The attack on Amarnath yatris is horrifying, serves no purpose, God-fearing Kashmiri in deep sorrow
The attack on Amarnath yatra pilgrims, killing seven and injuring several, is not just extremely tragic and shocking, but totally against the very concept of Kashmiriyat. It’s hard if not impossible to believe that any Kashmiri could have carried out such a horrifying attack on the pilgrims. In my near 30-year-long (right from 1990) association with the Valley Kashmiris, I haven’t come across a single Kashmiri who had a word to say against the yatris or the yatra. In fact, on the contrary, Kashmiris used to look forward for the yatra to take off and to be there as part of the support system. As several of my Pandit Kashmiri friends would say, the yatra wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Muslim Kashmiris who seemed all too happy to be there… to reach out to the yatris coming from the various parts of the country.
There is a definite historical backdrop to this:The cave-shrine was discovered by a Muslim shepherd in 1850 and his family together with Hindu priests were its custodians for decades till the state government set up a board to regulate the yatra in 2000…
Let me also recount what the late Dr. Nitish Sengupta had told me during the course of an interview. Before that, this vital backgrounder to him: bureaucrat turned politician Dr Nitesh Sengupta had been the one-member committee set up in 1996 by the then Home Minister Indrajit Gupta to look into the Amarnath yatra and the existing yatra facilities, in the backdrop of natural disasters hitting the Amarnath yatra, causing deaths and destruction. Sengupta had come up with about twenty recommendations. Some of which were that yatris should be registered, yatra should be spread out in three stages so that even if natural disasters strike, there’d be lesser chances of casualty. He had also suggested that the Baltal route be activated in order to ease the pressure on the traditional Pahalgam route and also because the new route would be shorter.
And when I asked Sengupta about the togetherness of the Kashmiris and the yatris, he had stressed, “I haven’t ever noticed even the slightest trace of communal feelings amongst the local Kashmiris.” He went on to state, “Kashmiris are not at all communal…on the contrary, local Muslims have stood by the pilgrims. Absolutely no case of looting and harassment by the locals even when pilgrims had fallen ill or were in distress. Let me also say that local Kashmiri Muslims were to first to bring in rescue and relief to the yatris, much before the government machinery could reach…” In fact, Sengupta had been very vocal even during the agitations that had come up soon after news had spread of land transfer to the Amarnath Shrine Board…. He’d told me, “I want to say that politicians in general should stop the practice of taking political advantage of human problems. This present mess-up is because of mishandling of the situation by the government and there's been failure of the intelligence agencies… Now people have to be addressed, misconceptions removed, facts told. Facts are that there is no formal transfer of land and there would be no demographic changes. Only temporary structures were to be built for the facilities of the yatris. I feel that these facts have not been projected and the government should not have cancelled that land allotment. If I was fluent in Urdu I would go and address the people of the Valley and tell them these facts.”
LET POLITICS NOT TAKE OVER THIS TRAGEDY!
Today, when this massive tragedy has taken place, Kashmiris are sitting shaken. Condemning this horrifying violence, they are in deep sorrow. Mourning and wondering who could have attacked pilgrims…after all, an average Kashmiri is God-fearing and is well too aware of the relevance of the various shrines and religious places that the Kashmir region is blessed with. Yes, it’s a truly blessed region where shrines and dargahs, mosques and mandirs, gurudwaras and cathedrals of the different faiths stand tall.
Many even refuse to believe that the yatris were targeted, rather could be targeted! They are going by the theory doing the rounds that the bus carrying the yatris was caught in cross firing between the security forces and militants.
There are worries and apprehensions that politics will hold sway, paving way for further dents on the social fabric. Not just in the Kashmir Valley but in the entire country; fed that we are on a daily dose of communal poisoning unleashed by vested powers.
Today lets collectively mourn the death of the seven yatris. And pray for the recovery of the injured. And also do our bit to let sense prevail; let politicians and their politics not ruin us …dent our togetherness.
OF BOOKS AND WRITERS…
As freshly launched books are hitting the stands, I keep marvelling at our writers’ sheer output. Correct me if I’m wrong but the one and only sphere where we seem to be going ahead is on the book front! Books as never before!
In fact, it wouldn’t be amiss to say that efforts should be in that get-set-going pace to try and reach some of these books to all those who are going through turbulent times. I’m reminded of what academic writer, Sudhamahi Regunathan, had told me during the course of an interview: “Stories reach where nothing else can. A story is told that a businessman wanted his son to learn and he sent him to several acharyas. The boy did not learn; in fact, he ran away from them. Finally, one teacher managed to teach him and that he did so by telling him stories. Soon, through a path that looked exciting, the teacher led him to the underlying lesson in each story…We should have story-telling sessions and that there is nothing wrong in highlighting the morals. For, when you live in a society, there has to be some lessons on basic etiquettes, concern for others and the ways of the world. That is called culture.”
And though there are several activists working with the disadvantaged children, but I know of only one writer who is doing so, by reaching out through books. Yes, it’s the well-known New Delhi-based novelist-writer, Mridula Koshy, who runs a library-cum-reading room for the slum children of a South Delhi colony. To the ‘why’, she tells me, “I founded the community library along with my partner, Michael Creighton. It is one of the many projects within the NGO, Deepalaya. Although, I was a volunteer when I started working in the organisation, today I work as a staff member. The bulk of work in the library is accomplished by dozens of volunteers and library members, and majority of them are children…I am a mother of three and I got involved in Deepalaya, because I wanted the right environment for my children to grow up in. So, my involvement is a ‘selfish act’. Martin Luther King Jr very rightly said, ‘An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I realised that while my children enjoyed all the benefits of growing up with books and quality education, children elsewhere were deprived of the same privileges… Poor readership for books in India disturbed me as a writer. Again, my self-interest was at play when I started hauling a bag of books across the nallah that separates my upper-middle class home from the shanties of the children who are now members of the library. It wasn’t long before the children’s hunger for books increased to a cupboard from a bag. Thirty books were replaced by a few hundred, and eventually Deepalaya gave an entire room to the project. It enabled us to stock a few thousand books for 700 children and adults, who come to the library today.”
BOOKS ARE CRUCIAL CONNECTORS!
Yes, books build bridges, helps one to connect. This summer I read three ‘impactful’ books - Sanchit Gupta’s The Tree With a Thousand Apples (Niyogi Books), Manju Kapur’s Brothers (Penguin) and Marion Molteno’s If you can walk, you can dance ( Niyogi Books ).
They are different in terms of the storyline, settings, characters, plots, yet there is a connect. These works focus on the human being and with that those struggles and pains, turmoil and tragedies each one of the characters goes through, rather is destined to go through.
Whilst Sanchit Gupta’s book focuses on the Kashmir Valley and how the havoc is affecting lives, Manju Kapur’s novel dwells on human relationships in the backdrop of feuds within a Rajasthan-based business family, Marion Molteno’s novel is about a young woman’s life on the run across frontiers and cultures, ‘from southern Africa to the 1970’s London, it weaves the music of Africa and Europe through the patterns of work, love and politics in which she tries to find meaning in her everyday life.’
Days after I finished reading these three books, I kept introspecting on the very fragility of human relationships and forms. Not to overlook the psyches!