Kashmir is a strange place. It has seen unseen bloodshed. The Pandits were killed and thrown out of their houses and made refugees. It was a sad period for many. It showed the apathy of the rest of India and the shallow definition and scope of the Human Rights activists in India.
Over the years, the Muslims suffered as well – sandwiched between Indian forces and the Pakistani machinery of ISI and Army. They had to also deal with the appeasement from the Indian Government but in the end at least they had the land to themselves although their lives were also torn apart.
I came across a very sensitive article from Rahul Pandita – on his experiences in Kashmir growing up. One, in which he describes the time when Indira Gandhi died. Here is an excerpt:
The time had come to act, I thought. As the family sat glued around the Bush radio set, I sneaked into the kitchen garden. In a polythene bag, I collected raw tomatoes. They were my hand grenades. Tying the bag around my waist, I waited for “them.”
Hilal, our neighbour’s son and few years older to me, appeared on the wall dividing our house. He and his brothers would often sit on that wall, asking us to give them some apples from the tree in our garden.
“Can you sing Jana Gana Mana…?” I shouted at him.
He looked at me as if I had gone crazy. Then he spat at the flower bed beneath him, on our side.
I don’t know when my hand went to my waist and I began throwing a volley of tomatoes at him. One hit him in the eye and burst there. He was caught unawares. He let out a cry and fell backwards.
Soon, we would see images of a young Rahul, who had lost his grandmother, his arms clutched around his father who wore dark glasses.
In Delhi, meanwhile, a massacre had begun. Our old Sikh carpenter was devastated; his sister lived with her husband in a west Delhi colony. Later, we came to know that her husband was killed – a mob put a burning tyre, filled with petrol, around his neck like a garland.
Three days after Indira Gandhi died, my mother’s mother, who had turned senile in her old age, began to see visions of two men aiming at her with a gun. I had grown up hearing stories from her. There was a poster of Charlie Chaplin in my room, and, for many days after I had put it there, she would burn incense sticks in front of it, thinking Chaplin was Englishmen’s God.
On the fifth day, she passed away in her sleep.
In another five years, I would have to leave Charlie Chaplin behind. In another five years, we would be queuing up to receive tomatoes in relief camps.
The use of tomatoes as the factor tying it all together is amazing and really hits it! Also read this on Geelani and the relevance of Amarnath Yatra and the disgust at the pop religious ways of rest of India..
In all this you would see the anger of a young man who has gone through the toughest of times. Its not easy. The recent incidents of when the Government allocated land to Amarnath Temple and it had to be revoked due to protests from Muslims also leaves a very bad taste in the minds of most Hindus from the rest of India. Sometimes many do wonder why should India really subsidize so much in Kashmir and give so much money?
Within this acrimony and anger, there is something that also shows the goodness of Kashmiri Muslims. When all establishments were closing off.. and protests were happening and things were taking a bad turn.. it was Kashmiri Muslims who were serving food and giving shelter to the pilgrims.
The Amarnath pilgrims who passed through the Kashmir Valley in the past 10 days will remember it not for the violent protests on the land transfer row, but for the warm hospitality of the Muslims.
Although hotels and eateries were closed on account of the violence, they didn’t have to look far to find food and shelter with the Muslims opening community kitchens and making arrangements for their overnight’s stay in the Valley.
The police, who had stopped ‘yatris’ returning from the cave shrine at Nunwan and Baltal base camps, also eased restrictions after seeing ‘langars’ at various places like Dalgate and Boulevard.
Shows that there are hues in which the person to person interaction happens. It is never black and white. This difference between how people react in different situations is at the core of everyone’s good ness and the bad.