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Shikara - The Story of Kashmiri Pandits Unravelled

Shikara, the movie made by Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Rahul Pandita marks the beginning of the acknowledgment in the public space of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from their homeland, a tragedy which has till now remained eclipsed, since there were different vested interests of the politicians both at the state and the centre pushing the already marginalized community on the periphery of concern. And among the common people, some looked at us with sympathy while others thought we who had committed some crime. AND THE SAGA CONTINUED

I reluctantly accepted the invitation of the special screening of "Shikara'' organised by Radio Mirchi Jammu since its reviews gave negative publicity for reasons better known to its critics. On the contrary, the movie is truly reminiscent of the atrocities committed on the marginalized community whose only fault was their belief in pluralism and the Indian State .The panoramic view of the painful journey of Kashmiri Pandits being forced to leave their home and hearth in the backdrop of fear, threat, hatred and killings to live in appalling conditions in the camps struggling to restart life has been conveyed in the movie in unequivocal terms. While watching the movie the memory of my teen years, my native place and some of the unforgettable melancholic incidents came alive. My grandfather, the follower of the religion of compassion for everyone, in 1988 hired a team of carpenters to carry out some renovation of the interior of our house. To ensure that the carpenters did their job reliably, he monitored their work sitting in his chair at a reasonable distance. One afternoon the senior carpenter murmured to him " Bobyji , assal karo, asal lakaar chu lagwawa, ase kahtre rauz theek, awa tharth chee, kay bakas chuk karan"(meaning glad you are using good quality of wood, it will be good for us ),and the same was refuted by my grandfather who told him to mind his business. In the evening, while taking dinner, my grandfather narrated the whole incident and we all had a hearty laugh. I also recall, while in my school, my science teacher during the recess time told me “Bata thoya chu zalun, magar che na barzan fikar, chee yezi soun" (you Kashmiri Pandits have to run away from the valley, but you don't worry, you can come to my house).

My father, a doctor by profession, spent all his life serving people in rural belts. From 1986 onwards, he observed that things are changing very fast in the rural areas and on a daily basis he would come across see new faces making rounds in the villages and in local terminology they were revered and referred to as `Allah wallas'. It was widely believed in saner circles, that they were the ones who vitiate the minds of locals in the mosques and the peripheral areas and unfortunately in the absence of social media, their words were taken at face value. There were many like the ‘Haji sahib' in Shikara who in the garb of being well-wishers were actually the vultures who were eyeing our property and pretending to be our sympathizers and for some immediate material gains suggesting Kashmiri Pandits to leave valley and also assuring them that in their absence, they will act as caretakers of their properties. Like in every community, there are black sheep but there are angels as well, and many Kashmiri Muslims inspite of all odds not only helped the hapless Pandit community but also remain in touch with them in their exile.

As a teenager from 1986 onwards, I could see their indifferent attitude towards me and whispers in tones "........................" , which I now realise was their contempt for me and some of them left no stone unturned to ridicule me for my religious affiliation. When I look back, I realise how ridiculous it is for the kids of 13 /14 years of age to utter such derogatory comments which still echo in my ears.

Every Kashmiri Pandit was confident ‘no one can to hurt us ‘The presence of Indian army and the trust in the Indian Parliament was their strength in the agonizing hours. But alas! Betrayal by the Indian state, by the national media and the institutions which all Kashmiri Pandits swore to failed us. Even after a lapse of thirty years,neither those responsible for the exodus of this community nor the politicians have come together to denounce the wrongs inflicted on my small community.

Three decades have passed since the exodus from the valley but these intervening years have not dithered this miniscule community of their resilience in the face of a smeared campaign run to ridicule and downplay the horrendous exodus executed at the behest of some vested interest. The community's one principle "To Economize, To Save For Tomorrow, Tomorrow Could Be Worse" is the mantra which saved many precious lives, post exodus and no wonder one can see some of the successful names of the Kashmiri Pandits in the realms of all fields within and outside the country. HOWEVER, THE FLASHBACKS KEEP HAUNTING AND DISTURBING.

When the movie Shikara came on the big canvas, Kashmiri Pandits witnessed the flashbacks on the big screen thereby giving some solace that at least someone from among us made an effort, although delayed, to portray the agony of the community for justice more than that to exorcise the dark past of January 19, 1989. Looking at the record of Kashmiri Pandits, we can safely say that our community has never been found involved in criminal acts which post exodus could have lured our youth. The embedded value system and faith in Indian constitution never allowed them to choose the path which some of the Muslim youth in the valley chose on minor provocation and which unfortunately our liberal media has always been generous enough to add intellectual topping giving a different outlook to suit their own petty interests.

It is high time the majority muslim community acknowledge, which of course they do in private, but time has come they publicly concede the misdemeanors which would definitely lead to the situation where one can imagine seeing two communities facing each other and initiating a dialogue. I wish to go back to my same town and in the same house as it was depicted at the end of movie, the younger kids making beeline at my house and saying : ais aya Baat wuchne" we came here to see how Kashmiri Pandits look. I was thinking of giving a nice conclusion to my write up when I remembered a saying of M. E Samuel:

"Our enemies have tried to destroy us many times; but we always came back more resilient than before. We are now invincible".

The Author is Hony. President, J&K Forum for Peace & Reconciliation and can be reached at [email protected]

 

 

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Dr Vinay Thusoo