Guest post by GOWHAR FAZILI
Rahul Pandita’s book Our Moon Has Blood Clots must be looked at both as a personal account of suffering as well as a political project that implicitly and explicitly makes use of that suffering towards a particular end. The undertaking is a legitimate one on both counts. What the book manages to achieve on each, warrants a fair and dispassionate assessment.
His narration of events experienced by the Pandits is a welcome exposition of subjectivity around a range of traumatic events, humiliations, killings and betrayals undergone prior to and after the outbreak of mass political rebellion in Kashmir in 1989. The events thus narrated, especially the account of the personal experiences of trauma do make one strongly identify with the suffering of the families involved and agree with the wide swathes of subjective anger and hurt shared by the community. The chilling accounts of individual and mass killings and the circumstances that made them possible, call for collective self-reflection, remorse and atonement. This account also calls for serious reflection on the fragility of human associations and trust in exceptional circumstances that we normally take for granted.
The book as well as the promotional interviews around the book push the claim that not only certain militants but also many ordinary people, including those personally known to the victims, were responsible for the exodus through their acts of omission and commission. This claim is substantiated through a range of indictments based on personal encounters with individuals, shared nuggets of information, as well as the interpretation of the larger political symbolism and slogans which were seen as a deliberate attempt to intimidate Pandits, and Pandits alone. While it is difficult to deny that a number of individuals took advantage of those anarchic times to gratify personal hate and lust for loot, it makes for an overstatement to underplay the equally frequent narrative of mutual support between individuals that one gets to hear during conversations between the members of the two communities privately. Such underplay does violence to those aspects of shared memory.
The arrangement of harrowing experiences from the beginning of time, through July 1931 to the present as though there is a seamless, teleological continuity between events separated by time and space makes the narrative monolithic and monologic and effectively unconvincing, though one can understand how deeply felt hurt and anger can lead to such simultaneous cathexis and amnesia in the mind of the subject.
Kashmiri Muslims overlook the impact of the use of overt religious symbolism in their rebellion against the state, upon the minorities who were thus othered by default. But that it was intended purely to scare them off is again an overstatement given that any mass cultural or political rally in Kashmir even prior to 1989 articulated itself through religious symbols, and there are historical reasons for this. Besides this over the years the secular symbolism and political language that did exist in Kashmir was largely appropriated by the occupation and deployed to further the status-quo. For this and many other reasons resistance to the status-quo took on a religious tone. Also the struggle drew inspiration from various movements active at the moment across the Muslim world where Islamised resistance was pitched against secular neo-colonial regimes or military occupations like that of Kashmir.
This does not absolve those who led the rebellion in Kashmir of their failure to invent symbols that would have been more inclusive. Besides this the groups like Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) did ride the wave of dissent and use the erosion of the state to further its brand of political Islam and pan-Islamism and found ready subscribers. JI was one of the largest non-co-opted groups with the ideological resources as well as the organisational base to do so besides being actively patronised by Pakistan for its own ends. This appropriation of the national liberation struggle for exclusivist communal ends requires much introspection and revision on part of those who subscribe to the movement for Azadi.
On the other hand the book presents Pandits as politically benign throughout history, while the period post the arrival of Muslims on the scene is spoken of as ‘Islamisation’, implicitly as though Islam were something essentially vile. It does violence to the community, its intellect and will to presume that they were mostly converted forcibly by the invaders. The ascendance of Islam in Kashmir is at least as much to do with its civilisational appeal, its novelty as a spiritual experience, its relative egalitarianism and the realignment of hierarchies that result with any major socio-political change; as to the superior military and administrative prowess of the kings and queens who took over from Pandit or Buddhist Kings. Such exclusivist reading of history in Kashmir makes for Hindutva-like historiography. Communal historical narratives do persist in the privacy of our homes but any scholarship worth its salt should seek to challenge such naïve accounts of self.
While looking at Pandits as politically benign, Muslims are effectively stereotyped as perpetrators of systematic violence with the exception of few incidental individuals thinly sprinkled across the narrative. It also seamlessly combines the politically loaded stereotype of the ‘brutish tribal invaders’ of 1947 with that of the local militants and protestors of 1989, missing out on the respective contexts of the Dogra state-sponsored Jammu genocide of 1947 that triggered the tribal raid as a response, as well as the immediate political context that led to militancy in 1989.
The book elaborates on the bigotry of Muslim regimes over many pages but shrinks the hundred plus years of appalling, communal atrocities by the Sikh and Hindu-Dogra regimes that preceded 1947 into a few token sentences. The continuities with the Dogra regime that set the tone for Indian occupation are completely missed. The book ignores the causes of cyclic political upheaval in Kashmir and the history of political intrigue and violence that has sustained Indian control since 1947. In the immediate, it fails to even mention the Centre’s intervention to install Ghulam Mohammad Shah (Gulle Shah), followed by the systematic rigging of 1987 elections and accompanying repression that led to mass rebellion. Such systematic state violence and complete failure to make any political redress led to a tipping point following which violence spiralled out of hand. This is not to say that Pandits were legitimate target because of their identifications and silences, but to illustrate how perceptions of violence are selective.
The superior claims to Kashmir based on mythologised communal history does violence to humans who predated any known religion in Kashmir (like the well known stone-age inhabitants of Burzahama). By implication erasing all those non-caste inhabitants like Aaram, Doomb, Chopaan, Haenz, Watal, Gujjur, Bakerwaal – in fact the whole of peasantry who have as much claim to Kashmir as any blue-blooded Pandit, Syed or Sufi regardless of the fact that they may not have left much of a written record to vouch for themselves. They are there in flesh and blood for everyone to see. The failure to find them in history does violence to Pandit claims of superior knowledge and learning — the claims that are naively repeated (subtly or explicitly) throughout this book and many other Pandit self-accounts. The connection between power and knowledge is somehow completely lost on them. The pride in being exceptionally learned and the anxiety over losing that exclusive privilege is a palpable, unresolved undercurrent.
These claims are not unlike the exclusivist elite Muslim claims to history that do not consider the contributions of their Hindu, Buddhist and non-religious ordinary and exceptional ancestors as their own (as though they have all sprung out of the womb of Ka’aba and not Kashmir). History needs to be understood as the dialectics of power in which all are implicated regardless of whether we see ourselves as political or numerical minorities or majorities or neither or both at the same time. Minorities and majorities are constantly in flux and depend on how we choose to identify ourselves as well as the result of markers and experiences that have shaped us and that we are for various reasons unwilling to let go. All this does not mean to say that the historical/political takes precedence over the personal and intimate but that the personal is irretrievably braided with the historical/political and any claims to naiveté and innocence in this regard are patently false and pretentious.
The violence of the elite embedded in the system is of a different order than that of those who challenge the system on the streets. The violence is in their silences and in the very disproportionate representations at the expense of the excluded and the marginalised. This holds true for both the Pandit as well as the Muslim elite. The failure to forge a non-communal language of politics and resistance and the resultant communalised violence and communal subject positions is a collective failure of the Kashmiri self as a whole — including those who claim superior knowledge and access to power, or those who have the numbers and the will to resist on the streets. The exclusive political affinity to Pakistan or Saudi-Arabia for a Muslim is as communal as the exclusive political affinity of a Pandit to India. It is the reverse affinities that are more interesting. These may be a result of political masochism, of one being a political sell-out or an outcome of spiritual transcendence beyond the scope of rational understanding. Being Kashmiri necessarily demands some understanding of, and affinity with the shared cultural and political experience. Any attempt to distance oneself from it, distances one from the essence of being a Kashmiri. This holds true for all communities.
The narrative demarcates and crystallises the self communally. The ‘other’ is a seamless monolith collectively responsible for the religious minority’s suffering, even while sections from among those designated as the other were equally vulnerable to the anarchic situation because of their political and class affiliations, or to the violence of the military unleashed by the state on people in general. At the heart of the problem is the failure to imagine community except in terms of religion as a pure indivisible and non-overlapping category with no internal and external contradictions. This may be a failure of imagination or deliberate political choice. The greater onus for this in my opinion rests with Muslims because of their superior numbers (though Pandits could have greatly helped with their historically inherited superior access to knowledge and power).
Further the identification with the symbols of the state like BSF (Border Security Force) in one’s backyard is also noteworthy. The uniformed men who were and are perceived as a threat and as intruders by the majority in Kashmir are seen as a source of security by the Pandit community. Similar identification and abhorrence of the symbols of the state are communally shaped. Pandit identification with India and alienation from resistance is as communally driven as Muslim disregard for Indian presence in Kashmir and identification with Pakistan or the militants of Pakistani origin. Sadly we have failed to find security in each other and look for it among non-Kashmiri co-religionists.
Early militancy had multiple inspirations, only one of them was Islamism. It served the interests of both the Indian and Pakistani establishments to split Kashmir along religious lines and we let them succeed. Further the systematic revenge that the Indian state has been taking on the people of Kashmir for who we are has further impeded emotional recovery and possibility of serious effort towards communal reconciliation.
To look at Pandits as active political actors would also mean to understand their complicity through silence over the systematic state violence that has prevailed in Kashmir pre- and post-Pandit departure. Their identifications and influence with the Indian state makes it ethically imperative upon them to take a moral stand against the policies of the state they identify with and press for a just political solution in Kashmir. Otherwise it will be safe to assume that the status-quo suites them politically and that they leverage their influence and suffering in favour of the exclusionary right-wing politics in India.
It is important to emphasise that India has not only been fighting militancy in Kashmir but the population itself as a whole along with its political claims. Leveraging tribal raids, Islamism and violence against minorities in Kashmir to undermine or drown out those political claims is ethically as well as logically unsustainable. This may find emotional resonance with the Hindu rightwing in India and sadly that may be exactly what is sought.
(Gowhar Fazili is a PhD scholar at the Department of Sociology in the Delhi School of Economics.)
- Kashmir Vale: An Open Letter to Rahul Pandita
More on Kashmiri Pandits from Kafila archives:
- Raju Moza: Why Kashmiri Pandits May Never Return to Kashmir
- Siddhartha Gigoo: ‘Snakebite or Sunstroke?’
Related posts from Kafila archives:
- Shivam Vij: The Present of the Absent State
- Arif Ayaz Parrey: A Prologue to Memory
Previously by Gowhar Fazili in Kafila:
32 thoughts on “Our memories come in the way of our histories: Gowhar Fazili”
Pandits have lost the grip on Kashmir which they had for centuries. They must be repenting why they fell in trap of Gov Jagmohan. More importantly they have lost their identity. That is more alarming. Most have got merged in the Hindu culture of India which is totally different than what Pandits believe in. Shiv is their god not Ram, just to give the reader an idea. Will there be any “Pandit” after say two decades, only time will tell!
Do you mean there were no Ram or Krishna temples in Kashmir? Was the Hanuman Mandir on the banks of Jhelum in Srinagar not one of the temples with highest footfalls? And how exactly is Pandit culture different from Hindu culture in broader terms? Did Krishan Joo Razdan not write devotional songs to avatars of Vishnu? Did not religious Kashmiri Pandits hold the Bhagvad Gita in high regard? What are you talking about? I know it feels good to think of oneself as somehow superior than the ‘common folks’ of the mainland but your comment here is not only out of context but also naive and racist.
Being a Kashmiri Pandit (?) that you are, one would expect you to know of the long history of Vaishnavism in the valley.
Also, when we refer to our community, we say “we”, not “they.”
Don’t mind. Just minor errors. Rest I agree with fully, especially the Jagmohan Part. ;-)
Sualeh, If you are so well-versed in the “long history of Vaishnavism in the valley”, you would know that most of it dates to no earlier than the assumption of Dogra control over it. And that other person who was referring to the Hanuman temple, same reply.
//Sualeh, If you are so well-versed in the “long history of Vaishnavism in the valley”, you would know that most of it dates to no earlier than the assumption of Dogra control over it. //
Mridu Rai, You are wrong in saying that most of the Vaishnavism in the valley dates to no earlier than Dogra (etc etc). On the contrary nearly all of the Vaishavism amongst Kashmiri Pandits in the families that have continued to follow it predates any such influence as a ‘Dogra Control’ whatever you mean by that. (The Dogras too brought in some of their Vaishnava practices into the Valley)
Sualeh is right. Kashmiri Vaishnavism does have a long history. That history dates as far back as Kashmir Shaivism as can be gauged from known resources. This included the monistic Vaishnava tradition of Ekayana.
Mridu, not everything has origins in the Dogra era. Here is what Ramesh Tamiri says:
Contrary to the general notion that Saivism has been the main religious tradition of Kashmir Vaisnavism has been equally popular religious cult.An excellent study of Vaisnavism in Kashmir appears in Dr. Bansi Lal Malla’s book titled Vaisnava Iconography in Kashmir,the only work on the subject so far. Saivism got a prominent place because of many factors.Great philosophers universalized Kashmir Saivism, while institutionalized functioning helped it in maintaining continuity.Alok Aima has rightly raised an important query—– the place of Rama in Vaisnav tradition of Kashmir.Names of Kashmiri kings\nobility after Ram and Ravan indicate two things—antiquity of Ram tradition in Kashmir and secondly that it was not Balmiki ramayan version that was popular here,otherwise how could a person be named after the Devil.While studying tradition epics are to be treated as epics and nothing more.Rise of particular religious cults at certain junctures and at certain places is due to specific socio-economic,cultural and even political factors.Though Ramayana tradition dates to an earlier era,yet it witnessed great popularity in 17th and 18th century only.Most of the temples of Lord Rama and Hanuman in north India date to this period.To look for these temples in Kashmir to establish prevalence of Ram cult is not correct way to approach study of religious tradition.Even then there are vital artifects ,that establish beyond doubt the pervasiveness and popularity of Rama cult in Kashmir.I would just mention few—-1.There was a grand temple dedicated to Lord Ram in miliyal,Hare,near Sholura,Trehegam.In the popular parlance it is called Ram Takht,which is actually supposed to be on the nearby hillock.The ruins are extant even today.I do have a pre-1990 photograph of the spring and temple ruins.2. Gosainteng shrine in Baramulla is linked with the havan Lord Rama is supposed to have performed here.There are Ramkund,Sita kund,Lakhsman kund here.3.On the traditional pilgrimage route of Gangabal yatra via Wusan two stops—Ramradh and Bharat Bal indicate the popularity of Ram tradition4.Place named Sitaharan in Zagookharan in Beerwah,is believed to be the place where Ravan abducted her.5.A place in hamal —Yarbug where a particular stone is said to be the arrow of Lord Rama.6.Place names—Ramhoma,Rampur and Ramkot7.Village in Tangmarg called Ravanpora.If Ravan was not considered a devil how could a village be named after him.The question of celebration of Dussehra does not arise.Unlike Dussehra Dewali was celebrated as Sukh saptika,the festival of lights.Throughout ancient history trading class remained the main elite in Kashmir before the feuadalisation.How could they ignore celebration of a day dedicated to goddess of wealth?Even Srinagar gets its name from Srilaxmi.Soon after Ramlila became popular elsewhere Ram lila groups arrived in Kashmir also.The early stirrings for theatre were created by these Ram Lila groups.I have referred to the role of these groups in my book on painting and theatre in Kashmir.
It’s amusing to read this part – “The ascendance of Islam in Kashmir is at least as much to do with its civilisational appeal, its novelty as a spiritual experience, its relative egalitarianism and the realignment of hierarchies that result with any major socio-political change”.
Then how come Pandits fled Kashmir, making their way across India after Muslim invasions if Islam came peacefully? The same way they fled now. How come?
Really? Forget about those days. Go tell this to the Alawites, the Shites, the Ahmadis and god alone knows who else, ah, yes, the Parsis who fled Islam and came to India.
“novelty as a spiritual experience” – oh, yes, to die at the hands of the invaders on resisting conversion must surely make for some spiritual experience.
“Civilisational appeal” from invaders of Arab, Turkic, Afgan origins. What civilisational appeal are you talking about?
Everything came from the sword. If not, how come conversions of natives of those rates at those times are not happening now?
Oh really…Had everything came from sword and brutality then you wouldn’t be making 85% of India rather you would have 0-0.1% of you like in Americas!!
Damn!!!… that RSS story.
1000 years of brutal rule and only 20% (India, Pak and Bangladesh combined) of muslims, naaah man, doesn’t look like sword case here. Just RSS propaganda!
TLDR : They did try to make India 99.9% Muslim – they failed.
You are trying to repeat a very dangerous and false myth about the spread of islam. You are suggesting the following
1. that if Islam was all violent then India would have less Hindus
2. if the above statement is not true then those that converted must have done so for the “civilizational appeal” of it!!
Point 1 is disturbingly a stealth introduction of the Pakistani belief that Muslims were super warriors who could force their will on the weak Hindus (Pakistani literature often talks about 1 Muslim = 10 Hindus). What you imply is that Muslim tolerance and benevolence allowed Hinduism to continue in existence otherwise it would have been wiped out.
In most places where Islam went it was imposed by a combination of the sword and social and financial discrimination. When it spread into the Levant and later Egypt it completely subjugated the local customs and beliefs. The same was repeated when it was imposed in what is today Afghanistan and the central asian republics. In Persia the local beliefs were replaced by Islam due to imposition of Jizya and social pressures. The few remaining Zoroastrians fled to good ole India.
Islam found large and organized civilizational pushback in India and in Europe. In India they did their best to push Islam violently , the numerous temples that were destroyed and the accompanying slaughter bear testimony to that. When they realized that they couldnt control such a large population spread over a vast area, in fact, a population that was resisting this forced imposition the Islamic rulers changed tack. Some like Akbar were enlightened and sought to build a liberal composite society while othere like Aurangzeb went back to the tried and tested ways of imposing a foreign culture and religion on India
For most of the Islamic rulers of India the urge to proselytize and destroy the local culture was tempered by the practical requirements of administering and profiting from the land. If they attempted to be more violent than they were the pushback would have been even greater.
India and its civilization endured. It even assimilated aspects of the Islamic civilization but to paint the Islamic invaders as a bunch of benevolent super warriors is a patent untruth and is an insult to India and her rich civilization.
Sualeh Keen’s Review of Gowhar Fazili’s Review of Rahul Pandita’s Book ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’
1. ON DENIAL
// While it is difficult to deny… //
Gowhar Fazili seems to be speaking for himself, and he, at an individual level, may indeed find it difficult to deny that not just militants but many ‘unarmed’ people from the majority community also targeted the Pandits with various methods of intimidation. Gowhar needs to be congratulated for saying something that his fellow-separatists never ever acknowledge in public. But the fact remains that the majority of the majority (and I don’t say this lightly) continue to publicly blame the exodus of Pandits on Governor Jagmohan — purportedly, to clear the ground for the genocide of Muslims — as if the JKLF, SLF, Al-Umar and other militant organizations were busy elsewhere in administering polio drops to children!
To quote Shantiveer Kaul, “No section of KP opinion has, as far as I know, ever suggested that all Kashmiri Muslims were complicit in forcing them to flee. It is painful to see large sections of KM opinion (more in the virtual world) consensually arguing that KPs left at the behest of Jagmohan who later unleashed terror on Kashmiri Muslims. This is a direct suggestion that by their act of absenting themselves from the equation, all KPs facilitated – and were thus complicit in – the miseries and misfortune suffered by the majority community. Nothing can be more degrading and hurtful than this preposterous insinuation.” In other words, the Jagmohan theory is a red herring that not only allows Muslims to disown total responsibility for the exodus (“Moral Disengagement”), it also, ironically, tries to depict the Pandits as evil Little Eichmanns who cleared the ground to facilitate the genocide of Muslims. It is the most disgusting accusation that can be heaved upon victims.
What I am appalled at, however, is the sheer stupidity of arguing with actual victims that nothing happened to them and that all their memories are mere fabrications (even furnishing them the reason: Jagmohan!), as if the victims are going to say, “Perhaps you are right, though I don’t remember every receiving any directive from Jagmohan. Let us just agree to disagree.” No, they are going to protest and the amount of their bitterness will increase proportionally with the degree of denial. If Muslims really want to mend fences with Pandits, they could not possibly indulge in something more counter-productive.
Other red herrings from the separatist camp to distract from the communal nature of Azadi:
1. “The Pandits are cowards to have run-away. Look at Sikhs; they are minorities as well, but they bravely faced the situations, just like brave Muslims. Thus, Pandits have only themselves to blame.”
Rebuttal: Khalistani and Mujahiddeen were bhai-bhai back then. No slogans were sung about Sikhs and Sikhyanis.
2. “It was a class struggle; the Pandits had occupied all the posts (some specifically mention ‘bureaucratic posts’ that additionally interfered in Kashmiri affairs). They had it coming because of their ‘ku-karma’.”
Rebuttal: As of 1990, Pandits did not have any advantage over Muslims in getting jobs (on the contrary, they were discriminated against, starting with the Bakshi government). This zero-sum theory (“our loss is their gain”) is a Leftist spin to show ‘class’ was the reason for targeting Pandits and not ‘religion’ (yes, that’s why a poor Pandit panwalla was targeted!). Well, at least this theory acknowledges that the Pandits were indeed targeted specifically.
3. There are other ‘politically correct’ red herrings, such as blaming everything on the famous Foreign Hand (here, Pakistan/ISI), on “vagaries of time”, “violent winds of change”, qismat, etc. At least, ‘ku-karma’ doesn’t feature here, so no rebuttal.
This Denial that the Pandits were intimidated by members of the majority is the backdrop of the book. Rahul Pandita has publicly declared that his book is an attempt at countering the denial by KMs in general of what led to the exodus of Pandits, via the narration of his personal ordeal. By brushing aside this salient feature of the book, Gowhar Fazili is shifting the goal-post of the review towards a direction more convenient to him and his ideological position. Actually, he is denying the book its very raison d’être! Thus, Gowhar Fazili’s review can only be called “A Denial of Denials.”
Yes, Denial is the name of the game. However, it needs to be emphasized that one cannot really blame KM kids who were not born in 1990 or were too young to understand the events that unfolded back then. Their ‘knowledge’ is second hand and they are not to be blamed; the older generation is responsible for the misinformation that the new generation has been fed.
It also needs to be emphasized that not everybody was aware of what happened, due to a number of reasons:
1) Some were too preoccupied by the volatile situation to take notice what happened to the minorities.
2) Some lived in a locality where there was little contact with the minorities.
3) Due to curfew, some couldn’t even know what was happening next door.
4) Some forgot what exactly happened during the build-up to the exodus, because new incidents were happening everyday in 1990 — massacres, killings, blasts, crackdowns, protests, encounters, targeted assassinations — and each day’s news obliterated the previous day’s news, until the exodus became a footnote in our (KMs’) own experience with the conflict. This is also why many KMs genuinely don’t recall the night of 19th January, for it was a night one among many similar ones that were to follow.
5) There are also many instances where a panicked Pandit family did not even inform their closest relatives that they intend to flee during the night (Rahul Pandita too has mentioned this in his book). This secrecy was maintained because there were incidents where militants looted the Pandits who were about to leave.
This vacuum of knowledge of ‘why did my Pandit neighbour leave’ / ‘why the Pandits left’ was soon filled by conspiracy theories conveniently supplied by separatist militants who orchestrated the entire thing as they saw no role of Pandits in their violent political project.
THUS, one cannot blame the Muslims who had no role in the exodus or those who used to mouth the Jagmohan conspiracy theory because they don’t know better. Besides, there were no Pandits left in the valley to ask the truth from. This cannot be called Denial; the word for it is “Ignorance.”
HOWEVER, now that due to internet, one can directly ask any Pandit individual what made him / her leave their home, one can learn the truth right from the horse’s mouth. One will come to know of threatening letters, of religio-fascist slogans that made the entire minority community cringe in fear, of targeted assassinations, of them having been advised by their well-wisher Muslim friends that it is beyond their ability to save them (Pandits) so it was advisable to leave. Ask the victims. Simple.
We all should realise that all claims to ‘victimhood’ are interconnected. If we don’t believe the victims of the minority community, how do we expect them to believe or sympathise with the victims of our own community? We need to acknowledge the truth — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Truth comes first in Truth & Reconciliation, and there can be no reconciliation without the former.
2. ON FRIENDS AND FOES
//“…it makes for an overstatement to underplay the equally frequent narrative of mutual support between individuals that one gets to hear during conversations between the members of the two communities privately. Such underplay does violence to those aspects of shared memory.”//
This is an unsubstantiated claim. So much for reducing Rahul Pandita’s personal experience as a “subjective” thingy, while pretending to eavesdrop on “private conversations” to go on to claim that the latter are “equally frequent.”
How many people from the two communities were in touch with each other post-Exodus but pre-Facebook days? Few (and some of them were real estate agents…). Actually, given that widespread Azadi sentiment was about merging with Pakistan for religious affinity, the communalists easily outnumbered the friendly ones.
Nevertheless, let us assume this unsubstantiated, though possibly true, equivocation: In 1990, a minority of around 5% of the total population was surrounded by 47.5% friendly ones and 47.5% hostile people. [Am I the only one alarmed that as many as half the population was hostile to Pandits?! Should I be deflecting this glaring fact by pointing to the other ones who were friendly?! Well, it won’t be the first time when extremists hide behind the moderates in their fold. “Idhar nahin, udhar dekho!”] Nevertheless, the fact remains even the friendly ones — as large a group as they were — couldn’t protect the Pandits from the communalists, and in fact, the friendly ones, in many cases, were the ones who advised the KPs to move out as they feared for the latter’s life, an advice that could have been and most probably was well-meaning.
This itself raises an issue that wades into even more uncomfortable territory. Let us take a look at what Gowhar euphemistically calls “mass rebellion”. Were the hundreds of thousands of people who led processions with green shrouds wrapped around their bodies, who braved the bullets and pelted stones, who picked up the gun to fight with Indian Army, *afraid* to confront the communalists amongst their fold? This simultaneous display of aggression and helplessness does not add up. Fact is that even Friends had resigned to a Kashmir without Pandits, thanks to the widespread belief in early1990 that ‘Azadi-is-round-the-corner-just-a-couple-of-weeks-away’. On 19th January, people were in a celebration mood. It was a Jashn-e-Azadi (‘jashn’ or celebration) when people gathered in mosques, played recorded Jihad songs and shouted slogans — anti-Kafir and, at many places, anti-Pandit) — on PA systems of mosques. And as we know, not many people remember their friends during ‘good’ times.
The point is, if the denials and red herrings continue, the accusations are bound to be even more vehement and tar-brushed, and even Friends will lose the R of relation and become Fiends. This denial business is only going to make things uglier…
Also, what is with the Friends that they only acknowledge the plight of Pandits in “private conversations”, while their public stand is that of denial, deflection, and whataboutery? The stark inconsistency between the public and private statements of Friends is also a sibling of Betrayal. I recall being told that a 2010 post on MVJKL titled “Who is responsible for the exodus of Pundits?” was the first instance of public acknowledgement by a few Muslims of the truth behind the exodus. For all I know, there may have been other instances of public acknowledgement, but I’m not aware of any. Anyway, I was shocked: What, not even once in public in 20-frigging-years?!
So, Friends, come out come out, wherever you are. Don’t you know your Public Silence does violence with the memory of the victims?
3. ON RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS THAT ARE COMMUNAL BUT UNINTENTIONALLY SO, AND PEOPLE WHO CAN NEVER BE COMMUNAL, AND WHEN THEY ARE, IT IS ALL INDIA’S FAULT
Harbir Singh Nain has already demonstrated how communal the Tehree-e-Azadi has been. I would like to add that Azadi is intrinsically communal because it is the ‘unfinished business of Partition’, which was along communal lines. Elsewhere, Dilip Simeon says, “The entire issue is a product of the communal partition in 1947, without which it would not exist. And there is no possibility of communal reconciliation without a recognition that communalism is one phenomenon, not two or three.”
Nevertheless, disregarding all evidence to the contrary, let us assume for a moment that Azadi wasn’t originally communal. Then again, even if Azadi was not communal, the separatists made absolutely no effort to make it secular. How many Pandits were asked to join the Tehreek? Azadi was always communal, even when the word was not extant, even when its emotional equivalent was mere throwing of stones on the roof-tops of Pandits’ houses in some areas whenever the Pakistani cricket team lost to India.
Gowhar Fazili’s review goes beyond Rahul Pandita’s book and furnishes a highly intellectualised apologia for the violent and communal religio-regional movement called Azadi, which in 1990 meant merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. Gowhar’s apologia reminds me of Julien Benda’s famous essay “The Betrayal of the Intellectuals,” in which Benda argued that French and German intellectuals in the 19th and 20th century had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism (in this case, communal violence).
But I don’t wish to spend time deconstructing the intellectual doublespeak. Instead, reality has a habit of cutting through the cranium. So let us see how reality stands next to a web of words.
Let me share one real incident — one of the less sensational, commonplace and therefore untold incidents of 1989-90 — from my hometown, Anantnag:
There used to be a small Pan Shop near Lal Chowk, Anantnag. This pan shop was run by a Pandit and the shop also sold newspapers, periodicals and comics (I was a regular customer for Indrajal and Diamond comics).
Those were the days when “Symbols” gave the dress code diktat for KPs and KMs (the women of former community had to wear tilak, so that they won’t be thrown acid upon, which was meant for women of latter community who didn’t observe the burqa… how considerate!). The “Symbols” gave another diktat prohibiting the sale of filmy and sensuous magazines, besides shtting down all movie theatres as well as the multitude of Video Halls (which are still absent from the valley, even after 22 years). Naturally, the Pandit’s Pan Shop complied and stopped selling such magazines. But even that did not help.
On one of the curfew days, the Pandit owners of the shop, who lived a few hundred metres away in a Pandit mohalla, noticed smoke arising from the Lal Chowk area while they were basking in the sun on the top of their house. Within minutes, the whole Pandit Mohalla gathered in their sitting room (since all houses were internally connected). Some little bird had told them that their shop was being looted and some portions had been set on fire. All the Pandit men from the mohalla unanimously decided to violate the curfew (since it was already violated by the “Symbols”) and stop the loot. After an hour or so, they returned home with bruises and blood on their faces and arms. All of them had been beaten up by the Police who did nothing to stop the loot. The Pan Shop owner’s brother had — a high school teacher — just sat down in the middle of the road, helpless, and urged the Police and the “Symbols” (all known students and acquaintances who lived around Lal Chowk) to beat him as much as they wanted. Next day, there was a small column news story about it in some local newspaper, which was rather intended ‘to send the message across’: see what happens to those.
Reality! So what do we have here? Communalism, Common People, and Police, all of them together and pretending to be “Religious Symbols” that of course they are not. Verily, communalism and fascism soon sheds its organisational character, especially when it becomes a mass movement.
And yes, Mr. Anonymous: Curfews were broken. Deal with it.
But the Pandit family did not ‘migrate’ (as it is called, a la Butterflies) even then. They did not leave even after 1st Jan 1990 when they found a ‘Quit Kashmir’ threatening on JKLF’s letterhead pasted on their outer gate. The wordings, it began very comically, “Dear Pandit ji, Happy New Year” and then in next two paragraphs “Quit kashmir”, “dire consequences”, “your family and children” and all other banal and innocuous “Symbolic” phrases. No, even then they did not leave, though they packed off their children to Jammu where an uncle used to live since 1986. By May 1990, the entire mohalla was deserted except for a Pandit couple (the teacher and his wife) who stayed there with the hope that things might turn around. A family friend IQBAL stayed with them and dissuaded his “freedom fighters” to spare them at least on two different occasions. It was only when the Azadi militia knocked at their outer gate that the couple in their bed clothes ran through — devil knows better — what kotchas and sadaks, paid every single paisa they had to a taxi driver who brought them to Jammu. They say you should have seen the look on their faces when they arrived in Jammu.
So, Gowhar Fazili would us believe his apologia? And he would ride the high horse of self-righteousness by using one Iqbal as the shield behind which the mob and police at Lal Chowk and an entire violent and communal movement can hide? Ath dapaan, “Phakass thaavun sarposh” (Keeping a lid on the stink). This, coupled with his rather amusing defence of the spread of the religion of the community he hails from, suggests (though I cannot say with certainty) that he is playing to the “Jazakallah!” gallery and Leftist circles where batting for and playing down Muslim communalism qualifies as a certificate of secularism and liberal thought.
And um, btw, people should read Rahul Pandita’s book to decide for themselves. Nowhere does he deny an Iqbal when there was one.
4. ON PANDITS’ SO-CALLED ACTIVE ROLE IN POLITICS
//To look at Pandits as active political actors would also mean to understand their complicity through silence over the systematic state violence that has prevailed in Kashmir pre and post Pandit departure.//
This is a false assertion. Sure, Pandits were proud of the fact that the first PM of India (Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru) and his family hailed from their community. Sure, they though BSF are security forces of their country. But to say that Pandits played an active role in the political scene of the valley is a lie. They didn’t even figure at all. In fact, their electoral number was too low to make any dent in any constituency, save in one or two constituencies in Srinagar. In fact, many of them were so disinterested in the Sher and Bakra fights, NC-Congress showdowns, etc. that they didn’t even bother to vote. So, yeah, they were disinterested and therefore “silent” about the sham democracy that prevailed, the rigged elections, etc. In fact, this numerical disenfranchisement may be another reason why they identified more with national politics than the local one.
But this assertion is not just false, it sounds as insensitive / malicious as the common separatist argument that “Jagmohan asked the Pandits to vacate the valley so he can massacre more Muslims.” So, according to Gowhar Fazili, the Pandits as evil Little Eichmanns (“the elite embedded in the system”) whose “silence” contributed towards the violence that existed. I had said that the Jagmohan Conspiracy Theory is the most disgusting accusation that can be heaved upon victims. I was wrong; there can be even more or similarly disgusting accusations.
Couldn’t help but notice that a friend on Gowhar’s thread talked of a delegation of Pandits going to Ranjit Singh and used that as an instance of “Active Politics of Pandits.” This is quiet amusing when people jump from 1990 to antediluvian times. Most likely that the delegation was led by one Pandit who had accrued a large tax liability and was finding ways of waiving that off, with what better than a coup d’etat! Amusing it is, when the people, who protest that Rahul Pandita has cast a monolithic picture of the KMs, themselves generalise about the Pandits based on a bunch of people who had their own motivations for approaching the Sikh leader! And where are the oh-so-sensible Sufis? Didn’t Makhdoom Sahib invite the Sunni Mughals to Kashmir, to stave off the Shia Chak rulers, or it that okay because you belong to…? Alas, it seems that in our side of the world, communal identity lurks under the surface of every second person we happen to scratch.
5.1 ON ACCUSATION THAT RAHUL PANDITA’S BOOK WILL STRENGTHEN THE INDIAN HINDU RIGHT-WING AND THE SUGGESTION THAT IS THE REAL INTENTION
//Leveraging tribal raids, Islamism and violence against minorities in Kashmir to undermine or drown out those political claims is ethically as well as logically unsustainable. This may find emotional resonance with the Hindu rightwing in India and sadly that may be exactly what is sought.//
Being the concluding paragraph, this is the take home of the presentation spin of Gowhar Fazili, who, I am sure, is too literate not to use all the ammunition in the literary arsenal.
And Gowhar Fazili’s review will help ……? Fill in the blanks; by now, you would have gotten the answer.
In any case, knowing Rahul Pandita and his consistent public stance over the years, any suggestion that he is working on behalf of the Hindutvavdis is not just downright ridiculous, it is actually another Red Herring (a special case of Fallacy of Association, that makes people ideological allies if they all believe that the earth is round) intended to distract the audience from the factual contents of Rahul’s memoir.
So, shall we stop talking of Islamist communalism because it will furnish the Hindutva brigade material they can use? And shall we stop talking of Hindutvavad because it helps Islamists? No. Not done.
@ Kashmiri Muslims:
Au contraire, far from a rear-guard defence of Hindutva, Rahul is a sane and sensible humanist: complete opposite of the Hatemonger the Azadi-mongers are trying to paint him as. Take a look at this short video, in which he is accused of being anti-Pandit just because he speaks what he thinks is the truth.
Why cannot we let him express his anguish, without pointing fingers at his Hindu name? He is a victim as well.
5.2 FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF THE FALSE ACCUSATION THAT RAHUL PANDITA IS A HINDUTVA EXPONENT:
An excerpt from Our Moon Has Blood Clots pages 102 to 105:
(Btw, the phrase in the title is by Pablo Neruda, who in his “Oh, My Beloved City” wrote: “…and an earlier time when the flowers not stained with blood, the moon with blood clots!”).
//It was at Geeta Bhawan that I had an experience that could have altered my life forever. One evening I saw some boys and a few elderly men gathering at a ground behind the Bhawan. They wore khaki knickers, and one of them erected a wooden pole in the middle of the ground with a saffron flag on it. Then they formed two rows and put their hands over their hearts and chanted some mantras. One of the men spotted me watching them and signalled me to come towards him.
‘Are you a Pandit sharnaarthi?’ he asked.
He made me sit next to him. Another boy joined us, sitting in front of us on his haunches, listening intently to the man.
‘You’ve been evicted out of your own homes by Muslims. You know that, right?’ he asked.
‘Yes, they evicted us,’ I replied.
‘What does it do to you?’ he asked.
I was not sure what he meant so I kept looking at him. The boy intervened. ‘What Guruji means to ask is whether you feel something inside about it. What do you feel?’
I tried to gauge how I felt about it. For a few seconds, so many images crossed my mind. Of those boys claiming our house. Of the fear on the dark night of January 19. of the searing heat in my room. Suddenly I felt very hot under the collar.
‘I am very angry,’ I said.
He looked at me sternly. ‘How angry?’
‘Say it loud. How angry?’
‘Good,’ he said. ‘Now the question is: what do you want to do about it? Will you accept it silently like a napunsak or do you want to take some action?’ he asked.
Napunsak. Impotent. Suddenly I wanted to do something. Suddenly I wanted a gun in my hand and I wanted to kill. I wanted a bomb in my hand and I wanted to throw it in Lal Chowk at one of the processions.
‘We are from the RSS. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. We will give direction to your anger,’ he said. ‘Come, let’s go join the others,’ he continued, looking at the other men.
We went and stood in front of the saffron flag.
‘Put your hand on your chest,’ the man said.
I had seen them doing this earlier. So I did it exactly as they did. And he made me recite a mantra.
‘Come here every day,’ he said. ‘We meet here every day. We will teach you many things and make a man out of you. A man who is willing to fight for his rights, not only for himself but for his entire community. We are Hindus after all. Have you heard of Parshuram?’ he asked.
I had. I knew some of the verses of a poem about the warrior ascetic’s dialogue with Lord Ram’s younger brother Laxman. I recited some of them. He looked at me, not understanding what I had recited. He did not know those verses. I explained what I had recited.
‘Oh, of course, now I remember,’ he said, breaking into a smile.
‘Come tomorrow, I will see you here,’ he said.
They all shook hands with me.
I was so excited I ran all the way from the ground towards the main building of Geeta Bhawan to look for my father. It was very crowded so it took me some time to find him.
‘There you are,’ Father said the moment he spotted me.
‘Kot osuk gaeb gomut?’ he asked. Where had you disappeared?
That was my father’s favourite phrase when he was mildly angry. I ignored it and began animatedly telling him about my encounter. I was so excited that I did not see his expression change.
‘I am going to see them tomorrow and every day now,’ I went on. ‘They will teach me how to fight the Muslims who made us flee from our home.’
‘Listen, you fool!’ My father tried suppressing his anger, but the tone of his voice hit me like a slap. ‘We are not here to fight but to make sure that you go to school and get your education. You don’t need to worry about anything else. Where we live, what we eat, where the money will come from—none of it is your concern. You just concentrate on your studies. And, yes, tomorrow we are admitting you into a school.
‘And don’t you dare meet those men ever again,’ he hissed.
Years later, I saw Father reading a report on the slain Ehsan Jafri, brutally done to death by a Hindu mob in Ahmedabad’s Gulbarg Society, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. As I sat next to him, I read how Jafri had nurtured a nest of barn swallows in his room and to protect them, he would not even switch on the ceiling fan. That day I realized that Father had gifted me something invaluable. Something that enabled me to calmly face an uproariously drunk army general one night in television news studio. We were there to debate human rights violations in Kashmir and I pointed out that there needs to be zero tolerance towards such crimes. ‘How can you say that?’ he barked. ‘It is they who have forced you out of your homes, turning you into refugees.’
I looked him in the eye and said: ‘General, I’ve lost my home, not my humanity.’
(typos: all mine)
6. ON THE OUTCRY WHEN RAHUL PANDITA ASSERTS HIS PANDIT IDENTITY
I have an inkling why Rahul Pandita has chosen to do so. He has stated in an interview that Pandits were hounded out because of two reasons: 1) Identifying with India. 2) For practising their religion. Also, a victim’s theistic beliefs does not make his victimhood less so. In fact, the ‘religious shroud’ plays a vital role in highlighting the centrality of religion in this particular conflict. After all, many Pandits were targeted for solely their religion as well, and not because they were ‘confirmed mukhbirs’. Now, if a return of Pandits is ever going to happen, it can happen only if their religiosity is not just accepted but also expected, by default. As an atheist, many passages in the book sound silly to me: whether it is the Durga mantra, the premonitory dream, etc. But that does not distract me from the facts, which continue to be factually correct. No. I wish Gowhar would point to some error in facts, rather than resort to ad hominem criticism of religious overtones and wishing that an atheist should have written the book. In my opinion, Rahul Pandita would have done his community a disfavour had he pretended to be an atheist / irreligious.
Also, much of what Rahul has written, including a concise history of past exoduses of Pandits, is what he recalls hearing, for it is a memoir he is writing. Anecdotes, such as one in which a Pandit talks of Superior Genes to Rahul Pandita do not reflect on the author. I am sure a highly literate person like Gowhar Fazili would know that some character says in the memoir need not be and are not that of the author. Also, Rahul Pandita himself is well-qualified to know what it brings to the fore the chauvinism that some members of his community suffer from, and he should be congratulated for telling it like it is, instead of glossing over it.
Even when he presents the concise history of Pandits, he also mentions Chaks and says that Sunni Muslims were also oppressed that rule. He also mentions that Pandits were treated well by the Sikhs/Dogras and Muslims ill-treated, with a special mention of forced labour. It is a classic case of Confirmation Bias on part of Gowhar to complain that Rahul Pandita was brief about it and did not elaborate. I see no reason why Rahul should have talked of the Buddhist era and talked of persecution of Buddhist people by Hindu kings (though he mention the Buddhist phase in passing). Let a Buddhist write one more book to satisfy the literate Gowhar Fazili’s appetite for history for the sake of it. This whataboutery is crude.
I feel it is perfectly all right (though not necessary) to mention illustrious predecessors to let the audience know where the people come from. And hackneyed as it sounds that “the Pandits are ‘aboriginal’ people”, I think that is something that Leftists, who romanticize the adivasis, should know, despite their ingrained dislike for Brahmins.
That the book is an account of victimhood of one community only is assumed by the subtitle and its single-mindedness is therefore declared forthrightly right at the outset. Gowhar Fazili cannot point to what the author has already declared as his own “Gotcha! Caught you, Rahul!” moment.
I didn’t get the feeling that the book is conveying a “seamless narrative” that Muslims had one-point agenda of persecuting the Kashmiri Pandits over the centuries. That Pandits have had exoduses in the past as well is well-chronicled. Why feel bad on behalf of But-Shikans of history when Zain ul Abideen is also mentioned? Isn’t the whole idea about denouncing the But-Shikans and preventing them from rearing their ugly heads again? Indeed, that is what is required. In fact, without that happening, it is unlikely that Pandits will return.
As for accusations that Rahul Pandita hold “historical grudges” against the Muslims, they are patently false. Don’t believe me? See for yourself what Rahul Pandita is about, and how he contrasts with the Hindutva right wing and Panun Kashmir:
I think that is about it. Will make brief responses to queries and other comments. I sign off by sharing my feedback (posted in another thread at MVJKL) from a few days back on the book:
It is always an uncomfortable position for me to defend something I haven’t read (outside of my default defence of the right of expression). But I also had full faith in Rahul Pandita’s integrity. It also helped that I did not find anything particularly untrue in the much-maligned ‘excerpts’.
Now that I have read the book in full, I am relieved and can say with authority that I did not see any fabrication or propaganda in it. Have to say that there was no new revelation in the book for me (because I am already aware of what happened to Pandits… I am neither in denial mode nor do I have confirmation bias). However, I found the personal account of ‘internal displacement’ in 1947 — the memoir within the memoir — quite evocative, especially in how a person cannot even reconcile with Homelessness, even if the exile is from Baramula to Srinagar.
And anybody having misgivings that the memoir holds All KMs responsible for the exodus are patently false. The memoir recalls individuals as they were — the good, the bad and the ugly — and these memories resonate with my memories of those times as well. The grief at the death of one militant who was helpful to Rahul’s family is genuine, as is the anger at some other non-militants.
Rahul, in one of his interviews, made a categoric statement that he does not hold only Militants responsible for the exodus, but also local people from the majority community. I fully agree with him here. There were many non-combatants who exploited the situation, e.g. someone sent threat letters to his boss for instant career escalation, someone else coveted Pandit property, non-combatants dancing over spilled Pandit blood, etc. It was a strange time in which even housewives schemed of ways to target people by using their militant contacts. What is so controversial about this; these are all facts. And they do not suggest that every last person was involved, but certainly a whole lot of militants (who also came from the majority community), and non-combatants as well, targeted Pandits, and often not because the latter were ‘confirmed agents’.
This book fills the lacuna about Pandits present in Curfewed Night (which depicts the exodus by referring to ’empty benches’ in classroom, without going deep into what made the Pandits leave). Thus, ‘Our Moon…’ should not be seen as antagonistic to any narrative, as it completes the information about 1990 already well-known.
The only things factually incorrect in ‘Our Moon..’ are a few grammatical mistakes, and at one place, it should have been Awantipura instead of Martand, and in another place, the author misconstrues the reason Muslims distribute uncooked meat on Bakr-e-Eid… that’s about it: all trivial errors, inconsequential to the thrust of the book, which is based on facts. Similarly, you cannot discredit Curfewed Night because the author wrote ‘sleepers’ instead of ‘slippers’.
I was thinking of writing a review of ‘Our Moon…’, but now I am not sure any more. How does one ‘review’ some personal memoir, whose literary merit or lack thereof is secondary. And though the literary flourish of Curfewed Night was slightly better, Our Moon is a an account of personal suffering, which Curfewed Night was not, and which therefore makes Our Moon understandably a more personal book. I just read it uncritically, taking in all the experiences, living them in my imagination, and now they are part of my own memories.
It is a book that had to be written, and a book that needs to be read, especially by those who are still in the dark about that dark chapter of tehreek-e-azadi.
Nice to hear that Mr. Pandit’s father was opposed to the RSS. I wish also that Mr. Pandit himself was not a fan of the late unlamented Bal Thackeray. And that Jagmohan had not been present at the launch of his book.
Apart from that, what a wealth of entitlement, hate and the frustrated rage of the elite deprived of control in this comment, which unfortunately makes KPs collectively one of the most unattractive refugee communities, ,on a par with the Hutus. Also like the Hutu, seeking to make their experience the justification for a state-sponsored genocide. How utterly dismissive of the Sikh experience (Khalistanis!) in Kashmir. Of the history of Dogra rule and Indian repression.
Disguised as communal self-pity the book and this extended comment on it are nothing more than an attempt by the Hindu state that calls itself India to regain control of the discourse.
The review itself confirms my own experience, that it isKashmiri Muslims who have not lost their humanity and the memory of tolerance which is the only hope for the future.
In his response it is not clear whether Sualeh Keen is engaging with the book, my review of the book, reminiscing or deconstructing the debates he has been religiously following on facebook. He does all of these interchangeably so it is hard to figure out the thrust of his argument. This is not good for the clarity of some well meaning points he seems to make occasionally between everything else. I will ignore the well meaning parts as I am in partial agreement with him on those. I will also ignore tangents he has taken to attack facebook comments and the personal anecdotes he has shared.
It should have been obvious that my review is not a denial of Pandita’s painful memories and experiences or for that matter that of the community whose shared experience the book is supposed to represent, but a critical examination of the deployment and use of those painful facts in the book. Besides this I have also sought to shift the arrangement of his facts out of the communal framework in which he has for some reason chosen to place them.
‘Subjective’ is not an accusation! All memory is subjective, so are all narratives and arrangements of facts and the meanings we choose to arrive at through those arrangements. I am not claiming objectivity for myself either. I am in fact speaking from a clearly manifest subject position of a pro-Azadi Kashmiri Muslim who is against all forms of communalism, especially communalization of the national liberation struggle from within as well as from without.
In early 1990’s the mass anger was directed against Hindustan (that is India) and everything that people assumed symbolized it. The unbridled rebellion (that you chose to call Jashn-e-Azadi) unleashed energies that went in all sorts of directions. Pandits among many others became one of its unwarranted and unfortunate targets. We should all be unconditionally ashamed for what Pandits have had to go through as a community and also for having failed to prevent it. But it is wrong for Pandita to claim that the whole rebellion had a single minded objective of chasing Pandits out. Mass rebellions in their most euphoric moments lack the ability to control themselves. People in mass protests may be courageous enough to brave bullets but reflexiveness is not one of their known strengths. Besides being engaged in pitched battles with a hostile occupation does not give you many opportunities for cool headed self-reflection. The occupations do everything to bring out the animal in you, and then use that very animal to discredit your original claim.
Why Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits are more reasonable towards each other in personal and private conversations may be because any possible public acknowledgements would be at odds with the entrenched positions based on distortions and counter distortions of the state and the resistance engaged in a battle over memory. When we speak of memory in Kashmir, it is set against the deployment of the whole of the state controlled media, academic and cultural enterprise including the state owned television that has bombarded the minds of Kashmiris with sarkari version of the events, including its obsessively insensitive, unabashed and uncritical use of Pandit exodus to buttress its position. Since the corporate media took over, it too has sought to maintain the official statist narrative even while appearing to be more democratic. The stories of Kashmir that have come through all along have managed to do so against the grain of the system and against the grain of the nationalist consensus. So the understandable postures of official denial.
I have never accused Rahul of being communal. To my best knowledge he is not, but only he would know for sure. I am not here to judge his inner self. I am only interested in what his text does or does not do through a particular arrangement of facts he has chosen— the facts of which some are established, some too personal to be scrutinized, some picked up from here and there without reference and pieced together to put forward a coherent claim—a charge, if I may say so. What he does outside the text does not interest me here. In the text a mere posture of not being communal by sharing a positive anecdote about his encounter with an RSS pracharak, though interesting, does not make the rest of his text beyond scrutiny.
To see Pandits as active political actors or a people with agency has nothing to do with their electoral relevance or irrelevance. I am simply making an assertion of the fact that no person or community is apolitical only to challenge the impression about Pandits the book seems to create. The domain of the political extends beyond the narrow understanding of politics. Silence and apathy is as political as participation in mass rallies and militancy. Being political does not mean being bad. All of us can be judged for our politics from the postures and positions we adopt in public, especially to what end we use our sense of victimhood.
Goodness me Sualeh (?)! can’t you make the blimmin thing more concise?! Even scrolling down the length of it gives one vertigo. There is intelligence in synthesising ones rambling thoughts and consideration for others.
PhD degrees, especially in sociology, come with the burden of necessarily having to write pieces that are unintelligible to most. But the good part is that they give the writer the authority to rattle out half baked truths in fine language that makes it difficult to de-construct the argument on the whole. It is amazing how Gowhar, running back and forth between ancient, medieval and modern historical events, conveniently blurs the line between Kashmir before and after the pandit exodus. For instance, the forced military occupation of Kashmir is an issue that Kashmiri Pandits have no real experience of because it happened after they were thrown out by their friendly neighbours. Understandably, they couldn’t have had a say regarding something that was non existent back then. As far as the presence of BSF in Kashmir is concerned, why would they not feel safe about it just as people in Ladakh, Sikkim or Himachal do? Kashmir is a border area and is expected to have higher numbers of BSF personnel. Also, Pandits identified with India not on religious grounds but purely because India to them symbolized peaceful coexistence between different ethnic groups. It was Kashmiri Muslims who were (and continue to be) obsessed with the idea of an Islamic state and therefore, saw Pandits as a thorn in their path to this perverted dream. A movement’s slogans illustrate its essential philosophy precisely because they’re not created by or for overqualified armchair intellectuals like the writer of this piece. Can anyone deny the unambiguous, hugely popular and aggressive anti pandit slogans that Rahul Pandita mentions in his book? Kashmiri Pandits realized early on after their exile that they have been cheated by their own so called friendly muslim neighbours as well as the Indian state. As a result of this realization, Panun Kashmir (demand for a union territory carved out in the Kashmir Valley for Pandits and anyone else who’d like to peacefully coexist) has become the most popular political demand within this scattered community on the brink of cultural extinction. As far as they’re concerned, the rest of Kashmir may go whichever way the majority community wills. It is important to point out here that even now, they are open to coexisting with Kashmiri Muslims, provided it is under the secular constitution of India and not under the supposedly infallible Sharia law. This goes against the fundamental spirit of the hindu right wing. But the author does not bother to point this out and instead, “safely assumes” that the status quo is what they prefer.
“why would they not feel safe about it just as people in Ladakh, Sikkim or Himachal do? Kashmir is a border area and is expected to have higher numbers of BSF personnel. ”
There is entity called Indian Army exist in Kashmir, which is not there in other states.
“Can anyone deny the unambiguous, hugely popular and aggressive anti pandit slogans that Rahul Pandita mentions in his book? ”
If mainland Indian Muslims start recounting aggressive and violent slogans used by right-wing Hindus (guys who you KPs support) against them then you will forget slogans against you.
“There is entity called Indian Army exist in Kashmir, which is not there in other states.”
Read my comment properly and then go ahead with criticizing it. What you are repeating is precisely my point that before pandit exodus, there was only BSF and not army.
“If mainland Indian Muslims start recounting aggressive and violent slogans used by right-wing Hindus (guys who you KPs support) against them then you will forget slogans against you.”
By the way, the mainland Muslim slogans are no less radical but I am not condoning violence against Muslims in India. My point is that two wrongs don’t make a right and it is better not get into a chicken and egg argument here. And guess what, we have heard all the slogans that were part of the babri masjid demolition and far from making us forget, they reminded us of the slogans in Kashmir and reinforced our belief in secularism and minority rights.
Village Murran in Pulwama district still has a handful of Pandit faimilies. They chose to stay back on the assurances of their Muslim neighbours. And it was on their advice my maternal uncle left the valley in 1990, because he had fought a court case on the illegal draining of a spring to create space for the extension of the mosque. Their logic was they could guarantee his safety in the village but could not vouch for the outsiders since he travelled to Srinagar for work. During this time an orphan boy named Muzza had taken the train to Pakistan. When he returned with training, he wept bitterly to see my maternal home locked. His first announcement was he was going to get Pyare Lal Ji back. He died a violent death and when my grandmother heard it she cried the whole night. His dying mother who used to do odd jobs at my maternal home had requested her to take care of her son.
My fathers name was prominent on the hit lists posted on the walls in Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar. He escaped attempts on his life thrice, every time it was his Muslim friends to the rescue.
My hero and my idol, my Tathajee, they found 15 bullets when collecting the bones from the ashes as is the Hindu ritual. I was in class VIII then. He fell prey to the bullets of mindless freaks in Kishtwar massacre of bus passengers 14 Aug 1993. Tears still well up in my eyes when I think of him. Every year when Pakistan and India celebrate independence, my family’s thoughts invariably wander to that fateful day and we wonder what must have been his last thoughts.
The first casualty mentioned in the book as well, Prabhawati was my maternal aunt’s mother-in-law. You could not have found a more pious soul than her. The book mentions her belonging to Chodoor, she was actually from Nagama.
I was only 10 so my memories are not as vivid as Rahul Pandita, but every page on his book resonates with my memories of Kashmir and the aftermath.
Mr Gowhar, you seem to be from that sect of humanity, who shun guns and pick books, but with the same end intent. To muzzle the truth and rationalize the irrational.
I went to Kashmir after 22 years in August 2012 to attend a friends wedding in Batamalo. Apart from the wonderful wazwaan, there was nothing I could come back for. I did not feel as alien in my 15 day stay in Damam Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia.
I am proud of my Muslim friends like Sualeh and Tariq and Khuram and so many others. May their tribe grow for only then can peace and reconciliation come.
And Rahul, thanks for writing that book. We have lost our homes not humanity. Salute to you brother.
Assuming everything the author writes is true and rational , I ask the reader to insert the word Muslims/Palestinians/Gujarat what ever instead of Kashmiri Pandits and also change the word “Kashmir” appropriately (based on the previous choice), And lo!, the article still holds good and true…
All that I ask is – why this double standards ? Why this absolute lack of integrity ? Why cant the left-liberal folks accept for once that 1. They failed Kashmiri Pandits 2. They have erred (in blaming the victims) all this while ?
Sualeh Keen’s response to Gowhar Fazili’s account is a further insult to Rahul Pandita’s book. Keen has certainly misunderstood what Fazili is trying to convey in his piece or Keen just wants to be keen in solidifying the “non-fiction” account of Rahul Pandita, which is clearly based on rumor-mongering of Jammu migrant camps. Who will put a finger in Rahul’s mouth and make him vomit the fact–that he is just building his career by demonizing a majority population, which has been oppressed by India for decades. I would like to ask Keen and Pandita, since they seem to be buddies, what was the need to invite Jagmohan at the book launch? And how can a journalist like Pandita–who criticizes the officials of Indian state when it comes to Maoists–make a statement during his launch ceremony, in front of a large gathering, how can he make a statement: “Jagmohan has nothing to do with the exodus,” Bizzare! Pandita may become successful as an author of “our moon has blood clots” but at the same time, he is at the brink of losing his journalistic credentials.
To lay down some of the simple facts for leftists, Kashmir problem was a communal problem in 1947; it is a communal problem now and will continue to be a communal problem in future. To give a secular tinge to the wishes of Kashmiri Muslims (KMs) is an exercise in intellectual dishonesty. Ideologues have a tendency to change the facts to fit their theory. One would think the leftists of somewhat scientific temperament would change the theory to fit the facts. But unfortunately that is not so.
KMs (primarily urban Sunnis) have felt cheated since 1947 that the circumstances prevented them from joining the land of pure (aka Pakistan). They would rather join an Islamic state with strong medieval tendencies and few freedoms/resources than a non-Islamic progressive state (for e.g., if India was predominantly Christian or Sikh, KMs would still want to join Pakistan). I know there is a survey out there that indicates that majority of KMs would prefer independence. However, this is a ruse; Bangladesh started as a secular state and within a few years turned into a Muslim republic. Pakistan will gobble it in no time
Rahul’s book is based on his real life experience as was Bashrat’s book. Both books are important in their own right. As long as the majority of KMs believe their destiny lies with Pakistan, there is nothing Indians can do about them. KMs will continue to have grievances against the Indian State because the need to preserve the idea of India as a place where people from all different religions, castes and linguistic groups have equitable access to resources of the nation is far superior to an idea of a nation based on narrow religious perspective. The Indian State despite its many inadequacies and corrupt tendencies does try to provide equitable access to all communities. Both Rahul and Gowhar have done pretty well and their successes are because Indian taxpayers in large numbers believe that idea of India is a noble one.
Rubin: As Jehadists are plagued by the idea of bringing Islamic revolution, you on the other hand are the victim of that thing called Indian nationalism. You are forgetting Godhra, you are forgetting how nuns were raped and burned down south, you are forgetting how much blood was spilled in Golden Temple, and you are forgetting many many incidents that allows a muslim majority of Kashmir, which is a minority in India, to think and believe that they are unsafe with India. The AFSPA continues to violate the basic right of security in Kashmir, and you are talking about your idea of India. I don’t know what being intellectually ‘honest’ mean to you. Heavens sake!
Gowhar, I found your review wonderfully even-handed — it seems to leave no quarter to any of the participants who shape current politics in Kashmir. However, not having read Mr. Pandita’s book, I am unable to comment further on the review itself.
I do think it’s a pity that so many of the responses to your review repeat the same old diatribes–the violence of “muslim” conquests, Kashmiri Muslims today described as jehadists, your being a student of sociology, lefty-scholarship…blah, blah and more blah. As for the response by “A Student” (err, forgive me but is that Sualeh Keen dictating to said student, Sualeh Keen asking said student to post a post by him that has appeared elsewhere, Sualeh Keen adopting a nom de guerre???), it is so long-winded and leisurely, I couldn’t find the time to read it. You are valiant for having done so!
Great review. In fact, it is the only reason I would even consider reading the book.
To those who claim a “long tradition of Vaishnavism” in Kashmir, please note that I said “most”. In any case, the point that needs to be distinguished is between said long tradition and the long historical trend across the subcontinent of using one or the other epic (the Ramayana and/or the Mahabharata) as vehicles of symbols that many power holders always used to link themselves to a common civilizational topography. Of course, no “Hindu” entirely denies any member of “the pantheon”. But that is a far cry from the sort of Vaishnava devotion–uninterrupted and as deeply rooted–as you suggested.
“Scarcely reflecting on his memories, he offers caricature in the name of history.” Anmol Tikoo reviews Rahul Pandita http://www.timeoutmumbai.net/books/previews/our-moon-has-blood-clots
Sualeh Keen writes in MVJKL:
(even after several attempts to post, my comment did not appear on the timeout site)
//But if silence is indeed complicity, don’t most Pandits also shoulder the guilt of cooperating with repressive Dogra rulers and the Indian state? Of the violence wreaked against Muslims in Kashmir (and elsewhere) in their name?//
Mr. Anmol Tikoo exhibits three repulsive traits in a matter of two sentences:
1) Ignorance and/or Dishonesty: He is ignorant or has deliberately omitted that many Pandits participated in the freedom struggle against the Dogras. He seems not to have heard of the Progressive Movement of Kashmir, the Marxist leanings of Sheikh Abdullah and his many Pandit supporters. I would go on to say that he hasn’t even read Rahul Pandita’s book, which gives a glimpse of inter-communal amity that existed when the Tribals attacked Kashmir in 1947.
2) Votary of Collective Guilt: Even if we consider his reference to the Dogra era correct (which it is not), he seems to believe in the familiar doctrine of Collective & Inherited Guilt of the “Babar ki Aulad” type. Pray, how do wrongs done by someone’s ancestors be the reason to punish their modern day progenies? Mr. Anmol Tikoo seems to suggest a seamless linkage between the feudal and autocratic Dogra regime, and the expulsion of Pandits from the valley in 1990 by Pakistan-sponsored Kashmiri militants, as if the Pandits had it coming for crimes in past births.
3) Blaming the victim: By insinuating that the Muslims of Kashmir are being violated (by Indian security forces, I assume) in Pandit name is a disgusting accusation against the Pandit victims. And not just Muslims in Kashmir, but elsewhere as well! The reviewer is shifting the blame on the victims, such that far from being victims of Islamist terror, they become the reason.Muslims are oppressed in Indonesia! Wow!
//The plot of the historical drama is pre-ordained: Pandits, a gentle people naturally at home in idyllic Kashmir, have always been at the receiving end of a foreign, barbaric Islam.//
False. Rahul Pandita, besides alluding to the well-chronicled past exoduses of Pandits from the valley in brief history (a meagre few pages in a book of 258 pages), also mentions the Chaks, during the reign of which Rahul says that the Sunni Muslims were also oppressed. Rahul also mentions that Pandits were treated well-treated by the Sikhs/Dogras and Muslims ill-treated, with a special mention of forced labour. Now I am certain that Mr. Anmol Tikoo has not read the book, and if that is not the case, then it is confirmed that Mr. Anmol Tikoo suffers from Confirmation Bias.
//Pandita ensures the log of Pandit suffering remains an easy tool to extract dues from Muslims, Kashmiri or otherwise.//
Mr. Anmol Tikoo, isn’t the book you are reviwing (hint: read the book’s subtitle) exactly about the suffering of Pandits, especially after their exodus in 1990? While Pandits are the victims, who are the perpetrators? The Buddhists of Sri Lanka?
//Two halftruths, though, don’t make the whole truth. Pandita’s own narrative is a mirror image of the one he wishes to displace. Both invoke the trope of the submissive Pandit outwitting the brute Muslim to pit the two communities against each other, absolving any individuals of culpability. Both emanate from the same violent logic that denies any shared history, except that of betrayal, and rejects consideration of the other’s memories.//
Can Mr. Anmol Tikoo point out any factual mistake in Rahul Pandita’s book, so that he can substantiate his insinuation that the book is full of half-truths? Telling the full truth about one’s community does not imply that half-truths are being partaken. Before writing a memoir surrounding the exodus of his community, Rahul Pandita should have consulted Mr. Anmol Tikoo who would have advised him to write of “shared history of Pandits and Muslim in refugee camps in Jammu”, besides giving Rahul lessons in Whataboutery. In the book, there is no passage where Pandits are shown to have ‘outwitted’ anybody. By bringing about an artificial balance by equivocating Rahul Pandita’s personal account to the ISPR propaganda of Separatists is an insult to human intelligence.
In conclusion, I feel that instead of this being a review of Rahul Pandita’s book, this opinionated piece is a personal advertisement by Mr. Anmol Tikoo as to how balanced, politically correct and ameliorative he is, so unlike other Pandits like Rahul Pandita who are hate-mongers if they as much as talk of the their community being hounded out of their homes by the Islamic Separatists. Perhaps one is certified a liberal hereabouts if one underplays Islamist terrorism and readily labels some as a hateful Hindu communalist, even a Hindu victim appealing for acknowledgement.
Razdan Rajesh writes in MVJKL
Partisan writers can bring to bear the laws of physics to the written word: Every action should have an equal and opposite reaction. Mr. Fazili’s review starts by making it clear to the reader which lens the reviewer has picked up today to view the book with. The book is described as a ‘personal account of suffering as well as a political project that implicitly and explicitly makes use of that suffering towards a particular end”.
Some astute readers (of the review) may already read into that – that the review itself is intended as “a political project that implicitly and explicitly makes use of that suffering towards a particular end”. Others can wait till after reading the first paragraph.
Mr. Fazili’s review allows for a modicum of condolence at the onset but views as punitive any allusion that crosses the boundary of personal tragedy or strays outside the time marker of ‘89. While Pandita’s narrative focuses on targeting of a religious minorities, for no fault of theirs, within the broader upheaval of an Islamist secessionist uprising, the reviewer insists that the brutal killings be seen in isolation and as an aberration of the times and be wrapped in the dark chador of what is termed as “mass political rebellion of 1989”. While calling for “serious reflection on the fragility of human associations and trust in exceptional circumstances” it leaves for another day the small question of why indeed was a tiny minority targeted by a purportedly ‘mass political rebellion’.
While acknowledging “that a number of individuals took advantage of those anarchic times to gratify personal hate and lust for loot” – and in the process supporting Pandita’s assertion, the review promptly puts a counter spin by accusing the author of underplaying “the equally frequent narrative of mutual support between individuals that one gets to hear during conversations between the members of the two communities privately.” Use of the term “mutual” seems odd since it implies pandits were helping out muslims facing similar intimidation. While it’s true that once there were no more Pandits left to molest, the terrorists of Azadi Tehreek started terrorizing middle class professional Muslims – incidents of support in 1990 were limited to kind words – and actions, if any, were rare enough to be deserving of a footnote not a headline. The review then broad brushes incidents of mass intimidation and inflammatory broadcasts from mosques as merely a misreading of “larger political symbolism”. Yes, you heard that right – chants like ‘Yehan Kya Chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa’ and
‘Azaadi Ka Matlab Kya- La Ilah Lil Allah’ were not meant to be communal. Those press releases in ‘Aftab’ by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen asking Pandits to leave or face their wrath were harmless pranks.
“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”.
To suggest that the “mass political rebellion” was not wrapped in religious overtones but rather religion manifested only as “symbolism” and that too when the secular symbolism has been illegally appropriated by the state or in reviewer’s words ‘occupation’ – is a breathtakingly disingenuous statement.
At that point any pretentions of a book review are dropped and a fine display of the art of illusionary projection starts. First, the book is accused of projecting “Pandits as politically benign throughout history” and, while the period post the arrival of Muslims on the scene is spoken of as ‘Islamisation’, implicitly as though Islam were something essentially vile.”. The passages early in the book that attempt to answer the question ‘Who are these people, the Kashmiri Pandits’ and references to early hindu rulers of Kashmir, both historically and archaeologically recorded in present-day ruins in Martand and other places, are interpreted as “typical Hindu fascist historiography”. One is specially struck by the flair with which the word ‘fascist’ is used. As they say, it takes one….
The book is then accused of making superior claims on Kashmir on behalf of Pandits based on mythologized communal history and denying any claim to non-caste inhabitants of early periods. The author’s accounts highlighting the value placed on education and intellect by Pandits is projected as “pride and superior and naively self-repeated claims by the book and other Pandit accounts” – and explained as the result of “connection between power and knowledge”. Right. The fact that Pandits have been at the bottom of the totem pole as far as power is concerned for last 65 years is conveniently glossed over by the reviewer.
In the book the author narrates the double whammy of a tragedy befalling his family – first of being a ‘refugee in own state, and then refugee in our own country’ experienced by a generation who lived to tell the tale of two displacements. This refers to the tribal invasion of 1947 and the flight from Baramulla, the author’s ancestral town and later the forced displacement in 1990 to escape the jehadi terrorists of Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen and others of their ilk. At this stage the reviewer attempts to kill two birds with one stone. First an attempt is made to cast the tribal invasion – as somewhat legitimate reaction by fellow muslims to state sponsored killings of Muslims in Jammu and the communal terrorism of 1990 as a legitimate reaction to illegitimate political dealings of Gul Shah and other political players of the time. Never mind the fact that the tribals killed and looted Kashmiri Muslims and Pandits had nothing to do with the undemocratic behaviour of Gul Shah and later Farooq Abdullah.
Somewhere along the way the reviewer drops the farce of a review and starts addressing the Pandits directly. They are accused of having affinity to the Indian state – as if it’s unexpected and a crime deserving the treatment they were meted out. They are accused of being complicit by their silence – reminding us of the crime of Pandits who objected to being the human shields in Azadi marches. And then lecturing them about moral ethics and reminding them in oh-so-nice threatening tone about their obligation to support the separatist Azadi cause.
Not surprisingly, the reviewer doesn’t bother to inform what passages led him to any of these extrapolations. There are none. But then again the review is obviously not for those who have or are likely to read the book, it’s for those gullible souls who need to be discouraged to actually read it.
“Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”.
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