2008, landed in Srinagar and the first breath of air was familiar to me, it was the same crisp fresh air that I grew up with. I immediately called my wife and attempted expressing my joy and nervousness at being back in my home town after 18 long years.
It was a short walk to the arrival lounge. A make shift arrival lounge with just one conveyer belt working, with people pushing each other to get their luggage like in any other Indian airport. The arrival lounge was full and crowded from the previous flight as passengers were still collecting their luggage. Lots of Gujarati and Maharashtrian tourists I noted. The new Airport was under construction and I thought to myself- prosperity is returning to the Valley.
My mind was preoccupied all through the flight and as I collected my luggage I got a call from my cousin, he had come to receive me since he was visiting the valley at the time. 19 years ago in 1989, after a short vacation in Delhi, my father had come to receive me at the Airport but now it was different. What was I expecting? A strange feeling took hold of me as if all these years didn’t exist and they suddenly seemed to have lost their importance. I felt I had never left this place. I hugged my cousin and was happy to see that I wasn’t alone after so many years in my home town. I wish my mother, my older brother, sister and my wife were there with me as I just wanted to share and express the rush of emotions I was grappling with. That actually made me realise further how difficult it must have been and also traumatic for my mother when she visited her lost home and attempted to confront her past in Srinagar in 2006, after almost 16 years.
I had to reach Pahalgam (2 hour drive from Srinagar) for my shoot, so I drove directly from the Airport. Our farms used to be situated on the airport road and I just wanted to see them from outside but I could not recognise the bends and the new development around Badgam and Peerbagh. We took the bypass to Pahalgam which came out straight onto the National Highway. Occasional bunkers and CRPF movement was quite visible along the way. Lots of dilapidated houses on the way of the hindus who had to flee almost two decades ago. Those images made me think and feel…….but today almost 20 years later, there is negligible presence of a culture, of a community that once was native to Kashmir, the original inhabitants of the Kashmir valley with a recorded cultural and civilisational history dating as long back as 5,000 years.
During the peak of militancy in the Valley, during the mass migration of kashmiri hindus, at the time when Pro Pakistan slogans and inflammatory speeches were made from the pulpits of mosques, when public address systems that are meant for prayers were used to create fear. That was also the time when walls were plastered with handbills and posters, Fatwas ordering all Kashmiri’s to strictly follow the Islamic dress code, prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol and imposing a ban on all video parlours and cinemas. Frequent incidents of throwing acid on women who refused to wear Hijab/Burkha. Warnings and notices were pasted on doors of Hindu houses asking them to leave Kashmir within 12-24 hours or face death or worse. “Kafiron bhaag jao” was a common threat heard. I personally had to grow a beard to be able to take my exams so that no one would harass or stop me.
Today an entire generation in the Valley has changed, a whole new generation of people who were born between 1989 and 1999 and were too young to understand what was happening in the Valley.
Today it is their negligence that makes them say, “KASHMIRI HINDU YAHAN SE BHAAG GAYE” (kashmiri hindus ran away). It’s the lack of information or rather misinformation that they have been given by the older generation. I really cannot question an ignorant kid on the road but this statement disturbed me deeply. This should be answered by the older generation who were WITNESS TO ALL THIS during the early nineties. It is NOT to blame anyone but it is their duty not to distort history that is as young as 20 years, it is their duty to educate the youth that violence made all suffer, it is their duty to question their inner self and seek answers and truth as this history will be forgotten very conveniently, it is their responsibility to tell the truth to the next generation that many were made to run away. No one likes to be up-rooted, no one wishes to lose their identity and no one likes to be called a MIGRANT & a RUFUGEE in their own country.
It is not to refresh old wounds but it is also important not to forget. Unless we confront our past we will never find peace in our future as the memories and images shall keep haunting all for generations.
We can build broken bridges provided there is a strong WILL to do so. All have suffered, be it Hindus or Muslims. Now is the time to unite so that we leave a secure and safe Kashmir for the coming generations.
“It is time to look ahead and build broken bridges, if it is not done now…it will never be.”
May peace return to Kashmir and may all wounds get healed.
25 thoughts on “Let’s build those broken bridges”
I can only say Faiz’s lines …………..
“Gulon me rang bhare , Baad – e – nau bahaar chale
Chale bhi aao , ke gulshan ka karobaar chale”
Those are beatuiful lines and loved the song Gulon mein from “Sikandar”.
Just wish the film was promoted well so that it could have reached out to a wider auience.
Well, thanks for your wishes and encouragement.
Loved the article. Lets build the broken bridges to bring unity and peace back in valley!
Bringing back peace is very important but also with the one’s who had to leave. It needs to be peaceful with both the communities residing in the Valley as only those Gardens look beautiful that have all kinds of flowers in them.
I totally agree with you Sanju. When I went in 2004 I was choked to the brim. Habakadal area was really disheartening. We visited the Ganpatiyar Temple there and also Kheer Bhawani Mata Mandir, the Shankracharya Mandir. They were all heavily guarded. I made my way into them explaining i was also an ex-Naval Officer and this was my hometown. Visited Mandir Bag. My previous visit was in 1985 before 2004 and I cried when I looked at our homes from the gate. The wood constructed house was no longer there. A few saw mill items were still there then. I remember Dev Tayaji..it was quite a trip. Your blog makes me remember those roads I walked, totally overwhelmed….and to think of it, I was moajorly jsut born there but grew up all over the country. I can really imagine how it must have been for you. I took Meghtusha and told her whatever i knew, that she should see these places and know her past comes from these places.
A poignant writeup! Yes, the history must never get distorted. Should the truth not make its way to them, it is for us to keep it alive, in the books and stories we write, in the art we express, in the movies we make. Never must we forget or be forgotten. Literature tells more truth of the times than the actual history books written and censored by the government so as to condition our future generations to believe. We each have to do our bit!
I can understand your feelings and emotions very well as they are almost the same for me.
If we dont re-connect soon with our Valley, there will be a time when we will only have references. There won’t be any valid existence of us in the Valley. This needs to change and its time to look ahead and be involved with the Valley.
Its a very important issue that you chosen to write in your blog.
I totally agree with your sentiments and feelings. I think this problem is not only in Kashmir but also with all people who face displacement, not one likes to get an identity of a Refugee.
Lovely blog……keep it up.
Thanks for checking my blog.
Yes, displacement is a global phenomenon. Infact one of our films ,”Megha” deals with that issue. Must have watch when its out.
Now I am feeling threatened as a writer…:). Very beautifully written. wish the govt too would wake up and realise that the kids need to be educated with the correct perspective…inside and outside the valley…so that they all know what they have lost. Education in the valley should not be left only for one sided propaganda.
Perpetuating ignorance is in a way helping maintain status quo and a game of power.
Well, well…………how can you be ever threatened as a writer, not even in jokes 🙂
Your writing is where your direction begins.
Yes i agree with you, the youth needs to be educated and also educate themselves to understand and learn that the world is moving ahead. Last 20 years and have been lost and another 40 will be lost if they dont lead an educated life. I see frustration and opression in those young youngs eyes. Violence and Radicalisation has had a deep impact which needs to addressed immediately.
I hope we can do the workshops in the Valley in 2010 🙂
It was beautifully written article. I have a lot of friends who have been displaced from Kashmir valley and some of them have been threatened to leave within 24 hours.I cannot imagine putting myself in their place.
Thank you for your feedback.
Your reactions are heart warming and sensitive. Wouldn’t want you to imagine yourself in that situation.
What you have expressed is so very true and touching deep down.Though I have not gone through this kind of an experience of displacemnet and uprooting,it still seems so poignant and I don`t think it concerns only with specific area or people.It is something very universal which can happen anywhere with anyone.
We have in our country a place which is called heaven on earth.But due to fears of militancy,death and many other hidden fears we are not able to go and visit it.It`s like heaven taken over by demons of militancy and fear which prevent us to gather the courage and step in to savour the beauty.Everyone wants peace and brotherhood.Only few vested interests keep these issues of community and separation aflame in which only the innocent get burnt and the arsoners are gleeful bystanders watching.
Broken bridges definitely need to be re-built.Today hesitation and fear holds back that first step,that first hand.But I sincerely hope & pray that this would not last long.
Thank you very much for your detailed and important reply.
I do agree with you and also hope that the bridges can be re built. Every small step means we are moving ahead and one day we shall complete our journey. Its not going to be easy but I like the saying, ” Impossible is nothing”.
You have really great taste on catch article titles, even when you are not interested in this topic you push to read it
Thanks for your comment 🙂
As long as it got your attention and if it was worth your time, it makes me happy.
I hope my next one will catch you attention.
Hi Bro…..na Hello Sanjay Bhaiya,
Hope you doing well. I told you in my tweet time will change ,those golden days will be back. You will play squash again.Very touching article.
“if it is not done now…it will never be” true .
Thanks for the Post. Quite a well written article. I too visited kashmir in 2008. I was just 7 years old when i left the valley, but still some old memories of my birthplace were deep buried in my heart. When i visited my place, i almost outburst into tears. It appeared as if we were just some outsiders in our own place. Kashmir- is the real heaven but some miscreants have disturbed the normalcy. Hope all goes well soon..
Phew!!..u got me there…so touching..u made me cry.. 🙁
Jammu is my hometowm..and i have never really been there, except whn we visit Vaishnodevi, once in every 3-4 years…but i keep a very close watch on wat is happening in the valley ‘coz i have very close friends and family living in srinagar… Their updates on FB and twitter keep me updated and also make me wonder whn would this chaos stop!! And why cant they just move out of that God forsaken place??!!!Loosing contact with thm for weeks together during curfews has becoming a regular thing, keep hearing things like, “medicines are not avlbl”, “the children have to do with milk made frm milk powder”, “no diapers in stock for the baby”, “no vegetables”, “no elctrcty”, from them regularly…it pains to know they are under constant threat. What you made me see is a lot different though…there is a bigger picture than medicines and diapers and vegetables…The valley is not to left to the historymakers…so to all those who are there, and fighting strong to hang on to our land and not let it fade away..i am grateful..Kudos ppl!! Keep Going and do all you have to keep the garden fresh..with as many different flowers, as possible.!!
Thank You Sanjay..
i have started visiting from last three years to kashmir valley my native place and i think the situation in valley has changed a lot every body wants to live in peace. I spend most of my time at a village near Anantnag where i have ancestral land. i remenber the fist day when i went to kashmir after migration the whole village came out from their houses and welcomed us in the way that i never expected in my thoughts as i was just 10 years old when we left the place. The love and bonding is still alive in their hearts. Just becoz of some people the peace and prosperity of kashmir got vanished. I agree with Mr. Sanjay suri that we have to take initative to bulid the broken bridges of love and peace.
i have been an ardent fan of yours having seen your selective films as and when i have been able to.I do also recall bumping into you in bombay guess after your first release.
Anyways just to share i never ever seen any of the blogs of any of the actors ever before.However i do recall about your connection with K valley and the rest.
Reading your write up about the Bridges i was surprised and impressed with your insight, views and a simple from heart write up.
way to go..guess shall try to dip in when ever i can to check in case you have any thing more than films to add..good luck
Thanks for your msg on my site.
I shall surely go through your links and articles and revert back.
Very well written article “Lets build those broken bridges” Being in Maharashtra we have never suffered these kind of incidences. I could sense this when we went to Amarnath yatra in2013. we happened to stay in Kashmir and went around gulmarg, sonmarg. Their when we would refuse for sking or taking the sledge the people passed the comments Desi hai ye nahi lenge or denge, the words gave the pain and was disheartning. In our own country why these words? Only few sikhs we saw at mutton, kshirbhavani. The gurdwara at Srinagar was closed with barbed wires, Many houses mutiliated and closed,were giving the sense that whose houses these must be.
Now is the right time to build the bridges all the kashmiri pandits must take back their property rebuild the homes and people like us must support by visiting and making them comfortable.
I love kashmir and wish to visit again and again may be if possible make a home
beautifully written, my question would you not like to return to valley to your own houses and settle again?