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The enduring pain of January 19th and 20th nights….
Deepika Bhan
Last Updated : 19 Jan 2017 12:49:25 PM IST
The enduring pain of January 19th and 20th nights….
Kashmiri women praying


A wailing Kashmiri woman recounts the horror of the eerie nights sending down shivers

“It was around 10 pm in the cold dead night of January 19th.  There was no electricity and the whole house was in dark except for the lone kerosene lamp lighting the corner of the room. Its flicker was the only thing moving and three pair of eyes was keenly following its movement. Long silences were sometimes broken by a word or two but all three minds were pre occupied with the concerns of worsening situation in the Valley. Suddenly a stone hit the window which jolted the three as there was something odd to this pelting. Voices emanating from nowhere were getting louder with every second. All at once loud speakers started blazing as if in an orchestrated manner.  In the beginning we three were confused but soon it became very clear. Slogans against India and Kashmiri Hindus were being shouted. Loud speakers from mosques were asking the majority Muslim community to come on streets. We three—me, my husband and my mother-in-law were horrified. There was nothing we could do. Slogans like – we want Kashmir without Hindu males but with Hindu females, Indian dogs go back, infidels and kafirs go back or face death, we want Nizam-e-Mustafa here. Thousands of protestors were on the roads. In order to accentuate the fear in us, tin sheeted roofs of houses were being beaten all around the houses. It was as if some kind of death dance was being conducted around the Kashmiri Hindu homes. I was thinking of the worst. I was petrified with the thought that we could be attacked. We were shivering to the core. There was no police. It seemed as if the police and the state administration had abandoned us. We were alone among the dancing demons of death. This continued way past mid night. We were resigned to our fate. Around 2am in the night voices of sirens brought glimmer of hope. Army and BSF columns were spreading on the streets. Tears filled our eyes as if we were being given another chance. By the time it was dawn, things had changed forever for us minority Kashmiri Pandits. Many started fleeing…”
This is not an excerpt from a novel or film script. It is a true account of Rajni Dhar, a resident of Srinagar who was an eyewitness to the horrors of the intervening night of 19th-20th January 1990 when a deadly combination of religious fanaticism and terrorism wrecked havoc on the minorities living in the valley since ages. Almost all relatives and Kashmiri Hindu neighbours of Rajni Dhar had fled from the valley in the following days,  her family tried to stay put in their home of ancestors but a couple of months later were asked to leave valley by their Muslim neighbours. 
The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits who are the original inhabitants of the valley was not an overnight reaction but an outcome of a ruthless planning that had come into force a year earlier. Prominent Hindus and young men of the community were particularly targeted instilling fear among the miniscule community which was just two percent of the total population in Kashmir then. Many minority women living in remote areas were abducted, raped and mercilessly killed. Hindu community was being harassed as part of the planning, whether in office or on street so much so Kashmiri Pandit women shunned wearing sarees or putting bindis/ sindoor on their foreheads. Whatever was happening in this part of Jammu and Kashmir was no less than persecution. The state government had almost abandoned the minorities. Police was not helping much. Dr Farooq Abdullah was at the helm in the state and Mufti Mohammad Sayed was the home minister of India. None of the two, despite the reports did anything to save the minorities in the valley. It was only after Dr Farooq Abdullah government was dismissed and Governor’s rule established that some action was taken.
On the night of 19th-20th January when Kashmiri Pandits were being attacked, several families had decided to kill their young women rather than fall prey to the violent crowd. The fear was imminent as no police force was around to help the besieged community. Most of the phone lines were also down. But some were able to contact the Governor’s residence in Jammu ( Jagmohan had just taken over the state administration after swearing in a day earlier). When he himself heard the sloganeering from loud speakers and wails of the besieged community members on the phone, he ordered the central forces to take over. He has mentioned this in his book ‘My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir’.
 Pakistan backed separatists and terrorists considered the Hindus as pro-India activists and an impediment to their goal of helping to establish an Islamic state under Pakistan. Religion was used by Pakistan and its supporter in valley to whip sentiments and the people who lived for ages became enemies.

27 years later, the minority Kashmiri Pandit community is still fighting for justice.  Almost all the major incidents/tragedies in any part of the country, especially the riots and religious attack have been investigated by one or the other body but the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community has not been investigated so far. Almost five lakh people were forced out of their homes and till today no government either in the centre or the state has tried to find the truth of the 19th-20th January. The community lives in pain, almost abandoned by the champions of human rights organizations, civil societies and intellectual class.

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