The night from hell, 20 years later

via Lalit Koul - published on January 19, 2010

Today is January 19 — a day that still sends shivers down our spine, a night that still gives nightmares to our elders and a day that inspires some of us to keep standing upright and fight for the survival and protection of our roots.

What am I talking about, you ask?

Find a Kashmiri Hindu around you, he will tell you the significance of January 19. It was exactly 20 years ago to the day when all hell broke loose in the valley of Kashmir on the peaceful, patriotic community of Kashmiri Hindus.

Twenty summers and winters have passed since then but the memories, scars and hopes are still fresh and alive. It was a night from hell when the gruesome threats emanated from loudspeakers mounted atop mosques all over the Kashmir valley. That night, Islamic terrorists gave our parents three choices — convert to Islam, get killed, or flee.

Which one would you have chosen?

A majority of us chose to escape because the honour and dignity of our sisters, daughters and mothers was sacred for us. Most of us seized the very first transportation we could find, hid our womenfolk in the back of the vehicles, prayed and escaped.

We believed that it would be be a temporary move. We believed that the nation will rise and protect its only patriotic symbol in the valley of Kashmir. We believed that the governments of India  and the state of Jammu & Kashmir will cease appeasement policies and instead reverse the ethnic cleansing. We believed that human rights organisations will speak against the modern-day genocide and hold everyone, who perpetrated the crimes against our minority community, responsible.

But alas! None of that was to be.

Twenty years have passed and we are still longing for our homes and hearths. Many of our parents and grandparents have succumbed to the mental torture and moved on to their final journey. Many of our older folks are still lost in depression, hoping to die in their sacred place of birth. Many of our mothers are still hanging on to the set of keychains, hoping to use them to open their beloved homes in their homeland. Many of our fathers are still holding on to that sacred soil from their home in a pot that they carried with them as a sign of their roots. They still touch and feel that soil everyday to feel that eternal connection with their place of birth.

They still hope and dream. They still dream that the next Shivratri will be celebrated back in their ancestral home — their abode.

How many winters shall one languish in refugee camps before Amnesty International takes note? How many summers shall one bear the stark violation of one’s human rights before Human Rights Watch ‘watches’ and takes action? How many souls shall a community lose before the nation takes notice?

Depends — depends upon your political clout; depends upon your religious background; depends upon your ability to create perpetual noise; and depends upon how huge your vote bank is.

If you have no political clout, do not have a vote bank and belong to the Kashmiri Hindu community from Jammu & Kashmir, then you are doomed. You will languish in refugee camps and no one will take notice. Your human rights will continue to be violated and no one will take notice. Your community will continue on the path to extinction, will lose its cultural heritage and identity and still no one will take notice.

Intellectuals, human rights activists, politicians, academicians and peaceniks will periodically gather at various conferences, workshops and conventions, make long statements, issue declarations condemning human rights violations and then will go home and watch the ever so popular reality shows. While these so-called human rights watchdogs observe these periodic rituals, the Kashmiri Hindu community continues to be ethnically cleansed from its homeland of Kashmir. From a population of about 700,000, there are only about 2,000 Kashmiri Hindus left in the valley now. And those too are threatened and living the life of a Kashmiri Hangul (Deer) — to become extinct any day, any time.

Will the nation wake up? Will the people of the nation wake up?

Or, is it a forgone conclusion that Kashmiri Hindus will soon become a small insignificant footnote in the history of Kashmir and India?

The choice is ours.

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