Why you must remember the night of January 19 along with Kashmiri Pandits
Some of us will have to be saved several times.
- Total Shares
“And that is what places of worship should do – they should liberate us from fear”.
- Dzevad Karahasan, Sarajevo, Exodus of a City
The voices that addressed us from mosques all over Kashmir Valley on the night of January 19, 25 years ago, were not meant to liberate us from fear; they were meant to engulf us into fear so dense, so searing, that we would flee our homes from the next morning onwards.
Someday, I’ll put that night into a visual form. But till then, please close your eyes and imagine it as I describe it to you. Some of us do it every day, but you don’t have to do that. But let us revisit that night together at least today. Because today happens to be the 25th anniversary of our Kristallnacht, our night of the broken glass.
The night of January 19, 1990 was a cold, winter night. All was not well in Kashmir. But we were hopeful; we thought it was a temporary phase; we thought it will pass. We were inside our homes. But hundreds of thousands of people were out, most of them in mosques.
At 10pm, it began. Not in one street, not in one locality, not in one district; it began in the entire Valley, from north to south, east to west. Now remember: this is 1990. There are no cellphones. There is no Facebook or Twitter. Even the landline density is minimal. But it is all so well planned, and the Kashmiri Pandits have no clue; the Indian State has no clue – it is paralysed, it is on its knees. At 10pm, people are out on the streets. They are shouting for our blood. In mosques, they are asking for our annihilation. They shout:
1. "Battan hund byol, Khodayan gol" (The seed of the Pandits has been destroyed by Allah).
2. "Assi gacchi panunuy Pakistan, Batav rostuy, Batanein saan" (We want our Pakistan, without Pandit men, but with their women).
3. "Dil mein rakho Allah ka khauf, haath mein rakho Kalashnikov" (In your heart keep the fear of Allah, and in your hands: Kalashnikov).
4. "Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa" (What will run here? The rule of Mustafa).
5. "Naara-e-taqbeer: Allah ho Akbar".
Imagine our plight! Imagine what ran through our minds! Imagine the fear on our faces, the sweat on our brows; imagine our heartbeat! We have nowhere to go, nobody to protect us. Some of us who have telephones are making frantic calls: to ministers, to police officers, to Union home secretary. But nobody comes to our rescue.
We pass that night, somehow. Next morning, we prepare to leave.
In the next few months, 700 of us would be killed selectively, most in extremely brutal fashion. They would be killed in homes, outside their homes, in their workplaces, in busy streets, in orchards, in shops. Sometimes the neighbours give away information about us, sometimes our colleagues. Sometimes, they even participate.
I think Hannah Arendt wrote somewhere about how the gory revolts us and that is why we decorate a corpse, we put flowers over the dead. But some of us did not even get a chance to do that with our near and dear ones; we would not be given even their body to decorate, to immerse their ashes in holy waters somewhere. Some of us were not even treated in hospitals; we were left to die. And we did, bleeding to death.
But we do not have only January 19 in our memory. We also remember the good days, the lovely days, when we were at home; when we would celebrate the onset of the spring with Narcissus, when we offer turmeric rice and liver to our Goddess, when we would celebrate knowledge and scholarship. We do that because, as Sebald says, in order to get the full measure of the horrific, we also need to remember the beatific moments of life. Because that is how we will make that contrast.
Meanwhile, stay with us. Or at least with the passage of our memory. Some of us will ultimately succumb to the weight of memory. That is why some of us will have to be saved several times.