My father served in the Indian Army, and being in the Jammu & Kashmir rifles, he spent most of his life in the Kashmir valley. Whenever he came home on a casual leave, we the children of the house would eagerly wait for him to open his huge army rucksack. Then out of the rucksack would emerge souvenirs of Kashmir: almonds, walnuts, apple chips, basmati rice, and wrapped in a tight clean little box like a precious gold ornament, the Saffron of the valley.
One day when my father took me on his lap, I asked him: ‘How is Kashmir, daddy?’
“It is Jannat (Heavenly)!” he replied with a sparkle in his eyes.
“But the man on the radio says there are militants there…” I asked again.
“It is because everyone wants to grab the Jannat from India,” he replied giving a pat on my right cheek.
Fast forward twenty-five years to 2014 and Kashmir is in the news again, this time not for the militancy but for the resettlement of the Kashmiri Pandits – which our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has promised – in the valley.
I’ve never been good at history. And waking from the slumber of ignorance, I was searching Goodreads for an authentic book on the history of India post Independence when I stumbled upon Our Moon has Blood Clots: The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits by Rahul Pandita.
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In January, 1990, hatred fueled by extremists and separatists made the Muslims of the Kashmir throng on to the streets demanding ‘Azadi’ (freedom) from India. Backed by Islamist terrorists, it out-turned into torture and brutal killing of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits. As a result, 350,000 Pandits were forced into exile to many parts of India.
Rahul Pandita, the author of the book, was fourteen when he was forced to leave his home in Kashmir along with his family. So what we have here is a heart-wrenching, first-hand account of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. It is like reliving history through the eyes of a person who has gone through all.
Written in a simple matter-of-fact style, the story made me uncomfortable, at times angry, and between the pages I often asked myself: what impels a man to kill another man? – Ignorance, fear, or hatred?
Would you hate anyone who doesn’t dress up like you, who doesn’t speak your language, who doesn’t follow your beliefs? I still have no answer.
It shattered my heart to acknowledge that such heinous atrocities took place at a place most of us could only dream of, and more than that the indifference of our society towards the suffering of the Kashmiri Pandits appalled me – no media coverage, no NGO participation, and total ignorance on the part of the Indian government.
The thing we are seeking here is not a literary masterpiece but the truth, and the book is written with outright honesty. The only thing where it lacks is the narrative – the narrative is not cohesive, i.e., the flow of the thoughts is not linear, rather at times it feels as if random pieces of information have been stitched together to tell a story. Therefore, I deduct one star on account of this, else everything is perfect.
I would recommend the book to anyone who desires to understand the history of Kashmir. Anyone who, like me, has been ignorant towards the history of our country but now, rather than following the standard textbooks, would like to discover the truth on his/her own.
My rating: ★★★★☆