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Kashmiri Pandits paid a price for upholding the national flag and religious freedom: Rahul Pandita

IBNLive.com
Feb 26, 2013 at 05:31pm IST

Rahul Pandita was fourteen years old in 1990 when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits: the Hindu minority within a Muslim- majority Kashmir that was becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of Azadi from India. The heartbreaking story of Kashmir has so far been told through the prism of the brutality of the Indian state, and the pro-independence demands of separatists. But there is another part of the story that has remained unrecorded and buried. 'Our Moon Has Blood Clots' is the unspoken chapter in the story of Kashmir, in which it was purged of the Kashmiri Pandit community in a violent ethnic cleansing backed by Islamist militants. Hundreds of people were tortured and killed, and about 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to leave their homes and spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country. Rahul Pandita has written a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of history, home and loss.

The author, Rahul Pandita, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on his book 'Our Moon has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits'.

Q. It is believed that the Muslims did not want the Pandit women to leave. Is this true? Asked by: Dhawan

Kashmiri Pandits paid a price for upholding the national flag and religious freedom: Rahul Pandita

The author, Rahul Pandita, joined IBNLive readers for an interaction on his book 'Our Moon has Blood Clots'.

A. Yes, we heard that slogan shouted from mosques all over Kashmir valley on the night of January 19, 1990. It was very intimidating. They shouted, and I translate it for you: We want our Pakistan, without Pandit men, but with their women.

Q. I was the same age as Rahul and to say that we could have stayed back is foolish. I have seen people getting killed in front of my eyes,doors of people who left getting marked so that if they come back they would be killed.I had not seen day light for 5 months. We paid a price for being Indians and no one bothered as we are not vote banks. Asked by: Vandana Kaul

A. Yes, that is right. We paid a price for upholding the national flag and our religious freedom.

Q. Was Nehru a Kashmiri pandit? Or was he a descendents of Muslims as it believed by some? Asked by: Dhawan

A. No, Mr Dhawan, Mr. Nehru was a Kashmiri Pandit, and a proud Pandit at that!

Q. Can you think of a movie that showed the ethnic cleansing of Pandits and their misery? Asking because my impression is Bollywood is obsessed with 2002 riots only even in the recent movie 'Kai Po Che'. Asked by: Surya

A. No movie so far, I am afraid. But the acclaimed filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who is like my elder brother, has promised to make one based on my book.

Q. Rahul may be we may have come across many times when we used to stay in Jammu. I must congratulate on writing this book, because atleast somebody had that courage to pen down the bad memories which we all faced during our exodus. But do you think this book is enough to shake the India that they have forgotten us the Minority Kashmiri Pandits in this whole episode? Asked by: pamposh

A. Hi, do we know each other? This book had to be written and I had promised myself that there will be no compromise with the truth, no unnecessary 'balancing'. The book has generated overwhelming response so far. It will change a few things. It has lent a severe dent to the popular Kashmir discourse.

Q. I know it is a touchy comment. I don't believe that all the Kashmiris Muslims were wanted the Hindus families out of the valley. there have been numerous media reports that have shown the help these Kashmiri Muslims provided to the Hindu neighbours. Would it not have been better if the Hindus had stayed back and resisted the terrorists with their Muslim neighbours rather than move out of the valley? Things may have the situation could have been better and the increase in militancy could have been under control? Asked by: Anonymous

A. Nobody says that all Muslims wanted us out. But many of them took part in the brutalisation of Kashmiri Pandits. And, you are wrong about the idea of staying back. A 5 percent religious minority cannot face the brunt of the frenzied mobs shouting Azadi on the streets in hundreds of thousands and hunting down Pandits on the roads, and inside their homes.

Q. Do you think that the plight and suffering of Kashmiri Pandits is not highlighted in Indian media (compared to '84/'02). Is it because of political interference/compulsions or simply because being a small vote bank it doesn't make big news. Asked by: jacob

A. The Indian media has largely ignored the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. And so has the liberal discourse of this country. Somehow it is not fashionable to talk about us. But now, they can no longer ignore us. I am out with the truth of my community, and I am hoping that many other youngsters from among the Pandits will write other narratives as well.

Q. The book indeed is an intense one highlighting the untold story of the suffering of every KP family due to the exodus in 1990. What in your opinion is the future of KP's? Considering that we have been in exile for the last 23 years does it make sense to think about going back to the valley? Asked by: Nirmal

A. In the current circumstances, it is almost impossible to return to Kashmir Valley because of security concerns. But we must never forget our story - the story of what happened to us in 1989-90. Only then would we be able to gain a foothold back into the Valley and then increase it gradually.

Q. Are there any other books in the pipeline? Asked by: Sneha

A. There will be, I hope. But I will take a long break. I want to go back to the Naxal heartland and report from there - something I haven't been able to do for more than a year now.

Q. Who inspired you to write this book? Asked by: Priya

A. The fact that our story has been relegated to the margins for almost quarter of a century. Nobody was interested in our story. And even we got lost as a community in many ways. So the pursuit of truth, really, was my inspiration. You know, the seed of it was sown when I was in college and I read Sir Vidia's following lines: The world is what it is. Men who are nothing; who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it. I think it is after reading these lines that I decided to take my destiny in my own hands and become a writer.

Q. How did you come up with the title? Asked by: d_star

A. The title is derived from a Pablo Neruda poem, "Oh, my lost city!" I have used the original line in the beginning of the book. Do read it.

Q. Are you a full-time author? Asked by: Dhawan

A. No, I am a full-time journalist, part-time author.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Asked by: Sasi

A. I would request my readers to read the book and do help me in spreading the word about the book. Each one of them has a stake in the truth that I have written about. And I would like to tell them that the pursuit of truth is the most important thing, that it is something worth dying for.

Q. What kind of books you like to read? Asked by: Priya

A. I am a compulsive reader, I even read biscuit packet labels. But I read a lot of fiction, and non-fiction. My interests in non-fiction are reportage from conflict areas. My favourite journalist is the Polish journalist, the late Ryszard Kapuscinski. I also like the works of the historian Ram Guha. Among literary writers, I am a fan of Sir Vidia, Ernest Hemingway.

Q. Dear Rahul, Having read the book made me revisit those horrors of 89-90...i happen to visit valley after 22 years last summer but it seems everything has changed...felt pandits no more belong here. Do u think asking for separate homeland within valley is a good idea? Asked by: kichloo sunny

A. Yes, the Valley has changed quite a bit ever since the KPs left. What I am extremely worried is the rabid radicalisation of the younger generation. But, personally, I believe that whatever solution has to come, it has to come from within Kashmir valley in which both Muslims and Pandits are stakeholders. A separate homeland, I am afraid, is not going to work, in my limited understanding.

Q. Who are the notable Kashmiri Pandits in India today? Asked by: Dhawan

A. There are too many. Mr Katju is a Kashmiri Pandit. Mr. Shanglu of the CAG is a KP. So many prominent journalists are Kashmiri Pandits, and corporate stalwarts. They are everywhere - academics, doctors, IT, Banking, journalism.

Q. Do you think Kashmiri Pandits have been ignored by liberals in India because they are Hindus and not a minority community? Asked by: Ibn Viewer

A. In Kashmir valley, the KPs were a minority. But, like i said before, it has never been fashionable to talk about us. Our story was ignored since the media also doesn't understand it completely, mostly out of ignorance.

Q. How much time you took to write this book? Asked by: vinny

A. This is the first book I've ever wanted to write. And that time I was in college. So I would say: almost 20 years

Q. What is your writing schedule like for books? Asked by: leena

A. I don't follow a particular schedule since I'm a full-time journalist. I try and write whenever I can. I write mostly in busy cafes. Towards the end, I need a solitude of few weeks. That happens when I go to this small hill station called Kasauli (in Himachal).

Q. Can you share some tips on how to write a non-fiction book? Asked by: HS

A. Well, I don't think I am qualified enough to offer you tips. But it is important to read similar works. And write every day. Gradually, you evolve a style of your own. Keep it simple. Give a big picture, but also don't lose sight of the smaller picture.

Q. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it? And do you have any advice for other writers? Asked by: Prabhu

A. Life has so much to teach you. I've been a journalist for 17 years now. And not a single day goes when I don't learn something new out there in the field. My advice to budding writers is: read a lot, and write as much as you can. As the painter Rembrandt used to say: Not a single day without a line!

Q. You have brought the other narrative to the Kashmir table. Kudos to that. Though it seems that the politically right narrative in India is denial of Islamisation of the Valley and a political cause becoming one of religious jehad. What do you think about this? Asked by: Jacob Mathew

A. I agree with you. That has been the trend, and that is where I think our intellectuals have failed us mostly. They have failed to call a spade a spade.

Q. We all kashmiri pandits had moved on with the bruises of terror. This book has again reminded of those horror days. What is the real purpose of the book? Asked by: raina

A. The real purpose of this book is to tell our story that no one has bothered to tell so far. The purpose is to make sure that our truth is not denied to us and that the world realises what happened to us in the winter of 1990.

Q. How easy was it to get a publisher? Asked by: Anu

A. If you have a valid story, you'll have a publisher. That is not a problem.

Q. Don't you think that India's ambiguous policy elements on Kashmir, like article 370 has worsened the situation considerably? Further do you see any hope of people (Muslims) in Kashmir accepting India in their hearts and thus Pandis would be able to go back to Kashmir? Asked by: Saurabh Misra

A. I don't see any hope immediately. But the majority community in Kashmir should initiate a dialogue between themselves on what kind of society do they envisage for themselves.

Q. Why don't Kashmiri pandits return to valley now. Militancy has died out now. Even Salaudin said Kashmiri pandits are welcome to kashmir because it is their home land. what is stopping you now? Asked by: Vijay Kag

A. Saying is one thing, meaning it is quite another. It is still not safe for us to return. Look at how 1446 KPs who returned recently are being treated there.

Q. Congratulations and thanks for writing the book. The only other books which come close to the vividness and detail you have painted are probably kite runner and gone with the wind. On the movie front, can I suggest Shekhar Kapur. The movie needs to be international. All the best for future and hope we see a more detailed account of the tribal invasion soon (You have been promising it for a long time) Asked by: Lucky

A. The story of Kashmir cannot be said in one book. I promise there will be more.

Q. Mr Pandita, thank you for bringing me closer to My Home through your book. My question to you is what do you think about the comments of separatist leaders regarding the atrocities of Army in Kashmir. Do you think the army had any option considering the manner in which the common Muslim man took to atrocities against our community? Asked by: Shubhang Mattoo

A. We must separate the cause of Kashmiri Pandits from the brutalisation the Muslims do face sometimes at the hands of the security forces. As a journalist, I've covered so many violations where innocent Kashmiris were done to death. If we talk about that, it should in no way dilute our narrative, our pain, our suffering and vice versa.

Q. Rahul your book was riveting. What's the feedback you have got from KM's? Asked by: AnilB

A. The majority of response is on expected lines. They are still into a denial mode. But I'm hopeful because so many youngsters are in touch with me and they do appreciate what I am trying to achieve through this book. As long as they are there, I won't lose hope.

Q. Since you have reported extensively on the Naxal issue, let me ask you is India finally winning the war against the Naxals? Last 18 months violence has gone down drastically and key leaders have been eliminated. Or is this just a lull? Where is the Naxal issue going? Asked by: Ruchik

A. The war in central and east India is far from over. And even if the entire Naxal leadership is eliminated, the war won't be over. Because the poor adivasis are suffering. Till the government doesn't realise it, there will be no end to the war.

Q. I really liked the 1947 episode and the way it is connected to 1986 exodus and then finally 1990. I appreciate the efforts made in the book since it clearly indicates that no one bothered since 1947 to see what went wrong. Having experienced 1990 myself in midst of the hell, i would say the book connected very well with present world also with interviews with Vinod Dhar,etc. towards the end of book. Asked by: Razdan

A. Thank you, Mr Razdan. The story of 1947 cannot be isolated from what happened to us in 1990. That is why it was vital to tell that, too.

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