My father-A freedom fighter- used to tell me the tales of legendary Kashmiri pundits when I was a child. He had told me that during the reign of Sikander Butshikan, 7 mounds of Janau(sacred thread) were burnt that belonged to those pundits whom Sikander got killed. The mayhem had left only 11 families in Kashmir. Rest of the pundits had migrated out of Kashmir to escape the mindless-prosecution by the fascist-tyrannical Ruler. A self-proclaimed enemy of Hindus.
In 2008,When Amarnath Agitation was at its peak. I and a group of my friends had decided to protest against the atrocities on Hindus of J&K at Ghaziabad. I don’t remember the exact dates. But it the month of July.
The preceding night, even at 1 a.m, I was awake. The memories of my detention were flashing before my eyes. It was in 2000, when I was arrested for the first time and sent to Central Jail, Ambphalla. That time also, I had voiced my support for the Hindus of my state. I was an activist of Shiv Sena. Kalki swami was the president of the Shiv sena(J&K).I was incarcerated for 9 days with my fellow activists. We were bailed out by Sanjay Nirupam. He was at that time working with Shiv sena. Later on he shifted to Congress(i).The treatment meted to us in the jail was purely political .It took us years to exculpate ourselves.
But Dasna Jail(Ghaziabad) was different.
I with my fellow-activists had gathered at the Hindon Bridge. I remember Manish Zijoo, Sandeep Koul and Sunil Shangloo were also protesting. The heat and the sweat was not a deterrent to vent my anger and feelings. The members of Hindu Mahasabha were also protesting alongside us for the same cause . Things became unpleasant when we were caned by the police. But even that could not stop us .Finally I and nine of my colleagues were bundled in the police van. I was the lone Kashmiri among the nine detainees.
We were taken to the Ghaziabad Court. The judge ordered us to be sent to the Dasna Jail. we raised the pro-India and Pro-Hindu slogans in the court premises as well as in the Police van. The van zipped through the streets and roads of Ghaziabad and finally stopped at Dasna central jail-our destination.
Inside the jail, I could see prisoners with White, Blue and Sky Blue dress. The colours, I was told later on, signifies the nature/intensity of crime. We were given a cell that already housed 26 people. The cell/room was actually meant for only 10 people. Needless to say , the cell was cramped. There was a toilet inside the cell, that was stinking. There was no water to wash our hands. Bugs and mosquitoes had infested that cell. We could not sleep even for a moment.
The cell-mates after hearing that we are actually political prisoners cheered us. Some of the prisoners were car- thieves, some were petty-thieves, some were Supari Killers(contract-killers).There was also a Rapist in the same cell. But at least half of them were incriminated by the police on the false charges. The Temple-priest Balvinder was one such case. Other names that I remember are Rocky from Ghazibad. He was a thief. Then there was Jeetu-a vehicle thief. Jeetu told me that Mahinder singh Pander and Rajesh Talwar are also present in the same Jail, but in different cells.
At 5 a.m sharp, we were were given Bed-Tea inside our cell. At 7 a.m we were shifted to open cell. That was the time when one had the liberty to go to a Proper Toilet with running water. We were shifted back to the cell at around 8a.m.Then the counting of the prisoners begun. At 8.30 a.m, we were served a breakfast of Rusk, Daliya and Tea inside the cell. From 10.30a.m-12.00 noon, prisoners could take a Bath or wash their clothes. Our cell mates were Kind enough to us and had insisted on washing our clothes as well as our utensils. we were taken back to our cells at 12.00noon.Lunch time was from 1.00 p.m -1.30p.m.The lunch as well as the dinner consisted of two chapattis, one bowl of rice and Dal. The quality of the food was not even hygienic to be given to an animal. We hardly ate in the jail. From 1.30p.m till 5 p.m we were confined to our cells. At 5 p.m we were given a cup of tea. After that we could go out of the cell for Half an hour walk. From 5.30 p.m till 7 P.m we were again sent back to our cell. And finally a dinner was served to us at 7 p.m.
In our absentia, Some of our fellow activists had perused our case and presented professionally our side of the story to the Judge at the sessions court, Ghaziabad. The Judge after hearing the argument from our lawyer had exonerated us and all the charges were dropped. The court order came at the evening and the next day was decided for our release. It was only at 7p.m, when we came to know of the court’s decision.
And finally, the next day, we were released. Our fellow cell-mates came to see-off us. They had tears of joy and sorrow in their eyes even though we spent only two nights with them. Sorrow, because they were not free and Joy, because we were freed .Our fellow activists were waiting for us , outside the Jail. Manish, Sandeep and Sunil had also come. I was a free man again.
My elders had told me that the eleven families, who stayed in the valley at the time of Sikander Butshikan, were known as Malmaasis. The people who left at that time and came back to the valley at the time of Zianulabidin-the son of Sikander Butshikan-were known as Banamaasis. Together , the tribe of Kashmiri Pandits swelled to 7 lakhs. As of today, the population of Kashmiri Pandits left in the valley is not even 5000.But it is still better than 11 families, that were left at the time of Sikander Butshikan. The migrations have happened before and we came back each time though our numbers decreased with each migration.
Zainulabidin, Guru Teg Bahadur, Ranjit singh facilitated the return of KP’s back to the valley. I don’t see any such visionary leader as of today. But Who Knows future!
No one had anticipated the exodus of KP’s from the valley in 1989-90.But it happened. If it is true that History repeats itself, then the return of the KP’s into the valley is inevitable. I am an optimist and I believe that KP’s shall be back to he home of their ancestors and that optimism has given me a Hope. And that hope has given me courage to fight for my Right. And I choose to fight for my optimism and Hope….And I choose to fight enemies outside and within……