A Kashmiri-born Canada-based lawyer has said Kashmiri Pandits have existed in Jammu and Kashmir much before the Muslims had arrived and they are the "real sons of the soil".
Barrister Hamid Bashani, who hails from Rawalakot in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, said the Pandits were terrorised and forced to migrate during the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, and again in the late 1980s' when militancy was as its peak.
"It is obvious that Pandits left Kashmir due to fear, as they were terrorised and a sense of fear was created inside their minds. Pandits are the real sons of the soil, as they were present there even before the Muslims had arrived and they also had contributed a lot towards development, including the education system," Hamid said during an interaction on Rawal TV.
He added, "In our village in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), there was only one teacher who was a Brahmin. He taught all students living in that area. This thing was common in other villages as well. They were deep-rooted to the place. During the partition, they had to run due to the fear that was present at the time. It was not just the fear, but actually there were incidents of attacks."
Historically, Kashmiri Pandits have a history spanning over 5000 years.
In 1947, the Pandits made up about six per cent of the Kashmir Valley's population. By 1950, their population declined as they moved to other parts of India.
Following the insurgency in the 1980s, a great majority of Pandits felt threatened and left the Kashmir Valley.
Hamid said, "There is still proof of places where they (Pandits) were burned enmasse in their homes. In the 1980s, during the time of militancy, there was a repeat of such incidents. Being in a minority, they had to move to safer places. When you put the whole society in a position where they have to decide that if they are Indian or Pakistani, which in other words meant that you decide that are you a Hindu or Muslim - Which is a disgusting question to be asked in the 21st century."
He decried the demand for freedom of Kashmir and said the state has a history of religious harmony.
"If you see the history of Kashmir, you will see that it has always had a mixed population. The state was ruled by the Dogras for 100 years until 1947. The last King was Maharaja Hari Singh and first King was Maharaja Gulab Singh. No matter what violations or conflicts arise in the state, people still lived together there. Before that, the region was with Muslims or the people from foreign places Kashmir's population was in harmony. They never had any religiously motivated conflicts. Now, whoever is demanding `freedom' needs to be fundamentally checked", said Barrister Hamid. (ANI)