As India approaches its seventieth year of Independence, its people continue to grapple with multiple discourses: A few from the left, a considerable sum from the right and an impressive lot from the centre. This book brings together diverse views from people across a wide spectrum of life-politicians, activists, administrators, artistes, academicians-who offer their idea of India. With a contextual introduction by Nidhi Razdan, this politically charged, argumentative, candid and humorous book opens a window to our understanding of India that largely remained untold and unknown for a long time.
Here’s an excerpt from the book:
It was the newly independent India that had sent its army to our rescue in 1947. As the raiders were pushed back, our fate with India was sealed. To us, India had saved much more than territory. It had saved a slice of civilization, without which its own history would be so incomplete and without any mooring.
For the Indians, Naipaul had said, the world was divided into India and non-India. For us, India was divided into Kashmir and non-Kashmir. It was evident in the rituals we followed, the almanac that guided our lives, the food we consumed and the leelas we sang for our gods. But we fiercely guarded our Indianness. We felt extreme pride at the sight of soldiers in their uniforms, marching down the Rajpath. It brought us solace that we are now protected and no invader could conquer us. In school, we sang the national anthem with passion, often braving kicks from others, who again saw it as a connection they badly wanted severed.
That our fate was tied to developments in the mainland became clear to me in June 1984. In Amritsar, Punjab, Indira Gandhi had decided to fight the demons she had created herself.
The army had been called in to flush out extremists from the Golden Temple, led by a man who had proclaimed himself a saint.
As the operation was under way, a mob attacked the Hanuman Temple in Srinagar and threw the main idol in the Jhelum waters. Why would they do it? How could this be a response to something that had happened hundreds of miles away and in which we had no role to play?
By 1986, this hostility had become very visible. It is the year when riots broke out in south Kashmir; in the pre-social media era, we heard terrible stories of rape and plunder from friends and relatives. By 1989, this hostility had reached a crescendo.
That winter we would venture out of our homes to find ‘Indian dogs go back’ scribbled on the walls on the streets. On the night of 19 January 1990, thousands of people assembled in mosques all over Kashmir and said they wanted to turn Kashmir into Pakistan—without the Pandit men, but with their women.
To many who had cared to read history, the night brought back visions of the Afghan rule in Kashmir in the eighteenth century when hapless Pandits would be tied up in grass sacks and pushed into the Dal Lake. The exodus began from the next day onwards.
In February 1990, it became impossible for us to celebrate Shivratri; as the ritual demanded, we took the gods to the riverside, but abandoned the celebratory conch, instead reciting ancient hymns under our breath. We felt choked and were brought to tears remembering our people who had been killed on the roads with a macabre dance performed around their corpses.
In the April of that year, my family took a taxi to escape to Jammu. We thought we were leaving for a short time; we thought things would become normal again for us to return like our forefathers had done several times in the past; we thought we would be able to take our gods to familiar waters and then celebrate the oncoming spring.
In Jammu, we felt relieved for a while. Here, we did not have to live in fear; we could worship our gods freely and recite our hymns loudly. We were not in Kashmir; we were in non- Kashmir. But it was still India, our India.
The excerpt has been written by Rahul Pandita.