by Kuldeep Raina
corpus of literature
produced by Displaced Kashmiri writ
ers during the past
seventeen years remains substantial.
Much of this literature belongs
to the realm of poetry,
where nostalgia for the lost
homeland and religious
devotionalism form the main
theme. With few exceptions,
Displaced Kashmiri writers have
steered clear of the option of addressing
the core issue i.e. ethnic-
cleansing and its varied dimensions.
They have shown reluctance
to focus - the forces responsible
of Kashmiri Hindus'
displacement, the social milieu
which facilitated the genocide,
the cultural effacement in the
wake of cleansing, the state response
and the futuristic vision
etc. No wonder, the mass of the
Displaced Community finds this
literature irrelevant, redundant
and delinked from their actual
life and aspirations.
Displaced Kashmiri writers
have not contributed much by
way of short story writing/fiction
to dilate on the theme of displacement.
Just two works of fiction - '
In the shadow of Militancy',
by Prof. Tej Nath Dhar
have appeared in this prolonged
exile. Besides this, there are two
collections of short stories--
'Atank Ke Bheej' by Avtar
Krishan Razdan and 'We were
and we will be' by Parineeta
Khar and few short stories by
Hriday Koul Bharti.
Lottey Huvay' (While returning
2004-January 2005, by Gouri
Shankar Raina, has all the ingredients
of a good short story and
is written quite artistically. The
story is set in post-1990 Kashmir,
ravaged by terrorism, where
from the indigenous Kashmiri
Pandit community stands banished.
The victims of cleansing
are unable to visit their homes.
Nevertheless, their yearning to
see again their 'fallen homeland',
remains constantly alive. 'Kshir
Bhawani Yatra, conducted under
strict security, becomes an occasion-
not only to pay obeisance
to the Goddess Ragniya but also
to steal a glimpse of their homeland.
It is a torturing experience
for the people that they cannot
visit their homes where they have
been living since ages.
In 'Lottey Huvay' Kashi Nath,
the protagonist in the story, too
decides to avail the opportunity
of 'Kshir Bhawani pilgrimage'.
He visits Kashmir in the company
of his son, Pushkar. The
latter was a student of 5th standard
at the time of displacement.
Kashi Nath used to live in
Tankipora locality in the vicinity
Habbakadal, once the hub of
Kashmiri Pandit community.
Pushkar presently was serving as
a bank employee.
For centuries, Kashmiri
Pandits have been living on the
banks of the Vitasta. This river
was a part of their religio-cultural
folklore. They used to celebrate
its birthday, a phenomenon
unique to Kashmir,
Truvah' with great pomp, gaiety
and sanctity. They would
conduct elaborate rituals and the
river would wear a festive look
on this occasion. Even till 1990,
most of the localities along the
shores of the Vitasta in Srinagar
city were predominantly Pandit
and permeated with Pandit ethos.
Kashi Nath had intended to
cover yatra in two days. While
returning from Tulumulla, the
pilgrim’s bus halted at Dalgate
for refreshments. Aftab Mir,
spots his neighbour and friend
Kashi Nath among the pilgrims.
When Kashi Nath tells Mir that
he had come on pilgrimage and
was on way to Jammu, Mir asks
him if he would not like to see
his home. Kashi Nath turns grim
and is unable to decide. Finally,
Mir takes Kashi Nath and his son
Pushkar with him to Tankipora.
The members of Mir's family
receive 'the guests' warmly. The
two families ruminate about the
good old days when they shared
each others' joys and sorrows. As
the dusk set in, Mir carried Kashi
Nath to his house across the
compound. In the abandoned
house, Kashi Nath showed to
Pushkar the room where the family
used to conduct rituals - the
was lost in deep thought while
looking at what once used to be
his sweet home. In evenings every
Kashmiri Pandit family used
to light an earthern lamp
(Sandhya Chong) to honour the
memory of the dead. In a flash
of moment Kashi Nath went to
fetch a packet of candles and lit
these on the platform where once
his wife used to wash the clothes.
Neither Mir nor Pushkar could
comprehend the significance of
what Kashi Nath was doing.
At dinner time Mir brought
all the valuables which Kashi
Nath had kept in his safe custody
at the time of departure.
Kashi Nath, the only things
which still retained value were
the pictures which used to be
hung on the walls of his house.
The following morning -Pushkar
decides to visit his colleague a
Jammuite, recently transferred
from Jammu, at Amirakadal.
When Pushkar does not return
in time, it gives tense moments
to his father. Pushkar was
a precious child, born 15 years
after marriage when Kashi Nath
was past 40. Bad thoughts keep
churning in Kashi Nath's mind.
He wonders whether the city had
devoured his son. He moves to
the river bank and stares at the
direction leading to Amirakadal.
In old times the river bank used
to be full of life. Kashi Nath recollects
the day of 'Vyeth Truvah',
when endless streams of lit
earthern lamps would be seen
floating in the river. Today the
entire surroundings looked desolate,
even the Vitasta lacked energy
and seemed sad. There were
no boatmen waiting to ferry
across college/office going
Pandits to their destinations.
On learning that a bomb blast
had taken place at Amirakadal,
Kashi Nath presumes that the
worse has taken place. He cries
and sobs for his dear son. Aftab
Mir tries to reassure him that
nothing untoward would happen
to his son. Before Aftab's family
could contact the hospital authorities
to know about the identity
of the casualties, Aftab's son
accompanied by a police cop
land in Mir's house. The cop tells
Mir that a blast had taken place
in Koker Bazaar and the police
had taken Pushkar, who was
passing by the street at the time
of blast, for questioning to collect
information about the terrorists
Reassured that his son was
safe, Kashi Nath while looking
at his house, begins experiencing
hallucinations. He sees the
lit Sandhya chong in his house
and his wife, carrying lotus
flower and milk in a plate, going
to the river Vitasta to thank her
for safe return of her son. She
puts lighted earthern lamp on the
lotus leaf and puts it down on
What once used to be
an endless stream of lighted
earthern lamps, the lone
earthern lamp, carried by the
calm Vitasta symbolises the
turbulent times Kashmir was
passing through. The writer
wonders how long even these
visits, symbolised by the lone
lamp on the Vitasta, could go on.
The author succeeds in making
his point-be it the 'Vyeth Truvah',
thanks giving ceremony to the
Vitasta or the 'pictures, depicting
social heritage - that
Kashmiri Pandits valued their
'Kashmiriyat' more than anything
The sad part of the story is
that it leaves two bad impressions,
which negate the reality.
One, it conveys that intercommunal
relations had stood the test
of times even in the times of ethnic-
cleansing. This is simply not
true. If the majority community
had played a rational role, there
would have been no displacement.
Nearly, seven thousand
houses of Pandits have been
damaged/destroyed, hundreds of
houses usurped fraudulently, localities
after localities razed to
the ground. Even Salman
Rushdie, the noted writer, in his
'Shalimar the clown', concedes
that the looted goods from
Pandits' houses used to be sold
in an open market regularly for
many years, with no sense of
outrage from Kashmiri Civil Society.
May be there might be few
families who have played a commendable
role. Does a single
swallow make the summer? If
the behaviour displayed by the
Mir family was the general sentiment,
why should then the sensible
Kashmiri Pandits be rotting
in worse conditions in Jammu
and elsewhere? Secularism cannot
be built by according respectability
to communalism. It
can survive only when intercommunal
relations are crafted on the
basis of equality, toleration, humanism
and respect for each
The other point, equally sinister,
is that security forces'
emerge as the villains, who do
not spare even the pilgrims of the
minority community. Aren't we
adding grist to the propaganda
mill of the anti-national elements.
It is the security forces'
who are combating the forces of
disorder, lawlessness, intolerance
and helping Kashmiri Civil
Society to slowly shed its fear.
When literature becomes a device
to camouflage the reality the
of exile' metamorphoses
Displaced writers could do better.