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Being a Kashmiri Pandit - A Page of a Forgotten Past

Being a ‘refugee in your own land’, fighting the ever-present feeling of being an outsider, even when at home, the long felt and subconsciously suppressed longing of going to Kashmir-your original home everytime you listen to your parents cherishing their childhood tales, the shared bruises of violence in stories that come up at family conversations, the unresolved trauma that spans across generations, unhealed wounds and lack of belonging-ness that crops up at every place, the brushing up of your mere mention in books which are brandished as the ‘tell-all’ of Kashmiri history-each of these memories constitutes a part of the common thread that binds us in our shared identity of being a Kashmiri Pandit youth.

An illustration depicting the plight of Kashmiri Pandits in India.

Illustration by The Geostrata

Being a Kashmiri Pandit brings with it a lot of feelings. The helplessness you find yourself coping with when your grandparents lament over the fact that they would never breathe their last in the lap of 'Maej Kasheer'—Mother Kashmir—that they and their ancestors have worshipped as the cradle of their civilization.

Or the hopelessness you experience when you realise the extent to which the devotees of Lord Shiva grieve over their eternal wait at the abode of their gods, who are lying there unattended and un-worshipped. Or the fear of losing your intangible heritage—the clock is ticking, generational memory is fading, and your community is so entrenched in survival mode that there is no pan-community effort to preserve it.

Seeing our elderly face drowning in depression and dementia and struggling to explain this because your vocabulary has never known of such equivalences as time does it’s hateful duty.

It’s also about the dichotomy of having your original home in the valley as your place of residence in your voter ID card versus your home in Jammu, Delhi, or Pune in other proofs of identity and questioning yourself if you really do have a home.

Being a Kashmiri Pandit is about feeling validated when Justice Sanjay Krishan Koul in his Art. 370 judgement talked about the need to heal your community, which for long was fighting for even its stakeholdership in the whole discourse of Art. 370, which by the way involves our land to begin with.

Or the restored faith in justice you felt when the Government of India reopened the murder case of retired Judge Neelkanth Ganjoo, showing you a gleam of hope that maybe someday the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

Or the belongingness and pride you feel every time you come across the Captain Sameer Bhan Marg in Delhi, Captain MN Mulla Road in Prayagraj, or the Gautam Mubayi Housing Project in Secunderabad. The sheer hatred and boiling blood you felt every time you saw the infamous Bitta Karate interview. Or the fact that he wasn’t convicted even when he himself confessed his crimes in a live interview.

Or how your parents and grandparents recounting their struggles talk about their life in tents in Jammu or the 10*10 rooms with no electricity was the place where 8–10 members of the family had to live. Keep in mind here that the temperatures often exceeded 40 °C, and many-a-times these rooms in their previous avatars were actually storerooms and even cowsheds, with their rents being at the owners' discretion.

Daily existence was left at the mercy of that one truck of vegetables, wherein sightings of people behaving like animals to get even a single tomato for themselves were common.

Irrespective of these adverse circumstances and tropical diseases that were unheard of in the temperate climate of the valley, the previous generations worked day and night to ensure a better future for their families and ensure the change from those 10*10 rooms with zero privacy and rationed water supply to the houses that we now are proud owners of.

How do you realise that mainstream ‘pop historians’ with no skin in the game have taken control of the entire narrative and shrugged away your living-breath realities? The history of Kashmir for them doesn’t even mention the name of our community; forget about the atrocities and the genocide. What is to be expected from the state when even recorded history is sanitised and, hence, unable to give us justice?

It’s been 34 years, and we are refugees in our own land, where even the categorization of internally displaced people eludes us. There is no widespread acceptance of the pain and trauma that our community went through, no acknowledgment of the horrors inflicted on us.


19 January is not just about the 1990 genocide; the date is also a stark reminder of how the sovereign, socialist, secular, Democratic Republic of India failed to ensure the constitutionally guaranteed values of justice, liberty, and equality for its very own citizens who faced the calls of Raliv, Galiv, and Chaliv (convert to Islam, run, or die) in a land and amongst throngs who shouted Death to India and Death to Kafirs as a form of greeting.

They told our brethren that our land, which they had occupied from us, needs to be cleaned and purified of us, and every part of our existence needs to be erased from there while the all-mighty Indian state remained a mute spectator.

Calls of ‘Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-mustafa’, ‘Kashmir main rehna hai, Allah-ho-Akbar kahna hai’, ‘Islam hamara maqsad hai, Quran hamara dastur hai, Jehad hamara rasta hai’, ‘Ganga Jamuna main aag lagayenge’ stated the precise intention of the mobs.

19 January is also not about genocide alone; it's about the so-called ‘political uprising’ of the Kashmiris that is often portrayed in the news. It's about how women’s bodies were taken to be the warzone, and rape was the weapon of war when slogans like ‘Asi gachi Pakistan, bata ros ta batanev san' (we want Pakistan, with the Kashmiri Pandit women but without the men) ruled the roost. This was done based on the jihadi idea of destroying civilization by conquering women. The aim was to bring upon the ideology of Nizam-e-Mustafa on the bloodline of Kashmiri Pandits and to ensure that our existence had no resurgence ever.

Families used to lock all the daughters and daughters-in-law in the attic, and there are countless times when the patriarch had a sharpened axe ready to slit their throats, mothers had knives, and they were willing to kill their daughters and then themselves to protect themselves from the worse fate that awaited them.

Kashmiri Pandit women were considered territory to be conquered. A friend of mine recalls the moment when his mother told him how two brothers who were her neighbours had already marked her up as their trophy.

On January 19, we remember the chilling story of Girja Tickoo, who was abducted, blindfolded, and gangraped in a moving taxi, tortured, and whose body was cut into pieces with a mechanical saw while she was still alive. We remember Bhushan Lal Raina, whose skull was pierced with an iron rod, and he was nailed to a tree. And we remember BK Ganjoo, who was hidden by his wife in a rice-filled drum when their very own neighbour betrayed them, and he was shot dead inside that drum.

The terrorists laughed at the whole ordeal and then told the wife to have that blood-soaked rice. We remember Naveen Saproo, who was shot dead, and then his body was danced around with people throwing shireen at him. Or Satish Tickoo, who was shot at by his own neighbours.

Imagine the pain of Sanjay Tickoo (Kashmiri Pandit Sangharsh Samiti), who, while recounting the aftermath of the Nadimarg massacre, where 24 Kashmiri Pandits, including women and children, even a toddler, were shot dead with the help of local policemen, remembers drawing eyes, noses, mouths, and ears on the bandaged heads of the dead before consigning their mortal remains to flames.

1990 was not the first time the exodus happened—it was the 7th, and in the six previous ones, when faced with the calls to convert, run, or die, most of us chose to die, until the numbers were so dwindling that we realised there was not a lot left to die. And then we ran.

Mainstream pop culture does call us ‘bhagodas’-poems are written about how we failed to pick up a sword and die an honourable death (अरे पंडितो सागर में से बहती पतवार उठा लेते अगर 7 लाख में से सिर्फ 100 ही हथियार उठा लेते), but seldom do they realise that conserving the way of life we have been worshipping since times immemorial and its associated traditions and customs that our ancestors themselves wrote down and spread about requires people who veneer it and not corpses which are desecrated even post death.

Folks, friends, and fellow breathers, remember that the dead cannot call out for justice; it's the duty of the living to do so for them.



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9 Kommentare

more likely, it's an experience with real facts ... ....

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Plight of kashmiri pandits and deafening silence of humanity will never be forgotten

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Ishan Sinha
Ishan Sinha
19. Jan.

Tragedy strikes, yet we rise as a nation, in solitary.

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Yash Singh
Yash Singh
19. Jan.

Never Forgive them their sins, nor forget what happened to Indians.

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