The genocides ignored – Dhruv C. Katoch

Awareness campaign for 'The Kashmir Files' in Bhubaneswar (March 15, 2022).

Dhruv C. KatochA culture of impunity created over the years, backed by religious fanaticism, led to the genocide in Kashmir. – Dhruv C. Katoch

Writer and philosopher George Santayana in his monumental work in five volumes, The Life of Reason: The Phases of Human Progress, observed, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We tend to forget the past when history is either not recorded or is deliberately distorted. The history of the sub-continent is replete with such examples, the Inquisition in Goa carried out by the Portuguese in the 16th century being just one example. But suffice for now to note just a few instances from the last century.

The period 20 August 1921-1922 witnessed the massacre of over 10,000 Hindus in the Malabar region of Kerala by the Mapilla Muslims of Kerala. The killings were brutal and gruesome and exemplified the worst form of ethnic cleansing. Rather than receiving condemnation, later day historians sought to justify the same in the name of social justice. Textbooks today speak of this dark period as nothing more than a series of riots by peasants against the landowners, leaving out the obvious religious indoctrination, which led people to commit barbaric acts in the name of religion.

Post independence, the atrocities committed by the Razakars in Hyderabad find little mention. The Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (MIM), which had become a powerful organisation, “had its storm troopers in the Razakars who were headed by Kasim Razvi, a Muslim educated at Aligarh University who claimed Hyderabad was a Muslim state and that Muslim supremacy was based upon the right of conquest”. The rape and murder carried out by the Pakistan Army in Kashmir, in conjunction with the tribal militias they had recruited, once again find little mention in history texts. The perpetrators were never tried for war crimes. Which is perhaps the reason why the Pakistan military continues with its brutal behaviour towards the Baloch, Muhajirs, Pashtuns and also against the marginalised religious groups in Pakistan. The Pakistan military has never been tried for the crimes they have committed in their own country.

The Bangladesh Liberation War was yet another saga of a genocide committed by the Pakistan Army, which rightly should have led to a war crimes tribunal to try the guilty personnel of the Pakistan military. Besides the millions of civilians raped and killed, the Indian Army had proof of the Pakistan Army having shot dead Indian prisoners in cold blood, with their hands tied behind their backs. None of this was investigated and no one in the Pakistan military was tried for war crimes.

A culture of impunity created over the years, backed by religious fanaticism, is what led to the genocide in Kashmir. The first warning signs came as far back as 1965, when religious indoctrination was started in some schools in Kashmir by the Falah-e-Aam Trust, the educational wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami. The rate of intrusion increased rapidly after 1977 and became endemic since the early 1980s. Genocide was waiting to happen, and with the inflow of weapons from Pakistan, it finally took place in 1990. The Jamaat was banned in 1992, but simultaneously, all the teachers in the Falah-e-Aam Trust were absorbed in government run schools. Evidently, the state administration was in cahoots with the radical Islamist groups. The elitist mullahs who believed in the ideology of Jamaat-e-Islami also controlled the administration, bringing about synergy in the nefarious designs of the mullah-ulema-administrator-politician cohort.

The warning signs were deliberately ignored by the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah who tenanted the office of chief minister from 23 March 1987 to 19 January 1990—the most critical phase of the growth of terrorism in the Valley. As the chief minister, he should have called in the army, which he refused to do and simply resigned, abdicating his duty. His inaction made him complicit in the crimes that were committed by the fanatic Muslim groups against the Hindu minority. Mr. Jagmohan, who was the governor of the state from 26 April 1984 to 11 July 1989, sent missives to Delhi, but was repeatedly snubbed by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and he resigned on 11 July 1989. He was replaced as governor by Gen. K.V. Krishna Rao. Jagmohan was brought back as governor only on 19 January 1990, but by then the genocide had been set in motion. There was little he could do to stem the tide.

The period 1986 to January 1989 saw a vicious hate campaign against the Kashmiri Hindus, spread from the mosques and by various militant groups as also by local Muslim groups. This led to violence, which became more pronounced since July 1989 and culminated in the genocide seven months later on 19 January 1990. The militants had been armed from across the border and on 14 September 1989, they executed their first killing, when Tika Lal Taploo was murdered in broad daylight in cold blood, setting off a wave of murders of people belonging to the Hindu faith. The tragedy of Kashmir was as much the killings of the Hindu minority in a planned pogrom to drive out the population using fear as a weapon, as was the silence and support of the vast majority of Kashmiri Muslims who tacitly acquiesced in the pogrom. It was the local Muslims who identified Hindu homes and who had posters placed on their doors warning them to leave, otherwise they would be killed. The posters also told them to leave their women behind for sex. Kashmir had been shamed to unimaginable levels.

What now? Obviously, we need justice for the Kashmiri Hindus. This can come about by firstly, acknowledging in the J&K legislature that a genocide took place and making a public apology for the same. A White Paper also needs to be published by the Centre and made public. This must be followed by instituting special courts to try those responsible for the genocide. Lastly, the Kashmiri Hindus must be resettled in Kashmir, in a separate and secure area, where they form the majority and where protection can be provided to them. Unless appropriate reparations are made to those who face brutal repression, history will repeat itself in some other parts of the country. We will then have only ourselves to blame for our failure to deliver justice. – Sunday Guardian Live, 19 March 2022

Dhruv C. Katoch is an army veteran who is currently Director of the India Foundation.

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