‘It’s rubbish’: Why figures revealed in an RTI angered Kashmiri Pandits

Jan 4, 2022 | Kashmir Coverage (General News)

In his quest to unearth some hard facts from official files, a Haryana-based RTI activist has ended up revealing the figures contradicting the quoted casualty numbers of the minority community in Kashmir.

P.P. Kapoor had no hunch that his information hunting would ruffle feathers in the camp resounding with “holocaust and genocide” claims based on some oft-quoted figures.

Given how the present dispensation has made an eco-chamber of the same numbers in different parts of India—especially during political rallies and election campaigning—stirred this RTI activist from Haryana to seek the details.

“I wanted to clear the notion created by the BJP government and RSS leaders about the ‘thousands of Kashmiri Pandits massacred in the valley’,” Kapoor told Free Press Kashmir.

But the RTI ended up revealing a different picture—contradicting the right-wing narrative that Kashmiri Pandits have faced “catastrophe”, “genocide”, and “ethnic cleansing” in the valley.

“The number of Kashmir Pandits who were killed by terrorists attack since inception of militancy in 1990 is 89,” reads an RTI response by the JK Police headquarters Srinagar.

As per the RTI, the number of Muslims killed by militants during the same period is nearly 20 times more than that of Kashmiri Pandits.

The administration of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has put the number people from “other faiths” killed by militants in the past 30 years at 1,635 people.

“Since Kashmir administration has given us this information under the RTI application, we take it as authentic figures,” Kapoor said. “We’ve no reason to challenge these figures unless anyone will come forward with more factual figures.”

Sources say that while the RTI asks for numbers for the whole of valley, the response by the Police department pertains to the figures for Srinagar district. As per figures submitted by the Jammu and Kashmir government in the Assembly in 2010, Pandit killings in all of Jammu and Kashmir were put at 219.

Amids the duality, Sanjay Tickoo of Kashmiri Pandit Sangarsh Samidhi said he’s already working on the “factual” figures.

“It’s rubbish,” Tickoo dismissed Kapoor’s RTI findings about KP killings. “As far as KPs are concerned, the number is in hundreds.”

Tickoo said his body has also sought the same details under RTI based on the FIR lodged in every police station since 1989.

“And the number is far more than the recent RTI,” he said. “We got the reply along with the FIR numbers and name of the persons killed, but we haven’t made it public because we’re still working on it.”

However, Kapoor said that whatever information the government is providing under the RTI act is proved authentic under law “because the government is bound to provide authentic information”.

Interestingly, the RTI was revealed at the time when Kashmir saw a spate of civilian killings including Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and mostly Muslims.

“Rather than investigating the killings and serving justice, it won’t be surprising if tomorrow the government says that no Kashmiri Pandit has been killed,” said Satish Mahaldar, a KP leader.

“It’s very shameful to know that the government has given a wrong report.”

But if the KPs aren’t agreeing with the government figures, said Ali Mohammad Sagar, then they should challenge it.

“Since this telling RTI reply is coming from the government itself, they must brief media and clear that whatever was being said by the authorities on KP killings from time to time was wrong,” Sagar, a veteran leader of National Conference, said.

“They should stop defaming Kashmiri Muslims so that the hatred in the hearts of people outside Kashmir will end.”

It’s true that people outside Kashmir believe that thousands and lakhs of Kashmir Pandits have been killed by Kashmiri Muslims, said Dilawer Mir, an Apni Party leader.

“The narrative is fabricated and exaggerated and this must be stopped,” Mir said. “And for that, we’ve to go with the official version because these figures have been given by the government itself so we can’t challenge the authenticity of this RTI response.”

Meanwhile, Mansha Zeeshan, the DySP (headquarters) whose office replied to the RTI query, did not respond to the repeated calls from Free Press Kashmir.

However, RTI activist Kapoor is quite assured about his work.

“We filed this RTI so that the entire country must know what has actually happened in Kashmir,” Kapoor said.

“The reply has only revealed that Muslims killed in the valley are more in number.”

Bisma Bhat | Free Press Kashmir