KASHMIR: EXODUS THAT STARTED 700 YEARS AGO

By Uphaar Kotru

We are witnessing a historic moment in India with abrogation of article 370! While, this is a progressive step taken for the people of Jammu & Kashmir, some of the western leaders and media houses have fallen to the propaganda that there is a “human rights” situation in Kashmir and that this is against the will of the “Kashmiri people”. What pains me is that it is not only factually incorrect, but also shows their ignorance about various dimensions of this complex issue.

Do they know the sentiment of people who rightfully represent the real Kashmiriyat – the indigenous people of Jammu & Kashmir – be it Kashmiri Hindus, Buddhists, Sufi Muslims or Dogras.

I am a proud Kashmiri Hindu, and Kashmir has been the land of my ancestors for 1000s of years. Over the last 700 years, we have been the biggest victims of ethnic cleaning by radical Islamist. We were oppressed, forcefully converted, murdered, raped and forced to leave our homeland not once, but multiple times. In fact, we would have been extinct during the time of Aurangzeb itself had it not been for Guru Teg Bahadur, 9th Sikh guru who sacrificed his life to save Kashmiri Hindus.

The last exodus in 1990 was the seventh one in history. I was around 10-year-old when we left our home, leaving behind everything and never to go back again. All I have is the cherished memories of my early childhood and a hope to go back home someday.

You know what I am most proud of – in spite of everything we suffered, we did not lose our core values of Tolerance and Non-Violence. Aren’t you amazed that despite all the atrocities against us – NOT EVEN A SINGLE MISGUIDED KASHMIRI HINDU YOUTH PICKING UP A GUN in REVENGE?

I am appalled that a genocide of this scale happens and there are no suspects, no court proceedings, no convicts for any of these killings! And after all this, people who killed us and forced us out, have no remorse, in fact they have the audacity to tell me that we didn’t force you out. It was the state governor who asked you to leave. So Indian government is to be blamed for your situation. This is a total lie.

It’s hard to put in words what our community went through. Just imagine someone tells you at a gunpoint that you must leave your home today else your family will be killed, your house burnt down and your women raped, without a second thought you would leave. This is what happened to us over generations. Eventually, we were wiped out of our own homeland. And over time, folks who took over our home became the only voice of Kashmir which the world seems to be listening, again turning a deaf ear to our voice –  the voice of real victim, the original inhabitants of Kashmir.

Today, I am not only feeling the pain of what happened to me, my family and my fellow community members in last 30 years but also the pain of my ancestors who suffered over the last 700 years. I would just conclude with a poem attempting to express the emotion in me and my community in large. 

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