Only one who has undergone pain and witnessed it first hand could have written this moving account of how the Kashmir Valley forced the Pandits to flee -- and then sowed the seeds of fiction that Governor Jagmohan authored the exodus so that he could 'take care' of the Muslims.
And since in secular India it is a political sin to say anything negative about Muslims and Islam, the fiction gained currency. Even the Indian media was largely apathetic to the suffering of the Pandits. The Indian state would be accused of brutalising the Valley's Muslim people but what was ignored was "that the same people also victimised another people".
This is the story that Rahul Pandita, born in Kashmir Valley and forced to quit Srinagar during the troubled 1990s, exposes with an evident sincerity, with a tortured heart but one which hasn't bid goodbye to human values. Unlike many from his community, he has no hatred for Kashmiri Muslims, not even to those who grabbed his ancestral house (after it had been ravaged by Islamists) and quietly made it their own.
This is a powerful story, one that can't be ignored even as the Pakistan-backed separatist movement rages on, turning large parts of what was once a Sufi land into an Islamist hub. This is as much a personal account as it is a surgery of the politics of hatred whose face is the drive for the so-called 'azadi'.
Unlike those who would want to sweep the ugly truth under a (Kashmiri) carpet, Rahul is not shy; he tells you how ordinary Kashmir Muslims too, at times, assisted thugs mouthing 'azadi' slogans to kill fellow Kashmiris in cold blood, only because they belonged to another religion.
The author and his family, like innumerable Pandits, were forced to live as refugees in Jammu before finally settling down in Delhi, changing houses as many as 22 times. "I have reduced my life to names and numbers, I have memorised the names of every Pandit killed during those dark days, and the circumstances in which he or she was killed. I have memorised the number of people killed in each district."
If you need to understand the Kashmir story, this book cannot be ignored. It is powerful, painful -- and revealing.
(M.R. Narayan Swamy can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 29-03-2013)