The Story of Kashmir: A letter to the PM by a Kashmiri Pandit Woman

To, 

Respected Prime Minister of India 

Shri Narendra Modi Ji, 

 

Subject: Aaj Main bhi Azad hu aur mera Kashmir bhi Azad Hai 

 

1997, Jammu City: Bags ruffling, people rushing, sniffer dogs, guns, dim yellow light and army personnel. This was the site of Jammu Railway station when my mother finally decided to leave the state and build a life somewhere new. She had lost too much in the conflict. 

 

I was a little girl aged 5 ish, yet I distinctly remember the anxiety, the panic and fear of death while my family planned to pull of their final escape from the rife stricken state. 

 

My grandmother and mother were discussing plans on how they will save me if someone opened fire in the middle of the station. 

 

Now as a little girl I barely understood the depth of it, but being a child of conflict and life in conflict for the early years of my life gave me the maturity to understand that something was not right at this place. 

 

The journey from our home to the time the train left the station was the scariest thing I remember till date. 

 

The anxiety crept in my body, my heart pondered every time I saw a gun. And my mind was creating scary scenarios of me standing in a pool of blood of my mother and grandmother. 

 

But luckily nothing happened that night we were all safe, we left our roots and our home behind and went on to build a happy safe secure life. 

 

Or so we thought.!! We moved to Madhya Pradesh and started living in a place where no one would walk into our home and shoot the entire family down. 

 

But the fear remained alive amongst my family. Their bodies had left Kashmir and Jammu but their minds, hearts and souls were still stuck in Rainawari( their ancestral home). 

 

While growing up, unlike other kids who hear fairytales of Prince charming and Cinderella my sister and I heard harrowing stories of mass murders, genocides, rape, beheadings, selected killings, fear, torture and death that gripped Kashmir right before the Pandits were forced to leave the valley. My family was among those who fled overnight to Jammu in 1990. 

 

But unfortunately, they never left. They kept living that nightmare over and over again. A thousand times, a million times repeated it to each other, told me and my sister without even realizing what they were doing to two naïve, young, volatile minds. The stories never ended, in our joint Kashmiri Migrant family (an unfortunate status given to us). 

 

From bedtime stories these became dinner conversations, meanwhile, the conflict in the valley was aggravating and our migrant family was still unable to cope up with the trauma they had witnessed on that one fateful night of escaping in a back of a truck to the few months preceding it. 

 

The problems started to manifest. My sister and I were not allowed to play outside as my family feared we could get hit by a bullet. We were not allowed to go to public places as our family felt that we could be bombed there. Our parents were too scared when we participated in Independence Day and Republic Day celebrations at our school, as they feared those were the days with maximum risks. 

 

At that time my sister and I both felt angry but as we grew up we started to see the pain and anguish my family was living in. How for 29 years they lived and relived the trauma again and again. How they passed every single day of their life fearing something that happened to them in Kashmir would happen again. 

 

When people talk about J&K the only target point is the people who are living in the valley. Nobody ever talks about Kashmiri Pandits. Many now argue they built a beautiful life outside the valley. 

 

But I question anyone and everyone who has ever said that. Do you know the pain and trauma of a forced exile from your home? Do you know what PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) can do to people and their families?? It can destroy them. 

 

I lost 2 grandfathers and one grandmother to those painful stories, who still believed they will go back soon. 

 

Yesterday Sir, you did something we KP’s had been dreaming for the last 2 generations. It was sort of poetic justice to what happened to our ancestors. 

 

I saw a different kind of happiness on my mother’s face yesterday. She was smiling from the heart and all she could talk about at dinner last night was how happy she is that she voted for you. And that she would continue to do so every time you stood up. 

 

All I want to say is Thank You, Sir. Thank you for making my family smile, I am sure my grandparents must be smiling at us from the heavens and giving you their blessings.

 

What you did was not only helpful for us but also everyone who still lives in the valley. They now have a shot at a normal life. The life for which we left J&K. I thank you on behalf of them, and everyone who wants nothing but peace and prosperity in the land we once called home. 

 

Yours Truly, 

Taniya Tikoo 

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