Was Jagmohan – the Former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir behind the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits as part of the state-policy? The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits was a tragic incident which took place in beginning of1990 when most of the Kashmiri Pandit left the valley overnight due to the sudden outburst of terrorism. Is Governor Jagmohan to be blamed? EurAsian Times reports a very old interview by veteran Kashmiri journalist.
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According to the Indian government, more than thousands of families are listed as Kashmiri refugees including some Sikh and Muslim families. These families were resettled in Jammu, Delhi-NCR, and other neighbouring states. Only a few hundred families of Kashmiri Pandits continued to live in the Kashmir valley. These are the views of seasoned journalist Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, The Editor Srinagar Times, given to Omkar Razdan in “The Trauma of Kashmir-The Untold Reality.
- 68% of Kashmiri Muslims believe that Pandits betrayed them in their hour of distress. Do you agree?
Sofi: No. The Kashmiri Pandits were not in a position to help in any way. They were compelled to leave their homes, their jobs, and their land overnight. So what is this betrayal all about?
- The reference obviously is to the suffering of common Muslims in the street during cordon-cum-search operations, crackdowns and arbitrary arrests resorted to by the security forces to control the militancy. Have they not been wronged?
Sofi: Majority community should understand that they are the victims of a proxy war. This war was neither been engineered nor supported by Pandits. In fact, they were the first victims of the scheme which forced them to leave the state. Therefore this is an unfair “charge” against Pandits.
- The political chief of Jamaat-i-Islami says that not a single cadre of his “Jamat” was responsible for Pandit killings. What is your view?
Sofi: Technically he may be right. Even today they claim that there is no connection between the present killings and Jamat-i-Islami. But the ground realities should also support their views.
- Most people in the Valley blame Jagmohan, the erstwhile Governor of the state, for encouraging the Pandit flight. Do you agree?
Sofi: That’s a lie. It is a part of systematic propaganda. The Pandit flight from the Valley was the sequel to a plan hatched well in advance from the state. It had nothing to do with Jagmohan.
- Why could Jagmohan not organise Pandit camps in some among the 30-odd military stations in the Valley itself?
Sofi: The situation was too bad for Jagmohan when he assumed office. Mr Rajiv Gandhi (not prime minister then) came for an overnight visit. Both I and Jagmohan were present in the Centaur Hotel in the lake. Rajiv Gandhi said, “Kashmir is slipping away from us”. Such was the situation for Jagmohan. Even Mr M.L. Fotedar and the then Dy. Prime Minister, Mr Devi Lal, were accompanying Rajiv Gandhi when he said so.
- What was the problem in housing the Pandits in makeshift barracks, schools, dharmshalas, institutional army buildings close to military stations? The whole race of Pandits would have been saved the tragedy of deserting their homeland?
Sofi: One has to appreciate the January 1990 situation in the Valley. Jagmohan stayed in Jammu for one night. He took a flight from Jammu and arrived in Srinagar Raj Bhavan the next day. He called some of his friends. He called me too. Had I known that the situation was as bad as it later turned out to be, frankly, I would not have gone to Raj Bhavan. There were just three people in the room when I arrived in Srinagar Raj Bhavan. He offered a cup of tea to me but there was nobody to bring one. I saw him go towards the kitchen three times; presumably, he made the tea himself. There was no administration worth the name anywhere in the state, I mean in the Valley. The police stations all over the Valley were centres of operation for the militants. Jagmohan could not have done anything. Nearly 32,000 Kashmiri Pandits’ houses have been burnt since 1991. Is there Jagmohan’s hand in this too? People like you, even in 1997, need the courage to come to the Valley. Otherwise, it is still not safe here. Look what happened in Sangrampura in March 1997 when seven Pandits were mercilessly gunned down.
- What is your opinion of the Kashmir Images Survey in which 76% Muslims population wanted the Kashmiri Pandits back in the Valley?
Sofi: The fact is that even today your erstwhile neighbours wish that you all should come back. They would even extend warm hospitality to you when you visit them. But even they will be harbouring a sense of fear while dealing with Pandits. We all need to wait for normalcy which is not yet in sight.