On June 4, 1990, Girija Tickoo was kidnapped and raped in Bandipora, a district of Jammu and Kashmir state, by four men, who then took her life. In that same month, thousands of Kashmiris were systematically targeted; raped, murdered, and butchered. Indeed, the terror that befell Hindus in the Kashmir Valley had flared up several months before in 1989. Thus began what was to become known as the Seventh Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from their homes and homeland.
Three decades after that phase of major and systematic targeting and persecution of Hindus in Kashmir was triggered, with thousands of lives, like Girija’s, devastated and destroyed by vigilantes, mobs and terrorists, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus continue to be cast aside and in essence forgotten by New Delhi. They have been, to government after government, an afterthought, if that.
While Kashmiri Hindus have not forgotten, much of India and the political establishment seems indifferent to their plight. Yes, India’s protracted conundrum in Kashmir, it has to be said, requires an honest and legitimate appraisal. But this honest appraisal must include an unambiguous restoration of the legitimate rights of Kashmiri Hindus. In a country seemingly obsessed with preserving and protecting minority rights, the Kashmiri Hindu minority must surely know all too well just how hollow the long-standing rhetoric of secularism has been in India.
For all the championing of minority rights that many Indian politicians indulge in, it is no mystery why the Kashmiri Hindus – a distinct minority within Kashmir – are almost always invisible to these opportunists.
By all accounts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term in office provided some glimmers of hope that the displacement, persecution and killing of Kashmiri Hindus would receive some consideration. Even as Kashmiri Hindus continue to call out for assistance, those who endured the pogroms, and the generation that has since come to be part of the legacy of the atrocities against them, continue to hang on to the slight hope that their cries for justice will not go unheard.
It is imperative that any process embarked on to address the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Hindu refugees not continue down the path of bargaining away their constitutional rights and simultaneously devaluing their voice. For too long Kashmiri Hindus have been denied due process, adequate resources and support while they are forced to endure the humiliation of exile in their own homeland.
Will “India’s holocaust,” as Indian filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri has called the persecution of Kashmiri Hindus, simply be consigned to become another of those chapters of modern Indian history that the dominant Indian intellectual class will find unworthy of being taught in schools, or perhaps too inopportune and incompatible with the broader agenda of the kind of national narrative they would prefer to espouse? Three decades of seeming neglect from the national narrative or consciousness cannot but underscore the limited prospect of a meaningful resolution to their predicament; actually, to the nation’s predicament.
To allow the plight of Kashmiri Hindus to persist would be to nothing short of acquiesce to a national disgrace.
Surely, politics cannot always be, as Otto von Bismarck asserted, about the art of the possible. It cannot be devoid of principles; and paramount among these principles must be justice. The Kashmiri Hindus deserve nothing less.