Kashmiriyaat and Vengeance
Media like Bollywood only sells love stories. Pandits and muslims eating dumaloo and drinking kehwa together. As sweet and mushy as these tales may sound and as much as our minds would like to trust this utopian world, it remains just that – A tale for poets and politicians. Far far away from the bitter reality on the ground. And yet our ‘ingenious and unbiased’ media manages to publish such stories in a factory mode – with much more dexterity than a magician can conjure rabbits from thin air.
My maatamal, mother’s house, was located in a relatively better part of the town and had seemingly more Hindu houses. I recall at least two Hindu houses close by. Right adjacent to our house was a muslim house. They were big in poultry and dairy and were accordingly called ghoor (milkman). They were also way richer and prosperous than us. We had stayed together for at least 2 generations on cordial terms – the way neighbors should. I remember when my maternal uncle was married, the food was cooked in their courtyard and on one of the marriage days, lunch was served in their big kanie (living room).
As the halaat (situation) worsened, my maternal grandparents, like all other Hindus, shifted outside Kashmir.
Temporary and transient arrangement as everyone thought.
Just till the government bought the situation back in control.
Has happened earlier; might happen again.
As the other Hindu houses in the locality had moved out, they gave the keys of the house to the ghoor Sr for looking after their home. At this time, things hadn’t yet hit rock bottom between the pandits and the muslims.
After a few months, with the situation continued to go from bad to worse and return was still not viable, my grandfather went back to get some basic stuff - samaan. All masks were off by now. The friendly neighborhood was replaced by Islamic zealouts. The Sr. Ghoor was angry at the ‘pandit’ returning and his sons were out rightly belligerent. Reluctantly, they gave the keys, but followed him in the house telling him what they wanted and what my grandfather could carry back!! They will keep the TV, the carpets, his therapeutic belt. At the last one, my grandfather rebuked them and then they backed off.
One of the ghoor Jr brazenly went into our kitchen with his shoes on, and smashed the utensils and boxes arranged on wooden shelves. My grandfather stood there still – this was the same guy he had seen growing up as a toddler, the same guy who was the friend of his son. The same guy now who pushed him out of his way and was ransacking the most pious and clean area of a pandit household.
The Ghoors actually needed none of the items they took from us – not the TV, not the old worn carpets from the home of a retired government employee, nor the utensils from the kitchen. They were wallowing in riches at least by our limited standards.
What was it then? Kashmirayaat?
Nay! That’s a word invented by the politicians!
Plain and pure vengeance – just religious bigotry the likes of which you can be lectured non stop by our one-sided intelligentsia.
My Massi’s house was in the newer part of the town – Shivpura. I remember and liked this house the most. It was a new house in a neat, modern locality. She had built it bit by bit, from money saved overtime; the way perhaps all of us do at some point in our lives.
My uncle worked in the agriculture department. As a result, he had a deep understanding of gardening. They had a kitchen garden at the back and as per my mother, never purchased a single vegetable from outside. The front lawn had manicured flower beds. I remember two trees – one was plum near the gate and one was perhaps a grape vine. When my cousin was married, I remember clicking photos under this vine.
Near my massi’s house were mulberry trees on the roadside where my gang of cousins would spend hours eating bitter, unripe mulberries. There was a bund (embankment) closeby where we would go for walks. I vaguely remember a cinema building somewhere at the start, but don’t remember what it was called.
Even though there were many hindu houses, eventually my massi had to leave their house.
Initially, as with everyone, they packed a small suitcase for a short trip of ek-jh hafta (1-2 weeks) in April, 1990.
Just till the situation improves.
It never did. The downward spiral continued with news of killings of Hindus becoming routine. The pandit leadership had already been wiped clean; Just regular people now– in villages, in cities, in schools, in offices, going to work, returning from work. Kashmir had become the Islamist version of a concentration camp for Hindus. You may be doing everything as they wished, but could still be heckled, tortured, and killed on anyone’s whim. I hear newspapers were openly publishing what the muslim women should wear and what the hindus should wear to differentiate themselves.
With the winters approaching in September, my massi’s family had to get the basics. They had literally nothing with them. As with many other families, she made an attempt to retrieve some stuff from her home. Instead of entering from the main door of her house, which was seemingly more ‘open’, they sneaked in the first house in their lane and tried reaching from the connected front lawns. Peeping from one of the adjoining houses, she found her things strewn across her lawn. Bedding, blankets, carpets, cushions, tea sets, utensils, everything she had, in a heap outside. She fell unconscious from the shock and lost hearing in one of her ears that day onwards.
Inside, it was a chaos. The looting was recent. Before it, must have been a period of vengeance.
Things were not broken but manically destroyed so that they could never be used.
Inside the kitchen, all eatables, dals, flour, sugar, etc were in a heap in the middle, reeking of kerosene. Switches and plugs were ripped off walls. It seemed someone had taken a hammer and just beaten, no – assaulted, everything in the house with it. And then tried to burn the house. The house was ravaged.
In one room, was a pile of half-burned books and albums. Ironic, as it may sound, a half burnt of Discovery of India by Nehru was retrieved from this mess. I don’t know why.
Back in Jammu, I remember opening it. The cover was almost intact. Inside, the pages had burned in a wavy pattern. I tried reading the half sentences and phrases, hoping something would make sense. If only, there was someway in which the book could still be salvaged from the agony it had gone through. Why did they have to burn the books – they could just have taken and read it? I moved my fingers around the blackened curve.
The paper flaked; the soot marked my finger.
I wiped my first tear for us. The soot marked my face.
For the first time in life, I realized what vengeance was and how angry it can make you.
Hate can turn mutual in no time. Hate that day made me understand the calamity we pandits were facing. Things were not ‘Ok’. They seemingly never had been.
When politicians and the media start chanting about Kashmiriyaat as a panacea for all our cures, I want them to just pause for a minute and reflect - Is it a real term in the first place? Would just pretending and lamenting about it make it real?
The Hindus and muslims have a undisputable common history in Kashmir. Still, I have never found a single Kashmiri muslim accepting this. Ask them and they will all boost, even the ones with modified Hindu surnames, how they are not the ‘forced converts to Islam’ but are direct descendants of the Turks who invaded and pillaged Kashmir over the centuries. By this logic, the forced converts simply vanished in history.
What is equally appalling is the hatred for Hindus and therefore India, especially when we know for sure that the muslims came from the same gene pool as the pandits and were converted to Islam. How can someone be so antagonistic to one’s origins? You may follow what you want to follow now – that understandable, but the hatred for the same culture and religion from which you originated is incomprehensible.
May be we shouldn’t have lofty morals for humanity? May be we as humans are forever meant to be tribals at heart - living in our clans, antagonistic to the rest? All others remaining the others. Some more so.
| Ruchi is an Indian Kashmiri living in exile for the last 29 years. She is emotional (may be overtly) about all things Kashmiri. She is trying to understand our cultural uniqueness and the need for preserving our identify especially in the generation who has lived outside Kashmir. She is passionately clinging to her memories of Kasheer and is pining to end her exile and reclaim her roots in the land of her ancestors.
Follow Ruchi on Twitter @rr_vichar.