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Friday, Dec 06, 2019

It’s yesterday once more

I called up my colleague in Srinagar to enquire about his welfare. He spoke of the chaos, the fear, the announcements from the mosque. Listening to him, I was flooded with memories. Ashutosh Sapru recalls.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2008 21:42 IST
Ashutosh Sapru
Ashutosh Sapru
Hindustan Times

As the Kashmir situation worsened, I called up my colleague Peerzada Ashiq in Srinagar to enquire about his welfare. He spoke of the chaos, the fear, the announcements from the mosque, the slogans that were resounding all around.

“They are shouting khooni lakir tod do, aar par jod do (break the boundaries and join the two halves),” he said.

Listening to him, I was flooded with memories. I remembered the same place, a similar unrest, but another time and another slogan: Ralieu, milieu ya chalieu (if you do not join us, you must leave us).

I am referring to January 19, 1990. Who would have thought my birthday would also become the anniversary of my uprooting from Kashmir? Indeed the uprooting of all Kashmiri Pundits from the Valley.

There had been no portents. On the contrary, most of the day was normal. We had our winter holidays. I woke late, played cricket after lunch — Hindu and Muslim boys together. By 11 pm, I was under the quilt, kangri (a fire pot) in hand, when the phone rang. Since there was no electricity, it took me a while to get to the phone. By the time I did, it had stopped ringing. I waited, but it didn’t ring again. I was back in bed when I thought I heard one of the neighbours scream. Kati che mein budd shark behai marak saari (give me a knife, I will kill them all), he was shrieking.

The phone rang again. This time I got to it in time. It was our neighbour, Kudah uncle, asking for father. My father spoke to him in grave tones, my mother, my sister and I waited wordlessly. Putting down the receiver, my father said a meeting at the local mosque had openly declared jihad against the Indian government.

Now they wanted Kashmiri Pundits to join the jihad. We stayed awake all night as my father and his friends gathered at the nearby Durga Mandir to discuss the situation. By next evening, a steady trickle of Pundits had begun leaving the Valley. My sister and I joined them.

There was nothing special about my first time in an aircraft, except that the flight took me away from my home forever.