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My identity suffers in inertia—25 Years of Exile for Kashmiri Pandits

By Ritika Handoo | Last Updated: Thursday, January 22, 2015 - 00:57
 
Ritika Handoo
The Outside View
 

"Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent"--Marilyn Vos Savant

I don't aspire to shout out loud slogans, nor do I wish to go out on a candle light march—for the 'pain' I endure is beyond description. Nothing can pacify the agony I was forced to bare. Finally, I decide to pen my thoughts on an issue which for me is more like a set condition, where a vicious circle – distressingly refuses to give you a clear answer. I am a Kashmiri Pandit, and with 2015, I have entered into the 25th year of exile from my Motherland—Kashmir.

There might have been several scholars, writers or learned men venting (who vented) out their views on the sensitive and politically hostile Jammu & Kashmir issue—but I take upon myself to express the emotion of not being able to live in a place which is indeed meant to be my abode.

Staying in the Capital was my destiny (perhaps), but never my choice. I was born in the beautiful landscape of Srinagar, where peace was at its primordial best. I was a three-year-old baby in 1990, when my family was left with no choice but to 'abandon' our home and move out of the city in search of a safe shelter. What was my fault? Was I even asked? NO.

No questions were asked of anyone, no suggestions were taken. We were driven out of our Motherland. Sigh! However, I thank my stars for making me one of the privileged ones who landed straight into the national capital—New Delhi.

It became a home away from home for me and thousands of others too. But many who were an integral part of my community rested in silence forever! The memory of my ancestral home back in Anantnag, where once a family lived happily (sadly but not ever after) shall always be intact in my heart. The very thought that we had to leave our house (after it was attacked twice) leaves me with a lump in my throat even today. I haven't yet got an opportunity to visit my place of birth ever since my grandfather left us for a better world.

When I say I haven't visited the place ever since, it doesn't take me any farther from it, because I still have a memory attached from my childhood. There was a time when summer vacations meant visiting the valley with my grandparents. I saw and relived each and every moment of my 'being myself' there. Migrating from Kashmir (in whatever circumstances) makes me no less inclined towards going back. I experienced the terror in otherwise peaceful air while taking my baby steps in understanding what 'war' meant (Kargil) in 1999. Such has been the impact of unprecedented​ alienation.

There has surely been a sense of void, as I was introduced to my native abode by my grandpa—my only link with the valley, who framed my childhood with beautiful colours of hope.

New Delhi welcomed us with open arms—but the 'Kashmiri' in me refused to change. There was a constant battle, first with language (Hindi) then with the appearance (hope a lot would agree with me). While growing up I asked myself, 'I am different? Or I don't belong here? Well, sadly the answer bounced back at me with unfailing regularity on various occasions.

My soul said - YES. You are different, because you belong to a troubled land! There is a huge possibility why people treat you like an 'outsider'. But in my own country? Again I got an answer. YES. Precisely more painful.

It took me years to reason myself about the fact that being a 'Kashimiri' is more like what an exotic topping is for many Westerners. But is there any end to it? What will come out of it? Will the ever burning urge of getting back to my home turf turn out to be an existential outburst like Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot'?

Will my Godot ever come and solve the identity crisis of 'KP’s? Many unanswered questions hit back every now then, as I get busy with my mundane work—but there comes in a moment when it triggers my conscious and asks me incessantly—when will you do your bit for the community or rather when will the time come when every proud Kashmiri could contribute his/her bit in making our Motherland the paradise we wish to see.

My fuming emotions right now can only see Kashmir as a dreaded haven (pun intended) where peace exists no more, only pieces do!

First Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 - 10:38

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