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The real tragedy of Kashmir

By Lalit Koul
March 25, 2003 13:46 IST
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Tum aankhon ki barsaat bachaaye hue rakhna;
Kuch log abhi aag lagaana nahin bhoole!

[Save your tears for now, my dear;
Some people have not yet tired of setting fires!]

A telecom engineer in Kashmir peeked out of his balcony to see if it was safe to venture out. He saw two men toting their guns outside, waiting for him to come out.

A neighbour who had seen the engineer in his balcony informed the gun-toting men. Within minutes, doors were being slammed. The engineer and his family looked at each other and said their final good byes. His wife persuaded him to hide in a rice canister in the attic. The two men barged into the house and demanded to see the engineer. His wife tried to dodge them by telling them that her husband was out on duty.

The men would not listen. They searched the house and found the engineer in the attic. They did not allow him to climb out, and unloaded their Kalashnikovs into the rice canister.

The white rice turned red. The remaining gunny bags in the attic soaked the spilled blood. His wailing widow pleaded with them to kill her as well. They would not. They told her they wanted her to suffer for the rest of her life, mourning her husband.

The engineer was Mr Deepak Ganju, a Kashmiri Hindu. His neighbour was a Kashmiri Muslim.

April 30, 1990 was a normal day in the lives of the residents of Shali village in Kashmir's Anantnag district. But the evening was not the same. As the sun was setting on the village, three armed men knocked at the door of a poet and teacher who had taught many residents of his village.

The armed men ordered him to accompany them to their camp for questioning. Sensing something amiss the teacher's son insisted he would accompany his father.

The dreadful news came after two days of painful anxiety. Two dead bodies were found hanging with their limbs broken, hair uprooted, and portions of their skin slit open and burnt. The dead poet and teacher were 67-year-old Kashmir Hindu Pandit Sarvanand Koul 'Premi' and his son Pandit Virendra Koul.

On May 2, 1990, a man, his wife and his male cousin were having dinner when four armed men asked the trio to accompany them. Three innocent lives were taken to the assigned place of execution near a mosque on the banks of the Jhelum.

When the executioners shot the man from point-blank range the cousin jumped into the river and swam to safety. The man's body was kept in the mosque for the night and then thrown into the river. The wife was also killed; her corpse tied with a stone and thrown into the Jhelum. Her body was never recovered. The dead couple was Professor K L Ganju of the Sopore Agricultural College and his wife -- forsaken Kashmiri Hindus.

These are not fantasy stories. These are true stories about innocent victims mercilessly killed by Islamic terrorists in Kashmir. The true stories of Kashmiri Hindus ethnically cleansed from their place of birth. True stories of unsung heroes who laid down their lives because they believed in the Indian Tricolour. True stories of those fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters who lost their lives because they believed in one religion.

Deepak Ganju, Professor K L Ganju, Sarvanand Premi of the Kashmir valley did not deserve this. They were as peaceful as a lotus in the Dal lake. They did not terrorise anybody to deserve such treatment. They did not force anybody else to believe in their religion. Instead they believed in the 'live and let live' philosophy. But what they got in return was death.

So what is Kashmir's real tragedy?

Is it lack of political freedom for Kashmiri Muslims? Is it lack of economic prosperity for Kashmiri Muslims? Is it lack of autonomy for local Kashmiri politicians and their cronies? No, No and No.

The real tragedy of Kashmir is those innocent victims who lost their freedom of basic living. The freedom to live. It is those innocent victims' relentless longing to return to their loving homes. It has been more than 13 years since Kashmiri Hindus and other minorities in the Kashmir valley were forced to run for their lives. Incidents of grotesque violence against innocent Kashmiri Hindus were the stark realities of those times. Those were the situations under which Kashmiri Hindus fled their homes.

Since then 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus have been living in deplorable conditions as refugees in their own country. Some misguided politicians and pseudo-secular columnists might tell you it was Jagmohan, then the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, who forced Kashmiri Hindus to leave Kashmir. (That is what some readers of my last column on rediff said.)

But there is nothing farther from the truth than this ridiculous theory. It is an unfortunate tragedy that these politicians and pseudo-secularist columnists cannot see beyond their nose, cannot see the crimes committed against Kashmiri Hindus (the three cases cited in this column are three out of hundreds of such cases) and instead come out with preposterous theories without valid data. I am sure these people can see the tragedies, but choose to ignore them because that is what suits their agenda.

In the last 13 years, governments have come and gone in India. Human rights commissioners have come and gone. But none of them has given any credence to the plight of Kashmiri Hindus. And why should they? Kashmiri Hindus have been tolerant, non-violent, peace-loving patriots. They have not and will not engage in any kind of violence.

So why would any government or human rights commission care for them?

That is the real tragedy of Kashmir.


24 Pandits killed in Kashmir

Lalit Koul is a member of the US-based Kashmir News Network and editor of a monthly journal Kashmir Herald

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Lalit Koul