The Fifth Exodus

Despite having been made victims of repeated humiliations relentless atrocities, a series of reigns of terror, religious fanaticism of the worst type known to the world, conversion by sword and fire, social and economic repression, population decimation and what have you at the hands of savage MusIim rulers for over 500 years, the vibrant and resilient spirit of the KPs despite diminishing numbers, never got dampened or sagged. In spite of deathblows to their culture, ethos and faith they managed to keep alive their centuries old heritage and tradition while they had to pass through fire and water. This microscopic minority recognized and acclaimed and feared as an extra-ordinarily intelligent stock even by the barbaric rulers, both local and alien always maintained a unique cultural attainments and inherent goodness and shunned crookedness even when they served in key postions in the courts of the despotic, bigotic brutal Muslim rulers barren in all human attributes. This nationalistic group preferred to break but did not bend. It did not easily rush into making compromises with the iconoclasts even at the cost of their lives. It was the great Pandit Birbal Dhar whose political maturity and maneuvering paved the path for Maharaja Ranjit Singh to re-establish a Hindu Government in J&K state. Aftar Kashmir slipped from the hands of the Afgans back into those of the Hindus in 1820 the sound of bells restarted emanating from temples that had earlier stood for over four centuries wearing the mantle of mourning, whose ruins spoke volumes in a loud and clear voice of the stones of religions and ethnic fanaticism and intolerance suffered by their builders at the hands of those who hold their faith superior to all other faiths but which deems as sacred and halal, dispossession, loot arson, molestation, rape and slaughter of infidels particularly the Hindus. The Sikh rule ushered in an epoch of peace for all. In some instances the Sikh rulers may be guilty of harshness but they were not cunning, cruel and fanatic religious zealots as their prede­cessors were. With the passage of time the Sikh rule dis­placed symptoms of aging and the Dogras seized the golden opportunity to step in and take charge of administration of the combined provinces of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. It was a glorious period of all round development and reform. It signaled the initiation of the modern history of the state. All the Dogra rulers, though Hindus, believed in and adhered to religious tolerance and harmony. Maharaja Hari Singh, a refined and cultured person, had good will of all his subjects to his credit. Lover of freedom and self-rule he was progres­sive in his thoughts and deeds.

That the British rulers of India followed the policy of divide and rule is well known to all. To safeguard their entrenched supremacy they went the whole hog in communalising poli­tics and drive such a wide wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims that there could be no meeting point for them. How could they approve of the communal peace and amity the Sikhs and the Dogra rulers had established? Maharaja Hari Singh had to encounter political agitation triggered by the cunning, British from the very inception of his rule. Young Kashmiri Muslims, fresh from the universities of Northern India, particularly AMU, Aligarh where they had met and come under the influence of burgeoning Muslim leaders in India and who were hectically propagating and campaign­ing for Pan-Islamism, formed an organization for holding fre­quent meetings. It came to be known as Muslim Reading Room. This crop of new spring literate young Muslims be­came jealous of well-educated KPs holding comfortable po­sition in the state administration They became frustrated and desperate at their failure to enter Government service and hold responsible and influential and remunerative posts by direct appointments. So they commenced a campaign against what they dubbed the Hindu State. They had the covert backing and blessing of the British India Government chair and the Maharaja had no knowledge of it. His address at the Round Table Conference in London in 1931 as chairman of the chamber of princes convinced the British rule that he was a hard nut to crack by virtue of his being haughty and independent in his ways and, therefore, he could not toe their line nor have any truck with them. The British carved a situation in which stage was set for the desperate educated young Muslims to enact scenes of violent political agitation. And the Muslim press did not lag behind in keeping pace with the agitators. It let loose a fierce and venomous propaganda against the Hindu Maharaja; later on Anglo-Indian press joined hands with its and echoed its refrain.

Sheikh Mohd Abdullah was the most prominent. voluble,eloquent, firebrand activist of the Muslim Reading Room Group. He was all fire in his outbursts against the procedure guidelines of the civil service Recruitment Board for selection and appointment of candidates to higher posts strictly on the basis of merit where the KPs stole a march over their rival aspirants among the Muslims. The Sheikh and his comrades in arms would not take it lying down. After over a hundred years, the KPs unfortunately became an eyesore for the simple fault of their out-shining others with their higher education and technical qualification. The Sheikh minced no words in voicing his resentment against the established system and convened mammoth meeting of Muslims in mosques and made fiery provocative speeches instigating the audience to rise in revolt. Communal tension reached the point of ignition needing just spark to engulf the state in uncontrollable conflagration. 

The 13th of July 1931 will go down as a black day in the history of KPs in modern times. On that ominous day the Kashmiri Muslims repeated their history vis-a-vis the KPs.On that Day City of Srinagar and its suburbs witnessed a depressing and demoralizing spectacle of loot, arson and murder of Kashmiri Hindu property and lives. The Bombas and the Khakas had, it seemed. revisited the Valley. On the incitement and directive of the Muslim Reading Room party the Muslim hoodlums made the unfortunate KPs direct target of their wrath, frenzy and madness. The Goondas and the anti-KP Muslims had a hayday. They went berserk everywhere particularly in downtown Srinagar looting KP shops and houses and setting them on fire. The booty they lard their hands on in Zaina Kadal and Maharaj Gunj was distrib­uted. It was in fact, the looters day and the real martyrs were the KPs. Numerous KPs were killed and many wounded. Legend has it that there was a communal orgy at Kanikoot, Tehsil Nagam, Distt, Badgam, a few KMs away from the city of Srinagar. About a dozen houses of the KPs were ransacked, looted and then torched and several KPs were murdered for absolutely no fault on their part. Sheikh Abdhullah in his ever first address to the KPs at Sheetalnath in Srinagar, Is on record having blamed it on the goons for the communal disharmony resulting in loot and murder of the KPs.

A mob of furious Muslims gate crashed into the central Jail in Srinagar to extricate one Qadir, a bearer of a European, who was being tried there for sedition The state police posted there fired on the rowdy mob killing ten agitators. The Muslims crowded and directed their vengeance and vin­dictiveness against the soft and easy targets, the KPs, who were taken unawares and who had a long history of meeting violence with non-violence as sufferance has been their badge slnce they came into contact with the Muslims in Kash­mir. Those responsible for flouting law and order and creat­ing mayhem and glory on a spree of loot and murder were eulogized and glorified as Freedom fighters and exalted as martyrs for the cause of rights of Muslims. They went scot­free and the Maharaja's administration proved too weak and ineffective to afford protection to the terrorized KPs.
 
The KPs received no privileges and prerogatives form Dogra rulers. They were not specially favoured community. The Dogra rulers were as strangers to them as to the Kashmiri Muslims. There was no partisan of partial tilt towards the KPs who, like the Ajax rose from their own ashes, regenerated and renewed themselves by hard incessant labour and struggle. Speaking with regard fo all fariness and objectively, the sufferings of the Muslims taken apart during the one hundred and twenty six years of the rule the Sikhs and the Dogras in Kashmir pale into significance and dwindle to nothing when contrasted with the sufferings of the KPs during the five hundred years of the Muslim rule. No Sikh or Dogra ruler employed state power for proslytising ­Muslims into Sikh or Hindu, for demolishing mosques to raise temples on their plinths and ruins, for torturing and persecuting Muslims for following their faiths, for extorting exorbotant sums of money by way of religious taxes, jazia, baj, zaridood or tax on burying their dead and maintaining their id­entification marks. No Muslims were tied back to back and put into sacks and consigned to the Dal Lake. No Muslim women were made victims of their carnal lust, debauchery lechery and voluptuousness. No Muslim family had to marry off its young budding daughters in teens or chop off their noses to disfigure their faces and make them repulsive lest they fell prey to the lusty eyes of the rulers and their ministers. And yet the Hindu rulers are denounced as tyrants despots, fanatics and anti-Muslims. It is the pot calling the kettle black.

KPs were equal partners in the quit Kashmir movemen launched against the Dorga rule. As India awoke into freedom in August 1947 from the yoke of British imperialism, Dogra rule too reached the end of its tether soon after. While freedom bells were chiming for the majority community, the unfortunate KPs were in for  a grave surprise and shock turn­ing the reveling and jubilation of freedom into a melodrama for them. Pakistan, the new born Islamic theocratic state, clandestinely engineered and launched an aggression on Kashmir by sending armed tribesmen backed up by Paki­stan army across the state border on the northern and north­western side. The religious zealots of Kashmir acted as guides to these hordes of savages from NWFP who behaved even worse than their Afgan ancestors. Besides indulging in wholesale loot and arson they killed numerous KPs at Batapora, Gushi and Tikkar in the present Kupwara district and at various places in the district of Baramulla, Badgam and outskirts of Srinagar. 

Tens of thousand of KPs in the Northern, Northwestern and Northeastern Kashmir had to flee their homes and hearths and seek refuge in Srinagar. A good number of them left the state for good, thus setting the stage for the fifth exodus. The local Muslim zealots joined hand with the wild tribals in forcibly converting many KPs to Islam on pain of torture and instant death. And numberless were the Hindu places of worship and Dharamshalas that were reduced to ashes.

The emancipated, the far sighted and those with the sense of the past history of Kashmir since the coming of Muslims and those who were sagacious enough to sense which way the wind was blowing and what trends the future had in its womb lost no time in seeing through the intriguing game plan of what was in essence pan-Islamic fundamentalism raising its ugly head. Mir Waiz Yousf Shah, a grand uncle of Umar Farooq, the present Mirwaiz of Kashmir became cat's paw for Muslim clergy. At the behest of M.A. Jinnah he cor­ned on in Pakistan a compaign of canard of concocted and alleged tales of persecution of Kashmiri Muslims under Dogra Hindu rule and pioneered the process of infecting the psyche of the Kashmiri Muslims with the ideal of separate quam (nation). Barring in Srinagar and the southern Kashmiri they acted as guides and accomplices of Pakistan army supported Pakistan tribals, in their crusade against the infidels for the glory of Islam by means of murder, rape, loot, arson and conversion by coercion. According to a Reuter's dispatch in 1947 the mass rape at Baramulle eclipsed the massacre at Rajouri in Jammu province. With a view to grab Kashmir by force Pakistan flauntingly violated Maharaja Hari Singh standstill agreement with India and Pakistan and in a way pushed him to execute the instrument of accession to India. But for the landing of the Indian troops at Srinagar who stalled the advance of the tribals almost at the gates of Srinagar, the gori things would have happened, had they entered the city.

When the popular Government came into existence in free Jammu and Kashmir it started imperceptibly implementing the resolutions of the Reading Room Party. We cannot help making allowance for the occurrence of some pleasant and unpleasant things in the course of transfer of power from one form of Government to another. These are bound to happen. But when the mind of the people at the helm of affairs is warped and deformed by narrow, sectarian, communal, and religious considerations and prejudices one cannot hope for fairness and justice. The newly sprung Muslim Ministers coupled with the bureaucracy and executive of the same creed made the KP officers and official's targets of their vendetta for being good and loyal employees of the erstwhile rulers. Resorting to compulsion and coercion. they brushed aside all moral restraints in subjecting the KP employees in subordinate positions to injustice and gross un­fairness and vexations and whimsical orders. Their rights by way of their seniority, qualification and experience were treated as trifles. They were relegated to second class sta­tus and treatment. Was this their dream of Naya Kashmir they had aspired to build in a democratic egalitarian secular framework in unison with the Muslim freedom fighters? Having gauged and scanned the trend of the Government and having been disillusioned and embittered with the gap between its theory and practice, some self respecting KP intellectuals abandoned Srinagar. Notable among these are Dr. R.K. Bhan, Prof. Soom Nath Dhar, Prof. T.N. Raina, Prof, S.N. Koul, Prof. P.N. Dhar Secy to Late Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Veer Vesheswer and others. There are innu­merable prominent KP personalities who felt compelled by hostile political and economic circumstances to bid unwill­ing good bye to their dear native places. They found the climate of the paradise charged with sinister and inauspi­cious and revengeful mist which would in due course of time drop as brutal hail on the poor KPs leaving them cold, shiv­ering and stunned. People like Sh. R.N. Koul Advocate, (Ex-Registrar Supreme Court of India),Sh. P.N. Koul Karihaloo (Ex-Governor, Reserve Bank of ndia), Sh. Zinda Lal Koul (Charge do affairs), Sh S.N. Bhat (Indian Railways), Sh. J. N. Ganjoo (Secretary, Indian Embassy in USA) who died recently and among others Munshis, Kaws, Saproos. Tengs. Gassis, Thusoos, Wangnoos and so on migrated to better and safer pastures.

The post independence period in J&K state witnessed an unmistakebly slow and steady exodus of the KP community owing mainly to the following prime and significant factors:

(a) Break down of law and order.
(b) Ever dwindling and waning chances for securing govern­ment appointments in spite of their requisite merit and quali­fications.
(c) Abolition of Zamindari system, which though welcome step in principle, resulted in turning thousands of KP land­owners into paupers as no compensation in lieu of loss of their land was granted to them. Nor was any other means of rehabilitating them sought with the inevitable result that they became victims of rural indebtedness.
(d) Discrimination of admission of KP youth to higher edu­cational and technical and professional institutions.

The year 1948 dawned quite ominous forthe KPs. The tribals of NWFP again supported by regular Pakistan army re-raided north Kashmir, this time fromTitwal Karnah-Keran in Kupwara sector. Meeting no resistance of any name the raiders wiped out all KPs staying behind in the region following the earlier raid of the Pakistan army and tribals in 1947 on the heels of the partition. Unfortunately Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, met his dramatic end in the national capital in the course of his prayers for national reconciliation and emotional integration. Here in Kashmira compaign was let loose to harass and humiliate KPs for alleged allegiance to RSS and those who were thought to be stooges of Maharaja Hari Singh, the then ruler of the state. Distinguished and emi­nently respectable KPs were summoned time and again to Halqa (Block) National Conference offices for interrogation by members of the Halqa peace Brigade officers. They were subjected to unbearable disgrace, humiliation and even tor­tured for personal animosity and political vendetta. Not tol­erating this insult many people belonging to various social and political groups were disgusted and ran away to escape facing dire consequences. Thus a good number of KPs of repute holding dignity, honour dear to them said good bye to the Valley never to re-enter it. There was obviously no state authority to look to the affairs of law and order. Only the peace brigade constituted at the time of Pakistani aggres­sion ruled the roost and held the supreme sway They enjoyed the full liberty to settle their personal scores.

A noted historian and political associate and co-worker of  Sheikh Mohmmed Abdullah. P.N. Bazaz records that "those who dared to oppose National Conference were treated as 'Pariah' dogs They were arrested in thousands, their hands tied with ropes behind their backs and dragged like animals through the main bazars of Srinagar and other towns". The former Prime Minister Shri R.C. Kak was taken from a subjail to the High Court on foot with his hands tied with rope made of dry paddy hay and enroute Muslim, National Con­ference workers pelted stones, cast dirt and rubbish on him and even spat at him. And in the courtroom the N.C. activ­ists manhandled him doing him physical violence while the judge looked on helplessly and dumbly.
 
Now the soil was propitious for Sheikh Modmmed Abdullah to transform into reality his cherished dream that had been lurking in his mind since the Reading Room Forum days. ZAMIN KISSAN KI. In 1950 an act called "The J&K landed Estates Abolition Act of 2007 (1950) vide Act No: XVII of 2007" was passed. It purported the abolition of big landed estates and their transfer to the actual tillers. This act came into force with immediate effect without any consideration for payment of compensation to the landowners dispos­sessed of their land. The landowners could retain 182 ca­nals of land with no tenancy rights. According to the provi­sion of the Act, the landowner would get 1/4 th of the yield of 182 canals but no share of the hay. Sheikh Sahib's dream came true when he rapturously witnessed the KP irrepara­bly hit by his land reform program. With one hit below the belt he gloated quietly at the thought that KPs had been sent sprawling with no chance to recover and fight back. Reduced to the state of paupers the aggrieved KPs knocked at the doors of justice but in vain.

The land reform blitz that turned the tables out of justifiable proportion on the former land lords and changed social relationships and traditions so suddenly generated enough heat in the dispossessed land lord community to which KP community was no exception. 

To the tenants, predominantly Muslims, the Act came as a boon and blessing and they received it with jubilation and revelry. On the landlords, mostly Hindus, it fell like a guillo­tine. They protested and cried hoarse against the unfair and partisan and jaundiced deal given to them. The game plan of the Sheikh was clearly seen through. The cardinal objec­tive of the Act was to deprive the landlords of their rights as proprietors and help the tenants at the cost of the former. The judicious approach ought to have been made to find a path to secure fair play and justice to both the classes. The Act, it became clear, was remotely motivated by such con­sideration and indicated antagonistic and hostile approaches only to see that KPs were reduced to penury. The Act was sheerly based against the Hindu community in particular and heavily tilting in favour of the tillers, thus making one class poor and the other suddenly rich. The Act was categorically against the spirit and the interest of natural justice accord­ing to the bereft and distressed landowners. The writer has personally been witness to the spectacle of so many KP Chakdars starving and living below poverty line. Deprived of all means of sustenance for their families and livestock they distributed their starving cows among their well off neighbours and bewailed their destiny.

Chances for appointment and promotions were blocked, by taking into employment undesirable and incompetent per­sons from the majority community ignoring the deserving and qualified and technically trained hands. It became a state policy to ignore KPs in matters of appointment and give first preference and priority to take a Muslim applicant or to wait till one became eligible or available.

A KP teacher with a good deal of service to his credit was made subordinate to his Muslim taught who was upgraded and promoted to be his Head Master. Here is an instance on how the administration of education was deliberately and crudely maligned. Once all aspirants to the post of head­master were called for an interview and the venue was the open lawns of the palace on the bank of the Jhelum. Hin­dus, Muslims and Sikhs their number ran into hundreds. Sheikh Sahib, the then Prime Minister and incharge of education, was in a fix what he should do. He hit upon a plan. He asked them to fall in two rows - one of those tall in size and the other comparatively short or medium. This having been done he had a look around and looked still indecisive and confused since both the rows consisted of both Hindus and Muslims. Ultimately utilizing his sweet whim of absolute power, he resorted to absolute corrupt practice of pick and choose by pointing his finger, like Hitler, on tall Muslim aspirants, like Mr Abdul Ahad, Mr. Kak and others singling out about 100 teachers from the lot ignoring veteran teach­ers like Sh. Gangadhar Dhar, Sh. Sham Lal Madan, Sh Raghunath Kaul, Sh Keshov Nath Veshin and so many oth­ers. This naturally entailed a breaking of hearts and genu­ine grievance of unjustified unwarranted and brazenly un­restrained open discrimination against the KPs. The realization that Kashmir is not a place for the future of their children nor for their posterity began to gain ground and later events confirmed it so that it turned into a conviction deeply rooted in the treatment meted to KPs in every sphere of life in Kashmir and they started turning their gaze beyond the borders of the state to find sustenance to their survival. They were snubbed and subjected to various indignities and de­prived of avenues and opportunities to display what mettle they are made of. Thus started an imperceptible exodus of KPs for pastures elsewhere.

The state Government, controlled, regulated and steered by the National Conference passed new laws designed to pro­tect the interest of the majority community. One of these was the Agrarian reform law brought into abolish tenancy farming. All land that was cultivated by tenants was taken away from the landlords and transferred to the tenants. It was a welcome step in socialistic sense. But the axe fell on the KPs in the Valley as the new law made them suddenly paupers and deprived them of source of their income and livelihood. Many of them who were solely dependent on land turned into paupers. Since the bulk of the landlords affected by the Agrarian reform were the KPs, the reform as a tremendous success. It was along cherished desire of the ruling National Conference to snatch away the land. The money that was to be paid to them for their land barely added to a fraction of a year's income from it and in any case, it was to be paid at some future date not specified. Decades have passed since the KPs lost their ancestral fields. They have still not received the money. The compen­sation case is still pending resolution. No attempt was eves made to rehabilitate the ex-owners of the land.

As it all this were not sufficient Caesar appeared in the form of a ghost. Mr Ghulam Mohd. Sadiq, said to be a liberal, emancipated, progressive and secular person passed, as state Education Minister in Bakhshi Ghulam Mohd. Ministry an impugned order/circular that only 30 percent seats at the maximum be allowed to the KP boys seeking admission to academic colleges for higher education, not to talk of ad­mission to professional institutes. What tale hangs thereby is obvious. And it was allowed to take effect when the state followed the declared policy/program of free education to all up to postgraduate level. In order to curtail and curb and demoralize the brilliant KP youth from obtaining admission in academic and professional colleges in the state various impediments and hurdles were put up in the form of admis­sion committees, selection boards and boards for catego­rizing and classifying the admission seekers. The tacit pur­pose was to dissuade and deprive them of all possible op­portunities for progress and advancement. How ironical it is that the son of Muslim Chief Secretary was deemed and acknowledged as backward while his Jamadar-Ramjoo's son was declared forward and not entitled to the award of the backward certificate! The resultant mood among the KPs was naturally underlined by preference for life and death some where else to economic strangulation and deprivation in the so called Naya Kashmir where communal prejudice and discrimination had become order of the day under the patronage of rulers known for secular credentials. There were writ petitions of scores of KP teachers and admission seekers in the Apex Court of the country and the state High Court for redressal of their genuine grievances and injustice meted out to them on the basis of belonging to the KP com­munity. The powers that be minced no words in telling them that India is a vast country and KPs could go upto Raskumari (Cape Comorin). Where will the poor Muslims go? This was the import of the discourse of no less a person than late Sheikh Mohmmed Abdullah with a deputation of the KPs that called on him to give vent to their protest. We believed him to a majestic edifice sheltering us all. The signal was loud and clear - the KPs had better pack up and get scat­tered over the rest of India, it would be of no avail to them to stay back. Sheikh Sahib's words made it abundantly clear what his motives were.

The agitation by the Muslims following the disappearance of the holy relic at Dargah Hazratbal in 1964 and the KP agita­tion following the conversion of an underage KP girl Parmeshwari to Islam was a severe setback to the existing KP social fabric. It aggravated the process of exodus of KPs that was going on quietly un-cared for by the so-called nationalists.

While concluding the era from 1931 to the end  of 1985 I find it quite pertinent to quote here a few significant excerpts from the book "History of Kashmiri Pandits" by justice Jia Lal Kilam, also known as Sher-e-Babbar Kilam. He terminates his history at the point of time of the conversion of Muslim Conference to National Conference. Why he did so is intriguing and worth probing. He writes "But here we stop. What followed is matter of recent history in which the present writer has also played his humble part. It would indeed be embarrassing for the present writer to discuss facts that form a quite recent history".

A person of Kilam Sahib's status and caliber and with his rich and varied store of information and personal experience on the subject should not have chosen to cut it short and apply the break abruptly to bring the history of the sufferings of the tormented community and the events having bearing on life after the conversion of the Muslim Conference into National Conference to a grinding halt. It should be appa­rent that there could not be any justification to abandon the narrative kept alive by his compelling historical impulse to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity. He ought not to have left the community in the lurch by leaving the story untold. Obviously there must have been more compelling and urgent considerations - political, social and last but not the least personal, that must have constrained the roaring lion of the KP community to become tame and quiet. Is not discretion the better part of valour?

"Khamoshi guftagoo hai, bezubani hai zuban meri"

Paradise Lost

PARADISE LOST
Index
Acknowledgement
Introduction
First Exodus
Second Exodus
Third Exodus
Fourth Exodus
Fifth Exodus
Sixth Exodus
Seventh Exodus