"Roots In Kashmir" is an initiative launched by us, the Kashmiri Pandit Youth, to reclaim our Roots that identify us. Even though we have been hounded out of our homes and hearths in the Kashmir valley, our "Roots" are very much anchored in the Vitasta Valley. This is an initiative to protest and raise the general awareness of public to a level where our "fight for our roots" is felt, heard and acted upon.
we still cannot leave her behind, said I” — Femi Osofisan
The words belong to a Nigerian writer, Femi Osofisan. Femi, am sure is unknown to most people reading this post. I choose his words today to symbolize the state of Kashmir Pandits like his popularity in India – negligent & negligible. He in my head represents 8 Lakh Femi Osofisan(s) in the largest republic of the world.Femi, even with hindsight couldn’t have used better prose to describe the state of a community which is pushing itself to bear the 25th year of exile and lives in nostalgic pain each day thinking of their homes in Kashmir . 25th year - quarter of a century, sum of two decades and importantly end of one generation in a family.
19th January, 1990 was the night of horror for a community which had learned to survive subjugation, political un-touch-ability & religious intolerance. A night where Kashmiri Hindu women , who by the way were used to forgoing “bindi” on Fridays to avoid getting abused and cussed, were told on mosque mounted loudspeakers, that “they” are desired in Kashmir but without their men. A night they were shouted at, from loudspeakers to be part of Kashmir where religion other than the one would be basis of “right to live”.
It is difficult to relive horror. More difficult to recollect it. Most difficult to keep narrating it to people at large. Recollection is vital armor of exilees to keep race memory going. Every Kashmiri Pandit who lived to re-tell that night, lives in a perpetual paradox – Paradox of exile.
“That even when we know her love has waned
we can never stop her odors clinging on”
Kahsmiri Pandits could have fled, left en-mass or in lots since the time they were reduced to 11 families in kashmir in 1400 AD, yet majority of them chose to stay in land of their Gods and ancestors, resisting the humiliation of being humiliated for being a) Indian b) Indian flag saluting minority, in Kashmir. Ironic in same Kashmir Nehru and Gandhi both saw hope against 2 state theory of Jinnah. Who let this minority community down is a question that can be asked over and over again with no answers , for secularism demands not to name those who did it for reasons that were not political but religious – Islamfication of Kashmir. “Pakistan se rishta kya, ya Ilaha, Illallah” (Whats kashmir’s relation with Pakistan? Allah is great) “Yaha kya chalega , Nizame-mustafa“( what shall rule in Kashmir, reign of Islam ) – 2 most popular slogans shouted by kashmiris.
19th Jan, 1990 has been etched in my memory for lack of comprehension mixed with certain understanding that death seemed certain. As a 6 year old you do not understand death but you recognize fear ridden frozen faces. A nearby CRPF camp was glitter of hope and instructions were to run straight to it if the prowling mob chanting “Hum kya chahte Azadi” and anti KP slogans break in. My grand parents had realized fanaticism outside the house was too wild to be stopped by main wooden door that was additionally nailed with ply boards. This mind you, was not some remote corner of kashmir, this was heart of main Srinagar city. This personal piece is just one of many such cases that happened. Crowds were assembling in Srinagar , all parts of it. Whispering of crowd was reaching the status of sloganeering. Anti India, pro Pakistan slogans. It was dark and scary. And in all this few houses remained painted in darkness, their occupants huddled together in fear. Calls, desperate calls, to JK Police yielded no results. Unfortunately, then Governor Mr Jaghmohan was in Jammu Raj Bhawan. What was whispering , now ate the night with its loudness. Men , who could, decided to fight, women they prepared for self immolation. And all this in heart of Srinagar city. KPs waited with anxious patience for the eventuality of the longest nightof their lives – death.
The impact of 19th Jan 1990 unfortunately can never be understood by people unfamiliar with 1990 or not having a Kashmiri Pandit in his or her circle. For there were no newspaper stories covering independent India’s biggest and only exodus within country as focus was on liberal left manifested propaganda of India’s brutality. Its just another fact often ignored that pre 1990 Kashmir had neither – AFSPA , encounters, murders or crimes of horrific nature. In the shadow of Auschwitz , a Jew probably shall always cry. 19th Jan , 1990, shall do same to a Kashmiri Pandit , who saw to live and retell.
It was not the end but start of a process that lead to humiliation of being called refugees and migrants in own land, worse in own state. Life across Pir Panjal consumed elders by heat, youngsters to snake bites. While Pandits live on to remember another year of exile, 25 years on Kashmiri Pandit tourists are in much demand in Kashmir by locals who hounded them out. Imagine a yazdi tourist shown Mosul by a Iranian guide 30 years later?