Our Moon Has Blood Clots – The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits by Rahul Pandita

This is a very difficult book for me to review without becoming part of the story. My forefathers were saved by Maqbool Sherwani during their exodus from Baramulla where they had reached from Waziristan under the weight of Pakistan army backed Mujahideen attacks against all non Muslims in 1947. However, they couldn’t save my grandmother and all the gold that the family hid with her in the St Joseph’s hospital considered safe. However the marauders massacred all the women in the gynecology ward – one of them being Motiya Devi, my grandmother. Apart from her 21 other members of my extended family were massacred as they made their way to the safety of Srinagar and then on to Delhi. Therefore, this would be a narration of a victim upon the story of a victim of the same conflict though separated in time at the same place. My grandmother’s grave still exists at the St Joseph hospital Baramulla – a grim reminder of agony of displacement of my forefathers.

I digress. To Rahul’s story.

Our Moon has Blood Clots is a powerful and emotive saga of the travails of Kashmiri Pandits(KP) and other minorities from Kashmir. The story of their persecution  in contemporary history, since India gained independence, was repeated in 1947 and 1990 where they were given three choices – to convert, flee or die. Each time many perished and many more displaced – each with a saga of untold misery.

Today as the world was beginning to forget their misery, Rahul has relived the traumas he and scores like him faced which first made them refugees within their own state and sixty years later in their own country. Things have only gone from bad to worse in the valley as Kashmir now turns from Sufi to Salafi as the hapless government looks on. Or is it that they have no control over this radicalised imported version of Islam from a Wahabi Saudi with Pakistani activism. Maybe they don’t care.

The book tells the untold and heartbreaking story of ‘ethnic cleansing’ (some don’t agree to this definition of the exodus) of the KPs in Kashmir – a story that has increasingly got buried in story tellers either describing the brutality of the Indian state or the separatists demands for Azaadi. In this Article 370 backed administrative narrative there is thus scant attention paid to the rehabilitation of the KPs in Kashmir, Jammu or anywhere else in India. Historically, there are many recorded instances of victims of discrimination, violence or even genocide dishing out similar treatment to others. Armenians, Jews, Palestinians, Bosnians or ill treatment of Shias and other minorities in Pakistan today. The “ethnic cleansing” unleashed by Pakistan and some Kashmiri Muslims against Pandits falls in this category. Kashmiri Muslims may claim their persecution under the Dogra rulers and successive Indian Governments as a justification. However, they add themselves to this long list of majority community oppressing a defenceless minority community in human history.

I am deliberately avoiding references to deep psychological and physical traumas unleashed upon Rahul and his ilk because I want you to read through this emotionally disturbing and deeply touching saga for yourselves and take a call on the quality of poetry narrated as prose by a young estranged man. A man who was forced to leave his home and people amidst extreme barbarity when he was just 14 years old. His hurt remains and deep within him lies the story of a community wiped out both from their roots and their moorings. Today as it becomes increasingly difficult to find their own Pandits (religious teachers) in refugee camps across Jammu and Kashmir to perform their religious rites, Rahul is rightly worried about the degeneration of KPs as a community into oblivion.

The stories of 1990 and 1948 have been told in two parts – 1990 by Rahul and that of 1947 through the eyes of his uncle, Ravi’s father. Ravi was Rahul’s cousin and hero and dominates the narrative. What comes across very clearly through this is the sagacity and humaneness or Rahul which untold miseries inflicted upon him could not reverse.  This is evident in his philosophical acceptance of the best education world could ever give. He quotes Paash’s immortal lines which essentially mean that a man dies when his dreams die. Very profound indeed. Further his reply to a General on a TV show that “General I have lost my home not my humanity” are deeply reflective of the stuff this man is made of. This shows in his excellent blend of story telling where he elevates non fiction writing to a new level. His switching of stories in time till he finally writes that last letter in the book to Irshad, Ravi’s friend, that he will return permanently is simply the most powerful narration I have come across. An excerpt:

 Ravi is dead. Life is empty. Family is meaningless. Ma never recovers. Ravi’s father never recovered. He kept saying: ‘Ye gav mein kabail raid’e – this is my personal tribal raid.’

 However, Rahul has covered the emotional landscape and has only marginally focused on the politics of Kashmiri Pandit travesty. That is why there is little mention or suggestion of the way forward. However, he expresses a strong emotion as he closes the book with a promise to return permanently. In an interview to Hindustan Times he clarified that Kashmiris born in the 1990s have no idea about what it was like to live in Kashmir when Kashmiri Pandit culture coexisted with Kashmiri Muslim culture. They have also been told that they were wealthy landlords who were taken out in some sort of revolution! He said he hoped his book leads to a “consensus on the circumstances that led to exodus” so both Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims can “move forward”. Some reviewers have criticised  journalism as the weakest link in the book – but such tales hardly need that treatment.

 Will Rahul’s (and that of over 3,50,000 like him who were displaced by the violence that marks the Valley) fate change after this book?

I sincerely hope someday Rahul has a house in Kashmir with 22 rooms.

(also published also on South Asian Idea)

2 comments

  1. Rajiv Channa /

    Rahul Pandita has filled a vacuum in literature that emerged as journalists in India chose to focus on narratives that portrayed atrocities of the Indian State, stories of the ‘poor’ Kashmiri ‘trapped’ between the Indian State and the Militant and how the average Muslim would love to have their KP neighbours back. These stories sold. Rahul’s story is the first KP story that will sell as it conveys a truth that his colleagues have swept under the carpet. More stories like this are needed to give voice to the KP plight. KPs do not have the ‘votes’ to get political sympathy and even though, by inclination, they are secular in outlook, over the past two decades they have often been linked to the BJP and RSS.

    I found it an excellent book especially after my experiences during a recent visit to Kashmir.

  2. adfar Shah /

    In the ferocious wave of gun culture and futureless junoon of azadi, everyoneirrespective of community identity suffered to the worst.it is not a question of our moon or their moon or someone’s moon ,the fact is that we all suffered and bleeded under the same fatebitten moon.Over 68000 thousand lost their lives,thousands tortured or disappeared,lacs displaced especially religious minorities.The fact remains that we all proved the victims of turmoil and we the people of kashmir even lost trust in each other despite living in coexistence for centuries.It will be wrong to divide moon into ours and theirs because the gun culture eclipsed the common moon of kashmir and darkness prevailed everywhere.Therefore,any religious community cannot be treated responsible or cannot be claimed as the worst suffered because every one suffered in his way as a human being.We must work in unison for peacebuilding instead of living in deficiencies and blames in this moonless paradise.
    Adfar Shah
    Watlar,Ganderbal
    Kashmir

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