Jammu, Jan 19: It has been 26 years since the Kashmiri Pandits living in Jammu and Kashmir faced one of their worst nightmares. January 19, 1990, changed everything for them.
On that day, mosques issued declarations that the Kashmiri Pandits were kafirs. The males in particular were given a directive, 'either convert, leave or get killed'. That sermon changed everything.
There were sermons issued to identify the homes of Kashmiri Pandits, so that they could either be converted or killed. Scores of Kashmiri Pandits left in large numbers. There have been varying figures on the number of them who had left.
An estimated figure suggests that over 1,00,000 Pandits left their homes. Not much has changed today. Although there have been several calls made for the Pandits to return to their homes, many fear doing do as the Valley still remains unstable.
Some statistics indicate that as of October 2015, only one family had returned to the Valley. In 2016, it was reported that a total of 1,800 youth returned to the valley after a Rs 1,168 crore package was announced in 2008.
For many the situation has not changed much. The government continues to report threats to Kashmiri Pandits from terrorist groups. Several families continue to live in abject conditions at refugee camps in Jammu.
Recently, the Hizbul Mujahideen had put out a video calling up the Pandits to return to the valley. "We have nothing against you," Burhan Wani the slain commander of the outfit had said in a video. However, the Pandits find it hard to believe and ask if it is some sort of a joke.
If looked into carefully, Wani's statement suggest that the Pandits must return home and not be part of a colony which the government is trying to set up. Most of the Kashmiri Pandits had sold their homes at throw away prices before leaving the Valley.
The prices have gone up three times in the past 26 years. Even if they wish to return, their homes and lands do not exist as they have been purchased or sold multiple times in the past.