Kasheer bares betrayal of Kashmiri Pundits

The biggest plus point of Kasheer is that it bares the diabolical betrayal of the Kashmiri pundits, in a manner seldom attempted by any historian, scholar or intellectual ever before. The potential best seller, coming like a breath of fresh air, is based on an indisputable array of facts, figures and events, painstakingly dredged up from the bowels of history, yet shorn of the cringing sentimentalism and spurious secularism characterizing Kashmir today.

Kasheer pulverizes many myths and fabricated narratives fostered so assiduously by Jihadi-separatist combine, their apologists, left liberals and human rights lobby, with a disturbing if brutal honesty. Nothing could have been more timely or relevant than the author’s presentation and treatment of the subject matter, in a fictional format, especially when the country is virtually under siege by the highly inimical forces.

To most of the people, Kashmiri pundits are a forgotten lot, relegated to the footnotes of history and condemned to eke out a miserable existence in the lanes and by lanes of Delhi, Jammu and elsewhere, compromising their dignity and well being as human beings. Their cry for justice has been callously ignored, both by the political executive and the judiciary that otherwise propagates peace, inclusivity and justice for all. The forces of bigotry and fanaticism, which drove out the unfortunate community, the original inhabitants of the Kashmir, virtually at gunpoint and the vicious assaults on their womenfolk, must be having the last laugh.

The widely acclaimed Kasheera, originally published in Kannada, is Ms Sahana Vijaykumar second novel which has gone through five reprints. She has portrayed their plight with plenty of poignancy and sensitivity, coming up with a narrative that holds up a mirror to the pervasive tragedy, while condemning the all consuming hatred and bigotry. She sheds light on the hidden springs that move and motivate them to carry on their battle of survival in spite of so many adversities. Ms Kumar lets the characters speak for themselves, rather than resort to vacuous mawkishness.

The multi-layered novel is peopled with believable characters with all their frailties and strengths, some sustained by sheer hope amid inhuman conditions and unfolding hardships. There are characters like Basher Ahmed, who is affected by the tide of intolerance, his sons Asif who becomes a blood thirsty terrorist and ends up being shot dead by the Army and simpleton Anwar; taxi operator Salim; Kailash Masterji, who seeks justice in vain for his daughter, victimized and killed by Jihadis; even some rapacious Hindus who charge the refugees four times the normal rent.

Then there are couples like Sanjeev and Aarti Kaul. They are the living embodiment of how countless families are ruined by the sudden and traumatic disruption, even as they pick up the threads of life. They continue to retain their humanness and battle the odds valiantly, in their new ‘abode’ which passes for homes, which could be a makeshift tent, or a dilapidated structure; where each minute is a struggle for survival. For instance, fetching something as basic as a pail of water, for those living in so called flats, entail several trips to the ground level, necessitating a step by step ascent several stories higher!

Consequently, their conjugal life is in tatters and Aarti is never able to conceive again.  And lastly scholar Narendra, steeped in Indic values and ideals of Sanatan Dharma, is central to the narrative, radiating positivity and the courage of his convictions. He relies on research and facts to demolish half baked narratives and falsehoods. Never at a loss for words, Narendra wins the day, including live TV debates, with a cool rationality and irrefutable logic.

Ms Kumar is also scathing in her criticism of words like punya, which “motivated our kings to turn overly righteous and forgiving. A Muslim invader, once spared, would not only return with a more massive army, but also come prepared with deceitful stratagems. How did Prithviraj lose to Mohammed Ghori, whom he had beaten several times? Wasn’t it after he stood his army down and sent them to refresh themselves, following a ceasefire declared by Ghori.”

The author also adds: “Those with government jobs, perhaps had the financial security to some extent, but those relying on agricultural or business income, when they had to give up everything and literally live on the streets, how might they have managed their lives? If today there is a large Kashmiri Diaspora overseas, it is only a testament to their steadfast pursuit of education. Otherwise, they had plenty of reasons to fight for reservation as an oppressed and aggrieved community.”

Security forces deployed in the Valley (Kashmir) have to walk the razor’s edge, facing unknown dangers lurking in every nook and cranny. When a 100 strong rabble of stone-pelters spots and targets a quartet of CRPF troopers, they rush into an empty shop and try to pull down the shutters, to escape their fury. But many more hands try to pull the shutters up, with the recent memories of a trooper’s lynching still being fresh in their minds. “Drag those shaitans out, thrash and kill them,” yells the blood thirsty mob.

Just as the troopers felt that their hands would give up against the overwhelming strength of the crowd, they hear the Army arrive firing warning shots before rescuing them. Once they are out of the shop, the mob has grown 300 strong. The four CRPF men shudder to think of the consequences. They wonder how they would get out of the clutches of now 300 strong mob? Until the major commanding the Army men thinks up of an innovative approach. He ties up the ring leader to the front fender of his jeep. The crowd disperses. This passage has obviously been inspired by Major Gogoi’s daring act in real life.

There are references to ‘famous’ Lal Chowk, the exact spot where Nehru hugged Sheikh Abdullah, one where the separatists and mobs assemble to hold protests and stage marches; the Kheer Bhavani temple— famous for extraordinary mystic powers. The popular belief goes that the water in the pond “changes colour before an impending doom. In 1990 (the year of Kashmiri Pandits’s exodus) it is said that the sacred waters had turned black! There is reference to the balamuri Ganesh temple where his trunk is curled to the right, instead of the left, known for the serenity of his aura. There is the Martand Sun Temple. Initially Sultan Butshikan couldn’t even move a pillar but then demolished it the greatest of difficulty.

Kailash masterji is eye witness to how the Muslim community is being poisoned, by the rabble-rousing speeches of maulvis. The boy Asif whom he taught with all his heart and soul in his own home, becomes indoctrinated has turned into an implacable kaffir hating foe, ravishes his daughter then brutally does her to death and also kills her brother. But at last Bashir has a change of heart, repents and becomes instrumental in saving hundreds of Kashmiri pundits. 

Book Review: Kasheer: A Diabolical Betrayal of Kashmiri Hindus
Author: Sahana Vijaykumar
Publisher: Garuda Prakashan
Pages: 404

Price: Rs. 399

Buy : https://garudabooks.com/kasheer