September 14 was just another day for many of us. For the exiled Kashmiri Hindus, i.e. Kashmiri Pandits, though, this day marks the beginning of atrocities they suffered at the hands of terrorists in 1989. On this day in 1989, Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, noted lawyer, social worker, and Vice President of J&K state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was gunned down by militants outside his own house in Srinagar. He was the first victim of the militancy in Kashmir valley. Since then, Kashmiri Pandits commemorate September 14 as Martyr’s Day.
September 14 is the day when the killings of minority Hindus of the Kashmir valley began. The aftermath of such selective killings was the ethnic cleansing of Hindus from the Kashmir valley which ultimately led to their tragic exodus. The Pandits left their homes and hearths behind in 1990 and became refugees in their own country.
Terrorists targeted many prominent Pandits in the initial phase of militancy/insurgency in Kashmir. Apart from Tika Lal Taploo, other prominent Pandits who were murdered were Justice Neel Kanth Ganjoo, Kashmiri poet and writer Sarwanand Koul “Premi” (along with his son), advocate Prem Nath Bhat, Lassa Koul (Director, Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar). The killings didn’t stop until most of the Kashmir valley was Pandit-less.
The brutality of terrorists had no limit. Sarla Bhat, a nurse working in Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences – Soura, was tortured, gang-raped and then murdered by militants of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Girija Tickoo, resident of Bandipora, was gang-raped by militants and then cut into pieces by mechanical saw. Many such barbaric rapes and killings were committed against Kashmiri Hindus by the militants – in the name of “Azadi”. The bigger tragedy is that those who committed such heinous crimes still roam freely in the valley and outside.
Hundreds of Kashmiri Hindus were killed in the valley within a year of the armed movement for the secession of Kashmir from India. Many massacres took place in the Kashmir valley in 1990s and early 2000s such as Wandhama, Nadimarg, Chattisinhgpora, Sangrampora etc. These people were killed only because of their faith – their faith in the Hindu religion and their country India.
Only a few will remember these people apart from their own community (Kashmiri Pandits). The exiled Pandits observed the day as a black day and continue to protest silently like they have for the past 23 years. There was business as usual in the J&K state as well as the other parts of the country. You might have come across a word or two from some political leaders on this day. These remained just words.
September 14 is a gory reminder of what Kashmiri Hindus have been through. This day reminds us of the failure of the mighty Indian state in protecting the lives of minorities. Also, it is a marvel how human rights organisations failed to notice the mayhem against the Hindus in Kashmir. It is a day of initiation of bloodshed and agony for the minority Pandits of the valley. It is a day when terrorism began to take its toll on the Hindus of the valley.
For such martyrs, you won’t find any cemetery, graveyard or memorial in the valley or any other part of the state. You won’t find any street dedicated to them. You won’t find any park named after them. But these unsung martyrs will remain in the hearts of their fellow Pandits. Their martyrdom is testimony to the fact that the minority Hindus of Kashmir, the Kashmiri Pandits, will never renounce their faith – neither their religion nor their nationality. September 14 was a day to remember all those unsung martyrs of Kashmir who refused to leave their home and gave their life for an idea – the idea of India.