A file photograph of Kashmiri Pandits
A file photograph of Kashmiri Pandits
PTI File Photo

Congress leader Salman Nizami late Tuesday stirred some controversy when he claimed that the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the state was a game plan by the BJP to polarize India.

“Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits was BJP's game plan - to polarise India. The community was made a scapegoat. BJP was in alliance with VP Singh Govt. The main characters were played by Advani, Vajpaee, Mufti & Jagmohan. This is harsh reality!” he tweeted.

His remarks drew a lot of criticism, as people from the state took to Twitter to slam him. One Twitter user Rajiv Pandit, a US-based doctor, replied, “I’m a Kashmiri Pandit. My relatives were murdered, survived assasination attempts, & fled when they heard thousands chanting slogans like “Kashmir mai agar rehna hai, Allah ho Akbar kehna hai.” No that wasn’t the BJP, you fool. They were terrorists fighting Pakistan’s proxy war.”

This is how other people responded to Nizami's tweet

Arguments between the Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are never-ending. When this author was in college, there were two classmates: a Kashmiri Pandit and a Kashmiri Muslim. Neither would talk with each other, until it was a discussion about the politics in the state. While the Muslim would argue that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir was ‘as normal as it could be’, the Pandit would argue about the way ‘her family was thrown out of their home. This was in 2003.

Interestingly, Nizami isn’t the first person to blame the BJP for its role in the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in a 2014 article published in Firstpost said, “the exodus of Pandits from Kashmir took place under Jagmohan, who was appointed governor by the central government which was supported by BJP.”

There are of course two views here. The Kashmir Muslims believe that when Jagmohan had been appointed Governor after Governor’s rule had been established in the state, he had encouraged Pandits to leave the valley and gave a communal colour to what was ‘until then a non-religious cause in the state’, as the Indian Express reported earlier this year marking 30 years of the Pandit exodus.

The Hindus, however, feel that the Muslims, with whom they had lived amicably with for centuries, drove them out with vengeance.

Experts who have reported and tried to understand the gravitas for the past three decades feel that the truth may be somewhere in the middle.

The problem, however, goes back way before that when the Rajiv Gandhi government turned its back on Farooq Abdullah and made Ghulam Mohammed Shah the state chief minister. Then the opening of the Babri Masjid to enable Hindus to pray there also played a factor, as many temples began getting demolished in Kashmir. This was followed by the killing of the Valley’s BJP leader Tika Lal Taploo, journalist-lawyer Prem Nath, and Neel Kanth Ganjoo, a retired judge who had sentenced terrorist Maqbool Bhat to death. These deaths created a ripple of panic amongst the Pandits and they began leaving the state.

When Narendra Modi assured them that they would be given back their homes in the run-up to the 2014 General Elections, the pandits were ecstatic. However, before the 2019 General Elections, the Kashmiri Pandits felt that the Modi government had 'failed them', according to this India Today report. With the government taking away Article 70 within the first three months of assuming power in 2019, the Pandits ideally would be going back on that statement, but a Quint article published in May 2020 shows that the Pandits are still not satisfied.

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