How Kashmiri Pandits Lost Their Azaadi

These days it has become fashionable for protestors in campuses like JNU, Aligarh Muslim University etc India to complain they want  Azaadi or freedom from the Citizenship Amendment Act,(CAA), the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP)  which has a legally elected overwhelming majority in the Centre, etc etc.

The slogan of “Azaadi” came  came into prominence at JNU  in 2016 when it was raised by Kanhaiya Kumar , the then president of the JNU Students Union. (  You may recall that he later stood for the elections for the Lok Sabha from Begusarai supported by the CPI and lost badly, but that is not the subject of this post). In 2019, azaadi as a slogan again came up in different campuses in India. However, many of the youth who are asking for Azaadi may not know the story of the Kashmiri Pandits where an entire community of people literally lost their Azaadi overnight on the night of January 19, 1990Not 100s or 1000s but 100,000s of them fled their ancestral home leaving behind everything tormented by Islamist groups like the JKLF.

Today, 30 years have passed since that fateful night and the saddest part is that not one criminal has been punished. Not a single one. Actually, the problems faced by the Kashmiri Pandits goes back in time. According to reliable reports the problems in the Indian border State of Jammu & Kashmir ( now made an Union Territory) started when elections were rigged in 1987 reportedly by the Congress Government in the Centre headed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, supported by Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference in the State. This alienated a lot of local Muslim population who supported the more militant Muslim United Front (MUF). They felt the local Kashmiri Pandits, who were Hindus unlike them, represented the Indian State. and accordingly could be soft targets.

In September 1989, a lawyer Tika Lal Taploo was the first Kashmiri Pandit to be openly killed. His killers were never punished and this emboldened the terrorists. They got so bold as to kill serving Indian Air Force officer Sqd Ldr Ravi Khanna and three other IAF personnel. Still they remained unpunished. How can one forget the 1990 murder of Kashmiri Pandit, Girija Tikkoo, who was just a Lab Asst in Jammu?

With these ” victories” behind them, they were ready for the ultimate goal, to push the Kashmiri Pandits out of their homeland. The hapless Pandits were infamously given three choices, “Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive” which means ” either Convert to Islam, Leave the Land, or Die!”  These slogans were blared out of loudspeakers from mosques in the Kashmir Valley. Never in the history of Post Independence India had such a blatant aggression against one community taken place without any provocation.

Even thirty years later, the Kashmiri Pandits find themselves as refugees in their own country. Their tales of sorrow have been documented and need no repetition. Everyone has heard their stories though successive Governments have done little for them. We do hope , however that now that Article 370 has been repealed, the way forward may emerge. How the Kashmiri Pandit saga will end remains to be seen. Only time will tell if they ever go back to their homeland!!

The greatest irony, to my mind, is that political parties like the Congress and the Communist parties in India oppose the recently passed Citizenship Amendment Act as they claim it discriminates against Muslims. They don’t spare a thought, ( they haven’t in for the last thirty years, in any case) for the Hindu Kashmiri Pandits, who are refugees in their own country! It’s all very well for students in the exuberance of youth to ask for ” Azaadi” but their story is nothing compared to the sufferings of the Kashmiri Pandits who have truly lost their Azaadi!!

 

“281 And Beyond” by V V S Laxman, with R Kaushik.


For thousands of cricket fans in India, V V S Laxman has to be one of the classiest batsmen to have donned the India colours. His batting was characterized by grace, elegance, and a certain style which most cannot emulate. He was a worthy successor to other elegant Hyderabadi batsmen before him, like M L Jaisimha and Mohammad Azharuddin.

In his recent book, “281 And Beyond” , we get to know Laxman the person more than just Laxman the stylish batsman. Written in collaboration with R Kaushik, the Hyderabad -based cricket writer, this book gives the reader insight into Laxman’s travails and triumphs playing cricket for India at the highest level.

There were many triumphs, to be sure. On top of the list has to be his 281 in the Kolkatta test of 2001 against the Australians. How he and Rahul Dravid put together a 376 run partnership versus the mighty Australians is a legend in modern day cricket. India won the match despite having followed on! Laxman’s 281 was, at that time, the highest ever individual score by an Indian Test batsman.

This apart, there have many more occasions when Laxman has saved the day for India. After all in a career over 15 years, he scored over 8500 runs in 134 Tests with 17 centuries and an average of 45.97

Laxman’s travails came from his not being a sure shot member of the playing XI of the Indian cricket team of his time, unlike say a Tendulkar, a Dravid, a Sehwag , or a Ganguly. He was shuffled in the batting order many times, and was pushed into opening the batting which was not something he particularly enjoyed.

As Laxman’s career developed, another phenomenon came up which made his place in the Indian cricket team more insecure. This was the advent of 50 over cricket and later T20 cricket via the Indian Premier League (IPL). In both cases, Laxman had the disadvantage of being branded a “Test batsman. ” In addition, not being electric in the field, he lost out to others who were considered more adept in these newer and far more popular versions of the game.

In my view, what shines all through the book is Laxman’s description of his upbringing, values and work ethic which is so typical of the hard working middle class/professional stock he came from. He describes in detail how he had to make an important decision: whether to pursue his studies in medicine ( both his parents being doctors) or to be a professional cricketer.

Laxman’s career statistics are far more impressive than many would imagine. A short summary of his career figures in the book even as a end-of-the-book book summary, would, I believe, have publicized his cricketing achievements and enhanced the value of his accomplishments.

Highly recommended for all cricket lovers as Laxman was one of the finest players of his generation.

“Ambling Indian Diaries: Journey India” by Aina Rao

They say that often the book cover makes a big difference in influencing a reader to buy a book. I loved the cover of,  “Ambling Indian Diaries: Journey India” by Aina Rao. It showed you at a glance what the book could be about. The colors, the contrasts and the chaos that characterize life in our country, irrespective of who you are and where you live. Continue reading ““Ambling Indian Diaries: Journey India” by Aina Rao”

“Hunt The Bismarck” by Angus Konstam

As a kid, growing up in the 60’s I had heard the popular song of the day, ” Sink The Bismarck” by Johnny Horton. That old song rang in my ears as I recently read a comprehensive book about the last battle of the famous German battleship of the Second  World War, the “Bismarck”, the pride of the German Kriegsmarine.

The book I speak of  is , “Hunt The Bismarck” (2019) by the noted naval historian, Angus Konstam, who has authored many books about the Second World War. This book has been published by Osprey Publishing.  Continue reading ““Hunt The Bismarck” by Angus Konstam”

“Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson” by James Buddy Day

James Buddy Day the author of ” Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson” has earned a reputation for being a “true crime documentarian”. His book is one more in the list of many books written about Charles Manson (1934-2017), variously described as a musician, poet, cult leader, drug dealer, pimp, and mass murderer. As a teenager in 1969, I remember how shocked we were to read about the gruesome murders of the beautiful film actress Sharon Tate and others, in “Life” and “Time”, the popular magazines of those days. Continue reading ““Hippie Cult Leader: The Last Words of Charles Manson” by James Buddy Day”

“Chaos In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity”: Raksha Bharadia

I know of Ms. Raksha Bharadia from the days when she edited titles for the “Chicken Soup For The Indian Soul” series of books. They were interesting and entertaining. I enjoyed reading her latest book, published by Rupa recently called, “Chaos In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity”.   Continue reading ““Chaos In Romance, Sexuality and Fidelity”: Raksha Bharadia”

“Open Secrets” by Maloy Krishna Dhar

The full title of this absorbing book by veteran sleuth, the late Mr Maloy Krishna Dhar IPS, is ” Open Secrets: The Explosive Memoirs of An Indian Intelligence Officer”.  It was published in 2012 and I read the Kindle version recently. Mr Dhar was a senior intelligence operative and civil servant of the 1964 batch of the prestigious Indian Police Service (IPS). This version has been published after his demise on May 19, 2012 thanks, I believe, to the efforts of his son, Mainak Dhar, an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad; a senior executive in an international firm and an acclaimed writer himself.

Continue reading ““Open Secrets” by Maloy Krishna Dhar”

Cricket In The Old Madras & Remembering My Dad

On September 20, 2019, we quietly celebrated my father’s 93rd birth anniversary. B. Anantharam Rao, (Ananth to his cricketing friends) or B.A.Rao ( to his colleagues in Burmah Shell and Indian Oil) or BAR or simply BA (to his many Club friends in Madras and Bangalore) was born in 1926 in Udupi in the erstwhile South Canara District of the old Madras Presidency, then under the British Raj. His family moved to the big city of Madras, the capital of the Presidency,  to improve their fortunes sometime in the 1930s. Here, they lived in cricket crazy Triplicane, so close to the old stadium at Chepauk with its famous Wallajah Road End and the Madras Cricket Club end. Continue reading “Cricket In The Old Madras & Remembering My Dad”

“The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar

While there is so much written ( including many books) about Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, respectfully called the ” Mahatma ” and the “Father of the Nation”, relatively less is known about his wife, Kastur. We get glimpses of the life of Kasturba Gandhi (1869-1944 ) through a recent book titled, “The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar. Continue reading ““The Secret Diary of Kasturba” by Neelima Dalmia Adhar”

“Hippie Chick” by Ilene English

Before I begin my book review of, “Hippie Chick” by Ilene English, let me begin on a personal note: The Hippie movement started in the United States in the mid-60s – when I was a young teenager in Madras, in far away India. Yet many aspects of the movement fascinated us. During my college days my friends called me “Tripper” after the character in a popular cartoon column called, “Bringing Up Father.” I heard the name of the character was changed to “Groover” later as “Tripper” had connotations of drug usage. I, of course, had just the name and nothing beyond that !!!

I am grateful to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book.

Continue reading ““Hippie Chick” by Ilene English”