It was on this day 15 years ago that Islamic zealots engineered the mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus from the Kashmir valley.
The real tragedy of Kashmir
The night of January 19, 1990 is the darkest night in the history of Kashmiri Hindus.
Throughout that night, the loudspeakers installed over all the mosques in the valley screamed venomous threats against this minority community. Throughout that night, this peace-loving community was threatened to either convert to Islam or leave the valley.
Or get killed.
Back in 1947, when Pakistani raiders with the help of Pakistani forces invaded Kashmir and were inching towards the city of Srinagar, Kashmiri Hindus had faced a similar situation.
In those days, female members of each family were given a pinch of poison that could be used if and when the Pakistani raiders entered their homes. That pinch of poison was their insurance against the evil forces. To ensure death before dishonor.
Daddy, why can't we go to Kashmir?
This was the scenario during that January night as well.
Kashmiri Hindu females were being hidden in the darkest corners of their homes, so that the mercenaries could not locate them. As the night progressed, the clouds of trepidation got darker and darker.
Eventually, with the break of dawn, the Kashmiri Hindus could not take it anymore and had to flee for their lives leaving everything behind: all those shrines where they looked for solace and peace; all those temples of learning where they would gain knowledge and wisdom; all those homes and hearths where their fond memories lived; all those bridges where they spent their evenings appreciating the river Vitasta; all those majestic Chinar trees whose shade would heal their wounds; all those balconies (also known as 'Dub' in Kashmiri) where they would enjoy the sound of rain falling on the tin roofs.
Everything, everything that they loved and cherished.
A letter to the President of India
Fifteen years have passed since that day, but not much has changed for them.
Back then no one came to their rescue. Even today no one even bats an eyelash for them.
Back then Kashmiri Hindus were pawns in this game of chess over Kashmir. They remain the same today.
These days, the state of Jammu and Kashmir is holding a civic election after 27 years. And guess what? Not one of the 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus from the valley appear on any electoral rolls for the election.
When would you say Enough is enough?
In a flash, the fundamental right to vote has been taken away from all 400,000 Kashmiri Hindus. Why? Because they don't live in the valley anymore!
And why don't they live in the valley anymore? Need I explain it again?
While these Kashmiri Hindus are losing their fundamental rights, politicians from all the parties are already out there exploiting the situation for their own self-interests.
J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and his PDP cohorts are arguing that since these Kashmiri Hindus do not live in the valley, they cannot be on the valley electoral rolls. As per their argument, these nomads should be on the electoral rolls in the places they are living ie, in Jammu, Udhampur etc.
Mr PM, please walk the talk
Mufti's Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma from his coalition partner, the Congress-I is demanding an ordinance from the state governor to put these Kashmiri Hindus back on the electoral rolls in the valley. The BJP too wants these refugees back on the valley's electoral rolls.
Some want them out of valley; some want them out of Jammu.
Some want them on the electoral rolls; some want them off the electoral rolls.
Indians have lost our pride
While this melee between various political parties is on, no one is listening to the affected party, the Kashmiri Hindus. No one is concerned about what Kashmiri Hindus want. It is revolting to see how one so easily loses the constitutional right to vote in a democratic country like India.
Where are Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch now? Are they too busy sipping their scotch in some penthouse in Manhattan, New York?
Shame on them!
It is reprehensible to see how our politicians alter their colors like chameleons.
When these politicians are in the power structure, they behave in a certain way and ignore the just demands of people who have been wronged. And when they lose and have to settle for the Opposition benches, they tend to play the 'I am your saviour' game.
Just a few days ago, former deputy prime minister and home minister L K Advani met Kashmiri Hindus to observe Kashmiri Hindu Holocaust day.
In his address to the delegates he said: 'I admit that the NDA government could not do much to address the issue of Kashmiri Pandits. The coalition had several constraints. The BJP could have been able to achieve more on the issue while in power than now.'
Cricket Diplomacy and Ceasefires
However, he said, 'I assure the community that the Opposition and the BJP, in particular, will raise the issue within and outside Parliament. We will impress upon the UPA government the exigency of the issue and leave no stone unturned to get justice for the community. The ethnic cleansing of the community in its homeland is unfortunate and the world must know about the issue.'
This is ludicrous at best and wretched at worst.
Are we supposed to trust Mr Advani now? If he did not do anything while he was in power, why should we trust him that he would be able to do anything now? Who is he trying to sell these cookies? These cookies have already crumbled.
It is beyond belief to see how politicians convert everything down to the common denominator of votes. Even humanistic conditions do not mean anything to these unscrupulous politicians.
Here is a chance for the UPA government to make amends and show to the rest of the world that it truly believes in fairness towards all the communities.
I challenge them to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the reasons behind the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus from the valley, find those who are responsible for this horrendous act and convict them as per the law of the land.
If Laloo Prasad Yadav can reopen the Godhra investigation by appointing an investigative commission headed by Justice U C Banerjee, why can't Home Minister Shivraj Patil appoint an inquiry commission to look into the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus?
Will the UPA government take up the challenge?
Is anyone in the UPA government listening? Is anyone listening? Anyone?
Lalit Koul is the publisher and editor of Kashmir Herald (http://www.kashmirherald.com) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org