Rajat Sharma

The Kashmir Files: Ask Farooq Abdullah again!

akbAfter maintaining a stony silence on the movie ‘The Kashmir Files’, National Conference leader Dr Farooq Abdullah and J&K People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti on Monday gave their reactions for the first time in public.

In an interview to a journalist, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah described ‘The Kashmir Files’ as “a propaganda movie”. “It has raked up a tragedy that affected every soul of the state, both Hindus and Muslims. My heart still bleeds over that tragedy. There were some elements from political parties who were interested in ethnic cleansing”, he added.

Farooq Abdullah said, “I think they (BJP government at the Center) should appoint a Commission and it will tell them who is responsible. You want to know the truth, you should appoint a Commission.”

The NC leader said, “I am ready to be hanged anywhere in the country if I am found guilty. The truth will come out when you put an honest judge or committee in place. You will know who was responsible. I don’t think I was responsible. If people want to know the bitter truth, they should talk to the Intelligence Bureau chief at that time, or Kerala governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who was a central minister at that time.”

The former chief minister said, “a Truth Commission of some kind should be put in place to probe not just what happened to Kashmiri Pandits but also to Sikhs and Muslims the Valley during the Nineties. My MLAs, my workers, my ministers were killed, we had to pick the mortal remains of some of them from treetops. That was the situation.”

Farooq Abdullah may have demanded a commission, but he must realize that if the entire truth comes out, the flames of truth are bound to reach him and his party.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, we showed sound bites of former officials of Kashmir government, who have described in detail why Kashmiri Pandits had to flee the Valley en masse, and which politician was responsible for the mess.

I also want a commission to be set up for crimes that were committed 32 years ago. It will take several years for the commission to complete its work, but the truth must come out. Farooq will also have to face the question whether the pogrom of Kashmiri Pandits took place within 10 hours after he demitted office, or was it the consequence of violence that had been unleashed during his rule?

Farooq will be asked whether he and his government had clear indications about a major conspiracy that was being hatched to kill Kashmiri Pandits and drive them out of the Valley? He will also be asked, why he left for London in a huff, when he knew that violence was brewing against Pandits in the Valley? He will be asked why Kashmiri Pandits were killed, their properties burnt and they were threatened to leave the Valley, hours after he left for London?

Documents that have now come to our knowledge clearly show that Farooq Abdullah knew that a major conspiracy to drive Pandits out of the Valley was in offing. There are documents to show that the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits had begun three months before Farooq resigned on January 18, 1990.

In 1997, it was Farooq Abdullah’s government which got the Jammu & Kashmir Migrants Immovable Property Act legislated. This law clearly states the cut off date for exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley is November 1, 1989. This was the time when Farooq Abdullah’s government was in power. The Act clearly mentions that the exodus had begun three months before Farooq resigned in January 1990!

Questions will be asked what Farooq and his government did during those crucial 79 days, from November 1, 1989 till January 18, 1990, to stop the killings and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. Farooq Renzu Shah was assistant director in the J&K government’s information department in 1989. Shah says, trained terrorists were brought from Pakistan as part of a conspiracy to kill Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. The atrocities had already begun from September, 1989, and had Farooq’s government taken measures, the killings and exodus could have been stopped, says Shah.

Farooq Renzu Shah also says, for 6 years 264 days there was Governor’s Rule in J&K, and during this period all the homes and properties left behind by Kashmiri Pandits remained unsold, and most of the properties were forcibly occupied by some locals. When Farooq came to power again in 1996, he brought a law to remove those encroachments and allow sale and purchase of homes and properties of displaced Kashmiri Pandits. By that time, the Pandits had fully lost hopes of their return to the Valley, and they were forced to sell their properties at throwaway prices. This put a full stop to any chance of return of Pandits to the Valley.

In my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Tuesday night, we showed visuals of burnt out homes and properties of Kashmiri Pandits in places like Srinagar, Gulmark, Kulgam and Nandimarg, that are still lying unsold. These burnt and vacant properties are living reminders of the holocaust that took place in January, 1990.

Former Director General of Police S.P.Vaidya was Additional SP of Budgam when the killings of Pandits took place in 1990. Vaidya told India TV that the then political leadership was responsible for the killings and exodus of Pandits. Vaidya said, the situation had completely changed when Jagmohan took over as Governor. Instead of religious ‘azaan’ chants from loudspeakers in the mosques, threats were being made to Pandits to either convert to Islam or leave the Valley. The mosques were spreading the message of fear instead of love.

Vaidya’s comments are clear. On January 18, 1990 Farooq Abdullah resigned, and that same evening, loudspeakers in mosques started asking Pandits to leave the Valley. Killings and arson began. By next morning, the situation had changed completely, and most of the Pandits had started leaving. Farooq Abdullah should be asked what measures he took to save the Kashmiri Pandits.

Vaidya says, Pakistan had sent the first batch of 70 terrorists to the Valley, the local police arrested several of them, but in 1989, Farooq Abdullah’s government released all of them. This created an atmosphere of terror and common Kashmiri Pandits started living in fear.

I would request the Centre to accept Farooq Abdullah’s suggestion and set up an Inquiry Commission to establish the role of political leaders, administrators and local level politicians in fomenting violence. Once old files are reopened, many questions are bound to be raised.

Leaders like Farooq Abdullah, Saifuddin Soz and Mehbooba Mufti should be given the chance to reply to all allegations. Farooq Abdullah must disclose whether he had received intelligence inputs about the conspiracy to kill Kashmiri Pandits, when he was in power. He must also disclose why terrorists trained and sent by Pakistan were released by police.

Farooq Abdullah should also disclose what was the objective behind enacting the law for sale and purchase of Kashmiri migrants’ properties. Mehbooba Mufti should reply what was the role of her father Late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed when Hindu temples were demolished in 1986, and why as Union Home Minister Mufti ordered the release of five dreaded terrorists during the Rubaiya Sayeed abduction case.

I know Mehbooba Mufti will remain silent on such questions. On Tuesday, she tried to give the entire issue a communal colour. While addressing a party meeting in Samba, Mehbooba Mufti said, “mere making a movie cannot alter truth. Every Kashmiri knows the truth behind whatever happened in the Valley.”

She said, “I have seen violence with my own eyes, we and our family members faced the brunt of violence and now these people have come and are claiming to be telling the truth. Both my paternal and maternal uncles were killed, my sister was killed, 19 Muslims were killed, but nobody is now saying Muslims were also killed. The killing of any human being is tragic, and it should not be made a Hindu-Muslim issue.”

Mehbooba alleged that BJP was trying to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims. She said, Congress might have committed several wrongs in the past during its over 60 years’ rule, but the party deserves credit for not dividing people in the name of religion.

Referring to massacres in Chattisinghpora, Nadimarg, Kishtwar and Surankote, Mehbooba said, “Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were killed due to terrorist violence, and Kashmiri Pandits had to leave the Valley. Even our close relatives were killed but we want the good days to return. But they (BJP) don’t want peace, they want the Hindus and Muslims to fight against each other. They are raising issues like Babar and Aurangzeb, who rules 800 and 500 years ago. What we have to do with Babar and Aurangzeb? These are issues not relevant to our times.”

The killings of Kashmiri Pandits which led to their mass exodus from the Valley is a bitter truth. The truth was sought to be buried for over three decades. The movie ‘The Kashmir Files’ has exposed the causes behind the terrible tragedy that overtook thousands of Kashmiri Pandit families. It was because of this movie that the attention of the nation is now focused on how several lakhs Kashmiri Pandits had to leave their homes, where they have been living for centuries. This tragedy cannot be covered up by injecting Hindu-Muslim colour.

Kashmiri Pandits must get justice, and those accountable for this great tragedy must be brought to book. If Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley have faced injustice, then, too, both Farooq and Mehbooba must answer questions. This is because these two families have been ruling the state for most part during the last five decades.

Farooq and his son Omar Abdullah were part of BJP-led NDA at the Centre, but they did not then question the role of Jagmohan. When Mehbooba Mufti ran the coalition government with BJP for two years, she never alleged that BJP was trying to create more Pakistans.

I still remember, when Parliament was passing the bill to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution, Mehbooba Mufti had warned a few days earlier that “rivers of blood will flow in the Valley, if such a step is taken”. She had then said, “there will not be a single person left who will raise the tricolour in the Valley”. It is comforting to know that river of blood did not flow in the Valley, and Mehbooba is now speaking about raising the tricolour.

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