Friday, February 01, 2013

Puncturing the separatist discourse

The following post by Sualeh Keen, my friend from the Kashmir Valley, should not be seen as a review of Gowhar Fazli's review of my book, "Our Moon Has Blood Clots." I see it as a needle that has punctured the balloon of the separatist discourse in Kashmir. Sualeh's post is a reminder that no matter what academic halo you lend your discourse, all it takes is a plain set of truths to rip that halo off.

 1. ON DENIAL // While it is difficult to deny... // Gowhar Fazili seems to be speaking for himself, and he, at an individual level, may indeed find it difficult to deny that not just militants but many ‘unarmed’ people from the majority community also targeted the Pandits with various methods of intimidation. Gowhar needs to be congratulated for saying something that his fellow-separatists never ever acknowledge in public. But the fact remains that the majority of the majority (and I don’t say this lightly) continue to publicly blame the exodus of Pandits on Governor Jagmohan — purportedly, to clear the ground for the genocide of Muslims — as if the JKLF, SLF, Al-Umar and other militant organizations were busy elsewhere in administering polio drops to children!

 To quote Shantiveer Kaul, “No section of KP opinion has, as far as I know, ever suggested that all Kashmiri Muslims were complicit in forcing them to flee. It is painful to see large sections of KM opinion (more in the virtual world) consensually arguing that KPs left at the behest of Jagmohan who later unleashed terror on Kashmiri Muslims. This is a direct suggestion that by their act of absenting themselves from the equation, all KPs facilitated - and were thus complicit in - the miseries and misfortune suffered by the majority community. Nothing can be more degrading and hurtful than this preposterous insinuation.” In other words, the Jagmohan theory is a red herring that not only allows Muslims to disown total responsibility for the exodus (“Moral Disengagement”), it also, ironically, tries to depict the Pandits as evil Little Eichmanns who cleared the ground to facilitate the genocide of Muslims. It is the most disgusting accusation that can be heaved upon victims.

 What I am appalled at, however, is the sheer stupidity of arguing with actual victims that nothing happened to them and that all their memories are mere fabrications (even furnishing them the reason: Jagmohan!), as if the victims are going to say, “Perhaps you are right, though I don’t remember every receiving any directive from Jagmohan. Let us just agree to disagree.” No, they are going to protest and the amount of their bitterness will increase proportionally with the degree of denial. If Muslims really want to mend fences with Pandits, they could not possibly indulge in something more counter-productive.

Other red herrings from the separatist camp to distract from the communal nature of Azadi:

 1. “The Pandits are cowards to have run-away. Look at Sikhs; they are minorities as well, but they bravely faced the situations, just like brave Muslims. Thus, Pandits have only themselves to blame.” Rebuttal: Khalistani and Mujahiddeen were bhai-bhai back then. No slogans were sung about Sikhs and Sikhyanis.

 2. “It was a class struggle; the Pandits had occupied all the posts (some specifically mention 'bureaucratic posts' that additionally interfered in Kashmiri affairs). They had it coming because of their 'ku-karma'.” Rebuttal: As of 1990, Pandits did not have any advantage over Muslims in getting jobs (on the contrary, they were discriminated against, starting with the Bakshi government). This zero-sum theory (“our loss is their gain”) is a Leftist spin to show 'class' was the reason for targeting Pandits and not 'religion' (yes, that’s why a poor Pandit panwalla was targeted!). Well, at least this theory acknowledges that the Pandits were indeed targeted specifically.

 3. There are other ‘politically correct’ red herrings, such as blaming everything on the famous Foreign Hand (here, Pakistan/ISI), on “vagaries of time”, “violent winds of change”, qismat, etc. At least, ‘ku-karma’ doesn’t feature here, so no rebuttal. This Denial that the Pandits were intimidated by members of the majority is the backdrop of the book. Rahul Pandita has publicly declared that his book is an attempt at countering the denial by KMs in general of what led to the exodus of Pandits, via the narration of his personal ordeal. By brushing aside this salient feature of the book, Gowhar Fazili is shifting the goal-post of the review towards a direction more convenient to him and his ideological position. Actually, he is denying the book its very raison d’être! Thus, Gowhar Fazili’s review can only be called “A Denial of Denials.”

 Yes, Denial is the name of the game. However, it needs to be emphasized that one cannot really blame KM kids who were not born in 1990 or were too young to understand the events that unfolded back then. Their 'knowledge' is second hand and they are not to be blamed; the older generation is responsible for the misinformation that the new generation has been fed. It also needs to be emphasized that not everybody was aware of what happened, due to a number of reasons:

 1) Some were too preoccupied by the volatile situation to take notice what happened to the minorities.

 2) Some lived in a locality where there was little contact with the minorities.

 3) Due to curfew, some couldn't even know what was happening next door.

 4) Some forgot what exactly happened during the build-up to the exodus, because new incidents were happening everyday in 1990 — massacres, killings, blasts, crackdowns, protests, encounters, targeted assassinations — and each day's news obliterated the previous day's news, until the exodus became a footnote in our (KMs’) own experience with the conflict. This is also why many KMs genuinely don’t recall the night of 19th January, for it was a night one among many similar ones that were to follow.

 5) There are also many instances where a panicked Pandit family did not even inform their closest relatives that they intend to flee during the night (Rahul Pandita too has mentioned this in his book). This secrecy was maintained because there were incidents where militants looted the Pandits who were about to leave.

 This vacuum of knowledge of 'why did my Pandit neighbour leave' / 'why the Pandits left' was soon filled by conspiracy theories conveniently supplied by separatist militants who orchestrated the entire thing as they saw no role of Pandits in their violent political project. THUS, one cannot blame the Muslims who had no role in the exodus or those who used to mouth the Jagmohan conspiracy theory because they don't know better. Besides, there were no Pandits left in the valley to ask the truth from. This cannot be called Denial; the word for it is “Ignorance.”

 HOWEVER, now that due to internet, one can directly ask any Pandit individual what made him / her leave their home, one can learn the truth right from the horse's mouth. One will come to know of threatening letters, of religio-fascist slogans that made the entire minority community cringe in fear, of targeted assassinations, of them having been advised by their well-wisher Muslim friends that it is beyond their ability to save them (Pandits) so it was advisable to leave. Ask the victims. Simple.

 We all should realise that all claims to 'victimhood' are interconnected. If we don't believe the victims of the minority community, how do we expect them to believe or sympathise with the victims of our own community? We need to acknowledge the truth — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Truth comes first in Truth & Reconciliation, and there can be no reconciliation without the former.

 2. ON FRIENDS AND FOES //“...it makes for an overstatement to underplay the equally frequent narrative of mutual support between individuals that one gets to hear during conversations between the members of the two communities privately. Such underplay does violence to those aspects of shared memory.”// This is an unsubstantiated claim. So much for reducing Rahul Pandita’s personal experience as a “subjective” thingy, while pretending to eavesdrop on “private conversations” to go on to claim that the latter are “equally frequent.”

 How many people from the two communities were in touch with each other post-Exodus but pre-Facebook days? Few (and some of them were real estate agents...). Actually, given that widespread Azadi sentiment was about merging with Pakistan for religious affinity, the communalists easily outnumbered the friendly ones.

Nevertheless, let us assume this unsubstantiated, though possibly true, equivocation: In 1990, a minority of around 5% of the total population was surrounded by 47.5% friendly ones and 47.5% hostile people. [Am I the only one alarmed that as many as half the population was hostile to Pandits?! Should I be deflecting this glaring fact by pointing to the other ones who were friendly?! Well, it won’t be the first time when extremists hide behind the moderates in their fold. “Idhar nahin, udhar dekho!”] Nevertheless, the fact remains even the friendly ones — as large a group as they were — couldn’t protect the Pandits from the communalists, and in fact, the friendly ones, in many cases, were the ones who advised the KPs to move out as they feared for the latter’s life, an advice that could have been and most probably was well-meaning.

 This itself raises an issue that wades into even more uncomfortable territory. Let us take a look at what Gowhar euphemistically calls “mass rebellion”. Were the hundreds of thousands of people who led processions with green shrouds wrapped around their bodies, who braved the bullets and pelted stones, who picked up the gun to fight with Indian Army, *afraid* to confront the communalists amongst their fold? This simultaneous display of aggression and helplessness does not add up. Fact is that even Friends had resigned to a Kashmir without Pandits, thanks to the widespread belief in early1990 that ‘Azadi-is-round-the-corner-just-a-couple-of-weeks-away’. On 19th January, people were in a celebration mood. It was a Jashn-e-Azadi (‘jashn’ or celebration) when people gathered in mosques, played recorded Jihad songs and shouted slogans — anti-Kafir and, at many places, anti-Pandit) — on PA systems of mosques. And as we know, not many people remember their friends during ‘good’ times.



The point is, if the denials and red herrings continue, the accusations are bound to be even more vehement and tar-brushed, and even Friends will lose the R of relation and become Fiends. This denial business is only going to make things uglier...

Also, what is with the Friends that they only acknowledge the plight of Pandits in “private conversations”, while their public stand is that of denial, deflection, and whataboutery? The stark inconsistency between the public and private statements of Friends is also a sibling of Betrayal. I recall being told that a 2010 post on MVJKL titled “Who is responsible for the exodus of Pundits?” was the first instance of public acknowledgement by a few Muslims of the truth behind the exodus. For all I know, there may have been other instances of public acknowledgement, but I’m not aware of any. Anyway, I was shocked: What, not even once in public in 20-frigging-years?!

So, Friends, come out come out, wherever you are. Don’t you know your Public Silence does violence with the memory of the victims?

3. ON RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS THAT ARE COMMUNAL BUT UNINTENTIONALLY SO, AND PEOPLE WHO CAN NEVER BE COMMUNAL, AND WHEN THEY ARE, IT IS ALL INDIA'S FAULT

Harbir Singh Nain has already demonstrated how communal the Tehree-e-Azadi has been. I would like to add that Azadi is intrinsically communal because it is the ‘unfinished business of Partition’, which was along communal lines. Elsewhere, Dilip Simeon says, “The entire issue is a product of the communal partition in 1947, without which it would not exist. And there is no possibility of communal reconciliation without a recognition that communalism is one phenomenon, not two or three.”

Nevertheless, disregarding all evidence to the contrary, let us assume for a moment that Azadi wasn't originally communal. Then again, even if Azadi was not communal, the separatists made absolutely no effort to make it secular. How many Pandits were asked to join the Tehreek? Azadi was always communal, even when the word was not extant, even when its emotional equivalent was mere throwing of stones on the roof-tops of Pandits' houses in some areas whenever the Pakistani cricket team lost to India.

Gowhar Fazili's review goes beyond Rahul Pandita's book and furnishes a highly intellectualised apologia for the violent and communal religio-regional movement called Azadi, which in 1990 meant merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. Gowhar's apologia reminds me of Julien Benda's famous essay "The Betrayal of the Intellectuals," in which Benda argued that French and German intellectuals in the 19th and 20th century had often lost the ability to reason dispassionately about political and military matters, instead becoming apologists for crass nationalism, warmongering and racism (in this case, communal violence).

But I don't wish to spend time deconstructing the intellectual doublespeak. Instead, reality has a habit of cutting through the cranium. So let us see how reality stands next to a web of words.

...

Let me share one real incident — one of the less sensational, commonplace and therefore untold incidents of 1989-90 — from my hometown, Anantnag:

There used to be a small Pan Shop near Lal Chowk, Anantnag. This pan shop was run by a Pandit and the shop also sold newspapers, periodicals and comics (I was a regular customer for Indrajal and Diamond comics).

Those were the days when "Symbols" gave the dress code diktat for KPs and KMs (the women of former community had to wear tilak, so that they won't be thrown acid upon, which was meant for women of latter community who didn't observe the burqa... how considerate!). The "Symbols" gave another diktat prohibiting the sale of filmy and sensuous magazines, besides shtting down all movie theatres as well as the multitude of Video Halls (which are still absent from the valley, even after 22 years). Naturally, the Pandit's Pan Shop complied and stopped selling such magazines. But even that did not help.

On one of the curfew days, the Pandit owners of the shop, who lived a few hundred metres away in a Pandit mohalla, noticed smoke arising from the Lal Chowk area while they were basking in the sun on the top of their house. Within minutes, the whole Pandit Mohalla gathered in their sitting room (since all houses were internally connected). Some little bird had told them that their shop was being looted and some portions had been set on fire. All the Pandit men from the mohalla unanimously decided to violate the curfew (since it was already violated by the "Symbols") and stop the loot. After an hour or so, they returned home with bruises and blood on their faces and arms. All of them had been beaten up by the Police who did nothing to stop the loot. The Pan Shop owner's brother had — a high school teacher — just sat down in the middle of the road, helpless, and urged the Police and the "Symbols" (all known students and acquaintances who lived around Lal Chowk) to beat him as much as they wanted. Next day, there was a small column news story about it in some local newspaper, which was rather intended 'to send the message across': see what happens to those.

...

Reality! So what do we have here? Communalism, Common People, and Police, all of them together and pretending to be "Religious Symbols" that of course they are not. Verily, communalism and fascism soon sheds its organisational character, especially when it becomes a mass movement.

And yes, Mr. Anonymous: Curfews were broken. Deal with it.

...

But the Pandit family did not 'migrate' (as it is called, a la Butterflies) even then. They did not leave even after 1st Jan 1990 when they found a 'Quit Kashmir' threatening on JKLF's letterhead pasted on their outer gate. The wordings, it began very comically, "Dear Pandit ji, Happy New Year" and then in next two paragraphs "Quit kashmir", "dire consequences", "your family and children" and all other banal and innocuous "Symbolic" phrases. No, even then they did not leave, though they packed off their children to Jammu where an uncle used to live since 1986. By May 1990, the entire mohalla was deserted except for a Pandit couple (the teacher and his wife) who stayed there with the hope that things might turn around. A family friend IQBAL stayed with them and dissuaded his "freedom fighters" to spare them at least on two different occasions. It was only when the Azadi militia knocked at their outer gate that the couple in their bed clothes ran through — devil knows better — what kotchas and sadaks, paid every single paisa they had to a taxi driver who brought them to Jammu. They say you should have seen the look on their faces when they arrived in Jammu.



So, Gowhar Fazili would us believe his apologia? And he would ride the high horse of self-righteousness by using one Iqbal as the shield behind which the mob and police at Lal Chowk and an entire violent and communal movement can hide? Ath dapaan, “Phakass thaavun sarposh” (Keeping a lid on the stink). This, coupled with his rather amusing defence of the spread of the religion of the community he hails from, suggests (though I cannot say with certainty) that he is playing to the "Jazakallah!" gallery and Leftist circles where batting for and playing down Muslim communalism qualifies as a certificate of secularism and liberal thought.

And um, btw, people should read Rahul Pandita’s book to decide for themselves. Nowhere does he deny an Iqbal when there was one.

4. ON PANDITS' SO-CALLED ACTIVE ROLE IN POLITICS

//To look at Pandits as active political actors would also mean to understand their complicity through silence over the systematic state violence that has prevailed in Kashmir pre and post Pandit departure.//

This is a false assertion. Sure, Pandits were proud of the fact that the first PM of India (Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru) and his family hailed from their community. Sure, they though BSF are security forces of their country. But to say that Pandits played an active role in the political scene of the valley is a lie. They didn't even figure at all. In fact, their electoral number was too low to make any dent in any constituency, save in one or two constituencies in Srinagar. In fact, many of them were so disinterested in the Sher and Bakra fights, NC-Congress showdowns, etc. that they didn't even bother to vote. So, yeah, they were disinterested and therefore "silent" about the sham democracy that prevailed, the rigged elections, etc. In fact, this numerical disenfranchisement may be another reason why they identified more with national politics than the local one.

But this assertion is not just false, it sounds as insensitive / malicious as the common separatist argument that "Jagmohan asked the Pandits to vacate the valley so he can massacre more Muslims." So, according to Gowhar Fazili, the Pandits as evil Little Eichmanns ("the elite embedded in the system") whose "silence" contributed towards the violence that existed. I had said that the Jagmohan Conspiracy Theory is the most disgusting accusation that can be heaved upon victims. I was wrong; there can be even more or similarly disgusting accusations.

...

Couldn't help but notice that a friend on Gowhar's thread talked of a delegation of Pandits going to Ranjit Singh and used that as an instance of "Active Politics of Pandits." This is quiet amusing when people jump from 1990 to antediluvian times. Most likely that the delegation was led by one Pandit who had accrued a large tax liability and was finding ways of waiving that off, with what better than a coup d'etat! Amusing it is, when the people, who protest that Rahul Pandita has cast a monolithic picture of the KMs, themselves generalise about the Pandits based on a bunch of people who had their own motivations for approaching the Sikh leader! And where are the oh-so-sensible Sufis? Didn't Makhdoom Sahib invite the Sunni Mughals to Kashmir, to stave off the Shia Chak rulers, or it that okay because you belong to...? Alas, it seems that in our side of the world, communal identity lurks under the surface of every second person we happen to scratch.

5.1 ON ACCUSATION THAT RAHUL PANDITA'S BOOK WILL STRENGTHEN THE INDIAN HINDU RIGHT-WING AND THE SUGGESTION THAT IS THE REAL INTENTION

//Leveraging tribal raids, Islamism and violence against minorities in Kashmir to undermine or drown out those political claims is ethically as well as logically unsustainable. This may find emotional resonance with the Hindu rightwing in India and sadly that may be exactly what is sought.//

Being the concluding paragraph, this is the take home of the presentation spin of Gowhar Fazili, who, I am sure, is too literate not to use all the ammunition in the literary arsenal.

And Gowhar Fazili's review will help ......? Fill in the blanks; by now, you would have gotten the answer.

In any case, knowing Rahul Pandita and his consistent public stance over the years, any suggestion that he is working on behalf of the Hindutvavdis is not just downright ridiculous, it is actually another Red Herring (a special case of Fallacy of Association, that makes people ideological allies if they all believe that the earth is round) intended to distract the audience from the factual contents of Rahul's memoir.

So, shall we stop talking of Islamist communalism because it will furnish the Hindutva brigade material they can use? And shall we stop talking of Hindutvavad because it helps Islamists? No. Not done.

...

@ Kashmiri Muslims:

Au contraire, far from a rear-guard defence of Hindutva, Rahul is a sane and sensible humanist: complete opposite of the Hatemonger the Azadi-mongers are trying to paint him as. Take a look at this short video, in which he is accused of being anti-Pandit just because he speaks what he thinks is the truth.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqpExxQ-kL4

Why cannot we let him express his anguish, without pointing fingers at his Hindu name? He is a victim as well.

5.2 FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN OF THE FALSE ACCUSATION THAT RAHUL PANDITA IS A HINDUTVA EXPONENT:

An excerpt from Our Moon Has Blood Clots pages 102 to 105:

(Btw, the phrase in the title is by Pablo Neruda, who in his "Oh, My Beloved City" wrote: "...and an earlier time when the flowers not stained with blood, the moon with blood clots!").

//It was at Geeta Bhawan that I had an experience that could have altered my life forever. One evening I saw some boys and a few elderly men gathering at a ground behind the Bhawan. They wore khaki knickers, and one of them erected a wooden pole in the middle of the ground with a saffron flag on it. Then they formed two rows and put their hands over their hearts and chanted some mantras. One of the men spotted me watching them and signalled me to come towards him.

'Are you a Pandit sharnaarthi?' he asked.

He made me sit next to him. Another boy joined us, sitting in front of us on his haunches, listening intently to the man.

'You've been evicted out of your own homes by Muslims. You know that, right?' he asked.

'Yes, they evicted us,' I replied.

'What does it do to you?' he asked.

I was not sure what he meant so I kept looking at him. The boy intervened. 'What Guruji means to ask is whether you feel something inside about it. What do you feel?'

I tried to gauge how I felt about it. For a few seconds, so many images crossed my mind. Of those boys claiming our house. Of the fear on the dark night of January 19. of the searing heat in my room. Suddenly I felt very hot under the collar.

'I am very angry,' I said.

He looked at me sternly. 'How angry?'

'Very angry.'

'Say it loud. How angry?'

'Very angryyyyyyyyy!'

'Good,' he said. 'Now the question is: what do you want to do about it? Will you accept it silently like a napunsak or do you want to take some action?' he asked.

Napunsak. Impotent. Suddenly I wanted to do something. Suddenly I wanted a gun in my hand and I wanted to kill. I wanted a bomb in my hand and I wanted to throw it in Lal Chowk at one of the processions.

'We are from the RSS. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. We will give direction to your anger,' he said. 'Come, let's go join the others,' he continued, looking at the other men.

We went and stood in front of the saffron flag.

'Put your hand on your chest,' the man said.

I had seen them doing this earlier. So I did it exactly as they did. And he made me recite a mantra.

'Come here every day,' he said. 'We meet here every day. We will teach you many things and make a man out of you. A man who is willing to fight for his rights, not only for himself but for his entire community. We are Hindus after all. Have you heard of Parshuram?' he asked.

I had. I knew some of the verses of a poem about the warrior ascetic's dialogue with Lord Ram's younger brother Laxman. I recited some of them. He looked at me, not understanding what I had recited. He did not know those verses. I explained what I had recited.

'Oh, of course, now I remember,' he said, breaking into a smile.

'Come tomorrow, I will see you here,' he said.

They all shook hands with me.

I was so excited I ran all the way from the ground towards the main building of Geeta Bhawan to look for my father. It was very crowded so it took me some time to find him.

'There you are,' Father said the moment he spotted me.

'Kot osuk gaeb gomut?' he asked. Where had you disappeared?

That was my father's favourite phrase when he was mildly angry. I ignored it and began animatedly telling him about my encounter. I was so excited that I did not see his expression change.

'I am going to see them tomorrow and every day now,' I went on. 'They will teach me how to fight the Muslims who made us flee from our home.'

'Listen, you fool!' My father tried suppressing his anger, but the tone of his voice hit me like a slap. 'We are not here to fight but to make sure that you go to school and get your education. You don't need to worry about anything else. Where we live, what we eat, where the money will come from---none of it is your concern. You just concentrate on your studies. And, yes, tomorrow we are admitting you into a school.

'And don't you dare meet those men ever again,' he hissed.

Years later, I saw Father reading a report on the slain Ehsan Jafri, brutally done to death by a Hindu mob in Ahmedabad's Gulbarg Society, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood. As I sat next to him, I read how Jafri had nurtured a nest of barn swallows in his room and to protect them, he would not even switch on the ceiling fan. That day I realized that Father had gifted me something invaluable. Something that enabled me to calmly face an uproariously drunk army general one night in television news studio. We were there to debate human rights violations in Kashmir and I pointed out that there needs to be zero tolerance towards such crimes. 'How can you say that?' he barked. 'It is they who have forced you out of your homes, turning you into refugees.'

I looked him in the eye and said: 'General, I've lost my home, not my humanity.'

(typos: all mine)

6. ON THE OUTCRY WHEN RAHUL PANDITA ASSERTS HIS PANDIT IDENTITY

I have an inkling why Rahul Pandita has chosen to do so. He has stated in an interview that Pandits were hounded out because of two reasons: 1) Identifying with India. 2) For practising their religion. Also, a victim's theistic beliefs does not make his victimhood less so. In fact, the 'religious shroud' plays a vital role in highlighting the centrality of religion in this particular conflict. After all, many Pandits were targeted for solely their religion as well, and not because they were 'confirmed mukhbirs'. Now, if a return of Pandits is ever going to happen, it can happen only if their religiosity is not just accepted but also expected, by default. As an atheist, many passages in the book sound silly to me: whether it is the Durga mantra, the premonitory dream, etc. But that does not distract me from the facts, which continue to be factually correct. No. I wish Gowhar would point to some error in facts, rather than resort to ad hominem criticism of religious overtones and wishing that an atheist should have written the book. In my opinion, Rahul Pandita would have done his community a disfavour had he pretended to be an atheist / irreligious.

Also, much of what Rahul has written, including a concise history of past exoduses of Pandits, is what he recalls hearing, for it is a memoir he is writing. Anecdotes, such as one in which a Pandit talks of Superior Genes to Rahul Pandita do not reflect on the author. I am sure a highly literate person like Gowhar Fazili would know that some character says in the memoir need not be and are not that of the author. Also, Rahul Pandita himself is well-qualified to know what it brings to the fore the chauvinism that some members of his community suffer from, and he should be congratulated for telling it like it is, instead of glossing over it.

Even when he presents the concise history of Pandits, he also mentions Chaks and says that Sunni Muslims were also oppressed that rule. He also mentions that Pandits were treated well by the Sikhs/Dogras and Muslims ill-treated, with a special mention of forced labour. It is a classic case of Confirmation Bias on part of Gowhar to complain that Rahul Pandita was brief about it and did not elaborate. I see no reason why Rahul should have talked of the Buddhist era and talked of persecution of Buddhist people by Hindu kings (though he mention the Buddhist phase in passing). Let a Buddhist write one more book to satisfy the literate Gowhar Fazili's appetite for history for the sake of it. This whataboutery is crude.

I feel it is perfectly all right (though not necessary) to mention illustrious predecessors to let the audience know where the people come from. And hackneyed as it sounds that "the Pandits are 'aboriginal' people", I think that is something that Leftists, who romanticize the adivasis, should know, despite their ingrained dislike for Brahmins.

That the book is an account of victimhood of one community only is assumed by the subtitle and its single-mindedness is therefore declared forthrightly right at the outset. Gowhar Fazili cannot point to what the author has already declared as his own "Gotcha! Caught you, Rahul!" moment.

I didn't get the feeling that the book is conveying a "seamless narrative" that Muslims had one-point agenda of persecuting the Kashmiri Pandits over the centuries. That Pandits have had exoduses in the past as well is well-chronicled. Why feel bad on behalf of But-Shikans of history when Zain ul Abideen is also mentioned? Isn't the whole idea about denouncing the But-Shikans and preventing them from rearing their ugly heads again? Indeed, that is what is required. In fact, without that happening, it is unlikely that Pandits will return.

As for accusations that Rahul Pandita hold "historical grudges" against the Muslims, they are patently false. Don't believe me? See for yourself what Rahul Pandita is about, and how he contrasts with the Hindutva right wing and Panun Kashmir:

http://khabar.ndtv.com/video/show/hum-log/221781

I think that is about it. Will make brief responses to queries and other comments. I sign off by sharing my feedback (posted in another thread at MVJKL) from a few days back on the book:

It is always an uncomfortable position for me to defend something I haven't read (outside of my default defence of the right of expression). But I also had full faith in Rahul Pandita's integrity. It also helped that I did not find anything particularly untrue in the much-maligned 'excerpts'.

Now that I have read the book in full, I am relieved and can say with authority that I did not see any fabrication or propaganda in it. Have to say that there was no new revelation in the book for me (because I am already aware of what happened to Pandits... I am neither in denial mode nor do I have confirmation bias). However, I found the personal account of 'internal displacement' in 1947 --- the memoir within the memoir --- quite evocative, especially in how a person cannot even reconcile with Homelessness, even if the exile is from Baramula to Srinagar.

And anybody having misgivings that the memoir holds All KMs responsible for the exodus are patently false. The memoir recalls individuals as they were -- the good, the bad and the ugly --- and these memories resonate with my memories of those times as well. The grief at the death of one militant who was helpful to Rahul's family is genuine, as is the anger at some other non-militants.

Rahul, in one of his interviews, made a categoric statement that he does not hold only Militants responsible for the exodus, but also local people from the majority community. I fully agree with him here. There were many non-combatants who exploited the situation, e.g. someone sent threat letters to his boss for instant career escalation, someone else coveted Pandit property, non-combatants dancing over spilled Pandit blood, etc. It was a strange time in which even housewives schemed of ways to target people by using their militant contacts. What is so controversial about this; these are all facts. And they do not suggest that every last person was involved, but certainly a whole lot of militants (who also came from the majority community), and non-combatants as well, targeted Pandits, and often not because the latter were 'confirmed agents'.

This book fills the lacuna about Pandits present in Curfewed Night (which depicts the exodus by referring to 'empty benches' in classroom, without going deep into what made the Pandits leave). Thus, 'Our Moon...' should not be seen as antagonistic to any narrative, as it completes the information about 1990 already well-known.

The only things factually incorrect in 'Our Moon..' are a few grammatical mistakes, and at one place, it should have been Awantipura instead of Martand, and in another place, the author misconstrues the reason Muslims distribute uncooked meat on Bakr-e-Eid... that's about it: all trivial errors, inconsequential to the thrust of the book, which is based on facts. Similarly, you cannot discredit Curfewed Night because the author wrote 'sleepers' instead of 'slippers'.

I was thinking of writing a review of 'Our Moon...', but now I am not sure any more. How does one 'review' some personal memoir, whose literary merit or lack thereof is secondary. And though the literary flourish of Curfewed Night was slightly better, Our Moon is a an account of personal suffering, which Curfewed Night was not, and which therefore makes Our Moon understandably a more personal book. I just read it uncritically, taking in all the experiences, living them in my imagination, and now they are part of my own memories.

It is a book that had to be written, and a book that needs to be read, especially by those who are still in the dark about that dark chapter of tehreek-e-azadi.

7 comments:

mirage said...

Saddest part Rahul is when we have defend the truth ...as if laying it bare infront of insesitive eyes is not enough!!
Urvashi

Sarthak Ganguly said...

Excellent Rahul. The Kashmir musla was incomplete without this narrative. This book was extremely necessary. No political correctness, no begging for alms, no request for pity or sympathy, no cries for vengeance, just a narrative of what happened. You spared no one. Just as it happened. Thanks.

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RamnVij said...

Hi Rahul,

Well, with all due respect to Mr Gowhar Fazili, his 'review' of your book, seems designed to 'excuse' in some way, the atrocities inflicted on the pandit minority in Kashmir. This argument, that the brutality needs to be viewed 'in context' of some other happening, is a dangerous and convoluted one. It is quite similar to Pakistan's spurious 'root cause of terror' logic.

By this token, any atrocity could be 'excused' by putting it in context of something else. I would like to ask Mr Fazili, would he be so willing to condone the Gujarat riots of 2002, because they were triggered by the Godhra train burning? Has he heard of the saying that two wrongs do not make a right?

Frankly, I found his statement that the Pakistan sponsored tribal raid of 1947, be viewed as a reaction to the Dogra monarchy's crackdown in Jammu, in extremely poor taste. By that token, Hari Singh could well have alleged, that the state crackdown was necessitated by his subjects in Jammu rebelling against his rule? Where do we draw the line at this chain of excuses? Be that as it may, how does anything excuse an invasion by a brutal militia, who engaged in plunder, arson, rape and murder?

I also completely disagree with Mr Fazili's gratuitous logic, that ""The exclusive political affinity to Pakistan or Saudi-Arabia for a Muslim is as communal as the exclusive political affinity of a Pandit to India."" And

""Similar identification and abhorrence of the symbols of the state are communally shaped. Pandit identification with India and alienation from resistance is as communally driven as Muslim disregard for Indian presence in Kashmir and identification with Pakistan or the militants of Pakistani origin"""

Mr Fazili, whether by accident or otherwise, has obfuscated the ideas of religion with statehood. Pray how does identifying as an Indian, qualify as being communal? He seems to be saying, for Pandits to be called 'not communal', they should have taken active part in an increasingly violent rebellion, against a state they considered themselves citizens of!! And, faced with an ever increasing hostile environment, they should not have considered the BSF as a source of protection/ security!! This is definitely one of the most warped definitions of secularism I have heard...

It seems to me, that Mr Fazili's review is a well written piece of dissimulation, suffering from the faulty premise, that to discuss the suffering of the pandits, is to minimize in some way, the pain of the kashmiri muslims. I completely accept, that the Kashmiri muslims have suffered immensely, due to the violent militant activity and the brutality of the state's response. But that does not (and should not) become an excuse for the atrocities inflicted on the pandits.

If Mr Fazili is ever able to read this reply to his review, would just like to ask him a couple of plain 'Yes or No' questions--

1) Does he unequivocally condemn the atrocities against the pandits or not?

2) Should the mainstream/separatist/ azadi Kashmiri discourse publicly condemn, and disassociate from known murderers like Bitta Karate?

A simple answer from him (without a whole load of equivocation and temporizing), would be deeply appreciated, I am sure!

Sambit Khandual said...

Sir, I have Read ur book... its far more than just excellent. Every person who advocate for a false secularism should read this book.

Leela Pal Chaudhuri said...

Hi Rahul,

This is what I wrote on goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/896079850

Sheetal Ahlawat said...

Hello Mr. Pandita,
My eight year old daughter asked me, what are you doing for the past hour. And I told her that I am acquainting myself with a part of my history.
I am a Haryanavi Jat. I have read and heard of 'Kashmir Problem' and attended the discussions on 372 when I was in JNU. But never had I paid attention to the term Kashmiri Pandit.
It is a real shame that Indian intellectuals consider it a taboo to talk about KP's exodus because in their opinion, only the attacks on muslims by Hindus can be termed communalism.
I have had a leftist upbringing, but I am a fairly apolitical person now.I have to say that I am ashamed of my ignorance about a part of history of my country.