Hyderabad: The mosque in the Kupwara district of Kashmir began the chilling announcement “Tchaliv, raliv, galiv (Leave, convert, die or you will be killed) late in the evening of January 19, 1990.
Eleven Pandit families who survived that night as their houses were looted and burnt and the attackers shouted slogans like “Kashmir ko azadi chaheye — Koi Hindu nahi rehana chaheye” (Kashmir wants freedom, no Hindus should remain here) later settled in Hyderabad, which is now home to 200 plus families who fled from Kashmir in the early 1990s.
Bharath Bhusan Dhar, spokesperson of the Kashmiri Hindu Sabha, was in Class 9 when his parents pushed him along with 11 families into a single truck and drove out to safety from Kupwara. He says his house, which had his grandfather’s picture, was burnt, their apple, walnut and rice farms were grabbed. The scene is still fresh in his mind. He is one of the 200 families who moved to Hyderabad between 1990 and 2000.
Sharing his agony with this newspaper, Mr Dhar said, “The adjacent villages were already on fire when a posse of terrorists reached Kupwara district. There was a cry from the mosque that Kashmir Pandits were kafirs and that the males had to leave Kashmir, or convert to Islam or be killed. Those who chose to do the first of these were told to leave their women behind. My father’s farms were grabbed, a five-storey building burnt. On 19th night, my parents squeezed me into a truck ferrying 11 families. In the dead of night we moved to Jammu, where we lived in cloth tents.”
The Kashmiri Pandits were then a minority community in the Kashmir region of J&K. They came under attack by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and other groups fighting for the separation of Kashmir from the Indian State, from September 1989 onwards. In January 1990 five lakh families of pandits were forcibly flushed out. “The scary slogans ‘Hum kya chatahai hai azadi, Azadi ka mathlab La-la – Allha’ and ‘Hum kya chatahai hai Nizami Mustafa’ are still fresh in my heart and ears. They wanted Kashmir sans Hindu men and women. They butchered many Kashmir Hindus. Those who escaped the attack died from snake and scorpion bites living in open tents in Jammu. Many could not cope with Jammu’s weather since we're accustomed to minus degrees. Kashmiris died due to sunstroke in Jammu,” says Mr Dhar.
Nikil Dhar recalled how the pandits feared celebrating Shivaratri in Anantnag district of Kashmir in 1990. “Our biggest festival, Shivratri lasts for four days, but that year, the Kashmiri Hindus could not perform aarti or blow the shankh at home. The terrorists butchered family by family, a hit list was pasted on the doors, families had to leave behind their properties, many walked out with just a pair of clothes amidst scary loudspeaker declarations. They jumped into trucks, buses, walked miles. Many thought they would return in 30 days but it has been 30 years now.” Nikil Dhar has never visited his home in Anantnag district since 1990 but now, after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, his family wants to see their ancestral house in Kashmir. The Kashmiri families in Hyderabad have appealed to the government to create a safe environment for them to visit their birthplace. A group from the Kashmiri Hindu Sabha gathered at Durgam Cheruvvu to celebrate the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A.