State failed to contain terrorism, wreaked vengeance on innocent masses: India’s Kashmir War

A report published in 1990, sheds light on the on-ground situation in Kashmir before, during and immediately after the Kashmiri Pandit exodus

Kashmiri pandits
Image courtesy: Shuaib Masoodi/Express Archive

If one were to go by the recommendations of some of the most powerful and influential people in Indian politics, Vivek Agnihotri’s latest movie The Kashmir Files is a “must watch”. Kashmiri Pandits, Human Rights Defenders and journalists who are familiar with ground-realities of the Kashmiri Pandit exodus of 1990 would say otherwise. Therefore, one cannot ignore a report titled India’s Kashmir War published in 1990 which gives details of what actually transpired on the ground during that period.

The report authored by a four-member team of the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir comprising Tapan Bose, Dinesh Mohan, Gautam Navlakha and Sumanto Banerjee takes a close look at the situation prevailing in the Valley at that time, its impact on different communities and the attitude of the administration at that time. The team visited Jammu and Kashmir from March 12 to 16, 1990 and spoke to various stakeholders before coming out with this report that was first released in New Delhi on March 23, 1990.

“The findings of the team reveal that the representatives of the Indian state in Kashmir-both the civil administration and the para-military forces-have failed so far to contain ‘terrorism’, and are instead trying to compensate for that failure by wreaking vengeance on the innocent masses of the valley,” says the report painting a bleak picture at the very outset. It sheds light on the attitude of the administration saying, “The team’s talks with officials (in charge of tackling terrorism) indicated that they suffered from the paranoiac feeling that the entire population of the valley are pro-Pakistani ‘terrorists’. Dictated by such suspicious feelings, operations to maintain law and order have invariably led to the alienation of the common people who are subjected to humiliation, discrimination and firings by the security forces.”

It is no secret that the insurgency and separatist movement in Kashmir was sponsored to a large extent by Pakistan, but that does not mean Kashmiri Muslims wanted to oust their Kashmiri Hindu neighbours in a bid to grab their properties or establish an Islamic state as it the popular narrative peddled by right-wing organisations, trolls and Whatsapp groups. One cannot overlook how the attitude and behaviour of the State and para-military forces, with their relentless targeting of Muslims who form the majority community in Kashmir led to a feeling of alientation and othering, adding further fuel to separatist fires.

After The Kashmir Files was released, many people pointed out how it was VP Singh’s government in power at that time at the Centre and it had BJP support. They also pointed out how it was Jagmohan, a Governor appointed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was in charge of J&K at the time.

India’s Kashmir War says, “Jagmohan’s first day in office was marked by raids and searches conducted by security forces (with the ostensible objective of flushing out terrorists) in the Habbakadal area of Srinagar from the midnight of January 19 till the morning of January 20. About 400 young people–both Muslims and Hindus-were dragged out from their houses, mercilessly beaten and taken away. It is significant that the local civil authorities of Srinagar were never consulted before the raids were conducted. The CRPF and other para-military forces which carried out the raids were on their own, unaccompanied by the local police. The Divisional Commissioner of Srinagar later told protesting demonstrators that he had no knowledge of the raids and searches.”

On the subject of Jagmohan and perceptions surrounding him at the time, the report further says, “We noted with alarm the first signs of a growing resentment against the Hindus who have migrated, and who, they feel, are being pampered by a biased administration. In fact, Governor Jagmohan is getting identified with Hindu communalist forces, thanks to the widely circulated reports of BJP backing for his reappointment. The contrast between his crackdown on the valley’s masses (predominantly Muslim) with his demonstrative concern for the Hindus by encouraging their migration and providing them with relief, is reinforcing among the common people in the valley a distrust in the administration’s professions of fair play, and a suspicion about their Hindu neighbours – with whom they had been living in harmony all these years. This has ominous implications for Hindu-Muslim relations in the valley, since it can provide a ready handle to the Muslim communal fundamentalist forces who are out to thrive on a permanent division between Hindus and Muslims.”

Giving an example of excesses and mismanagement the report says, “On January 20, when a group of people were proceeding to express solidarity with others who had gathered outside the Divisional Commissioner’s office to protest against the atrocities of the para-military forces, they were tear-gassed. The same night–January 20-curfew was clamped down on the city.”

In yet another example it says, “On the 21st a 20,000-strong procession including people from the city’s outskirts passed through the streets of Srinagar, defying curfew and protesting against the illegal searches and arrests. When the procession reached Basant Bagh, in the Gow Kadal area, the para-military forces started firing upon them. According to the local police, at least 60 dead bodies were recovered from the spot and taken to the police control room, while unofficial sources claim that more than 200 were killed.”

The report also sheds light on how medical personnel were treated by para military forces that fuelled further alienation. “It is not only peaceful demonstrators who are being attacked by the para-military forces, we found that even doctors, going around in the normal course of their duties, are not spared. During our visit to the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences on March 14, senior doctors narrated their experience at the hands of the para-military forces. Body searches have become a regular affair. On March 2, as the doctors were coming to the hospital in an ambulance, when they were stopped by the para-military forces who pointed guns at their heads. Although they showed their curfew passes and identity cards, each one of them was frisked. Two women doctors-Dr. Surva Kaul and Dr. Vijayati Kaul-were humiliated to such an extent that they had stopped coming to the hospital to escape humiliating body searches by male police. Within the hospital complex, doctors and attendants are searched every time they move out to collect medical equipment from the stores. Packets of sterilised linen and surgical instruments, among other things, are the main targets of the para-military personnel, who, on suspicion that they contain explosives, prise them open, thus exposing them to contamination,” reveals the report.

It is well known that a section of the separatists was backed by Pakistan and it was they who were primarily responsible for the intimidation and violence inflicted on the Kashmiri Pandit community. But The Kashmir Files movie appears to suggest that it was supported by the entire Kashmir Muslim community, something that is not true at all. The fears amidst the Kashmiri Hindus were first triggered by a spate of killings. “From our interviews in Jammu, we felt that the fear among the Hindus had been generated by the killing of some leading Hindus by the militants in the valley from the end of 1989 till the beginning of this year. Tikalal Tapru, a senior advocate and vice-president of the BJP was killed on October 9, last year, to be followed by the murder of a retired sessions judge, N.K. Ganju, in November. On December 19, Premnath Butt, a journalist and advocate from Anantnag fell a victim to militants’ bullets. Anil Bhan of the UCO Bank was killed on February 16, and a week later Ashoke Kazi was murdered,” says the report.

In fact, the team visited Srinagar and spoke to some Kashmiri Hindus. “We met the Hindus separately, and they all told us that they had not faced any threats from the militants, and were on the best of terms with their Muslim neighbours,” says the report. It gave the example of Bansilal Razdar, a 35-year-old hotel employee had been living in the locality for the last 27 years. He said he had not experienced any communal tensions during this period. Makhanlal Raina, chief technologist in a hospital – a Hindu in his mid-fifties- told the authors of the report that he never felt the need to leave the city and join his son and daughter who lived outside Kashmir, since neither he nor his wife had ever faced any problem with their Muslim neighbours. Raina told them, “It is the Muslims who feel scared, the way they are being killed by the CRPF. If anyone has to run away from the valley, it will be Muslims.”

Shedding more light on the relationship between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir, the report said, “Muslim neighbours of Hindu residents in Pratap Park told us that although there had never been a single instance of communal tensions in their neighbourhood, government vehicles were sent there to evacuate Hindu residents along with their belongings. In spite of pleadings by the Muslim neighbours, the Hindus left their homes. In some places, these Hindus left their keys with their Muslim neighbours who are looking after their houses.”

The repot also does not mince words about how the “Independence movement” was virtually taken over by pro-Pakistan groups and how the overtly Islamic slogans played a part in alienating Kashmiri Hindus to the point that they began to fear for their safety as many were killed in attacks by militants.

“A rational understanding about targets of militant attacks (whether the Hindus are being killed because they are ‘informers’ like their Muslim counterparts) is not possible among a minority community which has to live in a highly surcharged environment where the movement for Kashmir’s ‘independence’ is dominated by Islamic slogans. The rise of extremist pro-Pakistan groups like the Allah Tigers (as distinct from the pro-Independence JKLF) has reinforced the threat perceived by the Hindus in the valley,” says the report.

It further says, “Despite the professed desires of the common Muslims of the valley to keep the Pandits in their ranks in their struggle for ‘independence’, the overtly religious character of the movement marked by Islamic slogans like “Allah-ho-Akbar” hardly provides any space for the non-Muslim resident of the valley, even if the latter agreed to share their urge for ‘independence’.”

The report also says how mosques played a role in the increased Islamisation of the separatist movement. “We must also understand the increasing role of the mosque in the politics of the valley, where the pro-independence movement is getting identified with Islam. Normal political channels for redressal of grievances have eroded due to a long and bitter process of politicking indulged in by unscrupulous politicians both in Kashmir and the Centre. Democratic platforms for a political discourse on the future of Kashmir have suffered the same fate. The vacuum has now been filled up by the mosque, which has become the central rallying point for the disgruntled masses,” says the report.

The report went on to make a series of recommendations saying, “We are convinced that unless gross violation of the rights of people by the state machinery is condemned, we cannot even begin to expect the population to consider any dialogue. In denying the people of Kashmir their fundamental rights we are actually demeaning and denying ourselves the same. We therefore demand:

–              immediate recall of Governor Jagmohan, who in the perception of the common people of Kashmir has become a symbol of state repression;

–              withdraw of all para-military forces;

–              discontinuances of ‘curfew raj’;

–              exemplary punishment to those security forces personnel and Army jawans who are found guilty of killing innocent people, allegedly raping women and destruction of public and private property.”

The entire report may be read here: 

*SabrangIndia is grateful to the Committee for Initiative on Kashmir, but most especially Peggy Mohan who brought to our editorial attention the importance and significance of analysing and re-publishing this document right now. When a systematic and cynical manipulation of figures and history is being used to whip up a frenzy against Indian Muslims.



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