A TIME THAT HISTORY FORGOT

A few months back I saw a video featuring Anupam Kher, who was espousing the atrocities committed on Kashmiri Pandits over two decades back. Even if a part of what he says in the video is true, then we as a nation need to hang our heads in shame.

I have a few friends who are Kashmiri Pandits and have always found them to be easy-going and extremely sociable. Interacting with them you would never be able to guess the amount of despair and suffering that stays hidden behind their face. It was twenty-six years ago that Kashmiri Pandits, who were legitimate citizens of Kashmir, were forced out their homeland. The local administration and the government in power remained mute spectators, while militants, backed by elements from across our borders, conducted a veritable pogrom to destroy one of India’s most beauteous of states. Open threats were issued to the Pandits in local papers and neither administrative nor legal action was initiated to nip this in the bud. Naked swords wrote merciless, blood-filled poetry and guns spoke the shameless language of terror, while jihadis blatantly persecuted, tortured and massacred prominent members of the community, all in the name of religion. Senior citizens, young men, women and not even new-borns were spared in this horrifying act of “ethnic cleansing”. Forget the hate politics behind this and forget the religious lunacy attached to this, the sheer inhumanity displayed by the perpetrators of this heinous crime would numb even the toughest amongst us! How can a human being unleash such bestiality on fellow human beings? My friends get highly emotional when they describe how their relatives had to escape with just the clothes they had worn, leaving behind prosperous businesses. Hearing Anupam Kher describe the carnages perpetrated during that period bring tears to your eyes and make you seethe with disgust.

Kashmir remains a paradise on earth only on paper, and many of the scattered Pandits continue to reside under inhospitable conditions in uncongenial transit camps. I have been to Kashmir in my teens (just before this mindless hostility started), and I can vouch that nothing can beat the natural beauty of the place. But it now remains volatile and always on the boil, making it perpetually unsafe for tourists. I am no authority to argue for or against Article 370 that has been imposed on the state since our Independence (or even AFSPA), and I do not want to get into the politics of the whole thing, but as an Indian I am very saddened to see that we have a state in the country where locals vehemently refuse to identify themselves as Indians and take pride in having hounded their neighbours out of their homes. Justifying this mindless violence by saying that Kashmir should never have been part of India in the first place, is being imprudent. The partition was a traumatic time for both countries – a time when there were only losers on both sides, more so India. So let us put that misconception to rest.

History books are replete with atrocities of the Nazis on Jews, and shocking audacity of Hitler and his SS troops. There have been multiple tomes, numerous movies and in-depth analysis done on this well-documented event. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have happened in our country – it is as if we have wilfully forgotten this deplorable episode. It pains me to see that the world has turned a blind eye to this equally odious and systematic maltreatment of human beings. Even our Indian filmmakers have been extremely cautious in their depiction of massacre, trying their best to tread carefully around this sensitive topic in order to avoid inviting ire upon themselves – at best the portrayal of this sensitive issue on celluloid has been heavily biased in favour of the locals. Multiple governments have promised to recreate a utopian heaven in the valley, with the locals and Pandits co-existing, only to renege on these assurances every time. Almost equally shocking is the fact that our media to a large extent, and all governments since Independence, irrespective of their political affiliations, have on some excuse or the other been indulging in appeasement of the local community. And then we have a reprehensible statement made a few months back by Farooq Abdullah (arguably the most unworthy Chief Minister of the state) saying that he will not go with a begging bowl and entreat Pandits to return home. Mr Abdullah, after the atrocities that you turned a blind eye to, that is the least you can do to assure this community that they have someone who is willing to hand-hold them back to their homeland. Human rights activists and opponents of Narendra Modi are quick to point an accusatory finger at him for his (so far unproven) role in the Godhra riots, but remain mum when it comes the genocides perpetrated in Kashmir or in the anti-Sikh riots.

When I see the bleeding hearts cry for an exterminated terrorist instead of supporting our army; when I see the media ignoring the sorrow of a slain army man’s family while highlighting the sorrow of a dead terrorist’s family, when I see the so-called Kashmiri “separatist leaders” ensconcing their family safely away from this violence, while paying fifteen-year olds and women to pelt stones on the Indian army, it pains me. Why are we letting history forget a wonderful community and letting tear asunder a beautiful state by a few religious zealots who are on the payroll of a country which in itself is a failed state? Time to clear the cobwebs of the mind…

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