08 Apr Girija Tickoo: The Kashmiri Pundit Wiped Off From Mainstream Narrative
What happened to her?
On 4th June 1990, an unsuspecting Girija Kumari Tickoo left Jammu for Bandipora, as instructed by an ex-colleague. The colleague told her that she needs to collect her salary for the job she held at a school in the town. He also said to her that she would be safe at his house in Bandipora, which was dangerously close to her previous home in the valley. He assured her that the violence in the valley was slowly dying out.
Girija Kumari Tickoo was a Kashmiri pundit in her mid-20s. She had a husband, two young kids, and an ailing mother, back home. There isn’t much information about the events that unfolded. We still do not know if that call was harmless, or forced, or a deliberate attempt to lure a young woman to a devastating fate.
When Girija Tickoo’s body was found on 25th June, it was clear that she had been repeatedly gang-raped and tortured. Her body was cut into half and thrown on the side of a street.
Girija was left unnamed, unrecognized for years. No newspaper reported the incident; no condemnation took place. There were no arrests, no protests.
The first mention of her gut-wrenching story is found in Salman Khurshid’s book, “Beyond Terrorism- A New Hope for Kashmir.” He writes, “Girija Tickoo of Bandipora worked as a laboratory assistant at the Girls High School in Trehgam, Kupwara. She was abducted in June 1990 gang-raped for several days and then shredded into pieces on a bar and sawmill.”
Further investigations yielded some facts. On 4th June, when Mrs. Tickoo left for Bandipora, some insurgents followed her. They abducted her from her colleague’s house in broad daylight. No one, apart from some family members of her colleague, tried to stop them. The Muslims of Kashmir has stopped working to prevent the genocide and exodus of Kashmiri pundits long back. This incident was no different. Some accounts mention that Tickoo being a Kafir, some witnesses went to the extent of saying that she deserved it.
She was brutally raped
Four militants than proceeded to rape and torture her. Girija had recognized one of the militants by his voice. It became a cause of panic, and they decided to maul her with a carpenter’s saw. With an ordinary carpenter’s saw, they cut her body in half when she was very much alive.
For years, Girija Tickoo remained only a casualty and a statistic. Along with Sarala Bhat, a nurse who met the same fate, she remained in records as one of the 22 war-rape victims who were also brutally killed.
Situations in Jammu & Kashmir after this incident
Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir was not sudden. However, July 1989 can mark the beginning of one of the most brutal violations of human rights. India’s Home Minister, Mufti Sayeed had agreed to release several Kashmiri militants in exchange for his kidnapped daughter. The valley that day had celebrated the homecoming of its sons. On 14th September, the militants took peace activist Tika Lal Taploo out of his out and assassinated him. The following events led to the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pundits out of the valley. While some of them settled in other parts of Kashmir, many were forced to migrate southwards. The few thousand left behind were either too poor to migrate or were protected by some good neighbors.
The real horror began in January 1990, when each Pundit household received a pamphlet to vacate the valley if they survive the night. Girija’s family was one of them.
More than 4,000 people are either dead or missing with no consensus on their fates. The indifference goes to such extent that international media does not even recognize the movement as ethnic cleansing. The Indian government has tried- and failed to relocate the Pundits back on their land. Kashmir has no peace. The Indian Army too led a long fight against the militants, in the process of which, it sometimes became the same devil that it was supposed to fight. It fought the first-generation militants, and then their children who grew up not knowing what their fathers had done.
In 2017, the Supreme dismissed a petition to reopen the cases of atrocity in Kashmir during Insurgency and punish the perpetrators. They stated that the events are old and collecting evidence is not feasible anymore. However, the war never stopped. Pundits, other Hindus, and Sikhs found refuge in various states of India. They were immensely helped by Balasaheb Thackrey of Maharashtra who welcomed them with open arms. As of 2016, there were 62,000 registered migrant families. The real number of displaced people would be much more.
What Kashmiri Pandits want?
Kashmiri migrants now get a 2% reservation in Government-sponsored seats. However, jobs are for the young. The older migrants only ask for the right to die in their homeland. While efforts of rehabilitation have failed each time so far, the present government has promised to remove article 35A and section 370 that give autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir.
The move might lead to another violent struggle, but we can hope for an era of peace once it ends.