Numbers Behind Narratives: RTI Revelation on KP Killings

A protest by Kashmiri Pandits - Picture Credits: PTI | For representational purposes only.

ON a train journey once, my humble look at the scenery passing through my eyes was interrupted by a rather heavy accusation hurled at me: “Hazaroon Hindu logon ko apne mara wahah” (You killed thousands of Hindus there).

This was a fellow passenger who got into a discussion with me about Kashmir. Echoing the majority, he was made to believe that the number of “hindus” killed in Kashmir in 1990s and after was too big a number. I asked him, “How many?”. Initially, he said it was 5000, then 10,000 and then the number was 20,000. The number did not matter because the hyperbole had worked.

This is how misinformation campaign and propaganda has been made against Kashmiri Muslims by the media and other right wing hindu groups.

The recent RTI response stating that the number of Kashmir Pandits who were killed by armed militants since inception of militancy in 1990 is 89, should be an eye opener for those who have always blamed Kashmiri Muslims

Information provided under Right to Information Act (RTI) by Jammu & Kashmir Police to a Haryana based RTI activist has generated a fresh debate on the number of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) killed by militants during the last 30 years. Some Kashmiri Pandit groups have been saying that a large number of people from their community were killed in 1990 which forced them to migrate from Kashmir valley. Infact, even after 1990 there were some incidents of Kashmiri Pandits’ killings. These are the people who had stayed back post the 1990 migration. More than three dozen Kashmiri Pandits were killed in Wandhama Ganderbal, Sangram Pora Budgam and Nadimarg Shopian between 1995 and 2004. Especially after Nadimarg massacre, wherein 24 Kashmiri Hindus were killed, a notion was created across Indian states that thousands of pandits were killed in Kashmir in1990s and even after that.

Whether one single innocent person or one hundred or one thousand civilians are killed, it should always be condemned and it is a huge loss. However , when the same is exaggerated, weaponised and the entire blame is put on Kashmiri Muslim community, it’s something that hurts and feels a little too much.

Pertinently, the information provided by J&K Police under RTI has revealed 1724 civilians were killed by militants in Kashmir in the past three decades. Out of these, more than 1600 were Muslims. However, nobody talks about those civilian deaths — reducing Kashmiri muslims in the hierarchy of human life and dignity.

Background of RTI

RTI activist from Haryana P P Kapoor who filed the application under RTI Act 2005 a few months back before J&K Police wanted to know the exact number of people killed by militants in J&K from the last 31years. While talking to a Srinagar based online news portal Free Press Kashmir, P P Kapoor said:

“I wanted to clear the notion created by the BJP government and RSS leaders about the ‘thousands of Kashmiri Pandits massacred in the valley “

But the information provided under the RTI Act has revealed some other facts. This rebuts the narrative created by a section of media and political parties like BJP and its allies. The groups like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal , RSS and many other NGOs affiliated with right wing BJP for the last 31 years had been portraying the KP killings in Kashmir as “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing”. This is not to say that there were no such incidents. Brutal killings in Wandhama, Sangram Pora or Nadimarg which I explained above did happen but private news channels and newspapers published from New Delhi and other cities post Nadigram massacre created such an atmosphere that all the blame was put on Kashmiri Muslims and number of killings was also exaggerated.

A false propaganda has been made against muslim community living in Kashmir valley which has brought great disrepute to Kashmiri Muslims across India and outside the country as well. Inspite of the fact that number of muslim civilians killed during last 31 years by militants was more than 1600 ( 20 times more than KPs), this was never debated or discussed by national media.

Information given to JK Assembly

The number of killings mentioned in the RTI reply is 89. However, the number is more if we calculate the total number of killings across the valley. Then again, the number is not more than 230, even if we include the recent killings in Srinagar wherein a noted Chemist ML Bindroo was killed in broad daylight.

I personally believe the number of deaths may be higher than 89. It seems the information provided to Mr Kapoor under RTI pertains to district Srinagar only as this particular issue has been debated in the J & K legislative assembly in the past.

In 2010, Home Department in its response to a legislator had said that the total number of Kashmiri Pandits killed by militants from 1990 to 2010 was 219. Even if it is 230 or 240, people across the country should be made aware of it. The misinformation and propaganda made against Kashmiri Muslims should be stopped.

Number of people who fled the valley?

As per media reports, P P Kapoor had filed one more RTI application seeking details of persons / families who had fled from Kashmir valley during the onset of armed militancy in 1990 and onwards. It is unclear whether Mr Kapoor filed a separate RTI to get this information or this was part of the RTI application seeking details of Kashmiri Pandits killed by militants.

The information provided by Commissioner Relief & Rehabilitation J&K Govt says that 88% of the people who fled from Kashmir valley in 1990 were Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits). Total number of people who left Kashmir valley in 1990-91 were one lakh fifty four thousand (1.54 lakhs), and out of them 1.35 lakh were Kashmiri Pandits. Around 18,735 muslims had also migrated from the valley, reveals the RTI response from the Relief Commissioners office. With regards to rehabilitation and resettlement of Kashmiri pandits, the information was not provided to P P Kapoor.

Pertinently, early this year, Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy had told Lok Sabha that 3,800 Kashmiri Pandits had returned back to Kashmir under a special job package. These people have been given jobs by J&K Govt in various Govt departments but have been living in accommodations provided by Govt at different places. The Govt of India is providing separate budgetary allocation for these employees. In November this year, Nityanand Rai, informed the Parliament that around 1,678 Kashmiri Pandits returned to Kashmir valley post Article 370 abrogation. These people have also been provided Jobs by the J & K Govt.

The Relief & Rehabilitation Commissioners office in its RTI reply also says that of those who had migrated from Kashmir valley, nearly 84,000 do not get government relief that is due to Kashmiri migrants. This assistance includes cash payments and a monthly supply of rice, wheat and sugar, as well as aid with infrastructure.

Conclusion

Several Kashmiri Pandit organizations say that information provided by the Govt that only 89 KPs were killed in 31 yrs is incorrect. I agree with them to some extent as this number has been 219 in 2010 and it won’t be more than 230 as on date. But when the same is exaggerated, aggrandized and people across India are made to believe that 10,000 or 20,000 Kashmiri Pandits were killed in the last 31years , it brings a bad name to the Kashmiri Muslims.

Nobody discusses the safety that many Kashmiri Pandits have felt in Kashmir. They have lived with the Kashmiri muslim community in unity and harmony as well. What explains the constant dichotomy created between two communities which have suffered? What explains the silence around the plight of Kashmiri muslims? Why is violence being written on the shoulders of Kashmiri muslims when it is this community which has actually witnessed deaths in huge numbers?

As far as the immediate matter at hand is concerned, let the Govt make the actual details of such killings public with district wise information from all the 10 districts of Kashmir valley. It is important to educate the masses about the actual numbers and counter misinformation.


Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback [email protected]

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