“I can still hear those cries and painful goodbyes
I can still feel that aggressive wind swaying my hair and mind
I still feel that blood rush rising through my vein when I hear them saying HUM KASHMIRI HAI AUR KASHMIR HAMARA HAI.”
The line echoes the pain created in the absence of a home. Sagrika Kissu, a 26-year-old journalist, wrote these lines on her blog thus expressing a sense of loss. A copy of Slavoj Zizek’s “Violence” lies at her bedside, Sagrika is on the phone continuously regulating the moment of Kashmiri students, who post Pulwama terror attack faced persecutions at various levels within the society. Kissu helped 18 students to go back safely to their homes, thus extending a hand of help in return of peace.
For this, Kissu was attacked by a volley of slanderous messages on social media. A post on Facebook claimed that she is part of “tukde-tukde gang”. This is not the first time that she is receiving such vile messages from facebook. In 2016, she was defamed for uploading a picture with Khurram Parvez, a human right activist in Kashmir. Later, she removed the picture.
She once told me that Kashmiri Muslims are not the sole reason behind the exodus of the Pandits from the valley, the main reason for this is conflict, which even in contemporary times is also killing Kashmiri’s like it did in 1989-90.
Despite the criticism, Sagrika has yet again come out to voice her concern towards the future of Kashmir. Recently, Government of India took a decision to restrict the civilian mobility on the national highway on two days of every week (Sunday and Wednesday) for a period of two months to enable the safe passage for the moment of armed forces. She wrote a letter to Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, seeking an immediate revocation of this decision.
She criticizes the decision as she writes in the letter, “It is a blatant violation of the fundamental rights of people to move from one place to another.” She further questions the government that why any other means to provide safety to armed forces aren’t have been thought about. Thus highlighting the alternative ways like using special trains from Banihal to Srinagar or airlifting the armed forces to a safer area.
Sagrika in her life has an undaunted passion for the conflict. She put her heart and soul in manoeuvring great courage to raise her voice against what she felt is wrong, out of her love for the valley. In childhood, she had a typical Kashmiri accent, and whenever she spoke English, people around her used to laugh. So, to improve her language, she picked a book, “Sai Satacharitra”, in English. After reading the biography of a saint, she was fascinated with the character, Sai Baba. She said and I remember, no one ever used to know whether Sai Baba is a Hindu or a Muslim. Because he used to greet Muslims with Ram Ram, and Hindus with Allah is the lord. “No one ever come to know the real identity of Sai Baba. I just wanted to be like him in my school days”, she said with a childlike glee in her eyes.
She later recalls that when she was a child, she used to stay with her grandmother who used to narrate her stories regarding Kashmir. “I still remember how my grandmother in her typical Kashmiri accent used to tell me how the land surrounded with snowy mountains used to look like. I was fascinated with her idea of Kashmir”, she said.
Sagrika was born post-exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from the valley. She used to live in Durga Nagar, a mohalla full of Kashmiri Pandits back in Jammu. She was exposed to the conflict since her childhood, as everyone from her mohalla used to always talk about Kashmir and the predicament of her community. “I saw the exodus from the point of view of my family”, she says over the phone. When she was in her 8th standard, she visited the valley for the first time with her family. She didn’t like the land, as she could feel a fit of anger inside which she couldn’t explain. She reminiscent an incident when she along with her family was walking down the narrow clustered lane of Rainawari, where they used to live before the exodus. She could feel the pain of her grandmother, as she witnesses the tears dripping down her eyes. “I was filled with rage”, she says.
“When I grow, I came to know the situation in Kashmir. I read Prem Nath Bazaz, Pt Raghunath Vaishnavi and many others, who vouched for an independent state. The narrative was totally different from what we witness on mainstream media. Later, I realized the atrocities faced by Pandits back in 1989-90 are similar to that of what Kashmiri Muslims are enduring in current times. It changed my perspective”, she said.
The only solution to the conflict between Pandits and Muslims, as she always says is the electoral representation of minorities in the valley. “In this, if a Kashmiri Pandit stands from the Habba Kadal, it should be a responsibility of Muslims to give him space and voice, so that the barrier between two communities can be removed. Alas, it is for both the communities to consider them as Kashmiri’s rather than a Pandit and Muslim, as such bifurcation gives other the chance to exploit the people, who have faced the brunt of the conflict. A lot of Pandits and Muslims suffer through post-traumatic stress disorder, which is alarming and one should spread love and harmony rather than violence and hatred”, she said.
Akhilesh Nagari and Hanan Zaffar are the directors of multimedia project Maeshmith Ghairrh (forgotten homes), looking at how kashmiri Pandits and Muslims interact with each other outside Kashmir