Rahul Pandita On Kashmir And Its Stories

Rahul Pandita On Kashmir And Its Stories

26 February 2013
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Peter Griffin

New Delhi: Peter Griffin: Rahul, tell us about your new book. Rahul Pandita: My book is called Our Moon Has Blood Clots. And itís a memoir on growing up in Kashmir as a religious minority, essentially, Kashmiri Hindus, also known as Kashmiri Pandits-a small, miniscule community that lived in Kashmir for hundreds of years and were forced into permanent exile as refugees in their own country in 1989-90, when an Islamist movement broke out in Kashmir Valley. And we faced the brunt and the brutalisation in a series of violence led by the majority community in Kashmir. And Iím glad that almost a quarter of a century after what happened to us, this book is out. Because this book sets the record straight for the first time. Because the liberal discourse of this country and the media have, by and large, bypassed our story. Our story has been relegated to the margins. PG: Why do you think it has happened? RP: I think a part of the problem is that somehow in this country it is very fashionable to talk about the adivasis of Bastar or the brutalisation by the Indian state in Kashmir or the North East-which are very valid questions and they must be talked about. But the moment you talk about other issues like our exile, our exodus, somehow it is not fashionable because it does not fit into the left-of-centre discourse. Thatís very unfortunate. For the media, itís been a very black-and-white situation, where thereís been this section of people who were brutalised by the Indian Army. But what they forget is the fact that they are the same set of people who have brutalised another set of people, who happen to be Kashmiri Pandits in this case. As a Kashmiri, and as a journalist who has reported extensively the other part of the stories-the forced disappearances, the human rights violations-Iím of the firm opinion that the problem in the Kashmir discourse is that for many people-journalists and civil rights groups-the private and public stand on Kashmir differ. But in my case, my public and private stand has always been the same: That things happened in 1989-90, and as two communities, as Kashmiris, we need to move on. But Iím afraid that truth and reconciliation, the way we loosely call it, will not be possible unless thereís a complete consensus on the circumstances that led to the exodus. I personally think the bigger betrayal than 1990 was the fact that weíre being denied our truth; that in 1990, there was a divide between Muslims and Hindus in Kashmir, and Hindus became a target not only for Islamist militants but for the majority community; ordinary people from Kashmir also took an active part in our brutalisation. PG: How old were you at that time? RP: I was 14, just an adolescent. And I remember those days very vividly, the kind of brutalisation we faced, particularly on January 19, 1990, when there was this whole series of slogans against the Kashmiri Pandit community; anti-India slogans and anti-Pandit slogans. I would like to point out one which really terrified us. It essentially meant, ĎWe want our Pakistan without Pandit men but with their womení. That really terrified us. And I think from that day onwards, the exodus began. And it went on for a few months, from January 1990 to September 1990, till a point of time when 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits were rendered homeless and even after 23 years, we are in permanent exile. PG: What are your memories of growing up before that? This was obviously a flashpoint. And it would have been building up for a while before it reached this stage. RP: Absolutely. I think, personally, from 1986 onwards, when I was 10 years old, I had been very conscious of my identity as a Kashmiri Pandit because of the bitter atmosphere. Once in a while, you become victims of communal riots that happened in this one part of Kashmir, in south Kashmir in 1986, where hundreds of Pandits were beaten up, their womenfolk raped, etcetera. From then onwards, itís been slipping away from us. But, having said that, we also lived a very beautiful life in Kashmir, where there was a lihaaz, a consideration, between the two communities; we shared a very beautiful relationship: My fatherís colleagues and friends, my motherís colleagues (both of them were government servants), they had a very good friendship and rapport with Kashmiri Muslims. But by and large that rapport was on a very personal basis. Individually, we were very good to each other but collectively, as a group, as a community, we always had this fear, this suspicion about each other, which culminated in the brutality in 1989.