The power of self delusion. Let me tell an incident from 2012 when I went back to Kashmir for the first and only time.
We visited my mother’s paternal house in Habba Kadal, in many ways the heartland of Kashmiri Pandits in the city. Maa specifically wanted to meet this family that was their neighbour, rather next-door neighbours. Ahmed was a milkman, and the two families, my mother’s being the Kauls and their’s the Ahmeds. We didn’t have any contacts, since Maa hadn’t kept up with the old neighbourhood in the aftermath of the exodus.
So, we simply landed there in Habba Kadal, asked around. Folks recognized Maa, despite it being more than 30 years since she’d lived there, having moved out after marriage to another area in Kashmir. Funny thing, though. Not a single person who recognized her said anything that remotely indicated that they knew her. Only, everyone who did recognize her, called her by her name, her nickname that is. Imagine suddenly and with no preemption landing in a place, where everyone recognizes you, but no one wants to acknowledge that they do.
At any rate, Maa was directed to an inner gali of Habba Kadal, and she just knew her way. She knew her way after 30 years, in the same way I will always know the way around Sahibabad in Ghaziabad.
We landed at Ahmed’s house, they’d shifted from the house right next to Maa’s old house on the main street of Habba Kadal to an inner one. Now here’s the thing. We’d gone to Kashmir during Ramzan, unintentionally so, but we had.
Just as we were about to enter Ahmed’s house, Ahmed and a young man of about my age, about 21 then, walked out. Dusk had just fallen, the call to the prayer had just been sounded. Ahmed looked once at us, Maa without her bindi, her Taejhoor (her mangalsutra as it were) and, me without a skull cap. He recognized Maa, and for a change, actually acknowledged that he did. He touched my shoulder, said his salaam to Maa, asked us to enter, apologised for having to leave to the mosque with his son.
So, in the middle of Ramzan, a young man who was in Kashmir for the first time, landed in a strange house amongst strangers, with his mother Maa called out a name, Dil’l, clearly short for Dilshada. Dilshada comes out, sees Maa and cried. She cried like a long-lost child had come back, cried like a child does when he meets his parents who’d lost him in a fair.
I’ll not recount what we talked about during the one hour or so we stayed. Just needs be said that a Kashmiri “Pandit” is a stranger to a young Kashmiri Muslim today. So, I was deeply affected by what went by there. Maybe this was the “Kashmiriyat” I’d heard so much about.
We walked out of the house. Maa got into the car, waved at Dilshada and Ahmed, and turned to me after we’d left Habba Kadal. “Do you know, Dilshada used to incite her husband, her brother in laws, her younger siblings against the Pandits in 1989?”
What?! That woman? The one who’d just cried her guts out, who dawned over you like a daughter married off to a distant land had come back, that woman?
“Yes, she used to. In 1989, she once went about the entire Mohalla, telling everyone that Jagmohan had poisoned the water supply of the Muslims, and that Agencies wanted them all dead. Stupid woman did not bother to think how that would be possible, the murder of all folks of a specific religion.”
I couldn’t believe it, I really mean it, even today I find it difficult to wrap my head around that conundrum dressed up as a woman. But there’s more.
“She would shout at her kids, her husband, her other relatives: ‘Vath’yuvoo Vath’yuvoo (Get up, Get up)’. Get up and go protest. Throw these agencies and their families out of Kashmir.”
Agencies and their families, that is us. We the pathetic, nerdy, quiet, religious Kashmiri Hindus. We, who thought Kashmiriyat would save us. How does one explain this woman? I have my thoughts. Maybe it was expiration of guilt? At what she, and all of them had done?
But, more likely, it was fooling herself, lying to herself that explained why she did, what she did. This works both ways. Kashmiri Pandits think up of 1990 as an aberration, something that “just happened”. No one wants to acknowledge how the Hindus had been othered, always hated and looked at as “agents”. No one idea can explain anything, but honestly, the infinite capacity of the human mind to delude itself does explain a lot, on both sides of the Kashmiri Hindu genocide.
In addition to this, another very small incident took place. We were at Srinagar Airport on our way back to Delhi, and I felt hungry. So, I walked to the cafe, and asked (In Kashur), “akh bread sandwich dee’iv”. This was a question that only a Kashmiri Hindu could ask during the daytime in Ramazan in Srinagar. The man behind the counter smiled, took the 100 bucks or so, and looked a little askance.
I quickly added, “fut’vout mye’lya” (can I get change). He smiled even more broadly. “Tohi chiv mehmaan sae’ny, ky’azy mye’lav n’a” (You’re our guest here, surely you’ll get change).
And, for the second time in that accursed year, my very own annus horribilis, I found food turning to ash into my mouth.
I have to make this point clear. He knew that I wasn’t a guest in Kashmir. He knew, and he did that to spite me, to spit on the ashes of my relatives who had been murdered, tortured, sawed into two and assaulted in that place.
Forgive me, but I have to add. When leftists imagine strange, universal “conspiracy theories” like Capital Accumulation, or Jewish World Dominance, Zionist Occupation Government, or Patriarchy… I can only shake my head.
Because evil, even when it is behind genocides, mass murders and horrendous, horrific crimes, is often so banal, so stupid, and very idiotic. Evil appeals to an idiotic mind, to the sorta mind that sees battles of 7th and 8th century Middle East in 20th century Kashmir.
But, we must speak. We must document, remember, note down, produce evidence, and teach our kids. I know of Tikka Lal Tiploo, Lassa Kaul, Sarwanand Kaul Premi only because my parents never hid the truth from me.
(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread of @Ateendriyo)
(Featured image: Abandoned house of Kashmiri Pandit for representational purpose only.)