'Use of the word 'genocide' for Kashmiri Pandits is absolutely wrong.'
The film The Kashmir Files is breaking records at the box office. Even movie superstar Akshay Kumar's Bachchan Pandey fell by the wayside as movie-goers seemed to prefer Director Vivek Agnihotri's pull-no-punches narration of the factors behind the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland.
The Kashmir Files is set in the Kashmir of the early 1990s and shows the grim exodus as it happened -- or, as Agnihotri calls it, genocide of the Kashmiri Pandit community in Kashmir.
The Pandits who left Kashmir did not return to the Valley and Agnihotri's film shows this aspect of the film with all its trauma.
While the ruling establishment from Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi onwards have issued fulsome praise for the film, Agnihotri's cinematic rendition has been criticised by others who feel The Kashmir Files only furthers the communal chasm in Kashmir -- and the country -- by singling out Muslims as the villains when in reality they too were victims.
So what really happened in the Kashmir of the early 1990s?
Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com spoke to A S Dulat, who knows Kashmir better than most observers.
Dulat served as head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India's external intelligence agency, from 1999 to 2000. Before which, during the early 1990s, he was posted as the Kashmir station chief for the Intelligence Bureau, India's domestic intelligence agency. After he retired from RA&W, Dulat served as then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's advisor on Kashmir from 2001 to 2004.
The first of a two-part interview:
After The Kashmir Files released, two narratives have been put forward. One, then governor Jagmohan was responsible for the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits, and two, Islamic terrorists backed by the Pakistan establishment drove the Pandits out of the valley. What is the truth?
It is a complex question.
Kashmiri Pandits at that time were targeted just like other people were targeted.
This began in September 1989 when a Bharatiya Janata Party worker, Tikka Lal Taploo, was killed, and after that there was a killing of Judge Neelkanth Ganjoo on Hari Singh High Street in Kashmir. He was shot dead in broad daylight and his body was lying on the road for a while before it was recovered.
This created panic among the Kashmiri Pandit community and some of them started leaving from that time.
Now, some people blame Jagmohan because he came back as governor in January 1990 when Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had resigned.
These people blame Jagmohan for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, but I don't think this is true.
But there is no doubt that Jagmohan must have felt relieved when Kashmiri Pandits were leaving because when he was governor of J&K earlier (April 1984-July 1989) and when he was re-appointed as governor in 1990, Kashmir had changed very much.
It was not the same place in January 1990. He was himself amazed to see that change (in six months).
He felt relieved by Kashmiri Pandits leaving Kashmir because he knew that if there was a massacre of the community, he would be held responsible.
But then, there was no massacre of Pandits, but there were killings and in that even Farooq Abdullah's party, members of the National Conference were targeted and killed.
When do you think the situation changed so drastically?
I think the situation changed drastically after the kidnapping of the then home minister of India's daughter, Rubaiya Sayeed, on December 8, 1989.
On the other side, one needs to be remember the old history of Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims who have lived together (peacefully for centuries). Those who stayed back, many Muslim neighbours looked after them. Some of them are still there living in Kashmir.
Use of the word 'genocide' for Kashmiri Pandits is absolutely wrong.
But what happened on January 19, 1990 when so many Kashmiri Muslims came out on the roads chanting 'Allah O Akbar' and shouting slogans against Kashmiri Pandits asking them to leave the valley?
What triggered this, and who led the Kashmiri Muslim mobs against the Kashmiri Pandits?
Jagmohan was appointed on January 19, 1990. He came to Jammu the same day. There was a lot of celebration in Jammu that day as they were happy he was re-appointed as governor and had come back to J&K.
At that time the Central Reserve Police Force rounded up a lot of boys in Kashmir to please the new governor. This led to mobs of Kashmiri Muslims coming on the road and chanting slogans as to what is going on in Kashmir?
As a matter of fact, when Jagmohan came to Srinagar on January 21 he was very angry the CRPF had rounded up these Kashmiri Muslim boys. He felt that it was an unnecessary step.
These Kashmiri Muslim boys were rounded up and Jagmohan was very embarrassed. Things then started going from bad to worse.
The other thing is that Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims lived together peacefully for years and I think you need to read more about this in Sheikh Abdullah's autobiography (Aatish-e-Chinar/The Blazing Chinar) where he has devoted a chapter to Kashmiri Pandits.
He says that Pandits have special tehzeeb and he acknowledges that his forefathers were Kashmiri Pandits three to four generations ago.
He also says the builder of modern India, Jawaharlal Nehru, was also a Kashmiri Pandit and so was the poet Allama Iqbal whose forefathers were Kashmiri Pandits.
Sheikh Abdullah has written a lot of good things about the Pandits.
Who rounded up these Kashmiri boys on January 19? Who ordered it?
It is just that Jagmohan came to Jammu on January 19, 1990, and the (same day) the inspector general of Srinagar decided to round up a lot of boys stating that they were militants.
There were no militants, though, among the boys who were rounded up and they were in large numbers. I do not know exactly how many boys were rounded up, but they were in hundreds.
This resulted in the mosques reacting on January 19, 1990, the way they did. It was a terrible night.