By Sadho Ram
“Remember Kashmir. Remember 1989. Remember Kashmiri Pandits.”
“Gairon ke sitam pe kya sikwa karein
Hume toh apno ne hi patthar maare hain”
These two lines in Hindi by Dinesh Naidu fits that bleak pitch in which the thousands of Kashmiri Pandits are today so repulsively forced to express themselves and their unrelenting plight after years and years (exactly 20 years) of life living as a refugee at the doorstep of their own home.
And while India commemorate its ‘kaagzee taraqqee-ae-nation’ (Paper Progress of a Nation) and whatever it wants to, the Kashmiri Pandits, being dispossessed and discouraged in the hands of their own country, have got nothing else to do beside indulging themselves in the song of lamenting. And Ehsan Amir’s these two lines seems to be giving voice to their unheard sighs-
“Humse mat poochhiye hum kidhar jaayenge
Thak gaye hain bahut, apne ghar jaayenge”
Reading the huge online archives of sites dedicated to Kashmiri Pandits and going through the word-by-word description of the atrocities that was ‘showered’ upon them, my brain along with the raising impact of migraine tells me to stop reading any further but my heart, who himself is living the life of a forced rambler after being thrown out from his own house, pleads me to read on, so to grasp even a little bit of that inhumane treatments that Kashmiri Pandits had gone through, I read on.
It was the unfaithful year of 1989-90 which made nearly 400,000 Kashmiri Pandits ‘migrants’ (as Indian Government ‘fondly’ addresses them) inside their own nation, when Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front backed by the country on the other side of the border, indulged their selves in the ruthless genocide of tens of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus, they, the Pandits, then ran away, forced to leave their land, their home, their past, their present and into an uncertain future where today, they find themselves – unaccepted, unwelcomed and uncared – among the very people who happen to be their own.
A long quota of years (exactly 2 decades) has passed since then but the pain and the wound is still fresh – fresh enough to fill their eyes with tears and heart with pain of betrayal. And there is not a single day goes by when they, looking at themselves in the mirror, don’t see the longing in their red eyes which have been barred to soak themselves from the beauty of their own native place. It’s a longing for that home, which now belongs to the killers of their parents and relatives and which they, the Pandits, know that what was snatched away from them will never be given back to them – their home, their land.
This gruesome tale of Sarwanand Koul “Premi” – a Kashmiri Pandit, who was born in Kashmir’s Sofshalli, Anantnag village, depicts the misery that the thousands like him had to go through.
“Premi” was a poet and a teacher and when terrorism was at its extreme in the valley (though it is no less today, too) he refused to leave his village. He thought that he would withstand the Islamic hurricane as he had taught every Muslim man, women and dog in and around the periphery of his village and so they cannot as ungrateful as to kick him to dust along with his teachings and then bite him to death.
But his faith or whatever that he had in his heart for them, taught him the lesson which took away his life.
The ‘Patrons-of-Death’ entered in his house on the night of 28th April, 1990 and ordered all the members of his family to assemble into one room along with all the valuables. Whatever existed of any monetary value in the house of “Premi” was offered to those ‘guardians of Jihad’ who, as they put it, were fighting for their freedom – freedom for an ‘Azaad Kashmir.’
After taking away whatever material “Premi” had in his house, the ‘terror-mongers’ then demanded that “Premi” step out of the house for few words to be exchanged in private away from his family. And when the members of “Premi’s” family howled and whined the ‘Gods-of-Mercy’ gave them their words that, “Premi” would return and return ‘safe and in one piece.’
But “Premi’s” only son requested to be allowed to accompany his old father. So the ‘kind’ and ‘good-hearted’ as those ‘unmasked-men’ were, agreed to the plight of a son, saying-
‘If you wish you may also accompany him…’
And once they stepped out of the house, they never returned. The cold-blooded torture that was carried out at the old teacher’s body and his young son’s can put to shame even the worst tyrant of the three worlds put together.
The spot in the forehead where “Premi” would put his Tilak mark was brutally nailed. His body had the burnt dots of cigarette butts. The limbs of his body were broken and bones from his shattered ribcage poked out. His eye-balls lay crushed on the dust and he was hanged from a tree upside-down and bullets were fired on him. And the same orgy was bestowed upon his son.
The women inside the house ‘wailed and waited’ but feared to go out – feared that they too, might get raped just like the other day the wife of their neighbour was raped by these same ‘kind-hearted’ men.
Shame on those men who call themselves human after performing such tasks!
20th June marks the day of world refugees and their plight. And on this day the entire world comes together to give their bit to the refugees from all around the world, but at the same time the Kashmiri Pandits who are in there 20th year of being the refugees in their own nation are still waiting to be remembered and addressed in that proper way which any countryman deserves to be addressed – as Citizens.
So a group of hundred odd Kashmiri Pandits in collaboration with a group called Roots In Kashmir, whose members are born in exile (as claimed by them) in Delhi organised a peace protest on 20th June 2010, which was held at Jantar-Mantar, in the scorching heat of 45 degree Celsius. The protesters, dressed in traditional Kashmiri outfit and draped in white, demanded that the Indian Government take notice of their plight and give them the status of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP).
The many thousand Kashmiri Pandits since the exodus in 1989 have been living in the Indian Government's "semi-permanent camps for the displaced" in Jammu and New Delhi.
But if you go visit these camps, then you will see that, not only they are disgustingly stuffed but also lack sufficient facilities and basic necessities.
Like there is no regular supply of drinking water, always there’s a shortage of medicines, plus the sanitation facility are in the worst conditions imaginable. And on top of all this, the education and employment opportunities are severely lacking.
And so not surprisingly, as the result of all this below level of living conditions, the Kashmiri Pandits, after 20 years of their disarticulation, have faced serious health issues like high incidence of several kinds of diseases, depressions, stress-related problems and high death rate.
People might wonder why isn’t the government doing something concrete for them than? But the silence which marks the being of Kashmiri Pandits as refugees is actually an awkward truth that our politicians, our media and our secular parties are unable to come to terms with, so they push this matter under that dark carpet which happens to be the outcome of culpable silence and deliberate ignorance.
I can only hope – hope that someday these silent Kashmiri Pandits will be heard by those who can make a concrete difference in their life and with this – I pray (though I hardly pray) that all those who have died in this massacre may Rest In Peace (Although I feel that it ain’t going to happen any soon).
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