Kashmir: Can suffering be measured?
Can the suffering of one community be greater than that of another? The reaction to "Haider" would suggest so.
- Total Shares
The Kashmiri Pandits, a community I am extremely proud to belong to, thinks Haider does their suffering a disservice. Rashneek Kher, who has written a powerful piece in DailyO on this today, believes that Haider very conveniently begins the story in 1995 when many of the atrocities on Kashmiri Hindus had been committed and they had been forced to leave the state.
I know that. It was my home every summer till the 1980s, and when I return for work now, it pains me to see that wonderful house of my childhood bearing some stranger's name, stripped of its beautiful trees under which I've spent many dreamy afternoons, its lovely covered portico where I would listen to BBC Radio now looking lonely and bereft. Like many Pandit families, ours too was forced to sell its home and abandon its heritage, my grandparents having succumbed to the sorrow of permanent exile.
But that was not all. I would hear murmurs of one more aunt leaving because of veiled threats from neighbours, I would hear stories of homes being burned down by militants, and I would hear of one Hindu being shot by militants.
Much of that is captured in Rahul Pandita's searing Our Moon has Blood Clots. I challenge anyone with a heart to read it and not weep. When I reviewed it for India Today last year, I wrote: "At first look, it is tempting to read Pandita's book as one of competitive victimhood - whose suffering was greater, the Hindus or Muslims? But it is more. It is a narrative of nobody's people, an act of defiance in the face of memory of the slogans, the loudspeakers, the fists, the middle fingers. And yes, for every Kashmiri Pandit, an act of reaffirmation.
We too once had a home with 25 rooms, an apple tree in the back, and a kitchen garden which grew more than we could eat. The thread of life has been broken, families destroyed and traditions interrupted. But as in Pandita's case, "the remembering must go on."
But equally does that mean that one has to negate the suffering chronicled in Basharat Peer's Curfewed Night, which is as potent as Our Moon Has Blood Clots? Every community remembers its struggle differently. The Other is a convenient demon, even if he is an intimate friend. Again, when I profiled Peer for India Today in 2010, I wrote, "His generation lost its childhood to the undeclared war and its youth to a disrupted education. He has made it his life's work not to lose a new generation's blood to silence, neither the "faces of the murdered boys" nor the "hands of the doctor who struggled to stitch the torn limb."
A very wise Kashmiri reporter once told me that whatever I wrote on the state was all right. For everything I wrote, the opposite was also true. But equally, for every torture inflicted in Papa II that Peer writes of, there is the refugee family losing its mind and dignity in a squalid camp in Jammu in Pandita's wounded narrative.
The tragedy of Kashmir is not just that it exists so Pakistan can. The tragedy of Kashmir is that the two communities so inextricably linked are now so divided that they have to balance the equation of exile within and exile without. Every time there is a work of art that encapsulates or even touches upon the pain of living in a surveillance society, there has to be an equivalence with the pain of a forgotten community - three lakh displaced Kashmiri Pandits.
We have all suffered, only some of our wounds are not as visible. But do we have to continue to do so? I have lost my wonderful home, with its memories, and the possibility of sharing those with my children. A link in their heritage has been lost. No one can make up for a disappeared future, just as no one can make up for a disappeared past. Kashmir's greatest tragedy is that we have allowed ourselves, Hindus or Muslims, to be resigned to this certainty. And not to fight that, but each other.