Tag Archive for 'Kashmiri Pandits'

Left with no choice

A chilling account of the circumstances under which a Kashmiri Pandit family was forced out of the Valley. Excerpts from Rahul Pandita’s latest book, Our Moon Has Blood Clots, in Open:

19 January 1990 was a very cold day despite the sun’s weak attempts to emerge from behind dark clouds. In the afternoon, I played cricket with some boys from my neighbourhood. All of us wore thick sweaters and pherans. I would always remove my pheran and place it on the fence in the kitchen garden. After playing, I would wear it before entering the house to escape my mother’s wrath. She’d worry that I’d catch a cold. “The neighbours will think that I am incapable of taking care of my children,” she would say in exasperation.

We had an early dinner that evening and, since there was no electricity, we couldn’t watch television. Father heard the evening news bulletin on the radio as usual, and just as we were going to sleep, the electricity returned.

I am in a deep slumber. I can hear strange noises. Fear grips me. All is not well. Everything is going to change. I see shadows of men slithering along our compound wall. And then they jump inside. One by one. So many of them.

I woke up startled. But the zero-watt bulb was not on. The hundred-watt bulb was. Father was waking me up. “Something is happening,” he said. I could hear it—there were people out on the streets. They were talking loudly. Some major activity was underfoot. Were they setting our locality on fire?

So, it wasn’t entirely a dream, after all? Will they jump inside now?

Then a whistling sound could be heard. It was the sound of the mosque’s loudspeaker. We heard it every day in the wee hours of the morning just before the muezzin broke into the azaan. But normally the whistle was short-lived; that night, it refused to stop. That night, the muezzin didn’t call. That night, it felt like something sinister was going to happen.

The noise outside our house had died down. But in the mosque, we could hear people’s voices. They were arguing about something. More:

My mother’s 22 rooms

Rahul Pandita tells the story of a painful migration

I cannot sing the old songs, or dream those dreams again – Charlotte Barnard

There it is. Huddled among other dolls and a few shreds of cloth. It is wearing a blue dress. I don’t remember what mine wore, for it has been sixteen years since I saw it. It might not be there anymore, but I would like to believe that it is there, invisible to the new occupants of my house. It is a dancing girl made of earth, decorating a corner of my friend’s drawing room. Touch it a little and it will start dancing, moving her neck gracefully. My dancing girl, mother bought it, when I was a child, from a potter selling his stuff on a pavement in Lal Chowk.

And sixteen years later, as I speak to you, there is no significant noise outside my room. No guttural voice and no sound of my mother’s U-shaped walker making its presence felt through the small corridor of my house. Mother fell down from her bed again this morning.

23 years ago, in Srinagar, a team of health officials was to arrive at our school. Their aim was to administer cholera vaccines to children. But for that we were supposed to take the written permission of our parents. Back home I told my father and as expected he wrote ‘No’ on my home task diary. I found it very insulting. Tomorrow all my classmates would take the vaccine and sing laurels of their bravery. And me, I would be hidden in some corner, red-faced with shame. It was not acceptable to me. So I erased father’s nay and wrote ‘Yes’ on the diary. Next morning as the needle of the syringe pierced my left arm, I did not even flinch once. I became an instant hero. But as it is with most acts of heroism, I had to pay a price for mine as well. By late afternoon, a lump had formed in my arm. By the time I reached home I was feverish and drenched in sweat. As I pulled off my shoes, mother saw me and in one instant she knew what had happened. more

Never leaving home

Azad Essa in Al Jazeera on the Kashmiri Pandits who stayed back in the Valley, despite everything

Sanjay Tickoo remembers it well. It was a warm summer’s day in 1990, when he found a poster pasted to the outside wall of his home in Srinagar, the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir. It was written in Urdu, which Sanjay could not read, so he took it to his grandfather and asked him to translate it.

“As he read it out to us, tears rolled down his cheeks … it basically instructed our family to leave the valley or die,” Tickoo tells me as we sit in a café at the foot of Jhelum River in Srinagar. But, unlike the estimated 100,000 Hindus from the valley – known as Kashmiri Pandits – who embarked on a mass migration south to Jammu following the start of the insurgency against Indian rule in 1989, Tickoo’s family refused to leave. Instead, Tickoo, who was in his early twenties at the time, decided to take the threat to the local newspaper, where he paid for it to be placed as an advertisement in the classifieds section.

“It was published on the back page. I wish I still had a copy, but they published it as is,” he recalls. No sooner had it been published, than shocked Muslim neighbours and friends congregated at Tickoo’s home, apologising for the misdeed and promising that his family faced no threat. They urged him not to leave. more

Pandits begin to return home to Kashmir

Twenty years ago, nearly 400,000 Hindus fled the Kashmir Valley, fearful of a separatist insurgency. Now they are trickling back. Lydia Polgreen in The New York Times:

Srinagar: The ceremony is simple and common. A Hindu priest lights a fire, places some herbs, clarified butter and other offerings atop it and through its peculiar alchemy the smoke purifies everything it touches.

But nothing about this Maha Yaghya ritual performed in the once-abandoned Vichar Nag shrine here on a recent Saturday night was simple. A week of downpours left the shrine’s grounds waterlogged and putrid. The wood was wet and the fire would not start.

But most peculiar was the ceremony’s location, astride one of the world’s most fractious religious fault lines, between two nuclear-armed neighbors who have fought three wars, two of them over the land on which the shrine sits.

Twenty years ago, nearly 400,000 Hindus fled the Kashmir Valley, fearful of a separatist insurgency by the area’s Muslim majority. Now they are trickling back, a sign to many here that the Kashmir Valley, after years of violence and turmoil, is settling in to an uneasy but hopeful peace.

The valley’s upper-caste Hindus, Pandits as they are known, are reconnecting with their ancestral home, a few to stay and even larger numbers to visit. More than a dozen shrines have reopened in recent years, said Sanjay Tickoo, a Kashmiri Pandit who never left the valley and is now trying to entice those who left to return. More:

Your riot was worse than mine

When double standards take charge, it is the victims of communal violence who suffer, be they the Sikhs of Delhi, the Muslims of Gujarat or the Pandits of Kashmir. Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu:

India’s polity has an unerring taste for the irrelevant. That is why the controversy over a sitting Chief Minister being summoned to answer questions about mass murder has made way for an unseemly debate about the morality of an ageing actor.

After his embarrassing, nine-hour appearance before the Special Investigation Team, one would have thought Narendra Modi presented a large enough target. Instead, the Congress has launched a full-throated campaign against Amitabh Bachchan for choosing to become a brand ambassador for tourism in Mr. Modi’s State. The party has accused the Bollywood superstar of being indifferent to allegations of State complicity in the massacre of Muslims which took place there in 2002. And it has started boycotting him in a manner that is as crude and mean-spirited as it is ineffective and pointless. Thanks to this, the mass media are today discussing Big B rather than the Little Men whose role the SIT is now investigating.

As can be expected, the Gujarat Chief Minister is thrilled. The spotlight which was earlier on him is now being trained elsewhere. Instead of being forced to rally others to his own defence, Mr. Modi has happily mounted the barricades on behalf of Mr. Bachchan. In keeping with his party’s fondness for technology and Islamophobia, he has blogged that the actor’s critics are ‘Talibans of untouchability’. More: