Ever since I read my first book on the Hindu Pandit exodus from Kashmir, I’ve been more and more drawn to it. No, I am not a sadist or apathetic, but for the fact that such real incidents have a deep impact on me, and reading about them just makes me ponder over life much more maturely. Kaash Kashmir by Rajesh Talwar is a short play set primarily in the valley, before, during, and after the above mentioned shameful incident which would set the stage for future terrorist activities from across the border in our country.
Rohan and Ayesha’s blooming love is nipped in the bud when the beautiful valley of Kashmir is rocked with the slogans of Azaadi by Islamic insurgents, Azaadi from India, of which it is a part of and Azaadi from the Hindu Pandits co-inhabiting the state with them. With threats and assaults becoming a regular part of the Pandits’ lives, on 19th January 1990, the Hindu minority flee the valley in the dead of the night to Jammu where most of them end up in camps and ultimately become refugees in their own country.
Years later, when Rohan, now a major in the Indian Army is posted in the valley, memories of the past come rushing to him. Between the sinister motives of the terrorist groups and a divided civilian population, will Rohan and Ayesha ever be able to meet again?
Whenever I read a play, I usually get distracted by all the names that appear, along with all the bracketed stuff. The method I resort to then is to give a miss to such factors that break my flow and voila, a play becomes as good as a narration. Written in simple present, this play has its share of both good and bad. Editing was a key problem and so were the repeated explanations for a few things. Background research has been done in detail and the corresponding source was given which helped me pick up my next book on the same topic.
Over the years, many attacks by the terrorists, both external and internal, have scarred our country, but nothing comes even close to the Pandit tragedy of 1990 for me. There may still be many worst incidents that I don’t know of, but I believe none will have the impact that this particular incident has on me every single time I read about it. Having lived in a place for thousands of years, generations after generations yet forced to leave it to become homeless in one’s own country by miscreants is no short of total heartbreak. Me, you and all those who were more blessed than these poor souls can’t even begin to comprehend the stress, anxiety, and fear put upon them by a fraction of people who hide behind the mask of religion and plan sinisterly from the comfort of their plush sofas, causing a rift so huge which till date hasn’t been mended despite the repeated attempts.
The subsequent deployment of the army in the valley proved not a boon but only made matters worse which continues still. From the time of the partition, India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads for Kashmir, the 1948 and 1965 Indo-Pak war, and Kargil war, the frequent violations of the ceasefire at the LoC, border skirmishes and military standoffs make sure that the valley is never at peace. Sure, there are two sides to every coin, and the army is not devoid of accusations. What the terrorists do in the name of religion and Holy Jihad, the army does in the name of protection. An eye for an eye, it is.
With the situation worsening over time, new terrorist organizations cropping up more than ever before and recruiting young men and women to carry out their dirty deeds, the army not so far behind in using tricks to control them and the civilians suffering because of assaults on a daily basis, the valley has lost its soul. What I hope for? I hope for the valley to return to its original beauty, the one our ancestors used to call Heaven on Earth and that someday, I’ll get to see it with my eyes and not just reminiscence about the time when it was such.