The Kashmir Of My Ancestors Has Blood in Its Soil; Peace is a Farfetched Dream

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© Provided by News18 The Kashmir Of My Ancestors Has Blood in Its Soil; Peace is a Farfetched Dream

Thirty-one years ago, my family left Kashmir in a hurry and arrived at Jammu. Sitting in a cramped room, my mother cooked rice in one corner and my father was looking at her in contemplation, smoking his cigarettes. He wanted to return to Kashmir to at least bring back the aluminum truck which had all my mother’s sarees. It was the winter of 1990 – my parents left their ancestral home of five floors with multiple rooms and another half-built house to arrive in an alien town with two small children and a lot of uncertainty.

I was almost two years old when we left the place of our ancestors, forever. ‘Forever’ is a realisation that came much later, for when we left, we left only for few months to return when things will be “normal” again. We left almost naked, to run for our lives and more importantly honour. That was the time when mosques in Valley, brazenly announced on loudspeakers broadcasting slogans like ‘Kashir banawon Pakistan, Bataw varaie, Batneiw saan (We will turn Kashmir into Pakistan along with Kashmiri Pandit women, but without their men folk).’ Prominent Kashmiri Pandits were targeted and killed, some brutally to instill fear psychosis. Our Muslim neighbours, some deeply secular, suggested to us to leave the Valley for some time after judging the situation from close quarters. But most of the local masses carried hysterical and frensied sloganeering, leaving no option for Pandits but to leave overnight in buses and trucks with almost nothing. The word ‘Kashmiriyat’ — coined much later is just to whitewash this ugly truth.

For a common Kashmiri, who was left abandoned to their fate overnight – who had to leave his/her property, way of life, means of earning and a robust social ecosystem to lead a life of poverty, seclusion, homelessness, the intellectual debate means nothing. The talk of Sufism, non-dualistic Shaivism, the bonding of multiple faiths in Valley or Kashmir being a potpourri of religions and cultures is an outsider’s discourse — a view of a tourist or a travel writer. Delhi is far away, as it was 31 years ago. Most opinions and policies made in Delhi are also a reflection of its distance from the ‘source of truth’. It was not the first Hindu exodus from the Valley but the last one as there was hardly anyone left after. A small hardworking and literate community were thrown out of the Valley because of their religion and no other reason. A simple truth with no middle ground or other dimension.

Ancients believed that a person who has to leave his/her place of birth and live in a foreign land is cursed. I grew up without a notion of home, like most KP children of my generation. The only understanding of home I had was through my mother’s stories of her home in Tral where she grew up, the rich mustard fields and almond blossoms. I longed for those through her stories and memories as home became an imaginary construct. We left hope of return gradually, after a while we knew it was ‘forever’. The remaining Pandits slowly migrated in 1989-90, leaving behind countable numbers. A new life from the scratch had to be build, children had to be educated and things had to move on. After three decades, the nostalgia remains but no hope of return.

Article 370 was revoked on August 5, 2019, and political establishment of Kashmir was turned upside down. But with its removal, a hope for some normalcy did return, because of the simple fact that a separatist element was always fuelled by Kashmiri politicians to meet their ends. But recent targeted killings in the Valley of a KP pharmacist, a schoolteacher, a Hindu golgappe wala and a Sikh woman brought back some memories of 1990. The reason was similar — to send a message. The message was received as intended and few Pandits who were in the Valley left for Jammu the next day. Kashmir is homogeneous now; it has a 97% Muslim population. Targeting few countable monitories, living there for economic or sentimental reasons, will not make it less homogenous. Minorities have no political standing and are as harmless as they were decades back when exodus took place. But it is a matter of shame that even now they are targeted and killed.

Today, the return of KPs remains largely a political point, that always scores this way or that. Some governments have used appeasement to an extent that a known terrorist JKLF chief Yasin Malik was given political patronage. Others have just generated a lot of rhetoric to secure vote bank — but nothing really has been done on the ground for return or rehabilitation. Many KPs lived in camps for decades, had nothing but a meagre relief fund to sustain a family. It’s been 31 years now and we are still waiting for justice — it’s almost half a lifetime. The longing for Kashmir has not diminished over the years but everyone knows that today’s Kashmir is not what Pandits have left earlier, it has changed radically.

Kashmir remains more like an idea than a real goal for everyone. It has been like that for many years now.

My father was in his mid-30s when he had to leave his home. Eventually, he reached Kashmir to bring back my mother’s trunk, which had her treasured sarees. But he narrowly escaped an encounter in his own lane – as a neighbour’s adolescent son was carrying a Kalashnikov and made several circles — as if deciding to kill or not to kill. What stopped him from firing a gunshot? Perhaps a bit of humanity left and some not so distant memories. In these moments, it’s always a narrow escape, a shift of mind in an instant can cost a life, break a family, make orphans. Kashmir — the beautiful valley, the land of abundance, the place of my ancestors has blood in its soil and peace seems a farfetched dream, even now as it was decades back.

The writer is a management consultant with Deloitte based out of Gurugram

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.

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