Holocaust Day, January the 19th.
I remember the crescendo rising from the mosques. The memories of what happened are still fresh in my mind and so is the fear. The fear of a situation where a brother turns on another brother, for belonging to a different community.
We, in Kashmir didn’t differentiate between “Hindu” or “Muslim”, the fight was usually between “Kashmiri” v/s “Non-kashmiri”. In our hearts, somewhere down deep, the essence of that thought-process has died.
It was a horrendous day. You see, you live your entire life in a place, making it a home and thinking that you can trust your neighbours. After all you have been to their home, drank their tea, spent time with their family. They come over to your house for an evening chat and things are normal, like anywhere else in India. Except, in just one day, they are not anymore.
The brother that you thought incapable of hurting a fly has now killed people for belonging to the community that you yourself belong to. If you see death staring at your face, what will you do? Like any other sane human, you will try running instead of fighting.
If I am being honest, I don’t even wish to go back now. It has been so long and we are among the few who are better off despite everything. Yes, the nostalgia for home exists but believing that by going back to the valley I will be able to regrow that feeling of home is a delusion at best and would be a disappointment at worst. My home is not even there anymore and even if by any chance I managed to go back to the place, the aura, the feeling, it just wouldn’t be right. The valley has changed over the years, but for us, it changed in just that one day.
I see my children and they have no memories of the place they were born in. They just remember their childhood in camps and have a sadness in their soul for the people who put them there. I still rejoice when I meet people who speak Kashmiri, proper Kashmiri, in Jammu or anywhere else. It doesn’t matter to me even still whether that person is Hindu or a Muslim. But like I said, when I hear about things happening in the valley, I often think if it is Karma’s way of telling them, they made a big mistake.
But then I think I am deluding myself in believing that they would even think about Karma, or us. For the people who still believe our exodus was part of some conspiracy, that the people weren’t murdered or raped, that we ran away on our own, any other narrative is just a falsity. And even if I believe their narrative, perhaps it was a conspiracy, I still have one question to ask.
Let’s say you did not force us to leave but did you do anything to stop us? Did you stand up for the safety of your Kashmiri brother? Would you have laid down your life for the sake of your Kashmiri Pandit sister’s honour? Where were you then? Why didn’t you assure us that nothing would happen to us in the valley as long as our Kashmiri Muslim brothers were alive?
Do you have any answer for me- the one who is, even now, an unrecognised refugee in his own land?