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They want to erase my story, so I have decided to speak up

I am a Kashmiri Hindu living in exile. People have often asked me about Kashmir. Some even suggested that I blog about Kashmir. I never did that. I’ve never been comfortable with sharing what was a truly traumatic experience, because it’s like going through it all over again. I get really emotional when talking about Kashmir. It has been a very difficult phase in our lives.

Then I saw this tweet by former Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Omar Abdullah:

Omar Abdullah's tweet on Kashmiri Pandits exodus and genocide
Who is repeating the lie here?

He calls it a lie, but the truth is, his father, Farooq Abdullah, left Kashmiri Hindus to die as he failed to protect them as the then Chief Minister. As if that wasn’t enough, his son picks at our wounds and calls the Hindu Genocide in Kashmir a lie.

And he is not the only one, of late, there have been many who are indulging the Indian version of “holocaust denial”. History is being rewritten as if Hindus left the valley of their own or they were not victims of religious bigotry and communal violence.

This is due to a parochial worldview, where Hindus are not “people like us”. This feeling is betrayed by the following tweets by Omar, where he not only falsely attributes a statement to the new Uttar Pradesh CM, he shows that he cares about Muslims of Kashmir only:

Omar Abdullah's tweet on Yogi Adityanath
A lie and a propaganda

No wonder Kashmiri Hindus were killed and forced to leave their homes. No wonder, Jammu and Ladakh have been ignored completely and have seen no development in all these years.

But time has come to speak up and share our stories, else a lie will be repeated a thousand times till it becomes a truth, ironically what Omar says in one of his tweets above.

Not that I wasn’t aware of this mentality, but I was appalled to see that there is almost a systematic campaign to deny the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus.

Which is why I want to share my story.

The greatest brunt of any war is borne by the kids. I decided to write about how I felt as a kid and how I feel about it now as an adult.

My memories of Kashmir, our home and life there, are painted with the unrelenting terror I felt while I was there. I was just a small kid, not even in school yet to learn new rhymes. But the lessons that I was learning were very difficult.

Once I was traveling with my mother in a matador during the day time. I was sitting in her lap. The matador was full, with mainly ladies and kids. There were a few men as well. Suddenly, stones were hurled at our matador by a huge mob of Muslim men, who were running towards us.

“They are coming”, someone said, “to set the vehicle on fire”.

I didn’t understand what was happening. Many ladies started screaming and crying. Seeing them, I started crying too, hardly realizing the danger we were in. My mom told me, “Nothing will happen, don’t worry”.

To this day, I can scare fathom how scared she must’ve been. The driver accelerated and we were able to escape the mob. It was a horrifying experience which I remember to this day.

Not that life beyond such incidents was rosy. Schools were shut down. For us children, it was play time. But our parents were dead scared.

My cousin, a teenager, came back crying home one day. Between sobs, she told my mother what had happened. She and her friend were on their way to tuition, when a few men stopped them. They threatened them of dire, yet unspoken consequences, unless they started covering their heads. Those men had shaved the side mugs of one of her classmates, as she had refused to cover her head.

Today, in myriad forms and in endless Women’s Marches, so-called liberals defend the Hijab and the Niqab as “Muslim culture”, “modest dressing” or, even more gallingly, as “Women Empowerment”. I merely shake my head in silence and deep contempt over this.

Meanwhile, the slogans from mosques kept getting louder. We used to live in the dark and have our dinner under a candle light, so that “they” (terrorists) wouldn’t know that we were still living there. I have seen a few men, with their faces covered and guns in their hands, calmly walking outside our door. They used to make lists of Kashmiri Hindus, who defied their diktat by daring to live in the valley. Later, those Kashmiri Hindus would get a letter asking them to vacate their homes.

One morning I got up, crying and shivering. I has seen a dream where I saw those men killing my parents. For very long time, I used to get scared if I saw a man donning a beard and wearing a skull cap. Would you blame me?

Many people call us cowards for not fighting back. They even ask how this exodus happened and why we weren’t prepared. Well, we never thought it would come to this. We believed that the Indian government wouldn’t let this happen. We were betrayed not only by the then Chief Minister, Farooq Abdullah, but also by the Government of India.

The very first instinct of any human being would be to save the lives of his/her loved ones, not to fight terrorists. Any parent would first think about their child’s safety and future. And they know their children won’t be able to survive if the parents simply aren’t around.

In the first few years after the exodus, our community battled against all odds merely to survive. I don’t believe that only those who physically confront enemies are brave. It requires courage to fight adverse situations. Only a fighter can do that.

I have seen my parents struggle daily for survival, worrying about the future and whether they would manage to feed us tomorrow. Even as the Kashmir phase was painful, it was the life after exodus that was the real struggle. I have seen my parents being insulted by landlords and seeing them being humiliated was tough on us. But hats off to them, that they didn’t let all this impact our studies. They tried their best to ensure we get everything good in life. To me, my parents are my real heroes, not cowards!

We never visited Kashmir after the forced exodus. Kashmir is our home to us. I would never like to return to that place as a tourist. I can never see strangers living in my house. We lived there as a joint family but after the forced exodus, we couldn’t live together as we couldn’t afford big houses anywhere else.

Kashmir was my happy place. I still dream about it sometimes. In my dreams, I am playing with my cousins, and laughing with my family. But, it always ends with a sound of gunshots or a bomb explosion or mob chasing us.

I don’t feel safe about returning to Kashmir when I see videos of small children asking for aazadi:

You know something, these children have parents who love their religion and Jihad more than the kids. They are willing to poison their minds and make them terrorists. While we had parents who loved us more than anything else. They left everything and struggled to make us doctors, engineers, writers, etc.

I am not sure whether we will ever be able to live in Kashmir again in our lifetime, or if we’ll ever get justice. I just hope that no state in India becomes another Kashmir, where news about atrocities against Hindus are actively suppressed and later attempts are made to erase signs and stories of those atrocities.

Growing up, from relatives, on the radio or on TV, I would hear snippets of the poems that Lalleshwari, a 14th Century Kashmiri poetess and mystic, composed. After all these years, a single line stays with me forever, encapsulating everything that I cannot say.

Pining for her lord Ishvara, for an existence beyond this mortal plane, Lalla sang. She cried out, “Aa’mayan taa’kyain poo’en zan sha’maan, Zuw chum bra’maan gha’r gach’hah.”

Roughly translated, it says, “Like crystalline water in cups of unbaked clay, I run entirely to waste. My very being yearns, all I wish is to go home.

All I wish is to go home.
All I wish is to go home.
All I wish is to go home…

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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