The Fourth Exodus (1753)
After the Mughal regime, Kashmir was ruled by the Afghans from 1753-1819. This time was another unjust period of cruelty, homicide, and anarchy for Kashmiri Pandits. Physical torture in the most ruthless fashion, forced conversions to Islam, exorbitant taxes, unchecked harassment and shameless molestation of women folk; more than what they faced under Mughal regime. The Afghans even sent Kashmiri people to Afghanistan as slaves and were the reason Kashmir’s shawl industry shrunk in size by placing extreme taxes on the region’s famous shawl weavers.
Mir Muqim and Ihsk Asqi, the first few Aghan rulers, collaborated to bring hell-fire down onto the Kashmiri population. These rulers did not differentiate between poor and rich, they attacked any Hindu they could find. During this time, several Afghan governors were in power; Chief Minister Fazal Kanth beheaded Kailash Dhar, a Kashmiri Pandit, in broad daylight in the open court of the Governor Amir Khan Jawansher. After this, Kashmiri Pandits were killed relentlessly. This episode so alarmed and panicked the KPs that they felt helpless and desperate. Mir Hazar, another Afghan governor, used leather bags instead of grass sacks for the drowning of Brahmans, showcasing the complete inhumanity towards Kashmiri Pandits during this time. Moreover, to keep Kashmiris from practicing their Hindu faith, there were strict laws forbidding the usage of tilak, forcing men to grow beards, and more.
What is interesting to note about this exodus was that Muslims were targeted as well. The Afghan rulers were dominantly Shia practicing Muslims. The common Muslim sect in Kashmir were the Sunnis. Muslims in Kashmir were forced to pay their prayers in accordance to the Shia doctrines. If they did not, they would be killed with iron rods, and beaten to death.
To save their lives while preserving their Hindu faith, the Kashmiri Pandits fled their homes; they fled the land of their ancestors once again. There was a mass exodus to far away places like Delhi, Allahabad, Poonch, etc. for safety and shelter. Many covered the long distances on foot. Over the course of the sixty seven year rule of the Afghans, the Kashmiri Pandits had to flee Kashmir a total of four times.
The Kashmiri Pandits then approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who invaded and captured Kashmir to start the Sikh reign over Kashmir shortly afterwards. The capture of Kashmir by Sikhs marked the deliverance of the KPs from the barbarous Afghan governors. It was the first time in 400 years the Kashmiri Pandits saw peace.
Several sources were used to write this article: (some portions were taken directly from the original source)