Monday, May 15, 2017

Which is the most shameful incident in Indian political history?

The most shameful chapter in the history of independent India was the genocide of Kashmiri Pandits. Although it has been going on for decades, the events that were triggered on January 19, 1990 led to the mass exodus of nearly half-a-million Kashmiri Hindus. Only a few other events in world history compare in scale and magnitude to the tragedy that befell the unfortunate Pandits. They were warned through posters and loud speakers that they had two choices: either convert to Islam or be prepared to be killed. Their men were brutally tortured and killed and their women were raped and killed. The population of Kashmiri Pandits in Srinagar valley was about 15% when India attained Independence. It came down to a fraction of 1% by 2010. Between 1990 and December 6, 1992, 160 Hindu temples were razed to the ground. The excuse of retaliation for Babri Masjid does not hold good.

Members of an elite community that provided intellectual leadership to the Kashmiri society were suddenly rendered homeless and became refugees in their own country! After the Pandits fled, some 25000 standalone houses belonging to them were burnt down. Others were simply occupied. Some of the Pandits who had the foresight to see what was coming sold away their properties ─ ancestral homes and other precious heirlooms ─ at throw away prices and fled to Jammu and other Indian cities.

What followed (in January 1990) was even worse. The state government led by Farooq Abdullah abdicated its responsibility leaving the victims to the tender mercies of barbaric butchers. Abdullah himself went away to London where he merrily played golf and other ‘adult games’. His behaviour is comparable to that of the Roman emperor, Nero who famously or notoriously ‘fiddled while Rome was burning’!

The central government did nothing to ameliorate the situation; the human rights activists remained uncharacteristically silent; the secular intelligentsia turned a deaf ear and the world ignored the humongous tragedy. The Pandits themselves stoically accepted their fate. There were no protests; no demonstrations; they did not resort to violence or destruction of public property and they did not produce suicide bombers.

They did not have godfathers in the human rights circuits in New York and Washington and the matter was scarcely if ever was raised in the human rights debates in the UNO. Just to give you an idea of how the human rights ‘activists’ treated the issue, the New York based ‘Human Rights Watch’ which produced a 68-page report on the 2002 Gujarat riots (in which 890 Muslims and 294 Hindus were killed) has all of one paragraph comprising about 75 words on the Kashmiri Pandit genocide (which victimized more than half-a-million people), on its website. A famous electronic media journalist, who in her budding years reported from Kashmir, glibly explained that the ethnic strife in Kashmir was the result of ‘social tensions’ between poor working-class Muslims and prosperous, elite Hindus. A clip of her reportage has been doing the rounds on social media for quite some time now.

All that the governments would do was putting up the Pandits in camps outside Jammu and Delhi. Just imagine three generations of a family living in a (eight feet by eight feet) room made up of canvas walls and partitioned by bedsheets! Life in the camps was harsh. They had to live in unfamiliar surroundings in subhuman conditions. There is already an underlay of fear, of persecution, torture, violent death and an uncertain future. They were not used to the harsh hot climates of Jammu and Delhi. All this led them to suffer from a number of physical and mental disorders from diarrhoea and dysentery to skin rashes and phobias and manias. Menopausal age in women dropped from a national average of 55 years to 35 years. It was reported after a survey that in a ‘relief camp’ comprising 300 families there were more than 200 deaths in the five years between 2001 and 2005 while there were only 5 births. How can genocide get worse?

There is a most poignant postscript to the (unending) saga of the misery of the Kashmiri Pandits. It was the death in 2013, of an inmate of a relief camp in Jammu due to starvation. Because the authorities did not provide rations to the camp in time. An incident for which every civilized Indian should hang his head in shame!

This is the reply posted to a question on Quora