Sunday, March 17, 2013

Our Moon has Blood Clots

I finally finished reading Rahul Panditas “Our Moon has Blood clots”. Even as I type this out, somehow, I am unable to type out at usual speed. Words are tough to get, sentences do not flow and the heart feels heavy. I have nothing to do with Kashmir- other than the fact that it is an Indian state. But something about the book struck a chord in my mind.

Three thoughts bothered me as I read through the book. 

As I read the book, I went back to 1990. At that time, I was in school. In the late 80s and 90s there was much brouhaha over the Mandal Commission, the Ayodhya movement and we all knew about it, but the Kashmir issue was somewhere in the backburner. And I remember that it was only a few years ago that I learnt about the forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits. Would I have learnt it without the internet and its active right community? I shudder to think that I would, perhaps, not have come across it at all. The Kashmir Pandit exile is almost a forgotten chapter for Indias chatterati. And does not seem to have received the attention it did in the 90s. And I wonder why? Werent the Pandits Indians? Werent those who perpetuated it on them Indian? Why was this forced tragedy ignored? And precious little done about it? Even till date. And there has been a lot that has gone on in trying to hide the truth about the issue. The book does a great job in bringing these out.

The second thought that bothered me as I read the book was the remarkable parallels between that and other books. Lajja for one – set in Bangladesh. Tamas and to a lesser extent, Train to Pakistan, set during partition times. Each of these books is on a similar subject of Hindus and Muslims. What bothered me was that, for centuries, these two communities stay alongside talking the same language and culture – everything similar except the god they worship and then, at a particular point, when push comes to shove, one specific community slaughters the other.

Friends turn active foes or simply turn away or turn co-conspirators. What is it that institutionalizes hatred in such deep terms? (We all know what it is, but it is fashionable to not talk about it and pretend that such a vile ideology does not exist.)

It is very tempting to think of Kashmir as a special case, but frankly it is not. Atleast my reading of history and contemporary events across the world does not point so. This has happened because a vile ideology has spread its tentacles amongst the people (And there is proof of this spread happening bit by bit, by money, by influence, by violence, by stifling the voices of those who oppose it.). And if this can happen in a culture widely regarded as tolerant and 'mixed' and 'syncretic' - there is precious little hope elsewhere, unless there is a counter influence - and that influence is not there at all. There are deniers, there are useful idiots, there are vacuous apologists, there are equivocators, but very very few calling out an ideology as vile.

The book shows the mirror to a people who today perpetually claim persecution, but who have brutally conspired to drive another community nearly into extinction. And yes, this has happened in India - in the great secular democratic state we are proud to be part of - and yes, in the recent past and it continues to be so.

Third, and this is perhaps the most important one. Before the forced exodus, there were many events that happened. And this is what I call as 'creeping poison'. First, one community is asked to wear an identifier (or remove an identifier) - and this has a creepy parallel with Nazis. And hatred is spread on a day to day basis - with basic humanity being denied. There are sporadic incidents here and there. Each day this goes on and on and finally, one day, all the hatred reaches a tipping point. There is no surprise about it - but like the proverbial frog in boiling water, everybody lives in denial - government, society and others. It is not difficult to identify the source(s) and clamp down on them.

I don't know. All I can say is that the book is a depressing read. This happened in our country 20 odd years ago and even today there is very little happening to rehabilitate the community - to give them back their land and home or to prevent its recurrence in other parts of the country.

But this is a great book - it is a story that deserves to be told by the millions who continue to live in forced exile. Hats off to Rahul Pandita to write out this book.

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