Reconciliation, Return and Rhetoric
“Who is he? An exile which must not be confused with, allowed to run into, all the other words that people throw around: émigré, expatriate, refugee, immigrant, silence cunning. Exile is a dream of glorious return. Exile is a vision of revolution: Elba, not St. Helena. It’s an endless paradox; looking forward by always looking back. The exile is a ball hurled high into the air. He hangs there, frozen in time, translated into a photograph; denied motion, suspended impossibly above his native earth, he awaits the inevitable moment at which the photograph must begin to move, and the earth reclaim its own.” Salman Rushdie
Kashmir Pandits were killed and forced to leave their homeland in 1989-1990. Muslim majority of Kashmir was celebrating dream of Azaadi (freedom). Kashmir Pandits were massacred in Srinagar, Anantnag, Sangrampura, Wandhama, Gool, Nadimarg. India was celebrating 43rd year of her independence.
As Kashmiri Pandits completed twenty five years in exile, we see a complete contrast of policies employed by Governments, both state and central, in facilitating their return. Governments have genuinely taken the Pandit cause over the years to new heights.They have succeeded in using different terms regarding return, first it was honorable, now it is both ‘honorable’ and ‘dignified return’ for Pandits.
Governments came and went, old replaced by new, new replaced by old, everything moved on, but justice for Pandits never saw light of the day. It was kept afloat. News items, panel discussions, election manifestos, promises, rallies, Government announcements, sympathies, and narratives, we had it all.Twenty five years is a long time,one generation has perished, the other lost its youth in camps and other lost its childhood. We have no home. We have become a thing of past, people who once lived in Kashmir.
What we are left with? What do we do? Rallies or Hartals! We are very small in number and who will support our rallies. Let’s call for a bandh, total shut down across the state! Who will respond to this bandh? A hunger strike is better! What exactly we should do? Write an open letter to the head of the state and to the head of country! I guess we already did that. They all know about us. Then why don’t they do something. Is it so difficult?
What we should do? I guess the only thing we are good at is writing. Over the years, writing has taken care of us; it’s the only way through, the best and peaceful medium of showing dissent, of venting our agony out, of showing the unjust that has been inflicted on us all these years. And writing comes easy. Then what do we write? What all is left that hasn’t been written or recorded? Let’s try to put it altogether, from our return (Dignified) to our reconciliation with brothers (of history) and the rhetoric (noise) in the background.
I must confess that i was a little pessimistic at the start. I thought where this is going to take us? These write-ups, open letters, messages, TV shows, discussions, news items and articles haven’t changed anything for us. Many of my fellow community members have already reflected on this; memoirs, stories of exile, pain and angst, stories of lost childhood, separation and longing, stories of struggle, of sleepless nights in tents and camps, stories of deaths in camps, of people lost in a summer storm all these years, taken over by something that was unseen, people losing their memory, missing their homeland, turning mad.
What has the Government done in facilitating our return and rehabilitation?
Drafting blue prints, locating some fictitious land and promising us “Honorable and Dignified Return”.
Then over these years came a misnomer, Reconciliation. And here is how our brothers moved towards reconciliation; here is how they restored harmony.
Where ever you meet them: At bus stops, railway stations, cafés, restaurants, in Jammu, Kashmir, Delhi, Madras, Chennai, Chandigarh, Italy, Paris, America, London, in Universities, Colleges, hostels, on roads, in trains; they are all ready to blurt out their faux narrative with not even a single shred of shame on their faces.
The Faux Narrative
One day J called them all, telephone ringing in every Kashmir Pandit household across entire Kashmir, in every village, town and city. Every Kashmiri Pandit received a call. It was all planned.
J calling: Please leave Kashmir; we have plans, come out of your houses, Trucks and Buses. We will see you in Jammu. All arrangements are in place.
Village Seer: J calling Village Okur: J calling Village Hutmura: J calling Village Ashmukam: J calling Village Ganeshpora: J calling Village Akura: J calling Village Naanil: J calling Village Dalseer: J calling Village Salar-kolar: J calling Khiram Sirhama: J calling Loyseer: J calling Chandergoam: J calling Lakirpora: J calling Saili Pamphernaag: J calling Bumzau: J calling Trail: J calling AdlachMagam: J calling Hogoom: J calling Mehand: J calling Pushkura: J calling Thajwara: J calling Bijbehara: J calling Bon Dialgam: J calling Bongund: J calling Manigam: J calling Pal Poora: J calling Bryarangan: J calling Lukbhawan: J calling Vessu: J calling Pajan: J calling Wangaam: J calling Shangaas Nowgam: J calling Chhatargul: J calling Salar: J calling Kothus: J calling Walrooum: J calling Hogoom: J calling Accchabal: J calling Kokernag: J calling Akingoom: J calling Sagaam: J calling Biddar: J calling Hangalgund: J calling Virkum: J calling Hutmura: J calling Phour: J calling Wanpu: J calling Devsar: J calling Krongus: J calling Gund-Jafer: J calling
Telephone calls were placed to different districts across Kashmir, to different villages, to every single Kashmiri Pandit household.
Brothers: Maybe some received calls, some received letters by Government asking them to leave, it was all planned. Planned, Planned, Planned, Conspiracy, Conspiracy, Conspiracy, J, J, J, J, PJB, PJB, PJB, SSR, SSR, SSR, Planned.
Brothers: At the dead of the night, every Kashmir Pandit received a call, Kashmiri Pandits living in Srinagar, Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama, Shopian, Budgam, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara and elsewhere received a call from J.
Some 5 lakh calls were made, asking them to leave. They were saved, it was all planned. Yes…… those trucks, vehicles, Government buses, they all came from nowhere, landing near their houses, at the door step, across entire Kashmir, in every district, village, every dark street corner, those vehicles reaching all around, taking them all at once, on that very day, thousands of them boarded these vehicles and disappeared suddenly in the pitch of the night. It was all planned and drafted over these years. Those vehicles were all lined up, they didn’t miss anyone, picked them all. Planned, Planned, Planned, Conspiracy, Conspiracy, Conspiracy, J, J, J, PJB, PJB, SSR, SSR.
They are our brothers, it’s their motherland, but they are not allowed to live here. They must sure come as tourists. It’s good for the economy. Moreover, they have sold their houses and land, some we have encroached upon and some have been abandoned. Moreover, it’s bad over here; they are doing well at their places. They bought mansions there. Government provided them everything, from squalid camps to tattered torn tents. Kashmiri people are very intelligent. They can produce fire from damp wood. They are intelligent and educated. They are learned people. We lived like brothers. We love them. They should come back. Kashmir is incomplete without them. Kashmiriyat is hollow without them. We greeted them on their festivals. We celebrated together. It was much love between the two communities before wisdom struck us. It’s a void in here. They should come back. But where they are going to live? Where is the land? Where are there houses? We burnt them. They sold them. They moved to a new place. They left us to bullets. They are our brothers. They must live in Jammu and Delhi. They can extract gold from stone. They are an intelligent community. Kashmir is for us. They were our brothers. We love them. They are welcome. They must not come back. They are agents. They are infidels. They are agents of SSR and PJB. We love them. They lived in harmony with us for centuries. We celebrated our festivals together. We abused their daughters and sisters. We deceived them. We killed them. We made them run. We occupied their houses, orchards and land. We have constructed mansions over their land. We are reaping fruits from their orchards. We are drawing rice from their land. We are all full. They are our brothers. We desecrated their temples, smashed idols; we stop them from going to their pilgrimage sites. They come in numbers, they pose threat, they are a danger to our environment, our snow on our mountains melts, we are losing our glaciers, and they are harming our environment. Kashmir is a place of Sufis and saints. Kashmir is a land of peace. We defiled it. They want to rule our lands. It is our land. They are our brothers. They never harmed us. They left us there properties. They asked us to protect them. We looted it, from quilts to utensils, books, radios, TV sets, animals, stair cases, doors, windows, wood and everything. We created havoc. It was such treat for us, plundering houses of our yesteryear brothers. We turned their houses into toilets. We turned their houses into ghost houses. They are our brothers. They should come and live in our hearts, but not a piece of land for them.
Indeed, a sordid tale of reconciliation, one of betrayal, arson, loot and lies.
What more we are left with, 25 years of lies, more lies and crafted narratives to bury the truth? The J narrative has haunted us all these years. There can never be any reconciliation without acknowledgement of truth and restoration of justice. Reconciliation and Kashmiriyat are guises. Nobody can make them understand that there can be peace and love between communities, among people. They are shrouded by ignorance and bigotry; they need to do their human revolution, to realize humanity, to remove hatred. It has grown over them. They breathe it. They want none. There is only one voice, one culture, one language, one religion and one people.
How do you reconcile with your yesteryear neighbors? How do you do this? You do it by suppressing every little effort of bringing them back. You call hartals. You threaten them. You create an atmosphere of fear. You stop them from going to their pilgrimage sites, you be the masters, the dictators.
This is what reconciliation means to them.
Why do you care where Pandits live? Whether they live in townships or in clusters, in their burnt houses or in their looted property? Why do you care? Maybe Pandits can live on mountain tops, or in gated colonies, maybe in their villages, somewhere around their religious shrines or they may raise a colony around Gangabal Lake or Harmukh, or somewhere around Srinagar. Let them live wherever they want to. Let them live alone. Why can’t they live alone? Ok. The Social Fabric. Kashmiriyat. Insaaniyat. Jamhooriyat…..!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Why so much of concern? Nothing bad will happen to Kashmiriyat. It has flourished all these years. It has gone well along all these 25 years when Pandits were living in tents and camps, they still are. Let us leave Kashmiriyat for a moment, the garb of kashmiriyat which hounded our parents out from their homeland.
How do we reconcile? It happened to Government for the very first time in these 25 years, they spoke of a plan, a return plan, a blue print they have prepared regarding return. I doubt if they have really prepared something like this, I do doubt.
What happened next?
Kashmiriyat poured in all: It’s a divisive plan of Indian Government… It has something to do with RSS, the agencies…. They are planning to make Palestine out of Kashmir…. They are going to bring people from outside the state…. They will settle them here, a new Gaza, Palestine….Israel….Palestine…Gaza…Israel…Plan…conspiracy….. Let’s call for a bandh…… How dare you utter a thing about return? They will come and reside in our hearts, but not a piece of land for them. We welcome them….. They are our brothers….No land for them! We will oppose everything that has to do with Pandit return……..
This is what reconciliation means to them.
The hurt has moved towards the edge, it has grown over the years. Time has passed, memories of home erased, an entire generation washed in the flood of exodus, memories overshadowed by sleepless nights in tents and camps, aborigines turned into complete strangers, strangers swallowed by yearning, strangers that speak a broken language, strangers that appear same, lost in time in their own land, in a new land. It all appears foreign to me; they say we lived here, go and search for our traces alongside the bridge spanning that river. There is a temple, offer greetings to the saint sitting there, tell him, I will never come. The saint has grown old; he hides himself in his saffron cloth. One gets lost, the bazaars and streets are all filled with people, all in a hurry. It’s sheer madness out here in the streets. I mix in the crowd and hide myself. I hide my vermillion. The stares have frozen. I hide my thread. I hide myself in people. I mix. I lose myself. I forget myself; there is only one voice and one slogan. I hear people gossiping about us, mocking us. I hide my identity.
I have no memory of Kashmir; I was two then, on the lap of my father heading towards alien destination, to Garhi, Udhampur. When I look back, I see we lost our childhood. When most of the children of my age across the country would have been enjoying their childhood, we the children of exile were plunged into the throes of deprivation and homelessness.
People often talk about cultural milieu. They should come and visit. There is only one culture, one voice, one slogan and one religion. Search for the remnants of cultural milieu in the darkest corners of history. The stories of mixed culture have been trampled. It’s all dust. People have forgotten us. There are only relics left, few of them, chained, imprisoned, locked, left to vanish.
Put those façade appearances in hiding, bury them, seal them, and take them back. The manifestos, false promises, blue prints, dignified return, townships, clusters, visits, burn them a thousand times; hurt has grown over the years. Perhaps, everyone failed us.
‘But I am the exile
|Bantu Dhar was born at John Bishop Hospital in Anantnag, Kashmir. He currently lives in Migrant Quarters, Jammu. He writes short stories. His favorite writer is Fyodor Mikhailevich Dostoevsky|
Thank you Dr. Tej Munshi for reading. It' s a Myth factory there. Narratives and narratives, we had it all. It is time to tear down these myths.
Added By Sushant Dhar
Without mincing hypocricy with pretension, Mr. Bantu Ji Dhar has brought un-anointed truth forward to the readers. No Cock & Bull story and no stale weird fables. As rightly suggested, the 'Jagmohan Syndrome' is still haunting them even if you meet them in us/uk/canada. This falsehood is inherent in their genes as discovered by historians viz., Sir Lawrence, Tyndale Biscoe--and even Aurangzeb. Truth will prevail even though Bantu Ji may live in vale or elsewhere.
Added By Tej Munshi