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9/14 -- we shall never forget

September 14, 2012 15:58 IST

This September 14, we pledge that one day we will be back in our homeland, with our heads held high and honour in tact. We will reverse our exodus but only at our own terms and at a time of our choosing. That will be the most appropriate homage to our martyrs, says Lalit Koul

Long before 9/11, there was 9/14.

Long before 26/11, there was 9/14.

Long before 7/11, there was 9/14.

Yes, 9/14 in the fall of 1989 -- the day when the first shot of Kashmiri Hindus' ethnic cleansing was fired in the vale of Kashmir.

Kashmiri Hindus, the minority community in Kashmir, lost their tallest leader Pandit Tika Lal Taploo to the bullets of Islamic terrorists that fateful day. Pt Taploo was not killed because he was a political leader. He was not killed because he was the Bharatiya Janata Party's vice president in Kashmir. He was killed because he was a proud Indian -- proud of his ancestry, proud of his service to the nation and, most importantly, proud of his nationalism. He was brutally killed in broad daylight because he was a Hindu and a spanner in the wheels of Islamic terrorism whose only agenda was establishing Nizam-e-Mustafa in Kashmir.

Twenty-three years ago to this day, Islamic terrorists openly declared their agenda of Kashmiri Hindus' ethnic cleansing. It started with the late Pt Taploo but didn't end there. The selective and targeted brutal killings of Hindu minority folks continued for months on. Barbaric killers were on the rampage. No one was spared. Young, old, men, women, children -- all were targeted and killed. Women folk were raped before being killed.

The brutal nature of these killings vividly displayed the bestiality of the terrorists. There can be no two opinions about the motives behind these horrific killings. It was simply to create a fear psychosis in the minds of minority community so that they would run for their lives and leave Kashmir exclusively to the Islamists. And leave they did. After months of ethnic cleansing, this forsaken community was finally hounded out of its homeland in 1990.

Half a million Kashmiri Hindus left their homes and hearths back in the valley and literally ran for their lives. Families after families boarded whatever transportation they could get and overnight left the valley. A majority of these half-a-million refugees left in the middle of dark nights with just the pair of clothes they had on -- leaving behind their roots, heritage and ancestry. All they could and did carry with them was their honour and self-respect. After India's partition in 1947, this has been the largest involuntary displacement of people in India.

Today, while we observe September 14 as Martyrs Day and pay homage to all those innocent souls who were brutally killed by the Islamic terrorists, we also pledge that one day we will be back in our homeland, with our heads held high and honour in tact. We will reverse our exodus but only at our own terms and at a time of our choosing. That will be the most appropriate homage to our martyrs.

It has been 23 long years since this community has been in exile but its spirits have not died down. In spite of the horrendous living conditions in refugee camps in Jammu and elsewhere, this community has survived, and survived successfully. Along with its honour and self-respect, one additional key thing this community carried with itself was education. This community would sleep hungry but will never compromise on the education of its young ones. And it was this education that served it well during its toughest last two decades. All these refugee families, even when eight-10 people lived in one-room tenements, always kept education as their top priority.

Today, after 23 long years in exile, its youngest generation is making waves in all spheres of life. They have succeeded in whatever field they have gone into. Be it media, IT, business, medicine, scientific research, hospitality, they have succeeded in all. They have made their parents, who started their lives from scratch 23 years ago, very very proud.

But being professionally successful has not dampened their resolve to reclaim their homeland. Homeland will be reclaimed, and reclaimed in such a manner that there will not be another exodus and another ethnic cleansing of this community ever again. It might take time but it will happen.

If not today, definitely tomorrow!

Lalit Koul