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"Settle Us Outside the Valley," Says a Kashmiri Pandit Who Never Left Srinagar

Sanjay Tickoo never left the valley in the 90s, but feels increasingly unsafe in today's Kashmir.

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Video Editor: Harpal Rawat

Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

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"Even today, there's trouble brewing in Kashmir," laments Sanjay Tickoo, sitting inside a heavily-guarded Hindu temple in the heart of Srinagar.

The president of the Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti, Tickoos' is one of the 808 resident Kashmiri Pandit families- community members who braved the targeted killings of 1990s, while nearly three lakhs fled for the fear of their lives.

But why did Tickoo and other Kashmiri Pandit families decide to stay back? that's a question that still haunts him.

"I say this with full consciousness that even today there's trouble brewing in Kashmir. We don't know what the future for Kashmiri Pandits will hold. It will be worst than the exodus of the 90s."
Sanjay Tickoo, President, KPSS.

While Tickoo says that he doesn't know why they stayed back, what he knows for sure is the double-oppression that he faced while remaining in Kashmir.

Tickoo gazes at the Jhelum from a house in Srinagar's Ganpatiyaar.

(Photo: The Quint)

After the majority of Kashmiri Pandits left the valley, Tickoo says that those who stayed back "faced two guns- one from militants and the other from security forces."

All this, in addition to the constant refrain of - "They've remained in Kashmir by joining hand with militants. They are traitors."

The worst day in his life remains the fateful day of the 2003 Nadimarg massacre, when 24 Kashmiri pandits were gunned down by militants at a south

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Why Are We on "The Hitlist?"

When Article 370 was revoked in August 2019, many Kashmiri Pandits - both within and outside the then state - saw a new ray of hope. Yet, Tickoo feels that little has changed since the controversial legislation in terms of their own security.

According to police data reported by The New Indian Express, 74 police and security men and 110 civilians were killed in militancy violence in Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of J&K state into two Union Territories (UTs) by the centre on August 5, 2019, according to police data.

Among the civilians killed was 35-year-old Kashmiri Pandit Rahul Bhat, a revenue official who was shot dead by militants inside a Thesil office in J&K's Badgam district on May 12.

"Why am I and some 20-25 others on the terrorists' hitlist? How does the 3rd person have knowledge of the room in my house I use for smoking? It is just a two-day-old incident."
Sanjay Tickoo, President, KPSS.

Tickoo, who ventures out only with security cover, says he has received multiple threats to his life. Uncertain about what the future may hold for Kashmiri Pandits in the valley, he says that all they want now is the government to settle them anywhere outside Kashmir "where they can die, if not live in peace."

'Riot - Stories of those left behind' is a special series which highlights the futility and aftermath of some of the worst riots in India. You can read the other stories in this series and watch the videos here:

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