Anaahat Naad

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Posts Tagged ‘Homeland

Book Review: Our Moon Has Blood Clots

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Rahul Pandita’s book Our Moon Has Blood Clots: The Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits narrates the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir valley. It is the account of an ethnic community that was forced to leave home and hearth behind and take refuge in an unknown land. The book describes the ethnic cleansing of Pandits from Kashmir at the behest of Islamic extremists/terrorists.

Our Moon Has Blood Clots

Our Moon Has Blood Clots is a memoir of Rahul Pandita who was fourteen years old when he had to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family. The book brings forth the untold story of Kashmiri Pandits who became refugees in their own country. The book begins with author’s initial days in Srinagar and life in Kashmir. Then it describes the changes in aura of the valley ─ India-West Indies international cricket match in 1983 where the crowd cheered for Pakistan and Indian players faced severe harassment; the chants of ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ on streets when Pakistan defeated India at Sharjah in the final of Austral-Asia Cup in 1986; the threats to Kashmiri Pandits via notices, pamphlets, mosque loudspeakers, street processions.
The changed scenario subsequently led to selective killing of Kashmiri Pandits, rapes of innocent Pandit women and resulted in the displacement of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. Rahul Pandita’s book also touches upon the 1947 tribal raid in Kashmir in the voice of his maternal uncle. The author’s maternal grandfather along with his family had to leave Baramulla due to the tribal raid.

The book debunks the lies regarding the exodus of Pandits. The most widespread untruth is that the exodus of Pandits was a ploy by Government of India through Jagmohan, then the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, to defame the so-called freedom struggle (which is nothing but a struggle for an Islamic state). The author gives the horrendous account of murders of some Kashmiri Pandits by the militants in 1990s. The book also nails the lie that those Kashmiri Pandits who stayed back in the valley (and didn’t leave) were not harmed. In this regard, he met Vinod Dhar who is the lone survivor of 1998 Wandhama massacre in which 23 Kashmiri Pandits were brutally killed.

Rahul Pandita’s memoir makes the reader feel the pain and suffering which Kashmiri Pandits have been through. It evokes anger at the failure of the Indian state in protecting its own people. Pandita’s book tells of the betrayal by the majority community of Kashmir (i.e. Kashmiri Muslims) who were so enamoured with ‘azadi’ that they chose to support gun culture over the people (i.e. Kashmiri Pandits).

Though Rahul Pandita visited Kashmir regularly as a journalist, it was only in September 2007 that he managed a visit to his ‘home’ along with his two journalist friends and found that it was not the same anymore. It was a house built with the provident fund savings of his father and the bridal jewellery of his mother. The author feels helpless when he finds someone else living in his house and he has to seek permission to enter it.

The book tries to break the silence in the socio-political discourse over the ethnic cleansing and exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. In the discourse regarding Kashmir conflict, the high-handedness of Indian state and the alleged human rights abuses by Indian security forces are debated but not what happened to Kashmiri Pandits. As the author rightly says, it has become unfashionable to speak about the issue of Kashmiri Pandit refugees. Rahul Pandita’s book sets right the narrative in this context.

I had a lump in my throat while reading the book. There are heartbreaking passages in the book where I could not control my tears. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is not the story of Rahul Pandita alone but the story of every single Kashmiri Pandit who encountered terror in Kashmir. It is the story of the innocent people who were raped, killed and assaulted by terrorists leading to their tragic exodus. It is noteworthy that despite all odds, the Kashmiri Pandit community never espoused violent methods for their struggle for reclamation of their ancestral homeland.

Rahul Pandita describes the pain and agony of Kashmiri Pandits in a very lucid manner without mincing words. Pandita’s book is an extremely poignant account of Hindus of Kashmir who are still living in exile in their own country. The book is a must read for those who don’t know what happened to minority community of Kashmir valley and also for those who continue to be in denial about the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.

(Originally published in Niti Central and The Pioneer)

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Written by Varad Sharma

February 24, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Memories of a home beyond that tunnel

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Last month, I visited my home-state Jammu and Kashmir to see my folks. Accompanied by my father, I was meeting an uncle of mine after some two years. In the plethora of things we talked about we also spoke about ‘home’. It is quite natural for the exiles to talk, discuss and share views about the ‘home’. Not a long time back we lived together in one big house in Kashmir. When the family grew larger, my uncle and his family moved out and built another house behind ours. It was in a village in Anantnag district in the Valley.

Meanwhile, my aunt served us pinkish salty tea — Scheer Chai. My uncle and my father were conversing about the good old times — the life, the neighbours, the alleys, the school, the college, the fields and the fishing in Lidder. Listening to them I realised that I have missed the life in Kashmir.

My uncle had been to Kashmir some months ago and had taken a few photographs of our houses — the ones we used to live in. We observed it very keenly for some minutes. Silence followed. Thanks to my uncle we saw our ‘home’ after 22 long years.

The silence was broken by a flurry of questions — What about the land we owned, the alleys, the fields, the stream from Lidder. We were told that some land seems to be encroached upon.

Even after leaving my uncle’s place my mind was buzzing with thoughts and questions about the life in Kashmir, the militancy, the exodus of Pandits, etc. It was the home where I celebrated my first Diwali with young Muslim brethren. That was the home where my forefathers lived.

A little over two decades have taken a toll on our house. All the wood that was part of the house has disappeared and today it looks like a dilapidated three-storey structure. After pondering over the picture, I thought — had our neighbours been so caring and loving, they would have maintained the sanctity of my home.

From my father’s expressions I could gather that the photograph brought back memories. After all, an exile possesses only memories; memories of home, homeland, and the life in homeland. We are left with memories of a home that lies beyond that tunnel. As much as we yearn for our home, the home would also be longing for its people. It was the same home where elders of my family once lived. That home stood witness to the good and not so good events in our family. That photograph was more than a photograph — a story is implicit in it.

Likewise, there are thousands of such houses — abandoned, looted, encroached, ruined — in the Valley and its people living in exile.

We were saddened to see that picture but there will be time when the house will again be full of its people to whom it belongs; there will be time when the place will again be bustling. It was once home and it will be home one day.

There is hardly a day without conversation about the ‘home’. Kashmiri poet Dina Nath ‘Nadim’ fills one with hope of return — Mei Chham Aash Pagahuch, Pagaah Sholi Duniyah (I have hope for tomorrow, tomorrow the world will glisten).

(Originally published in The New Indian Express)

Written by Varad Sharma

March 15, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Reversal of Exodus: Separate Homeland

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Homeland is one’s native place. Homeland is a place which belongs to a person or an individual or an ethnic community. In broader sense, Homeland means land which is home to a particular community.

 I dedicate the lines of famous Kashmiri Poet, Dina Nath ‘Nadim’ to my homeland –

Yi  Chhu Son Watan Nundbon Watan,           
Lachchi Vuhur Chhu Lachchi Phiri Zamut Nov,       
Path Gomut Beyi Bronth Amut Nov,  
Navi Ayi Pakan Gatshi Pron Watan, 
Yi Chhu Son Watan Nundbon Watan.

(This is our homeland, our beautiful homeland. Our million year old ancient homeland; our homeland has been born anew a million times. It has lagged behind and then again forged ahead. It is like real gold tested on touchstone of time. Our old homeland shall march forward with new gusto.)

Kashmiri Hindus called as Kashmiri Pandits are the original aborigines of Kashmir valley. Kashmiri Pandits existed in Kashmir from the time when civilization started in valley. Kashmiri Pandits have history of 5000 years. Various historical texts/books mention about the presence of Pandits in the valley; the oldest one is ‘Nilamat Purana’. In other words, community of Kashmiri Pandits is 5000 year old and will continue to exist as long as there is life on earth, as long as human beings exist on this planet.

The advent of Islam in Kashmir around 14th century brought a paradigm shift in socio-political, and religious system. They started to spread their religion in the valley by forcing its inhabitants to convert. And the population of Hindus in the valley continued to decrease and they became minorities in their own land where they used to be in majority. But somehow Kashmiri Pandit managed to preserve his religion, culture as well as tradition. Kashmiri Hindus have migrated several times from the valley due to Islamic fundamentalism. There are seven exoduses of Pandits till date. The seventh one (1989-1990) happened in today’s world of democracy, liberalism, secularism, universal brotherhood.

Around half a million Pandits migrated from valley due to terrorism by fundamentalists. Pandits left valley because there was attack on their culture, tradition, religion. Above all, Kashmiri Pandits left valley because there was attack on their existence. Thousands of them were killed in valley during gloomy years of nineties and many lost their lives in exile due to post-exodus trauma which affected the ethnic community of Kashmiri Pandits. And that trauma, especially among elder ones, is still there and will remain until Pandits return.

Kashmir is the idea of ‘home’ among younger generations of Pandits who were born during the period of exodus as well as post-exodus. Twenty years has been passed since this genocide of Hindus in Kashmir. It’s a blot on Indian Secularism and Indian State as well that Kashmiri Pandits are out of home from past 20 years.

Why Homeland? Many talk about ‘Kashmiriyat’ (Kashmiriyat is term coined by historical pundits describing socio-cultural harmony between Hindus and Muslims that existed somewhere in historical period). But in present times it is just a term, actually a misnomer. Whatever brotherhood that existed between Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir, that brotherhood died in 1989-1990 with the chanting of slogans like “Yahan Kya Chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa”, “Azaadi Ka Matlab Kya- La Ilah Lil Allah”.

Though most in the majority community want an independent Kashmir but there are saner voices who are truly secular and do not support the movement. But such saner voices are curbed. The ongoing unrest is clear cut example of communal movement in valley. And it brings forth the communal design which is forcing Kashmiri Pandits to demand a separate homeland.

Where homeland? Kashmiri Pandits want separate homeland to North and East of Jhelum River with a status of Union Territory where there is free flow of Indian Constitution without any fetters of Article 370. A separate homeland where there is no fear of attack on distinct culture, tradition and religion of Kashmiri Pandits.

Homeland is my birth-right and I shall have it. I will return to my homeland; to my Panun Kashmir.

Written by Varad Sharma

October 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm