Violence against Minorities

The Hindu Kashmiri Pandits, a small but prominent group, had been a favoured section of the population during Dogra rule (1846–1947). About 20 per cent of whom had left the Kashmir valley by 1950 after the land reforms, began to leave in much greater numbers in the 1990s. Approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 left the valley during that decade. Higher figure for the exodus that have been calculated, ranging from the entire population of over 150,000, to 190,000 of a total Pandit population of 200,000, to a number as high as 253,000.During the eruption of militancy in Kashmir valley, terrorism by majority sect had specifically targeted the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits minority and violated their human rights. Reports by Indian government state 219 Kashmiri Pandits were killed and around 1,40,000 migrated due to militancy while over 3,000 stayed in the valley.

According to a resolution passed by the United States Congress in 2006, Islamic terrorists infiltrated the region in 1989 and forced most of the Kashmiri Pandits to flee Kashmir. According to the report, the population of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir had declined from 400,000 in 1989 to 4,000 in 2011.
These groups targeted the Hindus in the Kashmir valley forcing an estimated 100,000 to flee.

The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front have been accused of ethnic cleansing by using murder, arson and rape as a weapon of war to drive out hundreds of thousands of Pandits from the region. On 25 January 1998, 23 Kashmiri Pandits, including nine women and four young children living in the village of Wandhama, were killed by unknown persons wearing the uniforms of Indian Army soldiers, who had tea with them, waiting for a radio message indicating that all Pandit families in the village had been covered. Thereafter, they rounded up all the members of the Hindu households and then summarily gunned them down with Kalashnikov rifles.

Hindu civilians have been subjected to rape and murder perpetrated by members of terrorist organizations like the JKLF and the Hizbul Mujahedeen. Muslim civilians who were considered political opponents of terrorists or those who are believed to be informers have also been raped or murdered. The first killing happened on September 14, 1989 when Tika Lal Taploo, a lawyer and the vice-president of the J&K state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was shot dead in Srinagar. On the night of January 19, 1990, Kashmir resonated with anti-India and anti-Pandit slogans: “Oh merciless, oh infidels, leave our Kashmir”; “If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allahu Akbar.” Mosques became planning centers for terrorist activities in Kashmir. Violent clashes between local protestors seeking freedom from India and security forces became the norm. The law and order situation in Kashmir collapsed; kidnappings, killings, and rapes became routine.

After being forced from their homes, Kashmiri Pandits sought refuge in different parts of India, especially Jammu, Mumbai and Delhi. The era of horror was such that most of the Pandit families left without caring about any of their belongings. They left with hope in their hearts that the situation in Kashmir would return to normal soon, allowing them to return to their homeland and return to their livelihoods. But the situation deteriorated day by day, and the chance to go back to their homeland never came.

Some Pandits managed to get rented accommodations while many lived in squalid camps in Jammu. The state administration failed to provide dignified shelter to Pandit refugees. In the initial years of exile, in the early 1990s, thousands of Pandits succumbed to unaccustomed weather, sunstrokes, poor sanitation, and other ailments. The trauma of losing their home slowly and silently affected Kashmiri Pandits, particularly the elderly.

Thousands of Pandit families lived in these camps for almost two decades. Only in 2011 and 2012 were the Pandits living in the camps relocated to two-room tenements in Jagti, a town in Jammu province. Bit by bit, many Pandits have tried to rebuild their lives in Jammu and other parts of India, as their home in Kashmir has been lost.

Although most Pandit families left Kashmir in 1990, a few hundred families stayed. The horror of persecution always loomed over these Pandits. In 1997, 1998 and 2003, three major massacres happened in Sangrampora, Wandhama, and Nadimarg in which seven, 23, and 24 Kashmiri Pandits, respectively, were brutally killed. These massacres signaled to other Pandits not to return to their homeland.

Around 700 Pandits have been killed in the valley due to terrorism. Neither the Indian government nor the J&K state government has tried to address the issue of the ethnic cleansing and the persecution of Kashmiri Pandits. To date, there has been no judicial inquiry and no prosecution. There has not been any hue and cry over the killings of Pandits or the rapes of Pandit women in Kashmir.

Apart from violence against Kashmiri Pandits, the Sikh minority have also been prone to violence at the hands of mostly armed militants one such incident is the Chittisinghpura massacre which refers to the fatal shooting of 36 Sikhs on 20 March 2000, in the Anantnag district of the State of Jammu and Kashmir in India.The Indian government asserted that it was conducted by the Islamic Fundamentalistmilitant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.Mohammad Suhail Malik of Sialkot, Pakistan confessed while in custody about participating in the attacks at the direction of Lashkar-e-Taiba. The perpetrators wore Indian Army attires to avoid detection. The killers came into the village in two groups at separate ends of the village where the two Gurdwaras were located. They first lined up the Sikhs, who had been celebrating the Holi, in front of their Gurdwaras and opened fire, killing thirty-six people.

The killings of 36 Sikhs was a turning point in the Kashmir issue, where Sikhs had usually been spared from militant violence. After the massacre hundreds of Kashmiri Sikhs gathered in the village shouting anti Pakistan and anti-Muslim slogans and criticizing Indian government for failing to protect the villagers.

The villagers ensured that the local school was up and running just two weeks after the killings. The massacre created tension and distrust between the Sikh and Muslim residents of the area, but no problems developed at the joint Muslim-Sikh village school. After the massacre the residents of the village pointed the police to Mohammad Yakub Magray as one of the suspects.

In 2005, Sikh organizations such as the Bhai Kanahiya Jee Nishkam Seva Society demanded a deeper state inquiry into the details of the massacre and for the inquiry to be made public. The state government ordered an inquiry into the massacre.