Aarti Tikoo Singh: Digvijay Singh is lying about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits
Conspiracy theories become truths when intelligentsia and intellectuals turn lazy and complacent, either deliberately or unconsciously. For this reason alone, the conspiracy theory that former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir Jagmohan engineered the exodus of Kashmiri Pandit community from the Kashmir valley in 1990, has survived and in many quarters, flourished.
For example, on the 25th anniversary of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, Congress leader Digvijay Singh tweeted: “Kashmiri Pandits were unnecessarily forced to leave the Valley by Jagmohan. Hindus and Muslims lived together for Centuries in Kashmir.” He will find many buyers in the Valley where Kashmiri Muslim separatists and their supporters have been for the last 25 years regurgitating this lie to whitewash the communal stain of the ‘azadi’ movement. He will also find several cheerleaders outside Kashmir because they like the conspiracy theory for one or other despicable political or personal reason. I will dwell on those reasons in a separate piece.
For now, I am interested in debunking Digvijay Singh’s tweeted lie. The evidence against his falsehood is a 2006 J&K government commissioned survey on the ‘Impact of migration on the socio-economic conditions of Kashmiri Displaced People’ conducted by an NGO, J&K Centre for Minority Studies. The NGO was set up by a retired IAS officer ML Kaul.
Since the refugees from Kashmir were dispersed across the country, a huge survey was required to cover the entire displaced population. But when no one in the union government showed any interest in such a study, then chief minister Farooq Abdullah commissioned it himself before his term ended in 2002. Due to constrained resources, the study was limited to only Kashmiri refugee families living in Jammu division. At the time, 32,244 families (about 129,000 people; each family is counted as 4 members) were registered as refugees.
Besides many other things, the study investigates the circumstances and causes of mass exodus of people from the valley. The report is based on a field survey of 1,979 displaced Kashmiri families (about 8,000 people) in 12 refugee camps and 44 residential colonies of Jammu, Kathua, Doda and Udhampur. Out of these 1,979 families, 1,147 families were displaced from rural and 832 families from urban areas of Kashmir. 33% sample was from Srinagar district, 6% from Badgam, 31% Anantnag, 9% Pulwama, 12% Baramulla and 9% from Kupwara district. The sample, comprising mostly Kashmiri Pandits, also included 132 Muslim refugee families out of total 1,856 and 93 Sikh refugee families out of total 1,903 in Jammu.
What the report nails down is this–the major reason for “sudden decision for migration” of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley was not governor Jagmohan but “insecurity induced by terrorist violence in view of random, gruesome and torturous killings”. Almost 85% respondents in camp areas and 94% in non-camp areas attributed their displacement to this reason.
54.33% people in refugee camps and 31.11% in residential areas said they were forced to leave because of “insecurity induced due to terrorist violence”. 16.2% respondents from non-camp areas and 12.53% respondents from camp areas said they left because of “direct threats from terrorists” and 22.34% camp respondents and 7.8% non-camp respondents decided to leave because of indirect threats. 10.65% camp respondents and 10% non-camp respondents due to killing of neighbors, 7.1% respondents from refugee camps and 5.4% respondents from residential areas, due to killing of relatives and 1.04% camp respondents and 0.47 non-camp respondents due to kidnapping and rapes of women.
Some people left also because of the insecurity induced by others. 9.39% camp respondents and 0.93% non-camp respondents fled the valley because of insecurity induced by isolation. 3.97% camp dwellers and 1.67 residential dwellers said that they migrated because of insecurity induced by Muslim friends/well-wishers. 1.88% camp respondents and 2.93% non-camp respondents attributed their migration to insecurity induced by other refugees.
Puncturing the commonly believed untruth that Governor Jagmohan used his entire state machinery to facilitate the migration of Pandits, the report reveals that only 2.30% refugees used government transport or vehicles as against 72% who took private transport to leave the valley. The survey also found that the majority left in private transport “booked overnight/on spot by group/individuals as limited bus transport services were available.” “Majority of the families had to pay exorbitant charges,” the report says adding a significant proportion of families could not carry their basic belongings due to a “ban” issued by terror groups.
Between January 1990 to May 1990, 94% Kashmiri Pandits left the Kashmir valley, with the highest number departing during the month of March and April 1990, the study found. From among those in camps about 97%, and from non-camp 87% fled the valley in 1990. The main source of income of the 30% families selected for the sample was agriculture. 26% families were dependent on small business, self-employment and private service. 34% families were in government service.
The survey findings also bust the myth that Pandit refugees were pampered by Governor Jagmohan after their migration. Of all the refugee camp respondents, as per the study, 25% spent their first night on arrival either at a temple or religious place, 17% with relatives or friends, 16% in rented accommodation, 23% in government refugee tented camps, 9% in government buildings such as schools and 8% on the roadside. Among the respondents from residential colonies, 40% rented one or two rooms on their arrival, 27% stayed with relatives and friends, 20% in religious temples, 2.5% in refugee tents, 3% in government buildings and 5% stayed on the roadside.
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