A Night of Wilderness
Sh. K.N. Koul
Kashmir has been victim of tragedies,
recent one being of international magnitude. There have been massacres such as
Wandhama and Sangrampura. Men in large numbers have been killed and women raped
and properties usurped by the majority community. All this has been done in
tandem with nefarious machinations of our neighbour. Kashmiri pundits have been
subjected to atrocious communal violence and forced to migrate from Kashmir on
an unprecedented scale. People having no specific place to go landed mostly at
Jammu where they were asked to stay in tents. In intense heat some died being
unable to bear the miserable situation. Some were bitten by snakes and died.
Some experienced suffering on account of diseases unknown. Government
attitude was unfortunately apathetic
and so has been the attitude of International community. While happenings in
Europe echoed everywhere and related questions, for solutions, were raised in
forums like United Nations, about pundits not a word was heard from any of these
sources. It has indeed been a sad and tearful story.
While at macro level so much has been
thrown out by various sufferers, at micro level much is still to come. This
writer therefore, desires to say something that took place with him and his
The writer was born, brought up,
educated and later married in Kashmir. He got service in Kashmir in an Institute
that had its spread all our India. As such, he got frequent transfers and had to
serve his employers in far flung areas of this country. The writer, in the
circumstances, could not think of settling till he retired from service in 1983.
He had intense longing to be in Kashmir, which he called his motherland. He
intensely felt to settle somewhere in Srinagar and have a house at the place.
Though communal virus had started surfacing here and there, the writer and his
family had delusional belief and a feeling that everything will settle down.
There used to be communal riots in the past but communities would patch up and
events would cool down. They had been living as such during centuries together.
During riots, though properties were affected here and there, not a single
killing or raping was there. The majority community always desisted from such
vices and adjustments took place with return of peace and normalcy in course of
The writer purchased land for housing in
1987, around thousand yards, at Qayum colony Rawalpura situated on old airport
road. The land was orchard land with apple and many other plump luscious fruit
bearing trees. Some such trees were left untouched in the hope to have sweet
fruit in years to come. The boundary wall was completed all over except on one
side where a treacherous neighbour with evil designs on our land lived. The
stone demarcation was however built up indicating our possession on that side.
The teething trouble relating to boundary was overcome and issues settled with
surrender or acquisition of land here and there. The greedy neighbour was trying
to declare himself as a cultivator so that he could be a tenant with rights in a
portion of land. He was fought and such rights disallowed to him legally and
In 1988 the family thought of
construction of a house. A contractor named Maqbool with his short name as Maga
was chosen for the purpose. Maga had his tantrums and had to be tactfully
tackled. He would holiday for a large number of days and my plans would get
disturbed delaying schedules. The writer also had to move to villages in search
of good and reliable materials, undergoing a hard life never experienced ever
before. Once, while pulling up wheel
of his car from a ditch, created by an uprooted fruit tree, the writer got his
spinal cord muscles pulled up and had to work with writhing pain.
He would lie down on a spread sheet of
cloth just on bare ground. The writers’ absence would mean stoppage of work in
which case the workers would move elsewhere and create affiliations there.
Coaxing them to work at their erstwhile site posed difficulties.
The construction got ready around Nov.
1989 and all essential items, from our rented house, were shifted thereto.
Meanwhile, nefarious plans of the majority community reached their pinnacle and
difficulties for Pundits increased manifold. Declaration of bandhs and hartals
became frequent and plying of vehicles by our members became difficult. Cries of
Nallai Taqbir filled the sky everywhere. Once writer’s car was attacked, with
stones, and glass panes, lights and mudguards etc broken. The car was damaged
badly. The attackers were ready to attack the writer and his grandson aged 10,
when the Muslim driver and an electrician, who occupied front seats, rose up and
saved us. The child was bleeding perhaps hit by glass pieces scattered all over.
At another time, a three wheeler who wilfully touched his vehicle with ours
stopped us and started rebuking and asking for damages; there were none as per
our assessment. The writer forcefully drove out of the murky atmosphere, but the
rickshaw driver followed to his residence. There some Muslim friends drove him
back, telling him that there were no damages to his vehicle and that his claim
was unjust and frivolous.
When on foot,
we tried to avoid awe inspiring roads and bridges. We used by lanes and crossed
river Jhelum by boats. While leaving, boatman or others in the boat threw
pebbles at our backs treating us heathens, or kafirs or infidels. In Mecca they
do so at a particular place where they say that a Shetan deserving a stone lives
there. The atmosphere appeared
tense, and the writer thought shifting of family out of the valley. The place,
made hellish by our erstwhile brethren, seemed unliveable and this was done on
priority basis. The writer learned later, that the bus carrying his family
members was attacked by mobs at three places and the passengers thought it to be
their end. The police escort with the bus however, saved the situation at all
places by their intervention
Being alone and having no place to stay
the writer decided to stay in the newly built house for some days and then to
decide what to do. Idea was to do something towards watch and ward of the
property just created and then to follow children who had already left. Looking
however to surroundings my pundit neighbours had already left and the place for
the writer looked desolate. He however, took courage and stayed at the house
asking the driver to be with him which the man obediently did.
Some Muslim neighbour who had worked for
the writer’s house called on him and told him to
leave the place as early as possible. They said that the writer was
exposed to elimination and death because he was a pundit. It was fear and fear
all over and the writer did not know what to do. I t was equally desolation and
wilderness that was heart throbbing. The writer decided to pass the awful night
and leave early morning. Fear was all over, and sounds emanating from any source
caused consternation and the feeling, lest anybody with designs to kill was
there to execute his foul designs. It was truly a night of wilderness both
within and outside.
Early morning the writer packed up and
asked the driver to attend to his car and take to the wheel. A known Muslim
neighbour met us and informed that there was a scuffle in which Maga who was now
Assistant Commandant and in-charge of the area had been captured by CRP and put
behind the bars. He had some days before shot dead four Air Force Officers.
These officers were waiting at the nearby chowk for their army vehicle to take
them to their offices. The atmosphere had worsened all the more in the area.
The writer while leaving had a lasting
look at the house and its surroundings. He saw about hundred or so birds perched
on the balcony and other places of the house. These birds mostly ‘bulbuls’
were chirping perhaps telling people that they also had lost their habitat which
meant fruit trees in their case. Never the less they looked pleasing to the eye,
though these had a common problem vis-a-vis fleeing Pundits from the
It was 1st December 1989, we
proceeded towards Jammu. Road looked desolate with fear and awe everywhere. At
Qazigund Dogra shops which
provided food and essentials to tourists were closed. We had a cup of tea from
some Sardar Ji and proceeded further so as to leave the boundary of wilderness
and be somewhere in Jammu territory. We made it and heaved a sigh of relief. The
losses incurred were however, eating our vitals inside, with no way to console
Much water has flown down the river
bringing in its wake consequent changes. Some are good and some bad. We got
enmeshed with diverse communities. Our boys married girls from outside our
community and so has been done by our girls. We have lost our singular and
cohesive identity as a community. We are now neither here nor there, rather not
anywhere. The writer feels this to be our greatest loss.
A friend met Maga in Jammu jail. Maga
was in tears. He said that he was living a lavish life with a chicken at his
dinner every day and was now leading a wretched jail life. He cursed his
Jihadist advisers who he said put him in the wrong and gave false hopes.
The writer visited Kashmir in 1993, and
in company of police escort paid a visit to the house. He found a family living
there rearing sheep in one bed room and kitchen. His son had been killed by the
Army and Jihadists had handed him over, this house including the attached land
as compensation. There was awful smell coming from all sides and none from
outside could stand to it. The house stands sold distressfully for a small sum
and has now been brought to its envisaged shape by its lucky purchaser.