“When I saw Nehru for the first time in Lal Chowk, I was a refugee in my own state. Sixty years later, I am a refugee in my own country.”
This sentence from the book “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” gives a brutal paraphrase of the Kashmiri Pandits’ plight. Rahul Pandita, a Kashmiri Pandit lived the first fourteen years of his life in Kashmir is now a journalist and an author, living in New Delhi. There is a dearth of writing and reporting on what happens in Kashmir and no one is sure about the veracity of news that comes out of there. This book deserves to be widely read to give us a perspective on what the conflict is all about.
This book narrates the plight of the author’s personal journey from a Kashmir whose tranquillity and peace has been broken permanently by fanatics who believe in Kashmir not being a part of India. The narrative is useful to piece together the gradual movement that started with terror on the dawn of independence and has accelerated in a way that it looks impossible to halt the cry for separation. There is enough anecdotal references in the book that date to as recent as 2012, which shows the total dominance of the faith driven populace who do not wish to be labelled as Indians. Unfortunately, this vision also includes the annihilation of people who do not share the faith.
Violence and brutality has been the weapon used by those who seem to think that Kashmir is Pakistan rather than India. Right at the dawn of independence, they started by targeting everyone who did not have allegiance to Islam. Whether it was Sikh, Hindu or Christian it made no difference to those who unleashed violence of the worst kind in the name of Islam. Killing, raping and looting commenced right in 1947. After the first few years, the only Hindus left were the Kashmiri Pandits. The ethnic cleansing by the fanatics continued through and the second and final wave commenced in 1990 which saw the Kashmiri Pandits departing en masse.
The story draws on the author’s life of growing up in an environment that was certainly not friendly, but one which was tinged by a hope that ‘things will revert to normal’. The story captures the people who after being friends and neighbours with you for so long, suddenly turn around and gang up on you. I shudder to think of what the author must have gone through when the first revelation strikes him at a cricket match where the entire audience whips up Pakistani flags and cheer an Indian loss. Perhaps, that is everyday life out there.
The story also tells us about the apathy and in some cases, the complicity of the political rulers as well as the local police and administration in shooing away the ‘infidels’. It surely sets us thinking about whether there is any hope in the future of a Kashmir that will be India. With the passage of time, each incident seems to imply that our enemies across the border are leaving no stone unturned to ensure strife and militancy in Kashmir. The fact that some part of India has to be under curfew for the hanging of someone like Afzal Guru, tells us what the situation in Kashmir now. The author also captures the slow and unhurried life in Kashmir before the rot set in. It is clear that the religious divide is an imported problem.
The loss of home and homestead and then the treatment of the Kashmiri Pandits in ‘refugee’ camps is mind numbing. Here are people who stayed in the lap of nature, in houses with ten, twenty, thirty rooms and are forced in to tin sheds with no running water or sanitation. The writer talks about how even in the rehabilitation efforts, the money has been skimmed off almost entirely by the politicians. After being deprived of a home (the fanatics simply occupied their homes and some of them had the decency to get some signed documents by throwing a pittance as sale price), the Pandits are struggling with absolutely no support from the state or from any of the political bodies that talk about oppression of the Pandits in Kashmir.
It is remarkable that all this suffering and oppression has still not made him bitter or spiteful. He still exudes hope that perhaps one day he could ‘return’ to his home. The section where he describes his visit to his own home as a visitor brings out the irony of the Kashmir that has become a home to the fanatics. In a way, the book is a telling commentary on our rulers and their lack of interest in resolving this problem. A must read for all Indians.
February 11th, 2013