Kashmiri Pandits Still Await Justice

January 19, 1990 may be just another date for you and me. However, for the thousands of Kashmir Pandits who had to flee their homeland leaving behind everything, this date will never ever be forgotten.

Today, on January 19, 2022, if we look back at that tragedy, it is fair to say that the Kashmiri Pandits still await justice. A short recapitulation of events that took place in the Muslim-dominated State which was then called Jammu & Kashmir is given in my blog post of January 22, 2020 titled, ” How Kashmiri Pandits Lost Their Azaadi”.

Today, I saw so many tweets from displaced Kashmiri Pandits that are touching. “32 Years and counting. Our genocide is forgotten” says India 4 Kashmir; ‘Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. What About Our Human Rights? ” asks Gita S Kapoor; ” Shameful that even after all these years, the wiping out of a community from our own land is Not recognised as a Genocide, as an act of Civilizational Terrorism. Justice Delayed is Justice Denied” tweets Rati Hegde; . These are but a few of the many tweets expressing anguish that not much has happened to bring those responsible for such targeted human suffering to book.

Shedding blood on religious lines is not new to India as our country was born with this as the gory backdrop. I suggest you read my review of ” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole. for perspective of those far away days. The British were in hurry to leave India, and our politicians were in a hurry to grab power. No one imagined the short term consequences and the enormous cost in terms of human suffering.

After the gruesome murders and carnage that took place during the Partition of India, two events stay in the memory as blots in our “secular” society- the first was the Sikh Massacre in 1984 often toned down to be called Anti-Sikh Riots!! Do read my review of books on this subject elsewhere in this blog. One of them needs particular mention, ” When A Tree Shook Delhi” by Phoolka and Mitta

The second was the Massacre of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990. A book worth reading is Rahul Pandita’s, ” Our Moon Had Blood Clots” published in 2013 which captures his memories of fleeing Kashmir as a 14 year old in 1990. No one knows the true figures but certainly hundreds of Kashmiri Pandits and their family members were raped, killed, or brutally injured when they- over 350,000 of them- were terrorized in leaving their home by pro- Islamic mobs. Why the then Prime Minster, V P Singh did not call out the Indian Army to bring about peace in Kashmir is anybody’s guess. Perhaps he hesitated because he himself had been elected to power only a month or so ago, and did not want to rock the boat of a fragile coalition which he ran.

How the story of the Kashmiri Pandits will end is anybody’s guess. It is astonishing that for far lesser crimes, thousands all over the world -especially certain NGOs -scream about the abuse of Human Rights and Democratic Values. For the hapless Kashmiri Pandits, sadly, there hasn’t been a whisper from them- just a frosty silence. Strange are the ways of our democracies in recognizing and addressing human suffering.

“Now It Can Be Told” by Prof A N Bali

Those of us who are fond of Indian history owe gratitude to Prabhat Prakashan for publishing, or should I say re-publishing in e- book form a book which virtually disappeared from India. This book is titled, “Now It Can Be Told”by Professor A N Bali and is about the Partition of Punjab in 1947. What makes the book more interesting is that it is based on the personal experience and observations of the author who was then a Professor in the Punjab University at Lahore in the undivided India. From reading the book, we gather it was first published a few years after the events of Partition and the Independence of India took place, hence the title of the book. I would guess it may have been published around 1949-50 or so.

It appears the book was controversial at the time of its publication as it was considered to be critical of the powers that be. These included the then Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and many of his colleagues in the Indian National Congress. I find from the website of Indian Kanoon that in September 1950 this book featured in a case that came up for hearing in the Punjab High Court. The Court overruled the order of the Chief Commissioner of Delhi that all copies of the book written by Prof Bali and published by Akaslivani Prakashan, Jullundar, should be “forfeited’.

So much has been written about the Partition and the horrors that followed it. I have read a fair number of books on the subject but I still found Prof Bali’s book of great interest as he writes from his personal experience. From Prof Bali’s book, it is clear that in many cases the departing British, or at least a fair number of them, supported the Muslims rather than the Hindus and the Sikhs. This happened in particular in Lahore and surrounding areas. Muslim refugees heading to Pakistan found it relatively easier than Hindus and Sikhs seeking refuge in india. Cases of blatant partiality are described. Refugees from India to Pakistan were given shorter amd more convenient routes while the refugees from Pakistan heading to Indian were given much longer and more dangerous routes.

I must say the book leaves you sad that the politicians of that time including Mahatma Gandhi ( described as being both a Mahatma and a politician in some senses) did not foresee the enormous hardship the Partition would cost the millions affected. The horrors of refugees being murdered, raped, and maimed are already well-documented. This books adds to the list of gory stories of how bad things were in those tumultuous times.

What is shocking is how those who fled Lahore genuinely believed that they could return one day to their homes and property. We see how the Governments of india and Pakistan differed in their treatment of property left behind by those who fled. In Pakistan, it became a free for all. Thousands grabbed land and property they would never have dreamt of possessing in their lives. On the contrary in India, the property of those who fled the country were guarded carefully – in some cases for decades- while the refugees from Lahore lived in pitiable conditions in the hastily created dreadful refugee camps.

I think this book must be read by every student of Indian history. Don’t they say we should learn from mistakes made in the past? If we don’t know about the mistakes how will we ever avoid them?? Here lies the importance of books like this by Prof Amar Nath Bali.

“Freedom At Midnight” by Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins

As we are in the month of August, the conversations in India often turn towards Independence Day coming up on August 15. We talk of the Freedom Struggle; of Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and Sardar Patel; of Lord and Lady Mountbatten; and the horrors of Partition. I recently re-read ” Freedom At Night” by Dominque Lapierre & Larry Collins, which I had read decades ago. You may recall that this book was first published in 1975, less than twenty years after Independence. I re-read the same book in 2019, by which time so much had changed in the world around us. Yet, the haunting memories of Partition continued in the minds of thousands of families affected by that tumultuous  event. The conflict over Kashmir which continues till today is an old wound from that time which still festers. Continue reading ““Freedom At Midnight” by Dominique Lapierre & Larry Collins”

“Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst

The title is arresting and I had to read this book though I had never till now heard even remotely of the author, Dr Koenraad Elst. I am glad that Rupa Publications have published, “Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” in 2018. It is a balanced account of what motivated Nathuram Vinayak Godse to assassinate Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. On that January evening in Delhi in 1948, barely a few months after India became an independent nation, Godse shot Gandhiji at point blank range. You may agree with Nathuram Godse or you may not, but this book makes you consider issues from his point of view and explains why he opposed the Mahatma, going so far as to kill him in cold blood and make no effort to escape.  Continue reading ““Why I Killed The Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence” by Koenraad Elst”

“Ambedkar: An Overview” Book Review

In case you are wondering why I have not mentioned any author for the book “Ambedkar: An Overview” I must clarify that the book (published by Rupa Publications in 2018) is a collection of essays/writings of Bharat Ratna Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar ( 1891-1956). To that extent I think the title of the book itself is somewhat misleading. It suggests that someone has written about Dr Ambedkar but in reality is a collection of his own writings! Even “Essays by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar” or ” Selected Writings of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar” would have been more apt as a title, in my opinion.

Continue reading ““Ambedkar: An Overview” Book Review”

” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole

In 1947, a few parts of undivided India, primarily Punjab and Bengal, were torn asunder and a new nation came into being: Pakistan. This event, directly or indirectly, affected millions of people in India and is still talked about although nearly 70 years have gone by since then. The turmoil of those times and the events that led up to these epoch-making events are captured in Dr. Madhav Godbole’s book,  “The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” . Continue reading “” The Holocaust of Indian Partition: An Inquest” by Madhav Godbole”

“Little Man From The East” : Maj. Gen. M.K.Paul (Retd)

“Little Man From The East: Marching Through Tumultuous Decades” is , in my view, a “must read” for anyone interested in 20 th century Indian history. It also happens to be the story of a soldier engineer commissioned into one of the oldest Regiments in the Indian Army,  the famous Madras Engineer Group. This outfit, more commonly called The Madras Sappers, and more fondly as ‘The Thambis’ was raised  in 1780.  Major General M K Paul (retd), the author, served with distinction in the Indian Army for nearly 37 years before retiring in 1991.

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Jaswant Singh on Jinnah

Thanks to Jaswant Singh, former External Affairs Minister of India for writing ” Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence” a scholarly treatise on what actually happened before the calamity of the Partition of India way back in 1947. The publication of the book ( Rupa & Co 2009) stirred up a great deal of controversy. Singh was expelled from the BJP- in which party he had grown to be an admired leader. There was a school of thought that he did wrong in praising Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Actually that makes for an interesting debate which is the central theme of the book.

Continue reading “Jaswant Singh on Jinnah”