Although much has been written about the tribal invasion of Jammu and Kashmir in 1947 and atrocities committed by Pakistan on the people of the state but for the first time, a detailed account of horrors suffered by Kashmiri Hindus under the occupation of Pakistan has been documented.
As J&K is observing 70 years of the attack by Pakistan, a massive volume of eyewitness accounts gathered during a 17-year-long research will be published soon, which will give an insight into the terrible period of the state’s history which sowed the seeds of the Kashmir conflict and threat of nuclear war in South Asia.
Although there are detailed accounts given by survivors of carnages in Muzaffarabad, Rajouri, Poonch, Mirpur, Deva Vatala and Kotli in Jammu region, very few written accounts on the Pandits have been published.
The research focusing on minorities in Kashmir under Pakistan occupation was started by Dr Ramesh Tamiri in 2000. Dr Tamiri, who retired from the Health Department a few years back, has worked on the oral history of tribal invasion with special focus on Hindu minorities in the Valley.
It was a first-of-its-kind attempt to document the lives of the Pandits soon after the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 and invasion by Pakistan to annex J&K, then ruled by Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh. Accounts of the Pandits in Muzaraffarbad, Mirpur, Kotli and Gilgit-Baltistan were collected, giving an insight into the era when J&K saw large-scale organised killings. Family members of those killed or kidnapped have been tracked by the author.
“At the official level, the government post 1947 wanted to deny atrocities on the minority community for political reasons to project accession of the Muslim majority region as refutation of the two-nation theory. For that, Kashmir was to be projected as a secular oasis in the subcontinent. Denial of atrocities on the minorities kept important incidents under wraps for decades,” said Dr Tamiri, who intends to publish the document in a 900-page book format.
As per his research, over 200 villages in north and central Kashmir where Pandits lived came under Pakistani occupation before their liberation by the Army after Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession with the Indian Union on October 26, 1947.
More than 140 killings of the Pandits took place in the execution style. There were over 10 massacres, hundreds of houses burnt, thousands of houses looted and hundreds of cases of forced conversions, rape and mass migration.
Although there are now a few survivors from the period, Dr Tamiri’s work has preserved the first-hand account of survivors. “My stories don’t focus on numbers and statistics but on how individuals, families and groups faced the invasion. I talked to several survivors and the research contains first-hand account of killings of innocent people by tribal invaders,” said Dr Tamiri.
After the raiders were pushed out, a close confidante of late Sheikh Mohamamd Abdullah and National Conference leaders Pandit Kashyap Bandhu and Sofi Mohammad Akber toured villages where killings and conversions had taken place and some of the Pandits were reconverted to their faith and cremation rites of those who had been buried were performed.
For the next 43 years, Pandits lived in the Valley and prospered in every sphere but eruption of armed separatist insurgency in 1989-90 forced 3.50 lakh Hindus to leave their homeland.