RETURN OF KPs
Come home, come soon
IT IS NOT THAT KASHMIRI PANDITS OR KASHMIRI MUSLIMS ARE AT WAR WITH EACH OTHER AFTER 1989. IT IS THE RESULT OF THEIR GREAT AND UNIQUE TRADITION AND HISTORY THAT THEY'VE SUCH EXPECTATIONS FROM EACH OTHER, WRITES GOWHAR GEELANI
I vividly remember my favourite school teacher Ms. Anita. As her name would suggest she was a Kashmiri Pandit. She was my form-teacher at school. I remember my others Pandit teachers too. Mrs Bharti Koul, Teja Ma'am and Usha Ma'am. I owe a lot to all of them for what I'm today. I remember how Anita Ma'am would ensure that I secured first position in my class. I also remember how Teja Ma'am would want me to be the best of the lot! I remember everything.
Those were beautiful and peaceful days in our Kashmir, full of sweet memories. Muslims, Pandits and Sikhs studying in the same school, playing together in playgrounds, sharing their lunches, attending marriage functions, birthday parties, offering condolences when someone in the neighbourhood died, sympathizing with each other and even engaging in smaller verbal brawls as friends normally do.
'Music of bullets replaced school bells'
Then, all of a sudden, tranquillity vanished in thin air. Peace didn't stay, it was blown away into pieces. My beautiful memories in 'Angels Public School, 'Abhay Public School', 'Light Public School' and 'Shaheen Public School' in Srinagar soon started turning into nightmares.
The huge paintings of greats like Dr. Allama Iqbal, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Rabindra Nath Tagore hanging on the walls of my school were now being hit by stray bullets on a regular basis. Music of bullets replaced the 'recess' and 'period' bells in my school.
'My beautiful garden isn't attractive anymore'
Life was not the same again after 1989. Everything changed, dramatically. I remember everything. How Indian troopers humiliated my elderly people, day in and day out; how they slapped me after on their directions (read orders) I'd read a poster of a popular militant outfit pasted on an electric pole in our locality; how they stared at me, abused, hurled choicest invectives and threatened me while walking on my streets for no fault of mine; how they made me to bend on my knees and walk on my elbows on an undeclared curfew day, when I and my other classmates were to appear in class 10th papers at Bemina Degree College, Srinagar. It all happened in early years of 1990's. The memories of their abuses and slaps haunt me, still.
I remember the Army crackdowns, operation 'Catch and Kill', the firing incidents, cross-firing incidents, grenade blasts, mine blasts, encounters, massive anti-India protest demonstrations, slogans for freedom from India, slogans in favour of militants, even some slogans against Pandit brethren. And I also do remember Pandits leaving from my Valley. That was a painful memory.
Many blame Mr. Jagmohan, the then notorious Governor of the strife-ridden Jammu and Kashmir for the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.
But, I will blame myself
Yes, I know I was a school-going boy at that time, not influential enough to be responsible for their migration or to prevent their exodus; but I still blame myself. I strongly feel and believe that we, as a proud Kashmiri nation, should have prevented their exodus. Yes, it may be my idealism. Yes, I know those were not ideal times.
Who's responsible for this?
Today, there are television debates on Indian media about 'Kashmiriyat'. Who's responsible for the exodus of Pandits? We've too many answers coming. Many Pandits blame their own Muslim brethren, some blame militants and pro-freedom forces active in Kashmir, yet others blame the unfortunate circumstances of 1989. Many Muslims blame former Governor Mr. Jagmohan, others say Pandits shouldn't have left Kashmir while few others maintain that what happened was unfortunate and should never have actually happened, but the migration could not have been avoided during those hard times.
I've a different take on the issue. I believe that I'm responsible for the exodus of Pandits. I believe Muslim community of Kashmir as a whole is responsible for the migration of Pandits. I also believe that Pandits too are responsible for their migration. For the simple reason that together we shared beautiful history of elegant bonds, exemplary friendships and harmony, and we, as a great Kashmiri nation, should have never allowed the circumstances dictate our decisions, our lives, our history; and above all our great cultural bonds! But they did.
Was it possible?
Though in my previous articles I may have pointed fingers at the politics of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of a faction of pro-freedom alliance Hurriyat Conference and another leader Sajad Gani Lone, but here I must shower praises on both of them. Mirwaiz Umar lost his father, Mirwiaz Molvi Farooq to bullets on 21st May, 199o; while as Lone brothers lost their father, Abdul Gani Lone to bullets on the twelfth death anniversary of Molvi Farooq; 21st May, 2002. Mirwaiz Umar, Sajad Lone and Bilal Lone too had an option to leave Kashmir and get settled down abroad, far away from hell in Kashmir; but they didn't, instead chose to face the challenges the circumstances had thrown before them. Kudos to them!
Leave these brave leaders aside for a moment. During late 1990's my mother was seriously wounded when militants hurled a grenade towards a bunker of Indian troopers at Safakadal, Srinagar. The grenade missed the intended target, as would quite often happen during those days, and thus like many other pedestrians; serious injuries were inflicted on my mother too. Her left foot was badly wounded and it took almost four years to heal, though not permanently. Our family did not leave Kashmir. We too had the option. Because my father had his shawl business running successfully in Kolkata since almost three decades.
Should Pandits too have braved the 'come what may' and avoided leaving Kashmir, our beloved motherland? Well, debatable. May be it wasn't possible. Or, may be it was. Perhaps yes, perhaps no!
'Life hasn't been easy'
Life hasn't been the same for Pandits after migration. It hasn't been easy for them in the migrant camps of Jammu or in different parts of India. Sameer Bhat, my former colleague at Eenadu Television in Hyderabad, India in 2003-04, would often narrate the painful stories of migration. Sameer, his wife, ailing mother and kids would bear the scorching heat of Jammu while sitting in a temporary shed that consisted of only one-room. His stories were very moving and would often leave a pang in my heart. Like hundreds of other Pandit families, his family too had left Kashmir in early 1990's. A close Pandit friend of my father in Rainawari, Srinagar, too had to leave Kashmir alongwith his entire family. Their house was burnt down and reduced to ashes. This friend of my father also used to buy shawls from us. At the time of migration he owed us a lot of money, the cheque he had given to my father bounced. After apologizing he promised to repay every single penny in installments once he settled down in Kolkata. My father offered all possible help and said to the family that they need not to pay our money back, because we understood what they had gone through. But, as an honest businessman he kept his word, his promise; and repaid all due amount in smaller installments in the following years. That is Pandit pride! My father's friend kept the friendship going, his Pandit pride alive and with it the reputation of an honest trader too.
'Burden of unique expectations'
Kashmir is a special place having its unique history. During our marriage ceremonies we extend invitation to guests in a way that is unique. It is unparalleled. No where else in the world invitation is extended or expected like as in Kashmir. Even in this age of facebook and twitter; an information and technology age, particular members of a Kashmiri family- that has fixed marriage of a son or a daughter- go personally to homes of their close relatives, friends and neighbours to extend an invitation. Then, some two-three weeks before the marriage an invitation card is sent; as the marriage date comes closer several telephonic calls are made, and then a final call too. At times, even this may not be enough and that is perhaps why many relatives or friends throw their tantrums during marriage ceremonies; you may call it an attention-seeking tactics!
If all relatives, neighbours and friends come and attend the marriage ceremony, it is considered a miracle! If all of them do not come, no one is surprised! That is Kashmir. It is not that Kashmiri Pandits or Kashmiri Muslims are at war with each other after 1989. It is the result of their great and unique tradition and history that they've such huge expectations from each other. As a matter of fact, they're not blaming or accusing each other, instead throwing tantrums, seeking attention and expecting a lot!
To me what actually Pandits are asking is this:"If we left Kashmir, why didn't you call us back? Are merely one or two calls enough? Shouldn't you be doing more and calling us back and receiving us with open arms?" And Muslims are replying:"Why did you leave us when things were tough here, you shouldn't have left us alone in the first place? Shouldn't you've faced the challenges of the circumstances like we did? Shouldn't you have stayed and never gone?
Both actually expect a lot from each other! There is no communal disharmony in Kashmir. Only circumstances have been challenging and the going has been hard and tough. The movement for freedom in Kashmir is not against Kashmiri Pandits or Sikhs, it is not against the Indian people, it is against the Indian state and its wicked state-craft.
Today, I once again extend an invitation to all of them. Please come back. 'Walev Yeyev Wapas'!
(Gowhar Geelani is a Kashmiri journalist based in Bonn, Germany since 2006, where he works for Deutsche Welle [Voice of Germany] as an Editor. firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 21 Sep 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 21 Sep 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 22 Sep 2010 00:00:00 IST
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