abduction of an underage Kashmiri Pandit girl, Parmeshwari Handoo in July 1967. The girl was abducted and later forcibly married off to an office senior, a Muslim, much older than her. As usual, a biased administration played a partisan role, throwing out of the window the basic norms for investigation. For a change, Kashmiri Pandits went up in protest, agitating against their second-grade citizen status and daily atrocities they were being subjected to. The agitation continued for almost 2 months but was ruthlessly crushed with 9 KP young men falling to police bullets and street stabbings. It was during this agitation that posters appeared on the walls of Srinagar, asking KPs to leave the valley. Two such posters are said to have been handed over to Mr YB Chavan, then Home Minister of India who was sent to Kashmir to douse the fires. Parmeshwari agitation sent a clear signal about future scenario to Kashmiri Pandit community. It is interesting to note that the generic modus operandi of Muslims has been to abduct girls from the minority community, forcibly convert them to Islam and then marry them. We see such ‘mishaps’ happening regularly in Pakistan where Hindu, Sikh and Christian girls are married off to Muslim men after being abducted and converted. The abduction is a psycho-operation, deliberately done to ‘shame’ the parents/ community of the girls, shatter their confidence and psychologically prepare them for the ultimate acceptance of Islam. The bride is often touted as a ‘trophy’ by such perverts. Parmeshwari agitation proved to be a watershed in the history of our community. Never in history had that this miniscule community risen to protest. Failure of the movement sent out different signals to different people. Like many, my late grandfather became convinced that our community has no future in Kashmir since we were not a vote bank. Many families started moving out of Kashmir to Jammu and other cities in India. The apprehensions, alas, came true 23 years later when the entire community was uprooted in 1990.

    • 1974-75 -Reviving Shiekh Abdullah from the graveyard of history: Political myopia saw Mrs Gandhi put new life into Sheikh Abdulla who had been reduced to a non-entity by 1974. The G Parthasarathy – Mirza Afzal Beg negotiations led to the political comeback of Mr Abdulla and strengthening of anti-India forces in the valley. So miffed were Kashmiri Muslims with the political calisthenics of Abdullah that the popular Laddi Shah (political satire) sang: “Thadis naye akkal aase, Tundas kyah gav” {If the tall man (Abdullah) was bereft of common sense, what happened to the deformed Beg who was said to have a sharp, though negative mind}.

    • A fallout of the emboldened Muslim approach was their venting out of anger on the hapless hate-dolls of the Valley– Kashmiri Pandits. If there would be some disturbance in Palestine, stones would be pelted at our houses. In 1967, a couple of Europeans walking in the Bund Area of Srinagar were thrashed because Israel & Egypt were at war. When Bhutto was deposed and imprisoned by Gen Zia in July 1977, our houses were stoned as if KPs were responsible. When Bhutto was hanged on April 4, 1979, again we were at the receiving end. The biggest paradox was when General Zia, who got Bhutto hanged, was blown up along with his plane on August 17, 1988, our houses were again hit. For our community it was a ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ situation.

    • 1982-1987: Rotten Power Politics and rise of Anti National Sentiment: Shiekh Abdullah died in September 1982; by then he had installed his playboy son, Farooq Abdullah as his heir-apparent – something that his son-in-law, GM Shah, did not accept. In 1983 elections, PM Indira Gandhi was not only shown black flags but also faced vulgar demonstrations. Farooq was replaced by GM Shah in a palace coup in 1984. The Janus-faced Machiavelli of Kashmir politics, Mufti Saeed engineered the anti-KP communal riots in his pocket borough Anantnag in 1986 to assert his claim to power. 1987 elections were rigged by Congress and National Conference which led to overall disgruntlement; ultimately, we saw the rise of armed terrorism in Kashmir in the form of JKLF & later, Hizbul Mujahideen.

    • 1989-90 -Spreading Terror through Selective Killings of Hindu Community Leaders: Selective killings of leading Pandits started in 1989 with an aim of terrorizing the entire community. On September 14, Pt Tikalal Tapiloo, the acknowledged Pandit Leader, was shot dead. On November 4, Judge NK Ganjoo was gunned down in broad daylight, 100 meters from the main Police Station of Srinagar. The assassins were never arrested though their names were common knowledge. On January 4, 1990, the main Urdu newspaper in the Valley, Aftab published a message on behalf of the terrorists, asking ALL PANDITS TO LEAVE THE VALLEY OR ELSE FACE DEATH. Posters were pasted on the walls of Pandit houses, threatening them with certain death if they did not leave.

    • Jan 19-20,1990-The Pinnacle of Hate Campaign: The pinnacle of this hate pogrom was reached on the night of January 19-20, 1990 when at midnight, threats were broadcast from ALL MOSQUES, asking the terrified minority to leave or face annihilation. Pandits were advised to leave behind their womenfolk to escape massacre. The exact words broadcast that night were,” Battav, Raliv, Chaliyv ya Galliv(convert or migrate or, get ready for annihilation). Another slogan was,” Kashmir Banyav Pakistan, Battav varay, batnyan saan – Kashmir has become Pakistan, with Pandit women, sans Pandit men). Scared, Pandits, the original inhabitants of Kashmir started leaving for Jammu, leaving behind their homes and hearths. It is estimated that almost 4- 5L Pandits left the valley in those dark days. This marked the 7th Exodus of KP Community from Kashmir. Terrorists kept up the pressure by targeting well known Pandit faces to further send shivers up the spine of this hapless community. On February 2, 1990, Satish Tikoo was murdered in his home; on February 13, Pt Lassa Kaul, Station director, Doordarshan (Govt TV Channel) was murdered; on April 29, 1990, a well-known poet – Pt Sarvanand Kaul Premi was gunned down. It is estimated that almost 400 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in Kashmir valley in 1990 itself.

Kashmir valley was 97% Muslim in 1990 yet, the jihadists felt the need to ethnically cleanse the valley of its minorities. In Faisalabad, Pakistan, over a dozen churches were recently vandalized and houses of minority community burnt on frivolous, unproven allegations to browbeat a miniscule minority into submission. This trend is also visible in Bangladesh. In several European countries, particularly UK, France and Belgium, Muslim immigrants want Sharia Laws to come into force. This inability of Muslims to live peacefully in a multi religious, multi-ethnic societies, giving equal rights to other religious or ethnic groups is something our sociologists need to ponder on. Muslim intellectuals too need to introspect about the growing cult of violence in Islamic societies and the pronounced intolerance to reforms exhibited by the ummah. A Muslim intellectual, Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad from Stockholm, lamented that Muslim world is more obsessed with ‘life after death’, and mingling religion with education; as a result, not one University from the Islamic world features in the top 1000 universities of the world. The trend does not bode well for the world.


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