Status: Read from Oct 08 to Oct 14, 2017
My rating: /5
Author: Rahul Pandita
Rahul Pandia was fourteen years old when he was forced to leave his home in Srinagar along with his family, who were Kashmiri Pandits – the Hindu minority within a Muslim majority Kashmir that was by 1990 becoming increasingly agitated with the cries of ‘Azaadi’ from India.
The heartbreaking story of Kashmir has so far been told mainly through the prism of the brutality of the Indian security forces, the pro-independence demands of Muslim separatists, or India and Pakistan’s political rivalry. But there is another part of Kashmir’s history that has remained unrecorded and buried.
Our Moon Has Blood Clots is the untold chapter in the story of Kashmir, in which hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits were tortured, killed and forced to leave their homes by Islamist militants, and to spend the rest of their lives in exile in their own country. Rahul Pandita has written a deeply personal, powerful and unforgettable story of history, home and loss.
“…and an earlier time when the flowers were not stained with blood, the moon with blood clots!” – Pablo Neruda, ‘Oh, My Lost City’
Our Moon Has Blood Clots is very insightful and gives a firsthand account of experience of the author himself, who was among the exodus of Kashmir during 1990, at an age of 14. During 1990, there was mass movement of Kashmiri Pandits from Kashmir to Delhi, Lucknow, Lahore and Allahabad, leaving their ancestral home, their history and culture behind. The plight of Kashmiri Pandits is now an forgotten story. Our generation will never understand or will try to find out, what made approx. 3.5 lacs Kashmiri Pandits to pack their bags and leave the valley, never to return back and stay as refugees in their own country.
After reading this book, I read Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer. Both these books are set during the same period and tells the story of Kashmir with different approach. Both the books help us to understand that not only Kashmiri Pandits had a tragic life, but also the Muslims had to suffer the brutality of both the militants and Indian Army. The brutal killings, fleeing away from home, setting up a home in a place much different in culture, language in refugee camps in Jammu, these realities are narrated with much pain.
“Our home in Kashmir had twenty-two rooms”, my mother used to say this thing to every person she met.
This narrates the experience of a mother, who was in exile, who lost her home and her pride, staying in refugee camps, in tents, sharing the tent with one other family.
The memories through a 14 year old teenager paints a vivid images. Women cramped in lorries travelling towards Jammu, a man raising his fist and telling them that, “you will die”, overhearing a conversation of a group of boys, discussing distribution of Pandit’s houses which will be empty soon.
“At least go inside and piss; like a dog, you need to mark your territory,” one of the boys tells his mate. “It’s over,” Pandit’s father, a government worker, says, “we cannot live here anymore.”
Rahul Pandita mentions in the book that he kept a record of each and every Pandit killed in the Valley during the exodus, because he wanted people to know the story of each and every Pandit killed. The government and the media completely neglected the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. In 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a Rs. 1,618 crore package to facilitate the return of the Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley. Six thousand jobs were also announced for the Pandit youth in the Valley. Most of the jobs were never filled, due to the fear of being targeted by militants. The settlements provided to Kashmiri Pandits are cheap single-bedroom structures, with no drinking water facility. The real problem is harassment at work from their Muslim colleagues. Many Pandit employees don’t receive their salaries on time.
This is an excellent book, full of true tragic stories, acquainting with Hindu-Muslim brotherhood, struggles of Kashmiri Pandits that forced them to flee to Jammu.
For those, who wants to know what happened in Kashmir during 1990s, and not just Kashmiri Pandits, I will suggest to read Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer. It gives an insight on the suffering of the Kashmiri Muslims during this period, how the Indian Army as well as the militants created problems for innocent Muslims. Kashmiri Muslims lives a threatened life in Kashmir because of both the Militants and the Indian Army and are tagged as militant where ever they go for being Kashmiri Muslim. It also gives an insight about how the Kashmiri youth are misguided by the Militants to cross the border and to go to Pakistan to get trained as an militant.
A brief history of Kashmir:
Rahul Pandita has given a brief history of Kashmir, which we will never get to learn about. Kashmir was blessed with great scholar in each century. In tenth century, the great Kashmiri Pandit scholar Abhinavagupta wrote Tantraloka, a treatise on Kashmiri Shaivism, and Abhinavabharti, a splendid commentary on the Natyasastra, the seed of the Indian performing arts. The eleventh century Kashmiri Pandit poet Kshemendra wrote Brhatkathamanjari, a collection of stories representing the lost tradition of brhatkatha. The twelfth century Kashmiri Pandit scholar, Kalhana, penned the magnum opus, Rajatarangini ( River of Kings), which is counted among the world’s most extraordinary works. Kashmiri scholars made immense contributions to Buddhism, which came to Kashmir with the emperor Asoka around 250BC. It was in Kashmir that Buddhist scriptures were written in Sanskrit for the first time. Buddhism spread from Kashmir to Ceylon, Java and China. It was in 5th century in Tibet that a Pandit scholar was given the honorary title of Bhatta – which means someone who is learned.
The golden phases in Kashmir’s history were during the reigns of Lalitaditya and Avantivarman. Lalitaditya was considered a great administrator and ruled Kashmir for about four decades in the early eighth century AD. The Sun temple at Martand in south Kashmir was build during his reign. It stands even today in spite of being ravaged by invaders, and is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in India. Avantivarman ruled Kashmir for about three decades form 855 AD. He built magnificent temples and Buddhist monasteries. Kashmir prospered in his reign.
From fourteenth century onwards, Kashmir was invaded by Muslim invaders. Sultan Sikandar took over the reins of Kashmir and let loose a reign of terror and brutality against his Hindu subjects. This was followed by the reign of Mughals. During Aurangzeb’s rule, which lasted for forty-nine years from 1658 onwards, Pandits were persecuted. From 1752, the valley slipped into the hands of Afghans for seven decades. During this period there were mass conversions. The Afgan rulers would surround a group of Pandits with naked swords and ask them to convert. Those who did not comply would be put to death immediately. For the rest, a calf would be slaughtered, and they would be fed its meat and their sacred thread would be snapped. Such troubles forced the Pandits to migrate. India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru was from one such family.
Following the period of Afgan rule, the valley passed into the hands of Sikh rulers in 1819, and then to the Dogra dynasty, who bought it from the British colonialists for seventy five lakh rupees, one horse, twelve goats and three cashmere shawls.
In 1947, the last Dogra Maharaj, Hari Singh, was reluctant to join India or Pakistan. He wanted to remain independent. In October 1947, when Pakistan tried invading Kashmir by sending tribal invaders from the Northwest Frontier Province, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession and Kashmir became a part of India.
About the Author:
Rahul Pandita is an Indian author and journalist. Pandita has worked as a war correspondent, and is known for his ample news reporting from the war hit countries like Iraq and Sri Lanka. However, in the recent years, his focal point has been the Maoist movement in India’s red corridor. He has also reported from North-Eastern India. He has worked with The Hindu, Open Magazine among other media organizations. He is a 2015 Yale World Fellow. He was awarded the International Red Cross award for delivering news from war zones, in 2010.
Rahul Pandit is the author of the bestselling Hello Bastar: The Untold Story of India’s Maoist Movements (2011), Our Moon Has Blood Clots: A Memoir of a Lost Home in Kashmir (2013), and co-authored the critically acclaimed The Absent State: Insurgency as an Excuse for Misgoverance with Neelesh Misra.