Tag Archives: exodus of kashmiri pandits

tragedy and humour of being a KP

March 2003.It was a sunny bright day. My Enfield-Bullet bike was in a dire need of a proper service. I took my bike to the local mechanic-Akram in Ghaziabad. As he was inspecting my Bike, an Ambassador car halted in front of me. The glass windows of the car rolled down. I saw an elderly Sikh in an orange dress. He called on me , “ where is this Agarsen Chowk?”.I came closer to the car, gesticulated, and said, “ turn straight and then turn right from the first crossing.” “What is your name?” The turbaned old man asked me abruptly. “My name is sandeep Koul” said I. “Oh! You are a Kashmiri Pandit! Come in my car.” He said excitedly. I was irked by what he said. I hardly knew him and here he was, urging me to accompany him. It looked as if he read my face. He pulled the wallet from his coat, opened it, looked for something and finally picked a card which he handed over to me. “Here! Take my card. My name is B.L.Sharma- “prem”. I am a former MP from BJP.”I looked at the card in my hand. It was white and green in colour and had an emblem of four lions(as seen in Indian currency coins) at the top. The name written on it was indeed B.L.Sharma “prem”(Member of parliament).

I was exited now. For the first time, I was face-to-face speaking to an M.P. with alacrity, I sat besides him in his ambassador. “We have a rally today at Ghaziabad. It seems our local team of Ghaziabad and I are talking on different tracks. There is some miscommunication and we are not able to track each other. Though, they are somewhere nearby. You please talk to them, since you know this place”, he said to me. He dialed some number from his mobile and handed over the phone to me. The voice from the other side in a gushed tone said, “ Sharmaji, where are you?” I answered back, “I am sandeep. We are on NH-24, Near Rahul Vihar. The person on the other side said, “You wait there. we will reach there within 5 minutes.”

Sharmaji told me briefly about his life, his family and his mission. The 1947 partition. He told me that to protect the Hindus, he has embraced Sikhism. At that time, the chief-minister of J&K was Mr.Gulam nabi Azad. He also expressed his views on Him, Hindus of Jammu and as well as Kashmiri Pandits. Soon, his local team traced us.

The local-team were all motor-cyclists. There were at least 20 motor bikes. Each bike carrying two persons. Many of them had Swords in their hands, which they waved at us and at each other with enthusiasm .A person came close to the window of our car. He said to Sharmaji, “Please follow us. we are nearby to the venue of the program. Sharmaji nodded his head in approval and said, “Alright. By the way he is Sandeep koulji. He is an uprooted hindu from Kashmir”, as he pointed towards me. The person’s faced beamed with glee as he said, “ Sandeeji, welcome. you please attend our program.”I did not wanted to attend, as politics was not my cup of tea. But on the behest of Sharmaji, I agreed.

Soon, we reached “Agarsen-chowk”-our venue. Hundreds of supporters had already gathered there. As the crowd saw us, they raised their hands in the air and chanted loud, “Jai shri Ram”, “Bharat Mata ki jai”.I alighted from the car. Sharmaji too followed me. With folded hands(namaskar), he greeted the crowd. Many people rushed towards him and touched his feet in reverence. Many people mistook me for some leader and touched my feet too. Sharmaji was used to this treatment but I was not. I was blushing, feeling embarrassed. I tried to gently push away the crowd, touching my feet.

Sharmaji went up to the podium. I sat down on a chair. But the associates of Sharmaji insisted me to sit on the podium alongside Sharmaji. Before the actual program started, An announcer announced about the program. He spoke about many issues pertaining to Hindus. At last he said, “Today, a special guest has come with Sharmaji .A kashmiri pandit refugee from Kashmir.I request my colleagues to felicitate both of them.”A line of his associates garlanded Sharmaji and me. Though, I had started enjoying the attention, But, Clearly I was not prepared for this impromptu.

Soon, Many speakers spoke in length about the infiltration on the Hindu culture. Examples were cited from the history. Many tales of the 1947 genocide were told poignantly. The mass-exodus of Kashmiri pundits was also cited. “See, how pathetic, the lives of Kashmiri Pandits have become. You can ask our Kashmiri pandit brother here. ”a speaker said. And everybody spoke about Kashmiri Hindus .Each time, Kashmiri Hindus were spoken of, a finger was pointed towards me. Frankly speaking, I was feeling as if I am a culprit.

A member of the organizing team came up to me and said in a low-voice, “you too say something. It will have a very good impact on the listeners.” Their- pointing- fingers –at- me had already made me feel guilty. An object that is loathsome-yet important(this holds true even today). So, I humbly turned down his offer. I went up to Sharmaji and took his permission to leave. He told me to be in touch with him and gave me his mobile number.

I was in touch with him for some time. He even introduced me to some people. Out of those people, I am still in touch with few , even today. I somehow lost the number of Sharmaji some years back. But, whenever, I recall that incident, I end up with a Grin. And I am reminded that indeed, “Tragedy is the biggest comedy.”

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Saving my Rakhi Brother-2nd and last part

Soon after Ashok and his family left for Jammu, many more Kashmiri Pandits followed their footsteps. By the Mid-spring most of my KP neighbors had left for an alien land. “Raina’s” and “Dhar’s” had gone, so had “Saproo’s” , “Tickoo’s” and “Bhat’s”.My family and the “saraf’s” were the only KP family left in our neighborhood. Most of the time I and my family members were confined indoors because of the activities of the militants and also because Army was patrolling our area almost 24*7. The peal of the neighborhood temple Bell too was silent.

Hamida was still visiting me, though not that frequently. Her wits were still alive, but I could feel something amiss in her normal behavior. One fine day, I asked her , “Hamida, from last few days, I am feeling as if you are not your usual self. Is everything O.k?” She nodded her head in disapproval and said, “Nothing! I am just fine.”, and looked straight in my eyes. Then something happened. She held my hand and pulled me up from the Sofa. “come to the next room, I want to tell you something” she said. Ever since she had told me about the incidence of Ashok; I took every word of her seriously. And then she whispered, “Everything is not fine Didda, things are becoming worse and I doubt It will get only worst. Shabbir, my brother, has advised me not to meet you or any other KP for that matter.” I asked, “But why?”. “Read between the lines, Didda. You are my dear friend and I don’t want anybody to harm you or your family. I think you too should move out of the valley for the time being” said she in a pensive mood. And she left immediately after that. I never saw her after that.

I had to get curd from the “Ismail goor”(Ismail-the milkman).His shop was hardly 100 meters away from my house. I was thinking about my last interaction with Hamida. It was around noon. Ismail’s son Khalid was rolling down the shutters of his shop. I said to him, “ Don’t roll down the shutters, first give me half a Kg of curd.”He said in a rude tone, “Didda, go back to your home quickly.”And looked at me. His looks were threatening. I almost ran back to my house.I was angry at Khalid. My late father had taught him to read and write. He had given him free tuitions and helped him to secure a Govt. Job. He was like a family member to us all. During all these years he had never ever misbehaved with me.

As, I was thinking about the incidence, I heard a loud deafening explosion outside. I ran out to see what happened! I could only see dust and smoke at a distance .My younger brother Ramesh was running from the opposite direction. He held my hand firmly and almost dragged me back to our house. Without my asking, he said, “A bomb exploded just near “Ismail Goor’s” Shop. I was bewildered and scared.

By the evening, everything was normal. I still hadn’t bought curd. I was someone, who would not eat a meal without curd. I went again to the shop of Ismail. The shutters were still down. I decided to go to Ismail’s house and get the curd. His house was just 50 meters away from my house and I had gone there “N” number of times. He had a cowshed at the ground floor of his house and I directly went inside the shed. I shouted “Khalid, Ismailsaab, are you there?”. Khalid quickly came from nowhere. Anger was written all over his face. He pushed me back as he said, “ you mad girl ! what are you doing here. Get out of here.” Even during this commotion, I clearly saw at least 6 strange faces, ducked in between the bovines. It looked as if they were in a hiding. I came back disappointed. During night, I could not sleep for a long time. I was thinking about Hamida, Khalid and the bomb blast.

It was a moonlit night. And Sleep was still miles away. I opened the window of my room .My room was on the first floor and the windows opened towards the compound. The compound was flanked on two sides by our neighbor’s houses . There was an eight foot high by two feet wide wall securing our compound just opposite my room. The roof of compound wall was covered with slanting tin sheets, so that the snow will not accumulate on the top and will fall down smoothly. A cool breeze was blowing outside. The moon looked stunning. I was about to close the window when an image appeared behind the compound wall. I was scared. I hid myself, but I was still peeping outside the window. He was standing on the wall. I could see him clearly. He was a tall guy about 6 feet. He looked more like an Afgani than a Kashmiri. He was talking to someone on the other side of the wall, whom I could not see. I could hear him clearly . He was speaking Afgani or pushto or any other language but Kashmiri. I was scared to death and was sure that they had come to kidnap me.

Suddenly, someone started stoning my house as well as the compound wall. The sound was piercing the silence of the night and was enough to jolt the whole neighborhood and wake them up from their deep sleep. The stoning also alerted the army men outside the street. I could hear the trample of the boots of the armymen. The intruder too got confused and jumped back to the street. I had a sigh of relief.

Next morning, as I was passing by the shop of “Ismail Goor”, I spotted Khalid sitting in his shop. I was angry at him and tried to ignore him. “Didda, come here”, he said. Though I wanted to avoid him, but I still went up to him. He spoke to me in a cautious low voice. “I have been trying to caution you and your family. I cautioned you before the bomb explosion. I wanted you to go out of the cow-shed yesterday as they(militants) were hiding there and could have harmed you. And It was I Didda who stoned your house yesterday to raise an alarm against those Afganis. I am sorry, I could not inform you earlier as I too fear for my and my family’s life. I beg you to leave this place as soon as possible, for your safety and honor. Now leave this place and act as if nothing has happened. You too are under the surveillance of Militants.”I composed my calm, bought my last curd in Kashmir and went back to my house.

I narrated everything to my Brothers and my mother. We all decided to leave ASAP and come back once the things settle. A taxi was arranged by my Brothers. We only took some clothes and some important papers with us. By 7.00p.m we were at Jammu. We went to our Uncle’s place in Talab tiloo, jammu.

23 years have passed by. The return is still elusive. Who would have thought that KP’s as a community will be scattered emotionally and physically all over the Globe. Who would have thought, the alien land will become so familiar that our own motherland Kashmir will look like an stranger to us. But It has happened.

somebody has rightly said “Truth is stranger than fiction”….

Narrated by-Mrs. Seema Kaul(Didda)

The dilemma of an old KP-A short story

March 1990, Jammu, Pandit Janki nath alighted from the truck, along with his tenants at Rehari Chungi. The 75 year old Kashmiri pandit had nowhere to go. His Kp tenants, the brothers, Ramesh and Rakesh urged him to accompany them. He did not protest .They were not carrying much luggage. He was carrying a Bag containing some clothes and some important documents pertaining to his property in Kashmir. The brothers were carrying a couple of suitcases. Ramesh and his younger brother Rakesh took him to their relative’s place at Govt. Quarters, Subash nagar. There was a visible sign of relief on their faces for they had cheated the Death that was preying Kashmiri pandits in the valley of Kashmir.

Though, tired, Janki nath could not sleep. He recalled his home, back at Habba Kadal. It was just 6 months back that Ramesh and Rakesh had shifted their base to Srinagar and had rented a couple of rooms in his house. The two brothers had recently joined the Govt. services. The elder brother Ramesh was married recently while Rakesh was a bachelor. Originally they were from Anantnag. Ramesh was working with the irrigation department while Rakesh was a Govt. teacher.Apart from the Brothers, there was another KP family from Badgam who had rented three rooms.

He also recalled how his wife had left for the heaven after a brief illness, couple of years back. His daughter-his only child, Lalita, had proved to be his support during those tough times. His wife Prabhawati and he had spent 50 years together. She was a good wife and a wonderful mother. She was the daughter of a landlord from Baramullah. A lively person who loved kashmiri songs. He recalled how she sang some of the verses of Lal-Ded. In the pitch black night, He also remembered his wife’s favorite song and he whispered that song with a sigh, ”Kathyu chuk Nund bane, waloo mashooq mayne”(where are you my beloved!come my beloved.).

Jankinath was the son of a wealthy landlord. He had spent his childhood in opulence. He was the only male-child among six siblings. He could not read beyond class 1 or 2. Nobody knew for sure whether he could read hindi or urdu, But he had memorized many of the Bhajans(devotional songs).He also knew how to use a jantrii(hindu calendar).

His days of opulence did not last long as a couple of reforms by the state government were announced that affected Kashmiri pundits the most.Most of the lands were taken away from KP’s under the scheme. From many years now, his only source of income was from the rent he obtained from his two houses in Habba Kadal area.

The life of Janki nath was flashing before his eyes. He was sure that he will return to his home in Kashmir, once the violence subsides.

But that proved to a Dream. He was never to return his home ever.

Janki nath was a man of honour. He did not lived with his daughter Lalitha deliberately, as it was considered unethical in Kashmir to live with one’s daughter’s family. He along with Ramesh and Rakesh shifted to Geeta Bhavan for a brief period. They got themselves registered as migrants with the govt. agencies. He visited his daughter once a week, but never stayed overnight. His son-in-law and granddaughters Neetu and Nidhi pleaded many times to stay with them forever, but he always declined.

Life was tough for Jankinath. He could not follow a word that was spoken to him by the Dogras-the people of jammu. And His hindi/Urdu was almost impossible to be understood by the Dogras. So he would gesticulate and use Single words to express himself or reach from one place to another. It was a tough task and sometimes it was humiliating. In fact he was subjected to chagrin many a times by the locals.

After a month or so, he was allocated a tent at Misriwala, Jammu. It was a small tent may be 10feet by 10 feet. He was also promised by the govt. relief agencies, that he will be paid a dole of 800Rs/month till his return to Kashmir. His only consolation was that he was not alone as hundreds of KP’s were with him in that refugee camp. The other consolation was a canal with ice cold water from river Chenab, that was running just across the road.In fact, he cherished taking a bath in the canal in the hot summers of Jammu.

His immediate neighbour Rattan lal from pulwama, too was a victim of terrorism. He had a big family for a relatively small tent that consisted of his wife ,two daughters ,a son and daughter-in-law. Jankinath during the course of time became very fond of him and his family.

His first night in the Tent was horrible. It was like a bad dream. Though he had bought a fan, but it was not enough. He could get a little relief intermittently, when the hot blow from the fan hit his sweat -drenched body. It would take another fifteen or twenty minutes before he would sweat again. And the fan cool-off his body again.

He would often imagine to be at his home in Habba Kadal in company with his late wife. He would imagine talking to Prabha. He would recall the good old times spent with her. And many a times he would sing in a low whisper the song,”Katyu chuk nund bane,waloo mashooq maine”(where are you my beloved, come my beloved).It used to give him a feeling that will be associated with a thirsty traveler who has suddenly found an oasis.

He brazenly faced the horrid summer , the sultry monsoon and the bone-chilling winters in his dwelling-the tent. He would visit his daughter at Bakshni Nagar once a week. He had also started visiting swami Mastram at paloura. Initially, he would visit once a week, later on he would stay put at the ashram for days or even weeks leaving his tent in the care of his new neighbors. His neighbors always obliged him.

This schedule continued for 6 years.

Janki nath was 81 years now. Ramesh, his erstwhile tenant had died of a cardiac arrest at a young age of 38 years. The tragedy of living as a refugee with little or no social life, and the penury had taken a toll on the health of Janki nath as well. His shining face had turned cadaverous. His back and shoulders had arched downwards. The sun burn had left many dark brown patches on his face. And the thick lenses of his spectacles accentuated his already big eyes.

Both his Grand daughters were studying professional degree courses outside the state of J&K. He used to long for them and loved them more than anything. They used to visit him after every semester exam, each semester lasting for six months. As a man of pride, he used to give them some pocket money. Though, every time they used to decline the money , but finally they had to give up as he insisted with authority. They knew in their hearts that by accepting the money, which used to be a 500 rupee note each, they are in fact respecting his honour.

He used to get some ration and money under the relief scheme that Government of India was running for the migrants of Kashmir. To give the pocket money to his grand-daughters and to give customary gifts to his daughter on the occasions like shiv ratri, jankinath had become a miser or an ascetic .He neglected many of his desires in order to save some money. This austerity was debilitating him physically also.

After a couple of years, His both grand-daughters started working with a company at Delhi. To assist them, his daughter and son-in-law also moved to Delhi. They requested many times to Janaki nath to come with them. But as usual, he declined their offer.

His heart always wanted to go with them. In fact in 1990, when the circumstances forced him to leave his home and come to jammu, He wanted to remain with his daughter and grand-daughters. But his pride always stopped him. All his life, he had lived with pride. He had lived 83 years of his life with honor. Even in depilated tents, his flag of self-respect furled high.

But something changed, when his daughter moved to Delhi.

His daily routine was not the same as before. The pain of separation from his only family in old age was hard to bear. For the first time, he was in such a dilemma. Should he go to Delhi or should he stay at Jammu? for whom should he stay in jammu? He could not decide. He knew the inner feelings of his heart, but decided,not to heed to his heart. It was not as easy as he had thought.

After a few weeks of emotional confusion, one day ,Supinely, in his tent, he started conversing with Prabha in whispers.”Tell me Prabha, should I go?” Prabha said,” Yes, you should go”, “what will the society say?”he asked. She said,” which society, you are talking about! There is no-one dear. Most of your friends are dead. Those who are alive are staying with their children. Why shouldn’t you too stay with Lalita ? Go to Delhi tomorrow. You have the address of her. Give her a surprise” .

He thought for some time, long time, very long time and then He said,” yes, you are right Prabha. I too must go”.

Early morning, He was seen by Rattanlal with a bag. He looked happy. He was humming a song . He crossed the road and waited at the Bus stop. Suddenly his neighbour saw him mowed down by a Bus. Rattanlal raised an alarm and rushed to his rescue. All his neighbours reached to the spot in a moment. He was laying there motionless in a puddle of blood. He was shifted to SMGS hospital immediately by his neighbours.

Some people say, he deliberately jumped in front of the bus, Others say it was an accident.But whatever said and done, He alone knew the answers.

Next day, early morning Rattan lal bought the local 8 Paged newspaper. There was a news of jankinath in page no-6.It read that an 83 year old migrant died of a Road accident. Rattanlal’s eyes became moist. He recalled the last time when he saw Jankinath. He tried hard to recall, the song that jankinath was humming. And instantly Rattanlal whispered the last words he had heard from him. On his last day, Jankinath was heard ,singing ,”Kathyu chuk nundbaane, walo mashooq maine”(where are you my beloved? Come my beloved).