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Book Review: Our Moon Has Blood Clots


The agony of deracination
K S NARAYANAN | Issue Dated: March 14, 2013, New Delhi
Tags : Rahul Pandita | Random House | Our Moon Has Blood Clots |

Our Moon Has Blood Clots by journalist Rahul Pandita is not a mere personal memoir that begins when he, as a 14-year-old, was forced to leave Srinagar amid shrill cries for azadi the Kashmir Valley. It revives the memories of Rahul and thousands of Kashmiri Pandits of the good life they had in the Valley, of how they built it and  how suddenly they were evicted from their own homes and turned into refugees in their own country, and how they suffered in exile. It also tells us how they continue to suffer in exile.

Over 258 pages, the book records over how hundreds of people were tortured and killed and how about 3,50,000 Kashmiri Pandits were uprooted during the last three decades. Pandita, who is the author of the bestselling Hello, Bastar: the Untold Story of India’s Maoist Movement and co-author of the critically acclaimed The Absent State, narrates how Kashmiri Pandits were at the receiving end of the atrocities of 14th-century Sikander Butshikan, the 18th-century Afghan Durranis, the 1947 Qabuli Raid. This, in a way, gives the rader the sense that exile was virtually pre-ordained for the Kashmiri Pandits.

Pandita presents a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of Kashmiri Pandits by narrating his own sufferings and tragedy that equally fell on the community. More gripping and moving is the massacre of 23 people in Wandhama, Ganderbhal district. Vinod Dhar, who, as a  14-year old, was the sole witness to this cold-blooded butchery of his near and dear ones, currently works in the State Secretariat. Dhar realises how this one particular incident in his life has left a psychological scar on him.

Pandita, who has reported extensively from war zones in India and elsewhere, tries to establish that the madness of Islamic fundamentalists against Kashmiri Pandits enjoyed popular support and complicity of ordinary Kashmiri Muslims. “Killings of the Hindu minority,” Pandita writes, “had turned into an orgy; a kind of blood lust. By April 1990, the mask was completely off. It was not only the armed terrorist who took pride in such killings – the common man on the streets participated in some of these heinous murders as well.” This is the central theme. The author shows how Pandits became a target of a brutal ethnic cleansing. He points to the case of telecom engineer BK Ganjoo, who was shot dead in his attic by militants after a neighbour directed them to his hiding place.

Similarly, he sees a trend in how the leading actors showed callous disregard to the plight of the Pandits while the organs of the state were aiding and abetting locals in usurping their properties. For instance, 12 days after leading lawyer and Kashmiri Pandit leader Tika Lal Taploo was killed by militants in September 1989, the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah performed a small piece of classical dance along with Yamini Krishnamurthy during a cultural function at the Martand temple. Later, the CM assured that militancy would end soon.

In the backdrop of a multi-party delegation visiting Kashmir, a veteran communist leader Reshi Dev, who was a Kashmiri Pandit, appraised CPM leader Harikishan Singh Surjeet and asked him to raise his voice against the brutality that had been unleashed against the Pandit community.  ‘Aisee baatien chaleti rehti hein (such things keep on happening)’ he shot back.

The tide soon turned against India with a series of bomb blasts against symbols of Indianness - India Coffee House, Punjab National Bank, Press Trust of India.

Moulded by numerous narratives, incidents of anti-Hindu feelings experienced as a teenager and shabby treatment meted out as a refugee in Jammu, Pandita also takes on the Indian intellectual class that has refused to acknowledge the suffering of the Pandits and how the Indian media, who see the brutalization of Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian state, has failed to see how the same people also victimized another people (read Kashmiri Pandits).

Though it is not easy to come to terms with what has happened to them, life has nevertheless moved on for Pandita and his family and thousands of refugees settled in different parts of India, pursuing careers, getting married to boys and girls from other communities and so on. A few hundred Pandits have returned to the Valley under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s 2008 resettlement package. How is the experience? The author quotes a group of working women from their letter to political leaders, including UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, on how all of them are experiencing freedom deficit daily.

Peppered with Kashmiri idioms, the book brings out the collective anger, anguish,  and suffering of the Kashmiri Pandits even as it takes them on nostalgic flights. This is one luxury that the Kashmiri Pandits cannot be denied in their exile.

Author: Rahul Pandita
Publication: Vintage Books/Random House                         
Edition: Hardbound     
ISBN: 978-81-8400-087-0
Pages:  258               
Price: Rs499

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017