With the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir was again subjected to a wave of terrorist activity. In January 2021, a 70-year-old Punjabi man got domicile, and was then almost immediately shot dead by terrorists. In July, the Jammu and Kashmir government began to plan for the return of Kashmiri Hindu Pandits who were forced to flee Kashmir in 1990. In September, the Taliban vowed to “raise its voice for Kashmir Muslims,” which translated to several attacks the following month on not only the Indian military, but also innocent minority Hindu and Sikh civilians including a street vendor, pharmacist, teacher, and a school principal. A teacher who witnessed the killing of the teacher and principal in Srinigar described the way that Hindus and Sikhs were singled about by the terrorists: 

“The pistol-wielding men came into the school this morning and asked for the identity cards of the teachers and later fired at two teachers, one each from the minority Sikh and Hindu community.”

Several Muslim migrant workers from other Indian states were also killed in attempts to target Hindus and Sikhs.

Despite this surge in violence, overall conditions and the civil rights of residents in the Union Territory have significantly improved since the central government abrogated Articles 370 ad 35A of the constitution in 2019.


Kashmir had historically been inhabited by Hindus and Buddhists and had a majority Hindu population until the 14th century when Islamic invaders entered the region.  Ancient Kashmir was renowned as a center for Hindu and Buddhist learning and was ruled by Hindu kings until 1339. Hindus indigenous to the Kashmir Valley, known as Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, are the original inhabitants of Kashmir and have a unique ethno-religious culture that dates back more than 5,000 years. (Kak, 1993)

Following waves of Islamic invasions, numerous foreign origin Muslim rulers occupied Kashmir until 1819. Under Muslim rule, Hindus faced periods of persecution resulting in several mass migrations from Kashmir. (Kak, 1993) Sikhs gained control over the region in 1819 and ruled Kashmir until 1846, followed by the Hindu Dogra (an ethnic group native to the Jammu region in the state) reign from 1846 to 1947. (Kak, 1993) 

Kashmir’s Accession to India

The Princely State of Kashmir, which was ruled by the Dogra king Hari Singh at the time of partition in 1947, joined the Indian Union after Pakistan’s armed forces orchestrated an invasion of Kashmir using Pashtun tribesmen and regular military personnel. The invading tribal militia committed mass atrocities against the people of Kashmir, including massacres of Muslims and Hindus, and the capture of non-Muslim women. (Khan, 2017) Thousands of Hindus and Sikhs were forced to flee POK while thousands more were killed. On November 25, 1947, over 20,000 Hindus and Sikhs were slaughtered by the invading tribal militia and Pakistani army in the city of Mirpur in what became known as the Mirpur Massacre. (Chaudhary, 2013; Sarkar, 2016) Violence was also carried out by Sikhs and Hindus against Muslims during this time in Jammu. (Sarkar, 2016) 

There are no Hindus remaining in POK due to killings and forced conversions — though it is still home to ancient Hindu sacred sites, such as Sharda Peeth, one of the three holiest pilgrimage sites for Kashmiri Hindus.

Following the Pakistani offensive, Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession formalizing Kashmir’s legal accession to India. (Haqqani, 2003) The accession was also approved by the largest and most popular Kashmiri political party, the All Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah.  Once Kashmir legally joined India, Indian forces were deployed to stop the advancing Pakistani military, leading to a full-scale war between the two countries. (Haqqani, 2003)  

Following the intervention of the Indian military and with Pakistan forces in retreat, India was prompted by Lord Atlee, the prime minister of UK, to take the case of the aggression by Pakistan in Kashmir to the United Nations, and in April 1948, India then sought the intervention of the United Nations. (Sazawal, 2021) The UN Security Council passed Resolution 47 which required Pakistan to first withdraw all its military personnel and tribesmen from the state as a necessary precondition to holding a plebiscite. (Subbiah, 2004) In August 1948, however, the UN Commission on India and Pakistan (UNCIP) found that Pakistan had instead increased its military presence in Kashmir. (Subbiah, 2004)

After a ceasefire in January 1949, Pakistan remained in control of approximately one-third of the state while the remaining two-thirds were incorporated into India under Article 370 of India’s Constitution, which along with Article 35A defined residential and property rights, granted a special status to the state.  Specifically, it restricted the Indian Parliament’s legislative power over Jammu and Kashmir to defense, foreign affairs, and communications, and it also placed a restriction on people moving from other parts of India to the state. (Fotedar et al., 2002) 

Subsequently, local elections were held in Indian Kashmir in 1951, in which the Muslim led National Conference won a resounding victory. And in 1956, the Jammu and Kashmir Constituent Assembly voted to approve the merger of Kashmir with India via the Instrument of Accession. (Ganguly, 1998)

China then took control over 16,500 sq. miles of Kashmir by occupying Indian territory during the 1962 Indo-China War and through a boundary agreement with Pakistan in 1963.

Ethnic Cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits

Starting in 1984, political leaders in the state, such as Ghulam Mohammad Shah, began inciting Muslims, claiming that Islam was in danger. This led to violent riots targeting Kashmiri Hindus in South Kashmir and Sopore, where Hindus were killed, and several temples and properties were destroyed. Subsequent anti-Hindu riots in Anantnag in 1986 resulted in the destruction of several Kashmiri Hindu homes and properties and the flight of many Hindu families out of the Valley. (EurAsian Times, 2017)

The anti-Hindu violence culminated in the events of 1989-1990, when more than 350,000 (some estimates say up to 500,000) Kashmiri Hindu Pandits (95% of the Valley’s Hindu population) were ethnically cleansed from the Valley by Muslim extremists. The forced displacement was accompanied by a campaign of violence and destruction in the Valley. (Ramachandran, 2020; Rao, 2019, ) Kashmiri Pandit groups estimate that since 1989, nearly 105 educational institutions run by Kashmiri Hindus have been burned down or destroyed, hundreds of temples and religious sites damaged or demolished, 14,430 businesses and shops destroyed, and more than 20,000 Kashmiri Hindu homes destroyed, looted, or occupied. (Kashmir News Network, n.d.) 

Selective killings, aimed at intimidating the community and forcing them to leave, led to the murder of over 1,100 Kashmiri Pandits, according to Pandit groups. (Kashmir News Network, n.d.) While India’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) stopped short of calling the cleansing of Kashmiri Hindus a genocide, they observed that the crimes amounted to near genocide.  (Sharma, 2014)

According to official statistics from the state government, 208 Hindu temples have been destroyed or damaged since the start of the violence in 1989.  Other estimates assert that the numbers are much higher. A recent survey of Hindu shrines in Kashmir found that 347 Hindu religious sites were destroyed or damaged, while another organization asserts that 550 temples were destroyed or damaged. (Ashiq, 2012; State Times, 2015) 


The violent campaign targeting Hindus in Kashmir was organized and systematic, and included massacres, rape, threats, and intimidation.  Public announcements were placed in newspapers, sermons made in mosques, and posters hung on houses ordering all Kashmiri Hindus to leave the Valley, threatening violence if they did not and calling on Muslims to take up jihad against non-Muslims. (Gill, 2003; Gupta, 2005; Tikoo, 2012) Letters were sent to Pandit homes stating, ‘We order you to leave Kashmir immediately, otherwise your children will be harmed — we are not scaring you but this land is only for Muslims, and is the land of Allah. Sikhs and Hindus cannot stay here.’ The threatening note ended with a warning, ‘If you do not obey, we will start with your children. Kashmir Liberation, Zindabad.’” (Tikoo, 2012)

Similarly, according to American journalist Hillary Brenhouse, Kashmiri Pandits became easy targets for Islamist militants, and “[a]nti-Hindu rhetoric was broadcast at weekly prayers, [while] dozens were murdered.” (Brenhouse, 2013) A common threat to Hindus broadcast from the mosques was “Ralive, tsalive, ya galive” (convert to Islam, leave, or die). (Tikoo, 2012)

In addition, mobs of tens of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims took to the streets chanting slogans, including death to Kafirs (non-Muslims or non-believers), and Kashmir banawon Pakistan, Bataw varaie, Batneiw saan” (“We will turn Kashmir into Pakistan, with Kashmiri Hindu women, but without their men”). (Gigoo & Sharma, 2015) Similarly, armed members of militant groups marched publicly to intimidate the Pandit community. (Brenhouse, 2013) Noted journalist Rahul Pandita asserted that along with Islamists, many ordinary Kashmiri Muslims participated in the ethnic cleansing of the Pandits.  (Raina, 2013)

One elderly Kashmiri Hindu recounted, “Our people were killed. I saw a girl tortured with cigarette butts. Another man had his eyes pulled out and his body hung on a tree. The armed separatists used a chainsaw to cut our bodies into pieces…” (Sharma, n.d.) 

In order to accommodate the large numbers of Hindus fleeing the Valley, the Indian government set up semi-permanent camps for the displaced in Jammu and New Delhi. (Thelwell, 2020) Despite being forcibly displaced from the Kashmir Valley, Kashmiri Pandits continue to be labeled as “migrants” by the Indian government, instead of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The term “migrant” is problematic as it implies that Hindus left Kashmir of their own volition rather than being forced to flee due to violence, threats, and intimidation.

Pakistan’s Proxy War in Kashmir

Starting in 1989, Islamic terrorism, funded and supported by Pakistan’s military and powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, engulfed the Kashmir Valley. Although the violence initially targeted Kashmiri Hindus in the Valley, Pakistan sponsored Islamic militants expanded their operations to attack Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim civilians throughout the state, in violation of UN Covenants governing terrorism. (University of Minnesota Human Rights Library, 2001, 2002)  

According to South Asia scholar and former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Husain Haqqani, the ISI supported jihad in Kashmir as an instrument of state policy and the violence was “rooted in the ideology of Pakistani Islamists, carefully nurtured for decades by the Pakistani military.” (Haqqani, 2005) Pakistan sponsored terror groups active in Kashmir, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizb-ul Mujahideen (HM) (militant wing of the Islamist organisation Jamaat-e-Islami) and JeM, have been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the U.S. State Department, and enjoy links with the broader terror network in South Asia, including the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. (CISAC, n.d.; CIA, n.d.; U.S. Department of State, n.d.) 

LeT gained international notoriety for carrying out the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, and JeM has been responsible for several high-profile attacks, including an attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001, the kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, and the Pulwama suicide bombing in 2019. Following the Pulwama attack, India launched retaliatory airstrikes on a JeM terror camp in Pakistan, (Arqam & Miglani, 2019) and the UN Security Council designated JeM founder Masood Azhar as an international terrorist. (UN Security Council, 2019) Notably, the suicide bomber made a video prior to his attack, making anti-Hindu statements, including referring to Hindus as “cow urine drinkers” and exorting Muslims to make Hindus bow to Islam. (Sharma, 2019) The flags of groups such as JeM are often prominently displayed at protests in Kashmir. (Swami, 2019)

The Pakistan sponsored insurgency included plans to complete a “communal cleansing” of Kashmir by attacking non-Muslim indigenous Kashmiris, in order to change the demographics and create a minority free Kashmir. (Haqqani, 2005) Between 1988 and 2003, for instance, approximately 1,490 Hindus were killed across the state (including Kashmiri Pandits and other Hindu civilians), although some estimate that the numbers are much higher. (SATP, 2003) Moreover, there were several subsequent attacks and massacres of Hindus throughout the state. The abduction and rape of both Hindu and Muslim women was also a common tactic used by terrorist groups during the early years of militancy. (SATP, 2004) Nearly 15,000 civilians have been killed in militant related violence in Kashmir. (SATP, 2019)

Militant violence reached its peak in 2001, and then drastically declined in subsequent years, leading to an upsurge in tourism, which brought an estimated 1.5 million tourists to Kashmir in 2012 alone. At the same time, support for the insurgency started waning, as voter participation in panchayat (village councils) and statewide elections significantly increased. Many former militants were rehabilitated and reintegrated into society, with some entering politics, such as Farooq Ahmed Dar, known as Bitta Karate or the “Butcher of Pandits”. (Hassan, 2006; SATP, 2012; SATP, 2019) Throughout the period, Pakistan continued to foment violence in the state and launch cross-border attacks. 

In 2016, unrest in the Kashmir Valley was sparked by the death of HM commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in a gunbattle with Indian security forces. Over 11,000 people were injured (7,000 civilians and 4,000 security personnel) and 82 people killed in clashes between protesters, led by separatist groups, and Indian security forces. (PTI, September 19, 2016; Tribune India, 2016) 

During the unrest, rampaging mobs also attacked Kashmiri Hindu migrant camps in six cities in the Valley: Vessu, Mattan, Nutnasu, Baramulla, Haal, and Sheikhpora. At the Haal camp, Muslim villagers surrounded the camp from three sides and continuously threw heavy stones, while attempting to break into the camp. Along with the targeted attacks, public threats and posters also appeared warning Pandits to leave the Valley or “face death”. These incidents caused significant fear amongst the Pandits in the Valley and led 1,600 Pandits employed by the government to flee for the safety of Jammu and refuse to return. (Hakhoo, 2016; PTI, 2016; Rashid, 2016) 

In addition to direct involvement in the militancy, Pakistan has actively waged a propaganda war on the Kashmir issue in an attempt to manipulate U.S. and international policy makers. The executive director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, for instance, was convicted of engaging in illegal lobbying activities on behalf of Pakistan’s ISI and served two years in prison. He was also sought by the Indian government for his connection to militancy in the state. (ul-Hassan, 2012) Fai is active once again in promoting Kashmiri separatism and providing moral support and justification for Islamist terrorism, consistent with Pakistan’s agenda. 

Furthermore, following the abrogation of Article 370, a number of new groups appeared, such as Stand With Kashmir, launching sophisticated social media and lobbying campaigns in the U.S. that normalized violence, terrorism, and Islamist radicalism. Stand With Kashmir reportedly has links with JeI affiliate, Islamic Circle of North America, and has spoken in support of terrorists from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, amongst others. (Lee, 2020)

Status of Human Rights, 2021

Abrogation of Article 370 and 35A

Despite recent attacks, overall conditions and civil  rights continue to improve in the Union Territory after the Indian central government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of India’s Constitution, temporary provisions that conferred special status on the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in 2019. (PTI, 2019) The move sought to better integrate the residents of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh into the rest of India, ensuring that they enjoy equal protection under the law and all the rights afforded to other Indian citizens, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, or social class, and have access to better educational and economic opportunities. It is also expected to address long standing corruption by local political parties and bureaucrats, and create a stable security environment and conditions for the rehabilitation and resettlement of fleeing Kashmiri Hindus, thousands of whom still live in squalid refugee camps after being ethnically cleansed from the Kashmir Valley in 1989-1990.

At the same time, Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two new Union Territories (UT): one for Jammu and Kashmir, and one for Ladakh. Religious and political leaders in Ladakh had long called for separate UT status for Ladakh and complained of being socially and economically marginalized by state policies that favored the Kashmir Valley. (Pillalamarri, 2019)

The abrogation and bifurcation came shortly on the heels of the largest terror attack in Kashmir in years, when a suicide bomber from the Pakistan sponsored terror group, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), killed 44 Indian security officers in the Kashmir town of Pulwama on February 14, 2019, leading to heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. (Centre for Policy Research, 2019)

After the Pulwama attack, the Pakistani military and ISI continued to sponsor cross-border terrorism in Indian Kashmir through the remainder of 2019 and 2020. The number of attacks and casualties went down after August 2019 and continued to remain low in 2020, though there were a number of targeted killings of both Hindus and Muslims. (SATP, 2021)

Beyond Pakistan’s subversive activities in Indian Jammu and Kashmir, it has suppressed basic rights in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), placing legal restrictions on political rights and freedom of expression by banning parties that do not explicitly endorse Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. Similarly, government employees are required to express their support for accession. In response to oppression and human rights violations by the Pakistani state, mass protests against the Pakistani military and central government increased towards the end of 2020 and continued into 2021. (Times Now News, 2020; News Intervention Bureau, 2021)

Post-Abrogation Conditions

Given the credible threats posed by separatist and terrorist groups in the Kashmir Valley following the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, the Indian government imposed communications blackouts to prevent widespread violence and the loss of innocent civilian life. The blackouts were lifted soon thereafter.

Furthermore, a number of separatist politicians and other political leaders were put in preventative custody or house arrest to prevent them from instigating violence as they had in the past, including in 2016.  Most who were placed under house arrest have since been released, and subsequent investigations revealed that they were not interrogated, tortured, or mistreated in any way, and were allowed to meet with their families. (Pandya, 2021)

During the blackouts, most public institutions remained open.  Access to them, however, was difficult, if not impossible, as a result of threats of violence and curfews imposed by terrorist organizations such as LeT and JeM. These groups also attacked shopkeepers and apple traders for refusing to comply with their imposed shutdowns, including a truck driver who was beaten by a mob before being killed execution style (Bukhari, 2019; Yasir & Gettleman, 2019)

Residents in Jammu and Ladakh were overwhelmingly happy with the abrogation of Article 370, while there were mixed feelings amongst the population in the Kashmir Valley. For the people of Ladakh, the removal of Article 370 and reorganization of the state fulfilled a long-held demand for separate Union Territory status, due to social, economic, and political marginalization. (Handa, 2019) In 2018, the Ladakh Autonomous Development Hill Council, representing Buddhists, Shia Muslims, and Hindus in the districts of Leh and Kargil, unanimously passed a resolution demanding “complete autonomy from Kashmir’s administrative setup.” (Iqbal, 2018) 

While some Kashmiris were upset by the abrogation, many accepted it and were focused on moving forward with the hope of improved governance, accountability, economic development, and a robust political process. (Pandya, 2021) In addition, the move has been widely welcomed and brought increased legal rights for Kashmiri Hindus and other disenfranchised groups, such as Dalits from the Valmiki community (10,000 people)  and refugees from West Pakistan (approximately 20,000 families), who sought refuge in Jammu in 1947. (Majid, 2020; Pandit, 2019) By September 2020, domicile certificates were issued to 11,398 refugees from West Pakistan, 415 members of the Valmiki community, and 12,340 registered Kashmiri Pandit IDPs. (Hussain, 2020)

Soon after the abrogation, local elections were held in the former state. In late 2019, Local Block Development Council elections in Jammu, Kashmir, Leh, and Ladakh saw high voter turnout rates (Hassan, 2019), while District Development Council elections successfully concluded in Jammu and Kashmir on December 22, 2020. (PTI, 2020) Refugees from West Pakistan along with the Valmiki community, were allowed to vote for the first time in the district elections. (Majid, 2020)

Extremism/Terrorist Violence

Security forces in Kashmir were alarmed to discover that of the 40 students that went to study in Pakistan or Bangladesh from 2015 to 2019, 70% had come back as terrorists. Additionally, 100 Kashmiri youth have gone to Pakistan on short-term visas and remain unaccounted for. The spread of Wahhabi ideology facilitated by local political parties – National Conference and People’s Democractic Party – as well as Pakistani forces, has undermined the traditional Sufi form of Islam practiced in Kashmir. It has also led to attempts to impose edicts and rules that suppress free speech, women’s rights, and minority rights. Saudi Wahhabi funded groups have tried to segregate men and women and end coed education, restrict the use of social media, and shut down movie theaters and music programs. (Sazawal, 2012) Moreover, JeI, a transnational radical Islamist organization and ideological and recruiting base for HM, has increased its power and influence in the Kashmir Valley in recent years through its local branch JeI (J-K). JeI (J-K)’s influence has led to an increase in recruitment of local Kashmiri Muslim youth in the ranks of HM and other terror groups. (Pandya, 2021) It was recently banned by the Government of India for its support of HM, its connection to the United Jihad Council in Pakistan, and incitement of violence and attempt to create an Islamic State in Kashmir. (PTI, September 2, 2019)

At the same time, terrorist violence has declined since 2018 with a significant drop following the abrogation of Article 370. There were 452 fatalities in 205 terror incidents in 2018, and only 283 fatalities in 135 incidents in 2019, many of which resulted from the Pulwama attack. As a result, 72 companies (or units) of the Central Armed Police Forces were withdrawn from Jammu & Kashmir on December 23, 2019. Fatalities continued to remain low in 2020 with only 140 incidents. (SATP, 2021)

2021 saw a slight increase in terrorist activity with the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Specifically, there were 153 incidents and 274 total fatalities. (SATP, 2022) Numerous Hindus and other vulnerable individuals were targeted and killed by terrorists throughout Kashmir: 

  • February 2021: Akash Mehra, the 25-year-old son of Krishna Dhaba owner Ramesh Mehra, was fatally shot by terrorists at the Srinagar eatery. 
  • June 2021: June saw a spate of 6 terrorist attacks in the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. At the beginning of the month, three unidentified militants shot and killed Municipal Councilor of Tral, Rakesh Pandita, when he was visiting a friend in the Southern Kashmiri town of Tral. Another woman, the daughter of the friend Pandita was visiting, was also injured in the gunfire. That same week, at least seven people were injured in a grenade attack by suspected terrorists at a bus stand in Tral in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. On June 12th, two policemen and two civilians were killed, and one police officer and four civilians were injured in a militant attack on a police party at the main chowk of Sopore in the Baramulla district of Kashmir. Police Inspector, Parvez Ahmad Dar, was shot and killed in a militant attack in the Nowgam area of Srinagar on June 22nd. He was shot in front of the local mosque while going for prayer. Shortly afterward on June 25th, militants lobbed a hand grenade towards the Bijbehara Police Station in the Anantnag District of Jammu and Kashmir. At the end of the month, terrorists attacked an Indian air base with a drone in Kashmir, injuring two people. This drone attack was the first of its kind in India.
  • August 2021: BJP leader Javed Ahmad Dar was shot and killed by militants in the Brazloo area in the Kulgam District of Jammu and Kashmir. Militants shot the leader in point blank range outside his home.
  • October 2021: Minority Hindus and Sikhs were targeted and killed by extremist forces in at least four separate incidents. Hindu street vendor Arvind Kumar Sah and prominent Hindu pharmacist Makhan Lal Bindroo were both shot dead while at work. Hindu teacher Deepak Chand and Sikh principal Supinder Kaur were dragged out of their school and shot on site. The killing of Virender Paswan, another Hindu street vendor, was claimed by ISIS. In an attempt to curb this dramatic increase in terrorist activity, police detained hundreds of suspected terrorists for questioning. Thirteen suspected militants are reported to have been killed by the Indian military, while hundreds of Hindus were said to have fled Kashmir after a week of targeted killings, giving the impression that Kashmir was returning to the time of the 1990 Kashmiri Hindu exodus. 
  • December 2021: A police bus was ambushed by terrorists near Zewan in the Pantha Chowk area of Sringar.

Temples, religious sites, and pilgrimages have also been the frequent targets of terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir. In March and November 2002, there were high profile attacks on the Ragunath Hindu temple in Jammu, each time killing at least ten people. (Waldman, 2002) Similarly, between 2000 and 2017, there were a series of terrorist attacks on Hindu pilgrims visiting Amarnath shrine in the Kashmir Valley that killed at least 64 people and injured more than 110. There have been several additional threats on Amarnath, as recently as August 2019. (Deccan Herald, 2019)

In addition, those Pandits that returned to the Valley under rehabilitation plans in the past few years have been unable to live openly and practice their religion freely without harassment and threats by extremists. Migrant transitional camps, for instance, have been repeatedly pelted with stones, particularly during Hindu religious festivals, according to Kashmiri Pandit sources. These transitional camps had been set up for the approximately 2,000 Pandits that returned to the Valley under a government rehabilitation plan. Many of the Pandits that returned under the previous government plan live in “ghetto-like camps” under constant police protection and rarely leave the camps. (Pandita, 2013) According to information received from Kashmiri Pandit groups, at least seven Kashmir Hindus (mostly women) have converted to Islam after accepting employment packages to return to Kashmir.

Although violence and terror attacks have significantly gone down following the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, extremist forces have terrorized the Hindu community to deter Hindus from returning to Kashmir through targeted killings.

Current Conditions Facing Displaced Pandits

There are 62,000 total displaced Kashmiri families (the vast majority of whom are Pandits, with small numbers of Sikhs and Muslims), of which 40,000 are in Jammu; 20,000 in Delhi, and 2,000 in other parts of the country. (Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, 2016)

Along with their physical displacement, the Kashmiri Pandits and refugees from PoK were systematically disenfranchised and prevented from voting. Access to voting has recently been expanded for displaced Pandits. (Daily Excelsior, 2014) Additionally, the Pandits lost all rights to the properties they left behind when they fled the Valley. And in spite of the recent abrogation of Article 370 and increased rights for Kashmiri Pandits, recovering their lost properties will prove difficult.

Although the central government has provided financial assistance, as well as educational and employment quotas to the displaced Pandits, they still face several challenges, including inhumane camp conditions and difficulty in finding employment opportunities. These camps are overcrowded and lack adequate facilities and basic necessities. (Thelwell, 2020) There is no regular supply of clean drinking water, a shortage of medicine, and poor sanitation. As a result of the substandard conditions, many Kashmiri Pandits have serious health problems, including high incidence of disease, psychological traumas, stress-related problems, and a high death rate. (Thelwell, 2020) 

A 2014 study examining the socio-economic conditions facing displaced Pandits in both camp (Nagrota) and non-camp (Durga Nagar) areas of Jammu district found that 79 percent of the households interviewed endured some type of health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and jaundice.  And specifically in the Nagrota camp, 83 percent of those surveyed faced health issues. (Raj et al., 2014) Moreover, the study indicated that adult camp residents lack employment opportunities, while the children face difficulties accessing schools. (Raj et al., 2014) 

In addition to Pandits from the Valley, thousands of Hindus from remote mountainous villages in Jammu have been displaced by Islamist violence and forced to live in miserable conditions in overcrowded camps near larger cities. 

Pandit leaders have traditionally been wary of rehabilitation plans as they have failed to adequately involve community members in discussions on resettlement and they remain skeptical of the government’s ability to protect Hindus upon their return. This is due in part to the ongoing threats from terrorist groups and the fear and insecurity Pandits who returned to the Valley continue to face. At the same time, many Kashmiri Pandits have applied for 2,000 open government jobs allocated for them under a government rehabilitation package. (Swarajya, 2021)

Conclusion and Recommendations

More than 30 years after Pakistani sponsored militants launched a violent terrorist movement in the Kashmir Valley, the security and safety of ordinary Kashmiris remains a concern. While there has been a drastic decline in militant violence following the abrogation of Article 370, as long as the Pakistani military is unwilling to give up its policy of utilizing terror groups to foment violence in Indian Kashmir, violence will continue in the state for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, Kashmiri Pandits, thousands of whom continue to live in decrepit refugee camps, are optimistic about the future, but remain concerned about security and integration if they return to the Kashmir Valley. 

Whether living in camps or elsewhere in the state, the Pandits and other Hindus, Sikhs, and Buddhists face economic, political, and social marginalization. Additionally, many Hindu shrines and temples in the Valley remain unprotected, many of which have been illegally encroached upon or have fallen into disrepair. 

Consequently, HAF offers the following recommendations for the Government of India and the international community.

Recommendations to the Government of India

  1. The government of India should officially recognize Kashmiri Pandits as Internally Displaced Persons to acknowledge their historical experience and provide them with their rights and protections under international law.
  2. The government of India should improve basic conditions for Pandits living in camps in Jammu and New Delhi.
  3. In order to facilitate the return of those members of the indigenous Hindu population of Kashmir who wish to resettle, a task force or advisory council should be established under the auspices of the Ministry of Home Affairs, to develop plans for surveys of displaced and diasporic members of the community, needs assessment, feasibility studies, exploration of legal remedies, and any other necessary steps to ensure a clear pathway to a safe, secure, dignified, and sustainable return to the Valley. This body would bring together inter-departmental representatives, subject matter experts, and key stakeholders both in India and abroad to advise and help in the development of a comprehensive plan to repatriate and reintegrate Kashmiri Pandits to the region.
  4. The Jammu and Kashmir state government must provide for the protection of vulnerable Hindu shrines and allow Kashmiri Pandits to control their religious sites in the Valley. It must further provide full protection and accommodation to Hindu pilgrims visiting shrines in the state.
  5. The Government of India has instituted a new Domicile Law to update the state subject rules in the territory of Jammu and Kashmir. However, in the process it has disfranchised Kashmiri Pandits living abroad who possess the previously issued official state subject certificates as these are no longer valid. The Government of India should provide new Domicile Certificates to all those who possess the official state subject certificates or were eligible as state subjects in Jammu and Kashmir before the new law became effective.

Recommendations to the International Community

The Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been an integral part of India from time immemorial, and has continued to be so since its formal accession into the Indian union after decolonization in 1947. The United Nations has been ineffective in resolving the crisis in Kashmir that arose from Pakistan’s invasion of Jammu and Kashmir a few months after the territory acceded to India. Thus, the international community should: 

  1. Support the Government of India’s actions in support of the people and Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as these actions further human rights and religious freedom. The Government of India has begun to take steps to support Kashmiri Hindu Pandits who were forced to flee Kashmir during the 1989-1990 ethnic cleansing. By lending support for the Government of India, the international community, including the U.S. can further encourage the rehabilitation of Kashmiri Hindus, quell terrorism in the region, and support the civil rights of all Kashmiris.
  2. Pakistan continues to fund a covert proxy war to create chaos and mayhem in Kashmir. U.S. policy makers and the international community must exert economic and diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to end its use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, leveraging the large amount of financial assistance provided to the country.


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Indian Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir

The former Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two Union Territories in 2019: Jammu and Kashmir (16,309 square miles) and Ladakh (22,836 square miles). China occupies an additional 16,500 sq. miles, while Pakistan occupies 30,159 sq. miles.

Jammu and Kashmir: 12,267,013; Ladakh: 274,289. Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (including Gilgit-Baltistan) has an estimated population of 6 million people.

Jammu and Kashmir: Muslim (67.5%);
Hindus (29.6%), Other (2.9%).
Ladakh: Muslim (46.4%)
Buddhist (39.76%)
Hindu (12.1%)
Other (1.74%).
Many displaced Hindus and Sikhs from Kashmir live in other parts of India and there are no Hindus left in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Kashmiri, Urdu, Gojri, Dadri, Dogri, Pahari, Balti, Ladakhi, Punjabi

Northern India, bordered by Pakistan on the west and China on the east.