Kashmiri Hindu Exodus #3

by SAHF Team

The Third Exodus of the Kashmiri Hindus occurred under the Mughal Rule (1585-1753).

Initially, under the rule of Akbar, Kashmiri Hindus regained their dignity as the he repealed the many taxes and fines previously imposed by the vicious Chak rulers.

Aurangzeb starkly differed from his predecessors after ascending the throne of Dehli in 1658. He wanted to Islamicise the entirety of the Indian subcontinent using his violent methods of religious persecution. Aurangzeb had destroyed Hindu centres of learning and temples, imposed strict Islamic laws, and reintroduced taxes (such as the Jizyah) on non-Muslims. In order to build an Islamic state, he felt the necessity to uproot the Hindu scholarly class.

As Kashmir was a hub for Hindu learning, he targeted the Kashmiri Pundits by appointing many villainous governors, such as Iftekhar Khan. During his rule of five years of torture, Kashmiri Pundits were forced to either convert or leave Kashmir. Thousands of Kashmiri Pundits left Kashmir, and settled in Dehli. They settled in a particular region, ‘Bazar Sitaram’.

Around 500 Kashmiri Hindus, let by Pandit Kripa Ram, approached the eighth Sikh Guru at the time, Teg Bahadur at ‘Anandpur Sahib’, in Makhowal, Punjab. They went with the hope to be alleviated by the oppression enforced by Iftekhar Khan. They narrated the atrocities they faced, including the ban of the tilak on the forehead and the wearing of the sacred thread, along with sexual abuse and forced abductions of Hindu women.

Hearing the plight of Kashmiri Hindus, Guru Tegh Bahadur decided to confront the Mughals directly. He embarked on a journey to Dehli, after anointing his son – Guru Gobind Singh – as the next Sikh Guru. He was arrested by Mughal officials in Rupanagar, Punjab, and was kept under arrest for four months in the nearby region of Sarhind.

Aurangzeb invited the Guru from his captivity to Dehli on a pretext, but he was instead asked to accept Islam, instead of the Sikh religion. To demonstrate his divinity, Aurangzeb requested him to display a miracle. However, he flatly refused and was put under compulsion to convert to Islam. Unwilling to change his religion, he refused. Guru Teg Bahadur had vowed to defend and protect the Kashmiri Hindus, and so he did not give into conversion nor did he attempt to escape. Along with him, three of his followers were subjected to immense torture. ‘Bhai Mati Das’ was hacked to pieces, ‘Bhai Dayal Das’ was tortured in a cauldron of boiling water, and Bhai Sati Das was burned alive. Guru Tegh Bahadur himself was bound to a cage, forced to witness the inhumane suffering inflicted on his friends.

On 24th November 1675, Guru Teg Bahadur was ordered to be executed in Delhi, by the orders of the Aurangzeb. He was beheaded by the executioner ‘Jalal-ud-din Jalad’ in Chandni Chowk (a market square close to the Red Fort), in public. The Guru became a martyr for the defence and protection of the Kashmiri Hindus. Aurangzeb was taken aback by this martyrdom, and the commencement of the fall of the Mughal empire has begun.

Despite the martyrdom of Guru Teg Bahadur, the destruction of temples, brutal torture and killings of the Kashmiri Pundits continued under the reign of Aurangzeb. The continual exodus of Kashmiri Hindus into other regions of the Indian subcontinent occurred. Kashmiri Pundits also had to change their profession to adapt to these different regions. For example, Zutshis and Shangloos, after facing tremendous struggles, settled in the Gangetic plain and over a period of generations had changed into Pehlvis (poets) and Topawallas.

Sources: ‘Shri Guru Granth Prakash’ ‘Shri Guru Pratap Suraj’, J. S. Grewal (1998). The Sikhs of the Punjab. Cambridge University Press. pp. 71–73. ISBN 978-0-521-63764-0., Pashaura Singh (2014). Louis E. Fenech (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Sikh Studies. Oxford University Press. pp. 236–238. ISBN 978-0-19-100411-7.

Chandra, Satish. “Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom”. The Hindu. Retrieved 20 October 2016.

H.R. Gupta. History of the Sikhs: The Sikh Gurus, 1469-1708. 1. ISBN 9788121502764.

Main source: Bachittar Natak – by his son, Guru Gobind Singh

Gandhi, Surjit (2007). History of Sikh gurus retold. Atlantic Publishers. pp. 653–91. ISBN 978-81-269-0858-5.

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