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Regret and Remorse PDF Print E-mail
Written by Capt. S.K. Tikoo   
Tuesday, 06 April 2010 00:00

Just a few days back I was confronted by two young men who introduced themselves as Kashmiri Pandits and true they were. Both were handsome, healthy, cherubic, and bore all features of a typical Kashmiri Pandit. In their late thirties or early forties both of them could speak the Kashmiri language and that was something to be really proud of. The place we met suggested that they were doing well in life. My further enquires revealed that they too were internally displaced persons like all of us and had left their land in1989-90. In Srinagar they lived in down town, beyond 4th bridge, the area known as Pakistan even when there was peace all around and life was normal except sloganeering demanding solution of Kashmir problem. Slogans like ‘Kashmir ka faisla kaun karega -- Hum karengay,Hum karengay’; the ubiquitous ‘Naare-i-Takbeer  Allah- o- Akbar’; and ‘Qaid- e- Azam, Alhaj Jenab-i  Sheri Kashmir zindabad’ were raised. We had to be on the receiving end whenever there was a cricket match involving either India or Pakistan, it did not matter against whom? We had to bear a little more if the two teams were pitted against each other and irrespective of the final outcome of such cricket matches, Battas (Kashmiri Pandits) were the target. Poor Batta, he had to switch off the lights if India won and if Pakistan was the winner he had to be ready for all sorts of celebrations, crackers would be thrown at him and an odd stone breaking couple of window panes would be thrown at his house but telling you the truth there was nothing abnormal. Such incidents would be more intense, aggressive and numerous in that area of downtown Srinagar, where these two young men originated from.

What appalled me was when one of them (name with held) was constantly saying, “Why don’t we reconcile with them.” There was no fun entering into an argument with him, since I had just been introduced to him and the place where we met at an odd hour was surely not appropriate for any kind of a serious discussion. In spite of my best efforts to dissuade the young man from the subject, he was fixated on ‘reconciliation with them’. I was forced to say, “Who stops you?”.  He could not hide his joy and mirth; he had after all succeeded in provoking me into the debate. He got the opening and narrated in detail about the pleasant experiences of his latest visit to Srinagar just two years ago. Entire MOHALLA had come out on the street to receive him and in the typical Kashmiri Muslim tradition, SHIREEN and sweets were showered on him. The new occupants of his house made his two days stay in his ‘own’ house extremely comfortable. And was it not good enough to have ‘reconciliation with them’. I almost lost my shirt but soon collected myself and enquired why he had fled the valley when his neighbors were so charming, so affectionate and so concerned. “Oh, those were bad days,” he replied, and continued, “They used to hurl grenades at my door almost every day and it was our good fortune that we escaped such attacks.”

“But surely the grenade throwers were not your neighbors, and grenades must have been thrown at their houses too,” I responded. He did not say a word, but I continued, “Now that you want to go back, why don’t you ask the occupants of your house to vacate?”

He responded sheepishly, “But we sold the house.” It was obviously a distress sale, I thought and wondered, with all the neighbors on his side, why could they not pressurize the buyer of this Panditji’s house, who I presumed was an outsider and not an original mohalla-wala. But I was wrong, it was one of his dear neighbors who had bought his house, the same gentleman who had made this young Kashmiri Pandit very comfortable in his ‘own’ house and that too for two days. His fixation was still there, he again parroted, “We must reconcile with them, I can see REGRET and REMORSE writ large on their faces.”

“The day there is public display and expression of this REGRET and REMORSE, you will see things changing for better” were my parting words .

This REGRET and REMORSE reminds me of a shocking and pathetic but true incident. The incident was not worth sharing, I thought, so I kept it to myself. It is too tragic an episode that nearly converted a KP family to Islam. The incident, I was told, took place in a remote village in distant Kupwara district, in 1990 when the exodus of this hapless, unfortunate and forgotten community was at its peak. That there existed Kashmiri Pandits who were near illiterates and had studied up to 5th class or at best up to 8th class was news to me. That so many of them had not visited Srinagar even once in their lifetime, and a visit or two to Sopore was an ultimate outing, was just un-imaginable, but sadly true. It was these Kashmiri Pandit families living in such far off places that were chosen as soft targets for conversion. The list was prepared by the authors of Jihad that engulfed the valley in 1989-90. The planners were convinced that after implementing the theory of ‘kill one and scare a hundred’, a few thousand urbanite Kashmiri Pandits would run away, leaving the rest of them with no choice but to convert. The planners had assumed that no person in his senses would give up his immovable property worth its price in gold only to die in inhospitable hot climes of the plains. It seemed to be working. Even after the exodus had started, Kashmiri Pandit families in these remote areas were still not affected. They were common peasants, working in each others’ fields in the day and singing and dancing ROUF in the evenings, Muslims and Pandits, like they had been doing for ages.

But suddenly things started heating up in these areas too. A Ramjoo was killed in an adjoining village one day and the other day the body of a Kashinath was spotted with bullets sprayed all over. Reports of a young Kashmiri Pandit woman being sawn into two on a band-saw, after being raped, started reaching this hamlet by word of mouth. More shocking was when it was discovered that the perpetrators of this ghastly crime were locals known to the deceased. These reports had shaken the Battas of this far flung village too. It was one of those dark and dreadful evenings when Mumakak (not real name) made himself comfortable in Samakak’s (not real name) VOUT (a ground floor dining room and a sitting room rolled into one ).Mumakak hinted that Samakak’s mother, wife and three children go up to their bedroom to sleep as it was already too late. 8:30 pm in February of any year is quite late, but in 1990, 8:30 pm meant well past midnight. Kupwara was the reception centre for the Mujahids who would, fresh from ‘training’ in POK, be received like heroes. They were all Mujahids and Kupwara was the launching pad for further distribution. These trained Mujahids from all over the valley along with a fair share of Guest Mujahids (non-Kashmiris) were lodged in local Muslim houses. Almost every Muslim household was hosting one or more than one terrorist known as Mujahids. Samakak’s family got the hint and went upstairs to try to go to sleep. Now, Mumakak and Samakak were just the two souls in the sprawling VOUT of Samakak’s three storied house, and suddenly Mumakak started whispering something into Samakak’s ear. “Look, we are both the same stock, we work in each others’ fields together, raise poultry and cattle together and if it were not for our names nobody would ever know that you are a Batta and I am a Muslim.” Poor Samakak was all along nodding his head like an automaton, and Mumakak continued, “You have around 400  fully grown poplar trees, five walnut trees  which give a yield of more than a lakh of walnuts annually, and besides your own agricultural land you can cultivate the land of your brother too, who foolishly fled the village.” Mumakak had another pull at his Jijeer and then looked straight into Samakak’s eyes. “Don’t run away like your brother and others like him, stay back and I can guarantee you and your family’s safety, but you too have to do some little thing in return.”

A stunned Samakak shouted, “And what is that?” Convert was the one word that went like a shaft into Samakak’s heart. He went numb, struck by lightning, absolutely motionless and did not or could not respond.

Mumakak was prepared for this kind of a response and was not surprised at all, instead he started consoling him--all that he had was the good of the family at his heart, that he did not want them to run away and lose this priceless property nor did he want them to be brutally killed by some hot-headed Mujahid. In Mumakak’s words, “INN PAR BHOOT SAWAR HO CHUKA HAI.” Mumakak advised his friend to give the proposal a cool thought, share it with his family and let them meet next morning.

Samakak obviously did not share a word with his family. He virtually passed the long night counting stars gazing at his three-month old walnut wood ceiling. Early next morning, Mumakak was there waiting for his friend. Incidentally, Samakak had discontinued the daily practice of going to Yarbal and performing morning Sandhya and related puja, which used to be a daily routine for him since childhood. This morning he had to convey his decision to his friend, which could mean an end to all that he was born with, that he was in love with. CHILLA-E-KALLAN was at its coldest, the sky was overcast, and the clouds wore a frightening shade, a combination of blood-red and black. The atmosphere was eerie, and he heard the familiar voice talking to him, “It is just for a brief while that you got to bear it, things will be back to normal once the Amir goes back.” Amir…..what Amir, Samakak wondered. He knew Amir was the head of any Jamaait-i-Islami group but luckily Jamaat was almost non- existent in this scenic hamlet. Then who the hell was this Amir. He just swallowed the query. “Have you made up your mind, Amir is getting impatient and God save you from his wrath.” Mumakak was unusually crude.

“Allright, but what am I supposed to do?” was the meek response from Samakak.

Mumakak in a matter of fact manner conveyed to him to come to the mosque and recite Kalima and told him, “You can, in any case, recite Kalima better than most of us.” Mumakak in his jubilation went on, “I will inform the Amir and let you know the time to come to the mosque.” Samakak made one last request, “Please ensure that I am the ONLY one from my family to go to mosque, my family will ultimately follow me.” It seemed Samakak had finally surrendered.

It was early evening when Mumakak came to his friend and conveyed how delighted the Amir was for being able to convert an infidel without causing any bloodshed. Next day being a Friday, it was decided that Samakak convert himself in the afternoon congregation. But that was not the end of it, it was just the beginning. Amir had chalked out an elaborate program for Samakak to qualify to be accepted as a good Muslim. To start with, he along with his family had to partake a feast where WAZWAN would be served and they had to eat in TRAMI. A HAKHUR (young healthy calf) was already selected for slaughter, much against the orders of the Amir who wanted a cow and not a calf. Nausea struck Samakak immediately and he started vomiting. Mumakak was there to help and asked him to just not eat meat, eat rice curds and some radish--his three co-diners would eat his share too--and tried to convince him that he would soon get used to enjoying beef too.

But what came as a bolt from the blue was Amir’s directive that Samakak had to divorce his wife. “But why?” shouted Samakak.

Nobody questions the Amir and his directive has to be carried out, but Mumakak assured him he was always there to help his childhood friend and sympathetically advised, “It is so very simple, you divorce the Battani and we get her married to someone known to us and after spending the mandatory seven days with him, he divorces her and then we wait for the IDDAT-- just 40 days-period -- to be over and then you get married to her again,” and added, “How very easy.” It was mind-boggling, a jigsaw which Samakak did not want to understand, but before bidding goodbye to his friend, he had resolved to flee the village along with the family at the dead of the night, expose themselves to  the freezing cold, terrorist bullets or even the gunfire of the security forces and feel singularly lucky to lay down their lives as BATTAS. His only prayer to his local deity was that they should not be caught alive.

I am told that this Mumakak, who had grown much older in just four or five years, had somehow managed  to locate his old friend living as a ‘migrant’ in a camp in Jammu, an accommodation not fit enough for even animals to live in. This man had come to seek forgiveness from his friend before he kicked the bucket and he would feel he had been forgiven if Samakak returned to his village and took care of his property which continued to belong to him. He expressed his sincere REGRET and REMORSE for all that he did those bad days and when Samakak, who surprisingly looked much healthier in spite of the miserable life he had been forced to live, enquired, “Mumakak, I am not sure whether there was an Amir or not, but how could you, my brother, my childhood friend, behave the way you did?”

Pat came the reply, “It was LATH” (an epileptic fit).

An old emaciated Batta, you could count his rib bonessitting in the far corner of the living cum bed cum study cum cooking room, pulling at his Batta Jijeer and witness to this dialogue, very casually remarked, “LATH keeps no date, how can you ensure Samakak that it does not visit you yet again?”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 March 2011 23:54
 

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