Congress veteran Saifuddin Soz’s book Kashmir: Glimpses of History and the Story of Struggle has created ripples days before its release with controversial opinions on Kashmir. In the book, Soz has backed former Pakistani dictator Pervez Musharraf’s claim that “independence” was the first choice of Kashmiris and called upon the Centre to hold dialogue with the Hurriyat.
The book has been published by Rupa Publications. Here are some excerpts from the book reproduced with permission:
I had set a difficult task for myself to get to know the real cause of the exodus of Pandits as I had felt enormously dismayed on the exodus as that situation had really impaired the spirit of Kashmiriyat. I started first questioning people who held extreme views on the subject. There were those who held Governor Jagmohan responsible for the exodus. Some people said Pandits left on their own because of the frightening situation in the Valley. Such people naturally emphasized how sponsored armed militancy destroyed peace and ruined communal harmony. A few said Kashmiri Muslims did nothing to prevent the Pandit exodus, although many felt the majority community was itself scared and it was impossible for them to stop the exodus.
Nothing seemed to be under control and there was chaos everywhere in the 1990s.
Numerous sources offered credible evidence to assert that the mass exodus had occurred because Governor Jagmohan, who had been appointed on 19 January 1990 for the second time, thought it prudent to organize the exodus for two reasons: one, that way alone Pandits would feel safe and secure and further sectarian killings would be stopped; second, he would be able to deal with the situation better where stringent laws to curb militancy were already in force and these laws could not be used freely on a mixed population. Many believed this approach was not ethically sound and he had faltered. Some people suspected that he had been sent to Kashmir to teach the Muslims a lesson. In fact, Jagmohan’s dispensation was greatly flawed because of his perception on things, particularly, for the fact that he treated the crisis in Kashmir, broadly as a law and order situation created by members of the majority community. It was the design of the dispensation from the time he was appointed in January 1990 till he was removed in May the same year. He had thought that his strong methods would work and he would be able to restore peace within a short time. Even after his removal, a situation of chaos remained on the ground which got deepened by the day and more lethal laws like the AFSPA (enacted on 6 July 1990) had to be imposed.
These acts, particularly the AFSPA gave a lot of power to the armed forces to open fire, set fire to houses, make arrests and take any action against those who might render assistance to militants.
But the fact remains that the exodus was an orchestrated event and somebody in authority had put in a sizable effort in executing it.
There is evidence that the transport was provided in a planned manner to Pandit families in particular localities and the police department was fully involved in organizing the exodus.
There is overwhelming evidence that Jagmohan was squarely responsible for organizing the exodus of Pandits, which some people allegedly described as his effort to organize the safe passage of Pandits to Jammu and elsewhere.
A couple of Jagmohan’s associates shared with me the fact that Jagmohan had a great unease in his mind regarding the mistreatment of Pandits in Kashmir and he would often describe, in confidence, the condition in his mind as an inspiration from Guru Teg Bahadur, whom he held in highest esteem.
Jagmohan’s article ‘Kashmir in Sikh History’ published in the Hindustan Times on 24 December 1995 creates a clear impression that he was following the spirit of Guru Teg Bahadur’s concern for Kashmir.
There is no doubt that Jagmohan had a sectarian angle on Kashmir and, unfortunately, this condition remained on his mind all the time. In his article ‘Breaking Kashmir Impasse’, Times of India dated 6 August 1992, Praful Bidwai said, ‘The bulk of Kashmiris have been seriously alienated from India after the brutal turning point of January, 1990. The policy of encouraging the Pandits to leave the Valley widely attributed to Mr Jagmohan and fundamentalist attacks upon them embittered inter-community relations and led to painful migration.’
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Among a host of letters from Kashmiri Pandit leaders who had become refugees in Jammu, a comprehensive letter written by K.L. Kaul from Nagrota camp appeared in newspapers in Srinagar in which he had held the communal elements, particularly Jagmohan, responsible for the Pandit exodus, which he had also described as a very unfortunate event in the history of Kashmir.
A senior Kashmir police officer Israr Khan, who retired very recently, has given clinching evidence of J&K Police Department having been pressed into service by the Raj Bhawan to organize the Pandit exodus in the early months of 1990. Kashmir Life, published from Srinagar, in its issue of 22 to 28 October 2017 carried a comprehensive interview with Israr Khan who said on record that in April 1990 when he was sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) at Kothibagh Police Station, Srinagar (the hub of police activity those days), he was summoned to the Raj Bhavan where Jagmohan’s principal secretary and SSP Srinagar Allah Baksh asked Khan to ensure the smooth transit of buses carrying the Pandits to Jammu and render all assistance to them. Jagmohan himself directed him, ‘Loading shoding mein madad karna aur koi attack shatak nahi hone deyna (Help the people move their belongings and see that they are not attacked).’