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Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus

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Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus
Part of Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
Kashmir Valley in color green
Date1989 and afterwards[1]
GoalsIslamisation, ethnic cleansing, independence from India, merger with Pakistan, imposition of Sharia law[2]
MethodsRape, targeted killing, murder, threats, kidnapping
Resulted inMass Migration of Kashmiri Hindus

The Hindus of the Kashmir Valley, were forced to flee the Kashmir valley as a result of being targeted by JKLF and Islamist insurgents during late 1989 and early 1990.[4][5] Of the approximately 300,000 to 600,000 Hindus living in the Kashmir Valley in 1990 only 2,000–3,000 remain there in 2016.[6][7][8][9][10][11] 19 January 1990 is widely remembered by Kashmiri Hindus as the tragic "exodus day" of being forced out of Kashmir.[12][13]

According to the Indian government, more than 62,000 families are registered as Kashmiri refugees including some Sikh and Muslim families.[14] Most families were resettled in Jammu, National Capital Region surrounding Delhi and other neighbouring states.[15]


Under the 1975 accord, Sheikh Abdullah agreed to measures previously undertaken by the central government in Jammu and Kashmir to integrate the state into India.[16] Sociologist Farrukh Faheem states that it was met with hostility among people of Kashmir and laid the groundwork for the future insurgency.[17] Those opposed to it included Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir and People's League in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) based in Azad Kashmir.[18] Since the mid-1970s, communalist rhetoric was being exploited in the state for votebank politics. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) tried to spread Wahhabism in place of Sufism to foster religious unity with their nation, the communalisation helped in furthering it.[19] Islamization of Kashmir began during 1980's when Abdullah Government changed the names of about 2500 villages from their native names to new Islamic names. The Sheikh also started delivering communal speeches in mosques similar to his speeches in 1930's. Additionally, he referred to the Kashmiri Hindus as "mukhbir" or informers of the Indian government.[20][21]

ISI's initial attempts to create unrest in Kashmir against the Indian government were unsuccessful until it started growing in late-1980s.[22] The Afghan jihad against the Soviets, the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the armed struggle of the Sikhs in Punjab against the Indian state became sources of inspiration for large numbers of Kashmiri Muslim youth.[23][24] Both the pro-Independence JKLF and the pro-Pakistan Islamist groups including Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir mobilised the fast growing anti-Indian sentiments among the Kashmiri population. The year of 1984 saw a pronounced rise in terrorist violence in Kashmir. When the JKLF militant Maqbool Bhat was executed in February 1984, strikes and protests by Kashmiri nationalists broke out in the region, where large number of Kashmiri youth participated in widespread anti-India demonstrations, which faced heavy handed reprisals by the state forces.[25][26]

Critics of the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, charged that Abdullah was losing control. His visit to Pakistan administered Kashmir during then became an embarrassment, where according to Hashim Qureshi, he shared a platform with JKLF . Though Abdullah asserted that he went on behalf of Indira Gandhi and his father, so that sentiments there could "be known first hand", few people believed him. There were also allegations that he had allowed Khalistan terrorist groups to train in Jammu province, although those allegations were never proved. On 2 July 1984, G. M. Shah, who had support from Indira Gandhi, replaced his brother-in-law Farooq Abdullah and became the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, after Abdullah was dismissed, in what was termed as a political "coup".[26]

G. M. Shah's administration, which did not have people's mandate, turned to Islamists and opponents of India, notably the Molvi Iftikhar Hussain Ansari, Mohammad Shafi Qureshi and Mohinuddin Salati, to gain some legitimacy through religious sentiments. This gave political space to Islamists who previously lost overwhelmingly in the 1983 state elections.[26] In 1986, Shah decided to construct a mosque within the premises of an ancient Hindu temple inside the New Civil Secretariat area in Jammu to be made available to the Muslim employees for 'Namaz'. People of Jammu took to streets to protest against this decision, which led to a Hindu-Muslim clash.[27] In February 1986, Gul Shah on his return to Kashmir valley retaliated and incited the Kashmiri Muslims by saying Islam khatrey mein hey (trans. Islam is in danger). As a result, Kashmiri Hindus were targeted by the Kashmiri Muslims. Many incidents were reported in various areas where Kashmiri Hindus were killed and their properties and temples damaged or destroyed. The worst hit areas were mainly in South Kashmir and Sopore. In Vanpoh, Lukbhavan, Anantnag, Salar and Fatehpur, Muslim mobs plundered or destroyed the properties and temples of Hindus. During the Anantnag riot in February 1986, although no Hindu was killed, many houses and other properties belonging to Hindus were looted, burnt or damaged.[28] An investigation of Anantnag riots revealed that members of the 'secular parties' in the state, rather than the Islamists, had played a key role in organising the violence to gain political mileage through religious sentiments. Shah called in the army to curb the violence, but it had little effect. His government was dismissed on 12 March 1986, by the then Governor Jagmohan following communal riots in south Kashmir. This led Jagmohan to rule the state directly. The political fight was hence being portrayed as a conflict between "Hindu" New Delhi (Central Government), and its efforts to impose its will in the state, and "Muslim" Kashmir, represented by political Islamists and clerics.[29]

The Islamists had organised under a banner named Muslim United Front, with manifesto to work for Islamic unity and against political interference from the centre, and contested the 1987 state elections, in which they lost again. However, the 1987 elections were widely believed to be rigged so as to bring the secular parties (NC and INC) in Kashmir at the forefront, and this caused the insurgency in Kashmir.[30][31][32][33] The Kashmiri militants killed anyone who openly expressed pro-India policies. Kashmiri Hindus were targeted specifically because they were seen as presenting Indian presence in Kashmir because of their faith.[34] Though the insurgency had been launched by JKLF, groups rose over the next few months advocating for establishment of Nizam-e-Mustafa (Rule of Muhammad). The Islamist groups proclaimed the Islamicisation of socio-political and economic set-up, merger with Pakistan, unification of ummah and establishment of an Islamic Caliphate. Liquidation of central government officials, Hindus, liberal and nationalist intellectuals, social and cultural activists was described as necessary to rid the valley of un-Islamic elements.[35] The relations among the semi-secular and Islamists groups were generally poor and often hostile. The JKLF had also utilized Islamic formulations in its mobilization strategies and public discourse, using Islam and independence interchangeably. It demanded equal rights for everyone however this had a distinct Islamic flavor as it sought to establish an Islamic democracy, protection of minority rights per Quran and Sunnah and an economy of Islamic socialism. The pro-separatist political practices at times deviated from their stated secular position.[36][37]

Insurgency activity

In July 1988, the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) began a separatist insurgency for independence of Kashmir from India.[38] The group targeted a Kashmiri Hindu for the first time on 14 September 1989, when they killed Tika Lal Taploo, an advocate and a prominent leader of Bharatiya Janata Party in Jammu & Kashmir in front of several eyewitnesses. This instilled fear in the Kashmiri Hindus especially as Taploo's killers were never caught which also emboldened the terrorists. The Hindus felt that they weren't safe in the valley and could be targeted any time. The killings of Kashmiri Hindus continued that included many of the prominent ones.[39]

In order to undermine his political rival Farooq Abdullah who at that time was the Chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, the Minister of Home Affairs Mufti Mohammad Sayeed convinced Prime Minister V.P. Singh to appoint Jagmohan as the governor of the state. Abdullah resented Jagmohan who had been appointed as the governor earlier in April 1984 as well and had recommended Abdullah's dismissal to Rajiv Gandhi in July 1984. Abdullah had earlier declared that he would resign if Jagmohan was made the Governor. However, the Central government went ahead and appointed him as Governor on 19 January 1990. In response, Abdullah resigned on the same day and Jagmohan suggested the dissolution of the State Assembly.[citation needed]

Most of the Kashmiri Hindus left Kashmir valley and moved to other parts of India, particularly to the refugee camps in Jammu region of the state.[40]

Attack and threats

On 14 September 1989, Tika Lal Taploo, who was a lawyer and a BJP member, was murdered by the JKLF in his home in Srinagar.[41][42] Soon after Taploo's death, Nilkanth Ganjoo, a judge of Srinagar High court who had sentenced Maqbul Bhat to death, was shot dead.[42]
On 4 November 1989, high court judge in Kashmir Neelkanth Ganjoo was killed near the High Court in Srinagar. [43]
In December 1989, members of JKLF kidnapped Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the-then Union Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed demanding release of five militants, which was subsequently fulfilled.[44][45][46]

On 4 January 1990, Srinagar-based newspaper Aftab released a message, threatening all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to the militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen.[47][48][49] On 14 April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-safa republished the same warning.[42][50][51][52][53][54][55] The newspaper did not claim ownership of the statement and subsequently issued a clarification.[47][48] Walls were pasted with posters with threatening messages to all Kashmiris to harshly follow the Islamic rules[56] which included abidance by the Islamic dress code, a prohibition on alcohol, cinemas, and video parlors[57] and strict restrictions on Kashmiri women.[58] Unknown masked men with Kalashnikovs used to force people to reset their time to Pakistan Standard Time. Offices buildings, shops, and establishments were colored green as a sign of Islamist rule.[49][59] Shops, factories, temples and homes of Kashmiri Hindus were burned or destroyed. Threatening posters were posted on doors of Hindus asking them to leave Kashmir immediately.[49][60] During the middle of the night of 18 and 19 January, a blackout took place in the Kashmir Valley where electricity was cut except in mosques[citation needed] which broadcast divisive and inflammatory messages, asking for a purge of Kashmiri Hindus.[61][54]

On 21 January 1990, two days after Jagmohan took over as governor, the Gawkadal massacre took place in Srinagar, in which the Indian security forces had opened fire on protesters, leading to the death of at least 50 people, and likely over 100. These events led to chaos. Lawlessness took over the valley and the crowd with slogans and guns started roaming around the streets. News kept coming of violent incidents and those Hindus who survived the night saved their lives by traveling out of the valley.[62][63][38]

On 29 April 1990, Sarwanand Kaul Premi, a veteran Kashmiri poet was gruesomely murdered.[64][65][66][61][67] Several intelligence operatives were assassinated, over the course of January.[68][69]
On 2 February 1990, Satish Tikoo, a young Hindu social-worker was murdered near his own house in Habba Kadal, Srinagar.[42][70][71][72][73] On 13 February 1990, Lassa Kaul, Station Director of Srinagar Doordarshan, was shot dead.[42][74][75][76][77]
In December 1992, Hriday Nath Wanchoo, a trade union leader and human rights activist, was murdered[78] with Ashiq Hussain Faktoo being convicted for the murder.[79]
Many Kashmiri Hindu women were kidnapped, raped and murdered, throughout the time of exodus.[80][81][82][83][57]
On 25 June 1990, school teacher Girija Tikoo was raped and murdered. Her body was found on the verge of the road and the postmortem revealed that she was gang-raped, and cut into two-halves using a saw.[84]
On 13 August 1990, Babli Raina, a teacher in the Education Department, was gang raped in her house in the presence of her family and then killed. [85]
On 30 April 1992, Mrs. Sohan Lal Braroo and her daughter were gangraped and killed in front of their family. [86]


The militancy in Kashmir had increased after the exodus. The militants had targeted the properties of Kashmiri Hindus after their exodus.[87][88] In 2009 Oregon Legislative Assembly passed a resolution to recognise 14 September 2007, as Martyrs Day to acknowledge ethnic cleansing and campaigns of terror inflicted on non-Muslim minorities of Jammu and Kashmir by militant seeking to establish an Islamic state.[89]

Kashmiri Hindus continue to fight for their return to the valley and many of them live as refugees.[90] The exiled community had hoped to return after the situation improved. They have not done so because the situation in the Valley remains unstable and they fear a risk to their lives. Most of them lost their properties after the exodus and many are unable to go back and sell them. Their status as displaced people has adversely harmed them in the realm of education. Many Hindu families could not afford to send their children to well regarded public schools. Furthermore, Hindus faced institutional discrimination by predominantly Muslim state bureaucrats. As a result of the inadequate ad hoc schools and colleges formed in the refugee camps, it became harder for the children of Hindus to access education. They suffered in higher education as well, as they could not claim admission in PG colleges of Jammu university, while getting admitted in the institutes of Kashmir valley was out of question. Later the Indian Government has taken up the issue of education of the displaced students from Kashmir, and helped them get admissions in various Kendriya Vidyalayas and major educational institutions & universities across the country.[91] In 2010, the Government of Jammu and Kashmir noted that 808 Hindus families, comprising 3,445 people, were still living in the Valley and that financial and other incentives put in place to encourage others to return there had been unsuccessful. According to a Jammu and Kashmir government report, 219 members of the Hindus community out of total 1400 Hindus, had been killed in the region between 1989 and 2004 but none thereafter.[92][93][94][95]

The local organisation of Hindus in Kashmir, Kashmir Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS) after carrying out a survey in 2008 and 2009, said that 399 Kashmiri Hindus were killed by insurgents from 1990 to 2011 with 75% of them being killed during the first year of the Kashmiri insurgency, and that during the last 20 years, about 650 Hindus have been killed in the valley.[96][97] Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, estimates 357 Hindus were killed in Kashmir in 1990.[98]

Panun Kashmir, a political group representing the Hindus who fled Kashmir, has published a list of about 1,341 Hindus killed since 1990.[3] An organisation called Roots of Kashmir filed a petition in 2017 to reopen 215 cases of more than 700 alleged murders of Kashmiri Hindus, however the Supreme Court of India refused its plea.[99]


Whilst some Hindu organisations such as Panun Kashmir etc. have accused Kashmiri Muslims of genocide and mass-rape, during the times of exodus,[100] authors have labeled the claims as "exaggerated".[100] Scholars Mridu Rai[101] and A. Evans[102] have outright rejected the claims of genocide.

Some scholars have also accused the Indian state and Media of utilizing the experience of Hindus as a tool of propaganda.[103] In February 1993, a notable Indian magazine launched an investigation upon a list of 23 shrines provided by Bharatiya Janata Party and found that the claims of alleged desecration of scores of Hindu shrines in Kashmir, widely perpetuated by the Indian media and right-wing Hindu politicians, were "false".[104][102]

Further, whilst significantly higher figures of death, in thousands, have been reported by certain Hindu-organisations, scholars have rejected the claims, instead choosing to roughly rely upon the official figures.[102] According to the government of Jammu and Kashmir 219 Kashmiri Hindus were killed and 24,202 families migrated out of the valley.[105]

Recent developments

The Indian Government has tried to rehabilitate the Hindus and the separatists have also invited the Hindus back to Kashmir. Tahir, the commander of a separatist Islamist group, ensured full protection to the Kashmiri Hindus.[106]

The apathy on the part of the government and the sufferings of the Kashmiri Hindus have been highlighted in a play titled 'Kaash Kashmir'.[107] Such efforts or claims have lacked political will as journalist Rahul Pandita writes in a memoir.[108]

Some consider Article 370 as a roadblock in the resettlement of Kashmiri Hindus as the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir does not allow those living in India outside Jammu and Kashmir to freely settle in the state and become its citizens.[109][110][111]

Sanjay Tickoo, president of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samiti (KPSS), says that the 'Article 370' affair is different from the issue of exodus of Kashmiri Hindus and both should be dealt with separately. He remarks that, linking both the affairs is an "utterly insensitive way to deal with a highly sensitive and emotive issue".[112]

As of 2016, a total of 1,800 Kashmiri Hindu youths have returned to the Valley since the announcing of Rs. 1,168-crore package in 2008 by the UPA government. R.K. Bhat, president of Youth All India Kashmiri Samaj criticised the package to be a mere eyewash and claimed that most of the youths were living in cramped prefabricated sheds or in rented accommodation. He also said that 4,000 vacancies have been lying vacant since 2010 and alleged that the BJP government was repeating the same rhetoric and was not serious about helping them. In an interview with NDTV on 19 January, Farooq Abdullah commented that the onus was on Kashmiri Hindus to come back themselves and nobody would beg them to do so. His comments were met with disagreement by Kashmiri Hindu authors Neeru Kaul, Siddhartha Gigoo, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor and retired General Syed Ata Hasnain. He also said that during his tenure as Chief Minister in 1996, he had asked them to return but they refused to do so. He reiterated his comments on 23 January and said that the time had come for them to return.[113][114][115][116]

The issue of separate townships for Kashmiri Hindus has been a source of contention in Kashmir with separatists as well as mainstream political parties opposing it.[117] Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, had threatened of attacking the "Hindu composite townships" which were meant to be built for the rehabilitation of the non-Muslim community. In a 6-minute long video clip, Wani described the rehabilitation scheme as resembling Israeli designs.[118]

However, Burhan Wani welcomed the Kashmiri Hindus to return and promised to guard them. He also promised a safe Amarnath Yatra.[119] Kashmiri Hindus residing in the Valley also mourned Burhan Wani's death.[120] Burhan Wani's successor in the Hizbul Mujahideen, Zakir Rashid Bhat, also asked the Kashmiri Hindus to return and ensured them protection.[121][122]

During the 2016 Kashmir unrest, transit camps housing Kashmir Hindus in Kashmir were attacked by mobs.[123] About 200–300 Kashmiri Hindu employees fled the transit camps in Kashmir during night time on 12 July due to the attacks by protesters on the camps and have held protests against the government for attacks on their camp and demanded that all Kashmiri Hindus employees in Kashmir valley be evacuated immediately. Over 1300 government employees belonging to the community have fled the region during the unrest.[124][125][126] Posters threatening the Hindus to leave Kashmir or be killed were put up near transit camps in Pulwama allegedly by the militant organisation Lashkar-e-Islam. There were doubts as to who put up the poster with speculations being raised as to whether other groups had put up the poster using the name of Lashkar-e-Islam.[127][128]

The employment package was also extended to Hindus who did not migrate out of the valley with an amendment to J&K Migrants (Special Drive) Recruitment Rules, 2009 in October 2017.[129]

In popular culture

The 2020 Hindi film Shikara is based on the exodus of Kashmiri Hindus.[130][131][132]

See also


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Further reading

External links