November 11, 1947. On this day, thousands of women and children committed suicide to save their pride from the raiders who had raided Rajouri.
Kishan Kumar Gupta, 83, witnessed that blood-soaked day. He was 23.
“I lost my mother, my little sister and my wife Narendar Devi who committed suicide,” he said, his eyes moist with tears.
There is a landmark in Rajouri that is a reminder of that day, a small crevice in a wall where criminals used to be hanged during the time of the Maharajas. The revenue official fled towards Jammu with a small regiment of soldiers who could not fight and did not have sufficient ammunition.
“We fought and gave our lives,” he said.
While listening to Gupta, I had a flash back of the 1990s when Kashmiri Hindu women and girl were ready to kill themselves rather than being treated badly.
Rajouri’s Balidan Bhawan memorial has been built in the memory of those who had given their lives in 1947.
One can see photographs with their names written in Urdu or English, displayed inside the walls of the memorial. While cleaning up the place, bones and skulls were found here and a lot of jewellery which was collected and sold to fund the memorial, said Gupta, who runs a provision store and has Muslim employees.
“That was history and this is reality. Life has to move on,” he said, as he picked up the ringing telephone.
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