When God Listens
Pariksith Singh, MD. on the Kashmir Question
There is nothing more traumatic than losing your home. Especially if it is justified by your leaders. If it is forced by threats to murder your family, rape your women, abduct your children. If it is done from institutions in your neighborhood at the time of prayer from loudspeakers blaring from all sides. If religion is used to incite violence and anger against your family by your own neighbors, people you grew up with. If it is buried by the highest judiciary of your own land. If you are a refugee in your own country, rejected by two majorities, the one in your state and the other in your country.
They are not connected. They own no media platforms. They are mute spectators of their own depredation.
I have seen the silent pain in their eyes that they carry with quiet dignity while the world carries on (me included) with the most superficial concerns. I have seen them hold back all reactions when painful things are said about their culture or country out of sheer ignorance and arrogance. I have seen the inner reason of hell.
And that hell is here. Every moment, staring in their faces.
Every sensation, every breath. To lose everything their child might hold special, every memory. With a trauma that one does not wish to imagine for one’s worst enemies. Each instant, a fist rising from nowhere and bloodying their face, with numbness and humiliation, with a laceration so deep only a Jesus or Buddha could heal.
Even today, when Modi attempts to reverse those decades of betrayal, I do not see a sense of victory or euphoria in them. Who will recover them their home? Their childhood? Their trust in their people?
Today, I see vain politicians looking to score points in India or UK or USA from both sides, and I think of my friends who never evoked such compassion. When they were herded out of their land in terror of losing their lives or women in the dark of night. When their holocaust did not concern the most liberal politician or reporter in the world.
When those who speak against zulm and swear by it did not raise a finger or a voice to condemn it, let alone work towards their repatriation.
But, I must say, I was surprised when my father, a lifelong opponent of the BJP, the party that Modi belongs to, supported the move to split Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and take away the special treatment that it got for 72 years in independent India. None was more liberal than him. And none more fair.
I did not say a word to him this time. We have argued for years and are polar opposites in our political thought. I did not say, I told you so. I did not feel validated.
When the patient is dead, of what value is a post mortem to justify your diagnosis?
Or shall I say, it is a state worse than death. It is being dead while alive. It is to be turned into a non-entity, a thing, a zero. To exist, to be, in a glare where you have no shame, no hope, no recourse.
That is why there is no triumphalism here. Nor is there sympathy for those who cry chacha.
The law of karma is agnostic to religion. Or rather, what we profess as our religion.
The oppressor shall turn into the oppressed. The tyrant becomes the victim.
And I have only one piece of advice for the ex-cricketers who brandish swords or wish to go nuclear. Beware when a child suppresses a sob or a mother holds back her wail. Beware when a tear goes dry before it has a chance to well up. When decades of oppression is turned back upon you not out of violence but as retribution from God.
Because when God listens, you have only one option. To beg for forgiveness and repent. And if you do not do so, you will be worse off next time far more than you are now.
This is the time to reflect and bend your knees. To justify oppression from us while suggesting everyone fight oppression from them is hypocrisy. More vile than the worst degradation possible to man.
Terrorism has no religion, they say. Nor does oppression.
Is God Really Listening?
I left Kashmir in March 1991, thinking that I would be back home in a couple of months. My sister and I packed one suitcase between the two of us to go to Delhi. I was very young and very naive. My sister was a kid in school. No one dissuaded us to the contrary — our parents let us believe that everything would be normal in a few months and we would be able to resume our lives as we knew it.
It’s been over 28 years since. Our parents also left, as did thousands of others. I haven’t been back home in all these years and neither have thousands of others. Can’t imagine going there as a tourist — my whole being rebels at the thought. We sold the house that my parents built as we did my paternal and maternal homes.
Looking back, I still consider myself lucky. I didn’t have to stay in a migrant camp. Both, my sister and I could continue our studies in some of the best institutes in the country. Our parents could ensure that. We did build a life for ourselves. But the feeling of loss has always been there. More for the previous two generations. My maternal grandmother passed on in Mumbai — in a land so alien and so different from the world she knew. She had her children and grandchildren around her but it wasn’t home. My mother lives very close to me, but it will never be home for her. Never.
I told myself that we have moved on. But have we? I don’t know.
Today after almost 30 years, people still live in camps in Jammu, in less than human conditions. They left their lands, fields, farms and orchards for the camps of Jammu. Thinking that at least the physical safety of their families would be ensured. They had no means of a livelihood, living on miserable doles from the government. And still carrying on. In camps which get flooded as soon as it rains. No sanitation, no water, no hygiene. But dogged in their belief that they saved their honour and their way of life and customs. And at the receiving end of everyone around them. Because when you are homeless, you are easy game — old or young , it doesn’t matter.
Is God really listening?
I have asked my father this question many times — how did we let it come to this? It was our home, our land, our culture — how did we not see what was happening? How did the very people whom he taught in college want him and others to leave? The people who respected him and would bend over to be of any assistance, hound us out? Why did we forget history — this was certainly not the first instance that this happened — the Kashmir valley has seen seven such exoduses before. He has no answers.
Does Article 370 really matter? Will its removal make the people who turned the land of Rishi Kashyap into hell any better human beings? I don’t know. Will I be able to tell my mother that she can get her home back — I seriously do not know. But it is a step and allows me a ray of hope: that maybe, someday, Kashmir will once again be what it was — the fountainhead of what we call the Sanatan Dharma. And I pray I live to see that day.