Rahul Pandita’s ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’ vis-à-vis Khalid Bashir’s ‘Kashmir: Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative’
In the month of October I was searching for books on Kashmir on an online book store. I zeroed in on two books, one by Rahul Pandita, ‘Our Moon Has Blood Clots’, and the second by erstwhile GK columnist and noted poet-cum-historian Khalid Bashir, ‘Kashmir: Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative’. Now I had a choice to make: which one to read first? I decided to read Rahul Pandita’s book before Khalid’s as it was smaller in terms of number of pages.
Pandita’s book is a personal memoir of the author about the mass exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the ’90s. The book can be divided into two parts, the first about the author’s account of living in his homeland Kashmir, especially how his family used to live in bonhomie with fellow Muslims, how they used to celebrate festivals together, be it Shivratri or Eid. The author also mentions his school-day memories of fighting in the playground with his Muslim friends over Indo-Pak cricket rivalry. The second part is the main theme of the book: the mass exodus of Pandits. The author takes a malicious U-turn from facts when it comes to narrating the events leading to the exodus, and in this process he often exaggerates facts. Bringing in the horrors of partition and extermination of Jews to malign the Muslims of Kashmir and leaving no stone unturned in blaming Muslims for the exodus and presenting them as bloodthirsty hordes swooping on Pandit houses, killing inmates, and raping women, the author highlights the Nadimarg, Wandhama and Sangrampora massacres. That is okay, as the book mainly deals with miseries of Pandits and in all these three unfortunate massacres Pandits were at the receiving end, but he shouldn’t have ignored Gawkadal, Sopore, Handwara and Islamia College massacres altogether, for it only shows how biased the author has been in narrating the past.
The most important thing to note is that Pandita does not mention the role of the then governor, Jagmohan, whose arrival coincided almost exactly with the exodus of Pandits on January 19, 1990. In the second part of the book the author narrates the hardships that Pandits had to face inside crowded migrant camps in the scorching heat of Jammu, and how hard it was to acclimatise to such harsh living conditions, especially for women, children and senior citizens who couldn’t bear the sudden change of fortunes from being in heaven-like Kashmir valley to the hellish migrant camps in Jammu. The suffering makes them long for their homeland even today.
In a nutshell, this book is a mixed bag and the reader has to read it with a pinch of salt.
After reading Pandita, I began to feel guilty for all the wrong that was committed on fellow Pandits, till I started reading Bashir’s book. This author challenges the narrative peddled by Pandita and does so with historical facts and dissecting the texts that have over the ages sustained an ahistorical perception of Kashmir. Bashir shows, in detail, how facts have been twisted from ancient times to modern to suit the state narrative. He narrates the post-1947 events, the events that led to beginning of armed rebellion in Kashmir valley, and the events leading to the mass exodus of Pandits.
Bashir’s book demolishes the myths about the Pandit exodus. He argues that the seeds of the Pandits’ migration were sown in 1967, when Pandits had started mass protests against interfaith marriage of Hindu girls with Muslim boys. Pandits used to take out provocative processions on streets to force their demand for return of Hindu girls, whom they falsely claimed to be immature, which ultimately led to the sowing of seeds of communal divide between Muslims and Hindus.
Regarding the events of the 1990s, the author describes in detail how Muslim neighbours tried their best to prevent Pandits from leaving but the majority of them had made up their mind to leave, having started believing in rumours floated by hatemongers. The book also describes how the arrival of Jagmohan coincided with the mass exodus and in some cases it has been found that the state facilitated their migration by transporting them in planes instead of stopping them from doing so. The book also mentions how some Pandit families preferred to stay put and are still living in harmony with fellow Muslim neighbours, and how Muslims kept the sanctity of temples by guarding them right through those turbulent times. Unlike Pandita who made no mention of massacres in which Muslims were at the receiving end, Bashir has not ignored massacres of the Hindu minority.
Keeping limited space in consideration, I will sign off on the note for prospective readers that if you desire to read these two books, please read Bashir’s book only after going through Pandita’ss book, as it serves as a perfect rebuttal to it.