Author: Rahul Pandita
Publisher: Penguin India
Publishing Date: 1st January 2013
Cost: Rs. 399 (Paperback) Rs. 144 (Kindle Edition)
The violent cleaning of the Kashmiri Pandit community in 1989-90 is one of the biggest blots in the history of Independent India. The period saw the torture of lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits. The writer’s family was one of the 3,50,000 people who were forced to leave their homes in Kashmir and move to other parts of the country. The book is a deeply personal journey of the writer and walks the reader through the brutality of the exodus.
Pandits were the marginalized section in the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir. The book talks about how as a school-going kid, the author realized that his hometown was becoming increasingly agitated with shouts of ‘Azadi’. Childhood instances such as applying soot on the image of Goddess Saraswati, or being beaten up on supporting India during a cricket match made a young Rahul realize the gravity of the situation.
Over the years, the Islamic militant group’s violent ethnic cleansing started to take a toll on Kashmir. The author speaks of how he lost many near and dear ones to this violence; how his family was relieved that older members of the family had died a natural death and did not have to be subjected to such torture. The book successfully throws light on how the pro-independence demands of separatists ruined the lives of generations of Kashmiris.
From the simple joys of life such as buying fish with his father on the eve of Shivratri to financial challenges of living in a dingy room as a refugee, the book strikes a chord in the reader’s heart. Telling the tales of multiple generations of Kashmiris (the author and his maternal uncle), the book is an insightful recollection of a story that has never before been told.
1985-86 saw the assault of the religious minority Pandits by Islamic militants. Such was the religious tensions that more than 700 people lost their lives to it. Hundreds of women were abducted, tortured and murdered. The only way to escape this was to leave behind their homes and move to safer pastures. This is what 3.5 lakh Kashmiri Pandits did.
The author, Rahul Panditya, was barely a child when religious tensions sparked. Hearing slogans hailing Pakistan, the author grew up to realize that he was a second-class citizen in his land. On the cold winter night of 19th January, the writer lay frightened on his father's arms. Violence had erupted in their neighbourhood and the family did not know whether they would survive the night. The writer describes the fear and apprehension so well that you will find your heart missing a beat while skipping the pages.
The family does manage to pull through the night only to realize that young boys were making their pick among the houses in their neighbourhood. One of the boys exclaimed that he would settle only for the writer's house. This was a major blow to the author's dad who had built the house bit-by-bit by investing his entire life's savings and his wife's jewellery in it.
What sets this book apart is the fact that while it is a personal recollection of the horrors of exodus, it also throws light at the history of Kashmir before all of this. The book also tells us how government initiatives for the rehabilitation of refugees have not been successful. On its part, the central government did provide jobs and housing to refugees. But people are afraid of taking this up for the fear of being segregated and attacked. The book presents the untold reality of Kashmir by someone who has witnessed it first-hand. Not only does this challenge several fake and forged stories that were in place to pull wool over the public's eyes, but it also tells of a life that is exiled from one's roots, family, friends, culture, and heritage.
About the Author:
Rahul Pandita is an Indian author who had to leave his hometown during the Kashmir exodus. He is an internationally renowned journalist and was awarded the International Red Cross Award in 2010 for his brilliant reporting from Maoist affect places of Central India. Our Moon Has Blood Clots is his third book after The Absent State (2010) and Hello, Baster (2011). Post the release of this book, Pandita was named as a Yale World Fellow.