Retired bureaucrat who served in Kashmir in the 1990s

  • Wajahat Habibullah
  • Publish Date: Mar 10 2016 3:45PM
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  • Updated Date: Mar 11 2016 5:56PM
Retired bureaucrat who served in Kashmir in the 1990s

Habibullah witnessed the exodus of the Pandits from close quarters. “In early 1990, slogans started reverberating from the mosques that people who do not support the Kashmir movement should leave. Slogans and selective killings triggered panic among the Pandits and they requested their friends as well as the security forces for vehicles to facilitate their movement.” “The Pandits moving out in the vehicles of security forces created an impression that the government was facilitating their migration from the valley. But the fact is that during that period, administration in Kashmir had broken down and there was no government in place,” he says. “It was after some time that the government discovered that the slogans from mosques were not raised by people; tapes were being played on loudspeakers during the night. But the slogans definitely created a fear psychosis among the people. And not just the Pandits, the slogans led many Muslims owing allegiance to mainstream parties to leave the valley as well. Only the Pandits were not killed. Many people who were working with the government fell to the bullets of the gunmen. The militants were out to terrify everyone.”
Recollecting one incident, Habibullah says, “I was posted in Anantnag and my office-cum-residence was inside the Dak Bungalow. Usually, nobody came to see me as there was no communication between the people and the administration. But one fine evening, a group of people led by the brother of a senior separatist leader appeared outside the Dak Bungalow and told my guards they wanted to meet me. I made them sit in the lawn. The group told me that the Pandits
were leaving the valley and asked why the government wasn’t stopping them. I told them that the government couldn’t stop
them; as Indian citizens, they were free to move to any place. The delegation told me that the Pandits were leaving because the government was planning to finish off the Muslims. I asked, ‘where did you get this information’. They said, ‘we have got secret information about the government planning to carry out mass killings of Muslims’. I told them that the government had no such plan.” “I also told them, ‘why don’t the Muslims form small groups and visit the areas where Pandits live and reassure them that nobody would harm them’. They readily agreed to my suggestion but I told them they would have to take the initiative on their own as the government giving assurances won’t serve any purpose.” Habibullah continues, “After meeting the delegation, I called the governor’s advisor and told him that the people of south Kashmir were planning to reach out to the Pandits. He told me I should inform Governor Jagmohan.” “Accordingly, I called Raj Bhawan and spoke to the governor and suggested that he should appear on TV and make an announcement that the Muslims in south Kashmir have decided to reach out to the Pandits to assure them that no harm would be done to them. He gave me a patient hearing and told me that he would see what could be done. However, he didn’t appear on TV that day and the message couldn’t go out to the people.” “Later, I came to know that when my call had gone to the governor’s house, a prominent Pandit leader had been present there. What transpired between the governor Jagmohan and him I don’t know.” “After a few months, Defence Minister George Fernandes came to the valley and told me to accompany him to Jammu to meet Kashmiri Pandits. He asked me if I could persuade a few Muslims to accompany us as well so that we can persuade the Pandits to return. I told him I could rope in some people and it would be a good beginning but the plan couldn’t work as