Namaskar, my brothers and sisters from Kashmir.

20th May was my 70th birthday and having entered the last phase of my life, I couldn’t help but reflect on my journey so far and how I lost 31 years of this journey living in a fool’s paradise. And those were the most productive years of my life. I pray what befell my generation should never happen again but God forbid, if our children face a similar situation in future, we need to prepare them better to face such an eventuality.

Having been born into a family very well-known and respected by the community, I hold my elders guilty of not having prepared me for what befell me in my lifetime. Why could they not read the writing on the wall? And this is true of all Pandit families. Our elders could not smell the simmering and foul-smelling breath next door and continued to live in a fool’s paradise wherein people would come and say “Salaam Mahra” and they would feel like sitting on a throne vacated by Maharaja Hari Singh. How was it possible for them to miss the political dimensions of 1951-land reforms further sharpened in 1971 by snatching the left-overs from their custody as well? How could they miss the thought process behind fixing of percentages (based on community) in educational institutions and government service? The writing was clear but they either overlooked it or ignored it and continued to instill the values of respect, inclusiveness and brotherhood in their children. And that is how the Pandits of my generation grew up in Kashmir – with rose colored glasses of secularism and brotherhood snugly fit around our eyes.

How else was it possible not to have understood the fallout of the failure of the Parmeshwari agitation? This was a direct attack on the dignity of the community. We should not have missed the attack on our religious landmarks, be it Chattabal temple or Khrew or Sirnoo in Pulwama. How could the Srinagar gentry miss the obvious when they were encouraged to sell off their mansions in downtown and made to live in those pigeonholes in Jawahar Nagar that remained water logged most of the time? How did we miss the attack on our representation in the legislature when the only Pandit majority constituency (Habba Kadal) was re-demarcated in such a way that it lost it’s Pandit character? How were we so complacent while the names of many places were being changed like Anantnag was called Islamabad and my village Gowripur became Noorpora!Last but not the least, how was the attack on our life itself overlooked in 1986 when our houses were torched in village after village and our temples were desecrated and vandalized ?

My elders always encouraged me to have a mindset of inclusiveness which I regret now. Due to these values, I was never given to understand the ramifications of these attacks on our property, livelihood, political aspirations and life itself. Therefore, I was not prepared to face what befell all of us in 1990 when I was made to run for my life along with my family – to become the frightened pigeons which we continue to be till date. No political or social dispensation has ever cared to apply a balm on my bleeding sentiments.

Very recently I went through a piece by Mr Junaid Mir wherein he summarizes the feelings of the Muslim community in Kashmir having been taken for a ride by the politics of religion resulting in the forced exodus of the pandits from the valley but even that does not bring any solace to my bruised heart. When I speak of the failures of our elders in preparing us for such an eventuality, I am prepared to share just two examples of my own foolhardiness in understanding the game plan of the people who oppose my presence in Kashmir.

I was posted as Senior District Officer in Anantnag before our forced exodus. Mr Triloki Nath ji was our office cashier. One Friday, in the summer of 1989, he came into my room and asked for my advice as to whether he should construct his new house near Nagdandi Ashram(he belonged to Nawgam village). He and his friends had developed reservations about going ahead with the plan because of the turmoil and the general security situation. I advised him against such reservations, almost rebuked him for not understanding the age-old traditions of brotherhood and giving importance to the misdeeds of a few misguided youth. In the next few months, I almost forced him to get a beautiful new house constructed. I did my bit by getting timber arranged from the concerned Forest officer and loan from another Pandit official. In November 1989, the house was complete and I attended the GrihaPravesh along with my family and was pleased to see the achievement. However, in February 1990, I had to run for my life and didn’t know what happened to Triloki Nath ji. In 1994, I found him living in a one-room tenement in Muthi (the refugee camp in Jammu) along with his old parents, wife and children. He was in complete penury and his wife had lost her balance of mind after having invested everything they had including all her jewellery in the house they constructed in Nagdandi. I wept with him for hours and still blame myself for advising him against his reservations.

In the year 1981, I was posted in Pulwama and had the privilege of spending my evenings in the company of the Deputy Commissioner. I was a spendthrift and my sympathizers would advise me to save and safeguard the future of my children. I would laugh at that and indicate the large orchard back home as my insurance against all future expenses. While I continued to hold on to my values of assimilation, accommodation and respect for all faiths, I was given 3 choices in 1990 – Convert, Flee or Die! I fled but I still held on to the values that were so deeply ingrained in me. And then in 1992, everything went up in smoke. The orchard was vandalized, trees were cut down and the house was set on fire by the same neighbors I had so much faith in.

The irony is that I still did not lose my faith in the brotherhood, even up to 2008. In this year, I used all the bureaucratic influence that I had built and got myself posted to Srinagar so I could re-establish my contacts in my home village and find my moorings.

All the landed property was there but in shambles. Contacts were established and about a hundred people came to see me at Srinagar. I informed them that this was my last posting before retirement and that I was wondering where I should settle down after retirement. I was hoping all of them or at least most of them would ask me to come back to the village and live there. But not one, I repeat, not a single one amongst those 100 neighbors suggested that I return to my village and re-build my house. Instead a score of them offered to purchase the holdings or whatever was left. And that is when I actually started questioning the guiding abilities of my grandfather who had molded me in this mindset that I continued to carry this corpse of the brotherhood. I decided I was not going to let my children live with those false values. Times may change and they may go back to the valley to live, but they will not fall into the same slippery path of brotherhood that I did. They will not carry a bag full of misleading ideas. I will teach them to stand on their own and not lean on shoulders that may not be there in time to come. And this, my brothers and sisters, I want you to do as well. The ideas of inclusiveness and brotherhood are great but these do not work if only we practice them. The sooner we realize this and educate our kids, the better it will be for all of us.

Image Courtesy -

DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.