Some books don’t need a review or a rating. Some books just simply need to be devoured into and discussed at length, to understand the pain behind tears that leave a mark on the pages and between the lines of the writers. To feel their pain and loss, to come face to face with their fear and their suffering, which has not gone from last 26 years..
For 26 years, living in the memory of home which was Kashmir.
A Long Dream of Home- The Persecution, Exodus and Exile of Kashmiri Pandits is such a book that you just simply need to absorb into not expecting how interesting or entertaining it will be. When I came across the book, my motive was to see what exactly happened in the valley of Kashmir, when lacs of pandits were displaced from their homes. What made them leave and why everyone was standing like a mute spectator? Why no one questioned the scenarios unfolding against a community which was residing there from last 5000 years?
A Long Dream of Home is a collection of first hand accounts of Kashmiri Pandits who left their homes to save themselves and their coming generations. And even after 26 years, they cannot go back because they feel that as soon as the will put a foot down on that familiar soil, they will be shot dead. I have read accounts of Kashmiri Pandits before also from Rahul Pandita, Siddhartha Gigoo and Basharat Peer. But now, I have come across some new writers who can chronicle the pain of their community through A Long Dream of Home.
The book starts with the story written by Indu Bhishan Zutshi “She Was Killed Because She Was An Informant; No Harm Will Come To you” where you get to know the brutal murder of nurse Sarla Bhatt. A spine chilling account of daughter of Shambu Nath Bhatt, held captive for four days, sexually abused and murdered by militants who were sure that she was a police informant. The body of the girl was not even allowed to touch. More pain came when they weren’t able to find a place to give last rites to Sarla. But the family managed somehow. A painful stab at your heart, Indu Bhishan’s account of Sarla Bhatt will leave you shocked at the atrocities that went down in the once peaceful place, known as Kashmir.
A Long Dream of Home also captures the account of Pran Kishore and his experiences while shooting for tv series Gul Gulshan Gulfam. He shares his experiences when he had to shoot for series amidst the atmosphere of threats and bullets. B.L Zutshi has contributed knowledge from Camp Schools and Colleges for the Displaced Students. Ramesh Hangloo and his Radio Sharda is a household name for all Pandits residing in camps, to give them a piece of their home to hang onto. One of the best account is of Arvind Gigoo in his days of parting. An effortless style of writing, story within a story when mistrust was the only way of communication in the valley.
Like this only, many other stories shared by people who saw transition of their Muslim neighbors into enemies, their fears of walking right next to and supporting a Pandit. Stones being pelted at their homes whenever India lost a cricket match, teenagers working as informants for militants, stopping them on their way and interrogating them. Lecherous ways of looking at their daughters, hit list being pasted at the gates of their home, slogans against non Muslims and India blaring from loudspeakers of mosques, living in a constant fear that who will be shot next. Militants forcing inhabitants to set their watches on Pakistan time, brutal murders out of the blue, and the worst of all, authorities standing like mute spectators, turning their faces away from the atrocities.
A Long Dream of Home is not just a book chronicling stories from exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, it also covers their lives and experiences during the “ethnic cleansing” and after exile. How a wife who has planted Kashmiri roses in her garden, took a sapling with her to the camps of Displaced Kashmiris, so that she can have a piece of her home which she might never see again. How a professor mourns the loss of his collection of books that got left behind, how now millions of Kashmiri Pandits have a different permanent address.
As I mentioned at the start, A Long Dream of Home is a book that doesn’t need a review or rating. It’s a collection of stories that needs to read and heard by people, who are living within comfortable quarters and forgetting a community who has been displaced and forced out of their homes.
And even after 26 years, they haven’t received their justice.