“Our home in Kashmir had twenty two rooms”, my mother used to say this thing to every person she met.
A mother who was in exile, who lost her home, her pride, her legion to survive the exodus of 1990 when Kashmiri Pandits were brutally murdered in Kashmir Valley. A time when she could not sleep at night because local mosques used to play Namaz at full volume, to drown the voice of mobs who gathered in the street and threatened Kashmiri Pandits to either leave the Valley or die.
A 14 year old boy who was stuck in an exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, who left behind his childhood when his father asked them on a dreadful night and leave the very next day for Jammu. A scenario through the eyes of a 14 year boy, who saw that how women were cramped in lorries travelling towards Jammu, a man raising his fist and telling them that “you will die” on the way, men trying to leech at her sister and numerous deaths of near and dear ones.
A time when water in the spring turned black..
For years, the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits has been a forgotten story. Our generation won’t be even aware about what exactly made 350,000 Kashmiri pandits to pack up their bags and leave from their homes. Numerous Pandits were killed, many stranded on the streets way from their home, daughters raped, babies killed in front of their mothers.. A lot went down over there, half of which wasn’t even reported to the world through media.
As a teenager, the author of the book Rahul Pandita was a Kashmiri Refugee. Now a renowned author and an award winning journalist whose liberal and secular credentials cannot be doubted and his book throws light on how the Kashmir Valley came into the grip of militants who swore by Talibanic code as well as the plight of the refugees as they fled to Jammu.
Our moon has blood clots removes the mask of the government and shows the readers that how the government, when in their right conditions could have helped with the restoration of Kashmiri Pandits, instead neglected and exploited them to a torturous extent. With only a meager 500Rs per head of money to survive, rationed water and exorbitant rent, the Government of India left no stone unturned in increasing Kashmiri Pandit’s pain.
The descent into decision of leaving their home in Kashmir comes on a dreadful night, when Pandita and his father overheard a conversation of a group of boys, discussing distribution of houses which will be empty soon and looting them. “At least go inside and piss; like a dog, you need to mark your territory, ” one of the boys tells his mates. “It’s over,” Pandita’s father, a government worker, says, “we cannot live here anymore”
The book is written in two parallel worlds, one world which shows Pandita as a teenager, enjoying in his own little world in the Valley of Kashmir. His world all comes burning down when his family became a victim in the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits.
They had to leave their home, their own little piece of heaven to flee to Jammu to save their family and a little bit of honor they had been left with. The second part of the book describes the story of Pandita’s uncle, who tells them how the militants captured their home, their Kashmir and killed people like chickens running here and there. How the militants killed Pandita’s cousin Ravi, how a father had to cremate his son, when it should have been the other way round.
Pandita mentions in the book that he kept a record of each and every pandit killed in the Valley during the exodus, because he wanted people to know the sordid story of each and every Kashmiri Pandit killed. He shows how the government and the media completely neglected the plight of Kashmiri Pandits, how Pandit’s became “Nobody’s people”.
The journalism is actually the weakest link in what is a largely engaging memoir. Pandita skims the surface during a visit to a squalid Pandit refugee township on the outskirts of Jammu in 2011 and misses an opportunity to mine even more compelling tales in exile. He also visits one of the five resettlements set up for a few hundred Pandits who have returned to the Valley and finds them leading bleak and fearful ghetto lives, but the account is over too soon.
One of the missing aspects in Pandita’s book was that the focus was too much on the negligence of Media and Government. The focus should have been given more to the stories of people that suffered through exodus and how their life changed. He could have also included what’s the current state of Kshmiri Pandit’s at the end because as I mentioned earlier, our smartphone generation won’t have that much knowledge about what went down in Kashmir Valley during the Exodus.
But all of these can be ignored because Pandita wrote with his soul. Imagine a time, which he would love to remove from his life, a phase in which he would love to time travel and set the clock back to the same time when Kashmiri Pandits were the heart of the valley. A time when they had reputed jobs and were considered wisest of all. A time when Shivratri was celebrated in Kashmir Valley with much grandeur.
Pandita now resides in Delhi and for him exile and homelessness are now permanent. The Pandit’s have been in exile for two decades, and Kashmir for Pandita remains “ a memory, an overdose of nostalgia”.