The jinx of going back to Kashmir after a gap of 25 years was broken last year by me; when I opted to go to the “Gangabal Yatra”. This year again, in Jul-Aug, I re-visited Kashmir with my Family. A month later, I was once-again in the lap of “Maej-Kashir”(Mother Kashmir) as I went for the “Gangabal Yatra” from 19-24 sep 2015.
One of my KP Friend-a travel buff-had recommended a guest house in Brain, Nishat. I was in touch with the Manager of the Guest house from last 15 days .I had informed him that I along with my friends will be checking-in on 22nd sep. We had expected to reach the Guest house by evening. We started from Naranaag at around 4 or 4.30 p.m and reached Nishat at around 6 p.m. I and my group of 4 friends alighted from the Bus at Nishat Garden amidst rains. It was already 6.00p.m.Because of the Rains, most of the Autos and Taxis were off the road. Immediately, we called up the Guest house and requested them to arrange a Taxi for us. In the meanwhile, we took shelter at a Shop opposite Nishat Garden. After waiting for another Hour and a Half, The Manager of the Guest House sent a Taxi to us.
The Driver of the Taxi greeted us with a “Namaskar”. His warm welcome was a pleasant surprise to us all. As soon as he took control of the steering, he started talking about “Good old days”, when KP’s and KM’s lived together. In a way, he was bold enough, as he admitted the atrocities committed by the majority on the minority KP’s in the early nineties. “We wronged you. But then, it was a different Phase.” Justifying the violence that marred the valley in nineties. I was looking at him, while his eyes were fixed on the road ahead. I could also smell Alcohol, while he spoke to me. “But then, Jagmohan too was responsible for your Exodus. He planned your exodus and you all fell into his trap.” He continued. Driving in the dark, through the alien lanes and By-lanes of Brian, Soon, we reached the Guest House.
We were received by the Manager of the Guest House-Bilal. He showed us the rooms. The rooms were Big and Tidy. In a traditional Kashmiri Hospitability, he served us the hot piping “Kehwa”. Sipping the Hot Kehwa, we unpacked our Bags, changed our Clothes, and tucked ourselves under the smooth, warm quilts. We were tired and We had planned an early Dinner, as we wanted to go to the bed as early as possible.
But then, the owner of the Guest-House Mr. Mir came in.
“The room is your property for the next 2 days.” He gesticulated. Out of courtesy, I respectfully said, “Please have a seat sir”. He immediately ordered a chair. Bilal hurriedly brought a Plastic Chair. After sitting on the Chair, He immediately enquired about our names and the localities where we lived in. When Manish and I told him that we used to live in Rainawari, He pressed his forehead with his right Thumb, as if recollecting something.
“Many years back, I was working as a contractor. I had been given a contract to build a Road near “Puej Mohalla” in Rainawari. One day, I heard the distinct Gun-Shots. From the sounds, it seemed as if many rounds of bullets were fired.” He said with intermittent pauses. We were all glued to his narrative. I could see the tense lines building on his forehead. “I also ran for Shelter. Suddenly a Door opened in a lane, and a lady told me to come inside.” Said he ,in emotive voice. “I hid myself under the stair case. The whole area was cordoned off by the CRPF. Suddenly few CRPF men barged in.” He again paused. His voice had become softer and feeble. “Those men, raped the ladies of the House, and I could do nothing.” He sobbed. Tears rolled down from the corner of his eyes. “How can they do this. They are not Humans.” There was a pin drop silence in the Room.
His emotional -narration was so much believable. In our Hearts, we empathized and sympathized with the victims.
Then he veered towards Jagmohan, “He told you to go out of Kashmir, so that he could kill one lack Muslims.” He said with a certainty. We all protested that this is not true. But, he was not in a mood to listen. Manish got irritated. He threw the quilt to his right, and stood up to confront our old Host. “The loudspeakers of the Masjids were ordering the Pandits to leave the valley. Our men were being selectively killed. The masses had risen against India. And for them, we KP’s were India.” He was fuming.
Our Host looked unconcerned. Suddenly, he stood up. Pulled his shirt up and said, “see this long scar on my chest; I had had an open heart Surgery. I have Diabetes also.” The tension was diffused by his Statement as we felt pity on his condition. It was evident that nor our Host, nor we wanted any sort of acrimony. But in spite of everything; the political discussion continued. It seemed as if our Host had deep interest in the political affairs of the Valley.
Mr Mir’s sincerity became dubious, when he touched the subject of KP’s and the reason , why KP’s are not returning back into the valley. While narrating an incident about a KP girl; whom our Host claimed to have loved as his own Daughter, He told us that the KP girl is working in a foreign embassy in Delhi, and that she is drawing a salary of 1.75lakh/month. He also claimed that she is getting a relief( RS 5K/month) from the GOI in lieu of being a KP migrant. He claimed that She is not returning back to the valley, because, she told him that she might loose the Relief amount if she opt to come back to the valley.
During our discussion, The topic of our current Prime Minister also popped up. Our Host, Mr. Mir, while speaking with dismay about Mr. Modi told us that He (Mr. Modi) is communal. To substantiate his statement, he said with a whiff of anger, “When our Babri-Masjid was broken, It was Mr. Modi who was responsible for the demolition of the Mosque.” I asked him surprisingly, “How is it sir?”. He answered with confidence, “ Because, he was the Home-Minister of India at that time.”
We all grinned. We told him that he was not our Home-Minister or for that matter any “Minister” at that time, But it seemed that he had already made up an image of Mr. Modi. May be to defend his argument, he started narrating about the environment that prevailed in the early Nineties. The love for the militants. The making of the revolution.
When our Host had entered into our room, and narrated his first anecdote, we had believed him. Then when he presented his views on the reason , as to why KP’s are not returning back to the valley, His sincerity posed a big question mark for us! And then when he claimed with absolute confidence that Mr. Modi was the Home Minister of India, when Babri Masjid was demolished; it became evident that He had a biased-typical-Muslim- outlook. And that he was cooking up the stories.
We had started to reason with him, by giving him the exact details. When it became clear to him, that he no longer can win against us, in the discussions, he retracted. As he was about to leave, He came closer to my Bed, looked straight in my eyes and said with a whiff pride and frustration, “My elder son is settled in England, My younger Son too is settled. But if Both of my sons would have got killed in the early Nineties for being Militants, I wouldn’t have been saddened. In fact, I would have felt proud.” And he left.
I looked at my friends. They were smiling and nodding their Head in Disbelief. Soon, we too followed him and had our Dinner Downstairs.
Mr. Mir , His family and Manager served us very well. Their Hospitality was superb. They made us feel very comfortable. We did not discuss politics after that episode. It was sort of an tacit agreement between us and them.
Mr. Mir represents the section of the Muslim society of Kashmir. His views about KP’s are the view of the Majority of Muslims of Kashmir. However, It is amusingly- intriguing to see how, to induce a feel-good factor to the collective conscience of the KM’s; the ethnic cleansing of the KP’s is being justified.
And that too, Without remorse…….