January 21, 2011

Kashmir Hindus: Forsaken, forgotten for 21 years

January 19, 2011 14:58 IST

The Kashmiri Hindu community despite homelessness and horrendous ethnic cleansing has survived and will survive. It is the tenacity to weather any storm and belief in its values and morals that has kept the Kashmiri Hindu alive, says Lalit Koul.

January 19 is an insignificant day for most of the people around the world. It comes and goes and nobody notices. But for the last 21 years, for one community, it is the day that brings back frightening and dreadful memories.

It is the day when 21 years ago final nail in the coffin of forsaken community of Kashmiri Hindus was hammered. It was the day when Islamic terrorists and their sympathisers gave 24 hours eviction notice to Kashmiri Hindus. It was the day when the threats ofRaliv, Galiv Ya Chaliv (Convert, die or escape) replaced the sounds of evening Azaan (prayers) from majority of mosques in the valley of Kashmir.

It was the day when so-called secularism died in Kashmir. It was the fateful day when humans lost and beasts took over. It was the day that will remain etched in the memories of Kashmiri Hindus worldwide because on this day they lost the most precious thing they had -- their homeland.

And did rest of the world care?

No. Not then, not now.

It has been 21 years since first shots of Kashmiri Hindus' ethnic cleansing were fired loud and clear from the ramparts of mosques in the Kashmir valley. And it has been 21 long years of neglect, apathy and carelessness on the part of all the successive governments both in the state of Jammu and Kashmir [ Images ] and the capital Delhi [ Images ].

Kashmiri Hindu refugees who were overnight made homeless on January 19, 1990 have been moving from pillar to post, demanding their fundamental rights. But no one cares. No one has time for this community because they are too small a number to matter. It is a shame that the one and only symbol of India [ Images ] in the valley, the Kashmiri Hindus, are treated as pariahs by the government.

If it were not for Kashmiri Hindus and their steadfast belief in the Indian constitution and tricolour, Kashmir would have been lost two decades ago. Sadly that stark realisation is lost on the Indian polity and government.

It is not mere governments that have ignored this refugee community of patriots and nationalists. Even the media has forgotten its responsibility of highlighting the cause of those who do not have a voice. These days, the mainstream media is more interested in knowing what goes on inside the four walls of the Big Boss' house than fighting for the fundamental rights of those who have been wronged.

Some leading journalists instead of focusing on ethnic cleansing issues like those of Kashmiri Hindus' have converted the noble profession of journalism into tabloid yellow journalism and are busy lobbying for political parties. It is a shame that in a free country like ours with free press, half a million Kashmiri Hindus have been hounded out of their homes and hearths and mainstream media has continued to ignore this for 21 years.

But having said that, the Kashmiri Hindu is a survivor. Islamic terrorists thought they could annihilate and eradicate Kashmiri Hindu community from the face of this earth but they miserably failed in their mission.

The Kashmiri Hindu community despite homelessness and horrendous ethnic cleansing survived and will survive. It is the Kashmiri Hindu's tenacity to weather any storm and belief in its values and morals that has kept the Kashmiri Hindu alive. While Kashmiri Hindus are starting their 22nd year in exile, they will never give up their dream and demand of reclaiming their homeland.

In spite of extreme apathy shown by the world, Kashmiri Hindus will continue to fight for their fundamental rights and homeland in the Vale of Kashmir. Indian governments, Human Rights organisations, the media, and other world bodies might continue to ignore one of the largest ethnic cleansing in the recent times, but that will not shake off Kashmiri Hindus from their just path to their dream.

Nothing can or will break their will.

The dream shall live on. The fight will go on.

Lalit Koul is the president of Indo-American Kashmir Forum and editor of Kashmir Herald.

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