These slogans were reverberating when a Pandit woman’s appendix burst because the doctors in her district hospital in South Kashmir refused to operate upon her. Finally, after a lot of pleading, a Muslim doctor (whose kids were taught by one of lady’s relatives) operated upon her secretly. The Azadi slogans were still on as she was put on a mattress in a truck shortly afterwards, to Jammu, where she received proper treatment. The lady’s son, a boy then, became a lone wolf — not to ram trucks into innocent people, but to study medicine and become a doctor, who is now based in New Zealand.
In the last three decades we have known of so many elderly people, who, on their deathbeds, wished to just be taken home. We had a way of life, we had our Gods, our language, our festivals, our rituals. They are all vanishing in our collective memory. In exile, we put pictures of our symbolic celebration of rituals on Instagram, more as an assurance to ourselves than to others — assurance that we are a people who are still alive; that our ties with our homeland have not been severed.
We are not fools. We are not in whataboutery, pinning blame of our exodus on people who are young and want to fight a battle for their idea of India. We do not want to belittle the struggle of Shaheen Bagh. We don’t want our story to be used to exact revenge on anyone. But at least show us a little empathy. Remember what demons come to revisit us when you shout those slogans.
After the Shikara trailer was out, a Pandit lady wrote on Facebook how her father was forced to join the Azadi procession in Srinagar in 1990 and had to flash a V sign to escape being singled out. Kashmiri blogger Vinayak Razdan shared a paper by a scholar that claimed Pandits were “quite compatible with the separatist ideologies,” and participated in anti-India marches.
It is this blatant whitewash that has given Kashmiri terrorists the image of Gandhians.
Remember, a killer called Farooq Dar alias Bitta Karate (from the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front) would roam around in downtown Srinagar with his pistol, searching for Batt’e Mushk (the smell of a Pandit), in order to find one and then kill him? Even then, Azadi slogan.