In 1992, authorities cover-up investigations of bomb blasts in Jammu, as police found its links with Hindu extremist groups
The recently released film Kashmir Files produced and directed by Vivek Agnihotri has generated a debate on Kashmiri Pandits or Hindus. A large population of Kashmiri Pandits is believed to have migrated to other parts of the country in 1989-90 as violence took over the region. Agnihotri claims that 4,000 Kashmiri Pandits were killed since 1989 till this date. Let us find out, how true are these figures and the story presented in the film, in which local Kashmiri Muslims have been depicted as villains.
Nailing the lie of Agnihotri, Home Ministry in a reply to an RTI application filed by Yogesh Chhabra from Delhi in 2013 has put these figures at 219. Further in March 2015, Raman Bhalla, minister for revenue and rehabilitation in Jammu and Kashmir government repeated these figures while replying to a question in the Assembly. He also clarified that “out of the total 219 killings, 129 died between March 1989 and December 31, 1990”.
On December 20, 2017, when Amar Singh an MP asked in the Rajya Sabha, whether, “it is a fact that a large number of FIRs registered for the killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s have not been investigated?”
In response, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, replied: “As per the report of [the] State Government of Jammu and Kashmir, 174 cases of killing of Kashmiri Pandits by terrorists have been registered by the Jammu and Kashmir Police. After investigations, 30 cases have been challenged and 142 cases have been reported as untraced. There has been [a] conviction in one case.”
The National Commission for Human Rights Commission (NHRC)’s ‘Annual Report 1999-2000’ states that, as per the Central Government, the number of those killed because of the insurgency and terrorism in the state between 1988-1997 was 16,850; including 710 Hindu civilians and 6,219 Muslim civilians. It appears that the NHRC has included figures of non-Pandit Hindus as well, who were also killed in various incidents in the Jammu region.
According to NHRC, the central government also provided a list of 157 leaders who had fallen to the bullets in Kashmir Valley. Out of the 37 were Hindus and 120 Muslims.
The Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti (KPSS), an organization of Kashmiri Pandits mentioned the number of killings at 399.
Seriousness of government
The seriousness of the central government about Kashmiri Pandits can be gauged from the question posed by Amar Singh and the answer given by the Home Ministry.
Amar Singh further asked, “it is also a fact that leaders of Kashmiri Pandit body had also approached the Central Government in this regard but no action was taken thereon? And if so, what are the specific reasons therefore and by when directions are proposed to be issued to the State Government of Jammu and Kashmir to initiate investigations into the killings of Kashmiri Pandits?”
In response Minister of State, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir stated in writing: “Representations from various quarters including Kashmiri Pandits are received in the Ministry from time to time and the same are forwarded to State Government of Jammu and Kashmir for appropriate action.”
An open letter written by a group of 23 eminent Kashmiri Pandits and published in Srinagar-based Urdu language newspaper Al-Safah on September 22, 1990, stated that the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Jagmohan, had made the community of Kashmiri Pandits a “scapegoat”, under the influence of BJP, RSS, and Shiv Sena.
There are also different numbers related to the number of people, who had migrated in 1989-90. The film claims that some 500,000 to 600,000 people were forced to migrate to Jammu and the rest of the country. But these figures are also disputed by the government.
In response to a question Home Minister Nityanand Rai told parliament on February 2, 2022, that 44,684 Kashmiri migrant families are registered with the Office of the Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner (Migrants), Jammu, comprising 1,54,712 individuals.
Earlier, on July 28, 2021, Rai had written in response to another question said that 44,167 Kashmiri Migrant families are registered. Out of these, Hindu families accounted for 39,782. It becomes clear that 4,385 Muslim families also migrated.
On March 17, 2020, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kishan Reddy in response to an unstarred question said that 43,618 Kashmiri families were registered in Jammu, 19,338 in Delhi, and 1,995 in other states. Therefore, a total of 64,951 Kashmiri families were displaced. It should also be noted that these figures include the families of all religions.
Earlier, in March 2015, the Bhalla had mentioned that 38,000 families, including 34,202 Pandits, 2,168 Muslim and 1,749 Sikh families have migrated from the Kashmir Valley.
Data in Lok Sabha
According to the data presented in the Lok Sabha on February 29, 2000: “51,122 Kashmiri migrant families are living in different parts of the country. Out of these, 29,074 and 19,338 families are staying in Jammu and Delhi respectively.”
On July 17, 2002, Munawar Hassan had asked in the Rajya Sabha, “whether it is a fact that various departments of Central and State Government of Jammu and Kashmir have taken possession of the properties belonging to displaced Kashmiri Pandits/individuals and religious institutions temporarily/permanently without taking consent of the owners?”
In response, the then Minister of State for Home Affairs, Vidyasagar Rao said “It is true that various Departments of Central and State Governments have occupied properties belonging to displaced Kashmiri Migrants without taking consent of their owners because of the security situation in the state.”
A chilling report in The Times of India
At a time when Kashmiri Pandits were migrating to avoid violence in Kashmir Valley, The Times of India published a detailed report on December 21, 1992, stating the hand of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in a bomb blast in Jammu.
The report was written by Dwarika Prasad Sharma, the newspaper reporter in Jammu read: “Jammu and Kashmir government has stated that there was an RSS hand in some of the recent bomb blasts in Jammu region, including the one at a school here in October. This official disclosure forms the centerpiece of the charges listed in the government notification of December 15 declaring the RSS, the VHP, and the Bajrang Dal, an unlawful organization under the Jammu and Kashmir Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1983.”
The report further states: “In the notification, it was stated that at a joint meeting of the three organisations held at Geeta Bhavan here on December 9. workers of the three organisations showed bricks and other material as proof that the Babri Mosque had been demolished, thereby giving rise to a feeling of enmity and hatred among different religious groups in the state.”
The Times of India also mentioned that the officials have other facts and materials against the three organizations which they consider to be against the public interest to disclose.
The report further stated that bomb blasts in the Jammu region had been variously attributed to Kashmiri and Punjab militants and Pakistani agents, till one Kashmiri Pandit carrying the time bomb, was killed at Shri Ranbir Higher secondary school on October 26, 1992. Another survived and was arrested. Their targets were students from the Valley brought there to write their examinations in secure conditions.
According to the Times of India, the surviving youth was interrogated while he was recovering in the police hospital. But the findings were being kept secret on the ground that any disclosure would hamper the further investigation of the case.
The report also stated: “The incident had caused dismay in Jammu. It had provided a new perspective on militancy-related incidents in the region and had even shocked the police who had till then ascribed all blasts to the militants.
The Shiv Sena, which does not see eye to eye with the RSS and had even given a call to evict the pandit migrants as they were abusing Jammu’s hospitality and were causing communal strife in the region.
Political parties demand fair investigation
The Times of India further reported: “The people also recall the bomb blast at Veer Bhavan, the RSS headquarters here, last year in which two Pandit youths were injured. While the RSS blamed it on militants, preliminary investigation indicated that a time bomb might have gone off while being assembled. The case had been mysteriously shelved till it was suggested after the school blast that there was a connection between the two.”
According to the Times of India report, Various political parties, like the Congress and the National Conference, had demanded that the investigation into the school blast be taken to its logical conclusion and the public be informed accordingly. The report also states that the government has given these institutions and those interested in them one month to represent themselves against the government order. But what happened next is the subject of an investigation.
In March 2015, Bhalla, told the Legislative Assembly, that at least 17 temples were under the occupation of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. He later said that these temples were being protected by security forces. On the same day, Abdul Rashid, an independent MLA, demanded the introduction of a bill for the protection of temples across the Kashmir Valley. Although media reports suggest that the bill was tabled and was referred to the joint select committee in March 2014, there was no follow-up thereafter to adopt the legislation.