March 2016 News

Drawing Attention Of JNU Students To Exodus Of Kashmiri Pandits

1 March 2016
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Sumit Hakhoo

Jammu: As the recent protests at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi have generated a nationwide debate on the freedom of speech and intolerance, displaced Pandits have also joined in to highlight the plight of 3.50 lakh Hindus who left the Valley when militancy started in 1990. A group of Pandit youth has started a campaign on the JNU campus to educate the students on reasons which led to the selective killing and migration of Pandits from their native land. Most of the group members, who left the Valley due to violence about two decades ago and spent their time in camps in Jammu and New Delhi, say the country is unaware of the condition of Pandits and the complexities in Jammu and Kashmir. The activists say most of the Pandits living in exile have haunting memories so the plans announced by the Central and state governments for the community never excite them. They say no sincere effort was made by the successive governments to identify and prosecute the people involved in killing Kashmiri Pandits. 'A debate has started in the country about free speech, denied to minorities in Kashmir. Let there be a reasonable debate on it,' said Sushil Pandit, JNU alumni and social activist. Between 1990 and 2003, militants carried out seven major killings of Pandits. Several Pandit intellectuals, poets and lawyers were gunned down by militants during 1990s. Though separatists blame former Governor Jagmohan for encouraging the migration of Pandits, the community alleges that it was a pre-planned agenda of militants and their supporters. 'Our suffering is a forgotten one and in the discourse of intolerance and freedom of speech debate, Kashmiri Hindus don't find any place. Every attempt has been made to erase the brutality which was committed on us,' said Vithal Choudhary, a Panun Kashmir activist. Other group members include Neeru Kaul, Veer Wangoo and author and founder of Roots in Kashmir Rashneek Kher. The Pandit issue is a complex one as separatists continue to oppose their resettlement in the Valley. Though the government records say 219 community members were killed in militancy-related incidents in the last two decades, representative organisations have always disputed the government figures and claim that 670 people were gunned down.