The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 30, 2002

Dear Diary...horrific notes from Kashmir Valley
Kuljit Bains

Under the Shadow of Militancy: The Diary of an Unknown Kashmiri
by Tej N. Dhar. Rupa, New Delhi. Pages XX+236. Rs 295

Under the Shadow of Militancy: The Diary of an Unknown KashmiriUNRESTRAINED by matters of form and expectation, forthright from its being relatively private, and accurate owing to immediacy of reporting, a diary can be a fairly honest and unassuming piece of work. Here we have one on the life of an unknown Kashmiri Pandit during 1990 when the community was forced to undertake a kind of exodus from the beautiful valley.

To keep things simple we shall presume that the author, or the person whose name appears below the title of the book, has been honest in reporting in what he found in the Diary. Tej N Dhar is himself a Pandit and a Kashmiri. The name of the actual maker of the daily entries, or his final fate, remains unknown.

We are exposed daily to reams of opinion and reportage on the situation in Kashmir and the reasons behind it, but they are mostly from experts or professionals, and are the latest take. The Diary is, on the contrary, by a person who experiences not only through his senses, but also his heart. It is also of a period when the coal under the cauldron had just begun to smoulder. This hindsight can give us a fresh perspective into the genesis of what goes on today.


Our man writes this while his family has left the valley, and he is alone in his house in Srinagar for reasons of emotion and indecisiveness. Lonely and apprehensive, he oftentimes gets depressed, but the writing is lucid, even if it goes back and forth in time following his thoughts. "Do I have to make an announcement in public that I am here because I belong here, that my roots are here…? I feel I should hold to my place for myself and my children, even if it involves risking my life." Tensions and suspense rise and ebb in the heart of the reader along with the writer of the Diary.

What frustrates this Pandit the most is that his community is being punished for no fault of its own and, worse still, that whether Pandits live or are killed is going to make no difference to the larger political movement. So they are plain victims and no more.

Living in his house, the Pandit comes across various stories of atrocities and gross cruelties being inflicted upon Pandits by militants. After hearing of one such beating of a young and beautiful schoolteacher, he wonders: "Is there anybody to speak for the likes of her? Any so-called human rights organisations? They are interested only in knowing how many terrorists are in prison, the kind of food they are provided…."

Pandits' being of no consequence to either the militants or the government is what pains him the most. "Our tragedy is that we are a minority in a state where the [national] minority is in the majority, and therefore, irredeemable!"

Tragedies detailed in the entries can help a ringside viewer understand better the emotional stress under which Kashmiris, particularly Pandits, though Muslims too, have lived and are living. A tale of how a Hindu-Muslim pair of girls, who were more sisters than friends, is torn apart, ending in treachery, rape and murder, is truly illustrative. So is that of a respectable old man who is beaten to pulp along with his son just because he is prominent and sticks out like a sore thumb as far as the jehadis are concerned.

The protagonist, if he may be so called, is also confused by the antipathy, or at best apathy, of Muslims towards Pandits because all his life he has known them to be caring and affectionate fellow beings. But he is also able to see their helplessness in the face of the new wave engulfing Islam.

One thing of note is that in spite of being persecuted by Muslims, he does not blame Muslims much for the misery, but politicians. Sheikh Abdullah is blamed for vacillating between accession and autonomy and not giving a clear direction to people. The freeing of five prominent militants for the release of kidnapped Rubiya Saeed, Home Minister's daughter, is criticised for giving a fresh impetus to the movement. Gilani is blamed for rejecting secularism as a falsity, communists for saying that Pandits are themselves responsible for their fate. Abdullah's successor Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad is charged with a full-fledged conspiracy against Pandits to appease the Muslims.

Apart from specific blames on leaders, our man propounds many other evolved explanations to the problem as he sees them, and they are interesting for they are well reasoned.

We may close with a lament: "The voice of the common sufferers will be submerged forever…. What the people will discover later will be the untruth of the statements of the politicians…and their written versions. These alone will form the basis of knowing what happened. Unfortunate, but true."