Who is correct on the issue of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley? Is Narendra Modi right when he says Farooq Abdullah did nothing as terrorists targeted the Pandits, or is Omar Abdullah correct when he says Pandits are part of the valley and left due to a Hindu right-wing conspiracy? No one knows the truth, but this clash of narratives is not new.
The Kashmiri Pandits who constitute nearly all of the Hindu population that lived in the Kashmir Valley were forced to leave Kashmir in 1989. They were considered the original Hindu inhabitants of the state, and their exit from the valley has often been blamed on one of two narratives. Today, thousands of Kashmiri Pandits still live in camps located in Delhi, Jammu and some other parts of the country.
Here is a brief outlook on the two narratives. At the time of the exodus Farooq Abdullah was the chief minister of the state and Jagmohan was the governor before President’s rule was imposed for over six years.
The popular Kashmiri Pandit version
The Kashmiri Pandits claim that they were pushed out by terrorists who had backing of the Kashmiri government at the time. They believe that the term ‘migration’ used by the government and the Abdullahs for years is a misnomer as they did not leave out of their own will but were instead forcibly made to leave their homes. At a certain point pamphlets were put out asking Kashmiri Pandits to leave in 48 hours. After their exit, by 1992, houses of Pandits, who were otherwise rich landowners, were looted and/or burnt down.
The popular Kashmiri Muslim version
Many Kashmiri Muslims have a completely different take on the circumstances that led to the Kashmiri Pandits fleeing from the Kashmir Valley. They claim that it was the then governor of the state Jagmohan and the administration that cunningly encouraged the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. While they admit there was a problem in the state, it did not have to mean that the Pandits were to be moved 400 kms away. Why the government didn't move the Kashmiri Pandits to Army camps? The version also asks when the Sikhs were attacked in Delhi, or Muslims in Gujarat, they were not made to move to a different state. Similarly in Kashmir too, they could have been moved to the Sopore or Baramullah cantonment for a limited time.
Muslims here believe that not only did many Kashmiri Pandits lose their lives, but claimed that the Muslim community as a whole lost a fair number of their brethren. They felt that they were being victimised for not complying with the militant ideology that was being peddled by Pakistani Islamicists who had infiltrated into Indian territory at the time.
They believe Hindu supremacist groups have pushed a narrative against the Kashmiri Muslims and have found an easy prey among the Pandits who live in shabby camps and continue to suffer till this day to spread the canard that most Muslims in the state are Islamicists and the cause of the exodus. Many Muslims in the state though still express grief that they didn’t do enough to prevent the ‘migration’ of the Pandits from their homelands.