Updated: Nov 30, 2021
I have written a lot on how I felt as a teen leaving valley due to a genocide forced on my community. Last year as my father, Shri Jawahar Lal Raina, (I would address him as JL in this article) got unwell and I dedicated more time in his service enabling me to see my torments through his eyes. I am a father too, and I could realise that there is no catastrophe bigger than losing the sight of your son and the storm it brings being unsure of future of children.
On 14 September 1989, Tika Lal Tap loo, who was a lawyer and a BJP member, was murdered by the JKLF in his home in Srinagar. Soon after Taproot's death, Nilkanth Ganjoo, a judge of Srinagar High court who had sentenced Maqbul Bhat to death, was shot dead on 4 November 1989. In December 1989, members of JKLF kidnapped Dr. Rubaiya Sayeed, daughter of the-then Union Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed demanding release of five militants, which was subsequently fulfilled. On 4 January 1990, Srinagar-based newspaper Aftab released a message, threatening all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to the militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen. On 14 April 1990, another Srinagar based newspaper named Al-safa republished the same warning. The radicals with whom we spent our child hood intimidated the Hindus by sloganeering from thousand of mosques, narray takbeer ..allahoakbar and ai zaleemo ai kafiron,
Kashmir hamara chudh do.
One more slogan that haunts me is Raliv Gal iv CATCHALL. This meant either you convert or you die or you damn go away, was part of propaganda material sent from across on cassettes to be played on the speakers of 2 lakh mosques at the same time with resonance. One more slogan asi gachi Pakistan, batta marokh ti batenyan saan, meaning that we will make Kashmir Pakistan and we will kill kashmiri Hindus and keep their women folk as war booties.It was hard to believe that things could get worse. But the tide ran higher and higher, and the waves finally crashed on to JL when one day my youngest brother ran into the house, desperately hiding his face Jihadi! Jihadi! Jihadi! " he was saying as he had confronted his friend in the street. His name had been included in the hit list pasted on the mosque.
When a man has roots so deep and faith so strong, the destruction of his faith on his own students is an awesome catastrophe. JL was a teacher who had taught many students who had turned hostile. Frantically, knowing about the consequences he was lost for some miracle as he searched for some way out, and his path led to my uncle at Jammu. He called him to take his younger son out of Kashmir, as the eldest one had already left for seeking job outside. He did lock himself in his room for two days and two nights, remaining there hunched over his books thinking of statement of one of his friend at work. He was told what extreme can happen and if things worsen. You just need to read a kalima and accept the faith which would free him and his family from any further damage.
Accept Islam! Accept Islam! A thousand times he thought about it as he would remember that he used to threaten his brothers during some mundane fight that he will say Islam Zindabad in a lighter moment. On the third morning he walked from the study, haggard, and looked into my mothers anxious eyes and repeated many times, “ I cannot do it, " he whispered. " We must plan to leave Jammu with the children immediately."A terrible fear overtook him now for every moment that his family remained. Every knock on the door, every movement outside, every footstep brought a new terror he had never known.
JL made his plans. First, the younger son would go to live with his brother in Jammu. JL had lot to worry as his mother was ill and nearly on a death bed and she could not travel far. After she would come through and her strength had returned they would join the caravan of refugees. It was not at all hopeless. Once the family was safe he could worry about himself. But that night the day before departure of his younger son for whom his brother had come to take him to Jammu, his mother health deteriorated, she needed several weeks to convalesce thus he got stuck badly with his wife and me. Panic seized JL as he had visions of his family being trapped and never able to escape the approaching holocaust. In a few days the situation worsened and he came to know that all pandiths have been forced to leave due to extensive propaganda and more killings on the streets in the city of Srinagar.
I was his primary concern now, as I was adamant to stay and not to leave them alone. JL swallowed and slumped down, into his place where he used to sit, after calling me. He picked up a sheaf of papers from his bag and handed over to me which I needed to carry personally to my elder brother to Jammu. As per him it was an employers letter asking my brother to join their concern at Himachal forthwith. I could guess that it was an excuse enough to force me leave them and save myself.I clung drowsily to my book as he knelt before me. In my half sleep I could smell that wonderful smell of his panama cigarette ." It is going to be a important trip, Raju, Just like going to your uncle every winter. "
" But I don't want to, Daddy. " I pleaded.
" Well, now ... look at all other Hindu boys are going. "
" But I don't want them. I want you and Mommy and Amaji. "
He looked but his eyes could not meet my eyes as he was afraid that I might see his hidden tears.
In the morning the bus grumbled into motion. He just froze alongside, screaming farewell. As the bus passed he looked up and saw me as I was sitting calmly on the rear seat. He put his hand to his head and waved as he watched my tiny figure grow smaller and smaller and smaller. What happened to me on my journey to Jammu has already been published in a previous issue of Naad.