Writer: Rahul Pandita
Publisher: Vintage Books/Random House
Category: Autobiography, Documentary
Verdict: The exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits is more of a forgotten chapter in the lives of many Indians, for we all have problems of our own that need to be severely dealt with. The reasons are many, the lack of coverage of the actual events, the unknown reason why the media turned a blind eye to their plight and mainly due to the fear of extremist groups that stop us from speaking the truth as it is.
Just a year before my birth, many Kashmiri Pandits had to flee their homes, their homelands for the fear of their lives. This sadly, took place in the independent India, where its own Government turned a blind eye to the problems of its own countrymen. The book speaks about the lives of Kashmiri Pandits, their hardships and their lives in Kashmir and away from home. It is one of the rare accounts on the exodus, the details of which many still do not know of. Thankfully, Rahul decided to pen down his life story and that of his community, which is why we can learn the true events that happened in the land of the free, the land that is our homeland, India.
Imagine living in an India where one is beaten up and made fun of, for singing the national anthem of the nation. Imagine having a house with 22 rooms, built with the sweat and hardships of a whole generation being lost within days. Imagine being extricated from your house, from the very country you live in for some are charged with extremist ideas of freedom. Imagine having to live in fear in your own neighborhood, in your own house, from the very people you once played cricket with. Sadly, our conscience gets so worked up imaging the gross realities some people face, that we have to change to something entertaining just to get ourselves from thinking of the injustice that is a reality we cannot fathom.
The book can be categorised as horrific, for the events in it are absolutely that. It is definitely not for the faint of hearts and yet, something one shouldn’t ignore. The story is of Rahul and his family, who had to flee for the lives from their very own homes and not just any home, but one in the heaven of earth, Kashmir. It brings to light the atrocities the community had to face since pre-independence, a terror that they have to face even today. Even for a seasoned reader who can go reading over a hundred pages in a day, I couldn’t help putting down the book just to get a gulp of water to clench my dry throat and splash my face with water. It is a shame we could so easily forget something as shocking and terrorising as this.
The book does not try to be extremist and anti-Islamic, nor does it speak about the downfalls of our so called secularism. The role of Pakistan and JKLF (Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front), a terrorist organisation that Afzal Guru was a part of, is clearly underlined and the author does an excellent job of sticking to reality and bringing very little emotional drama to it (though some of it cannot be ignored, especially when its a true account in one’s own prospective). The author’s journalistic abilities are clearly seen in the book and are commendable. Thanks to the pathetic coverage by both the western and Indian media and the complete ignorance of our own Government, the issue that could have been avoided escalated to India losing its grip on its own state and more importantly, of its own people having to live away or be brutally killed.
I once again thank the author for writing this book and for enlightening us about the plight of the Pandits. The book touches one in more than one ways, and surely one will be a completely changed and different person after reading it.
About the author:
Rahul Pandita is the author of the bestselling Hello, Bastar: The Untold Story of India’s Maoist Movement, and the co- author of the critically acclaimed The Absent State. He has extensively reported from war zones, including Iraq and Sri Lanka, and Kashmir and Bastar in India. In 2010, he received the International Red Cross Award for conflict reporting.
Rahul was born in the Kashmir valley. At the age of fourteen, in 1990, his family was forced into exile, like thousands of others, by Islamic extremists. He lives in a Delhi suburb, and works as associate editor with Open magazine.