Exodus Memoir of a Kashmiri Pandit Girl | 19 January 1990

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With my father on way to Amarnath Cave before exodus

Snippets of My exodus Story…How it robbed me of my home and childhood – Part 1

I remember the day when my Dad handed me a wooden ice axe and said, “You are stronger than what will happen here. “

As militants came marching towards our home in Habbakadal, Kashmir, I stood motionless, frozen in fear holding that wooden ice axe with tears rolling down my eyes.

I looked at my parents, wondering if we would survive another day, little knowing what death meant. I was a child who should have been holding hope and smiles in my heart and not frigid fear. As we stood huddled close to each other fearing the unknown, the footsteps stopped near our doorstep. I vividly remember the mob retreating from our doorstep. They retreated as the roaring echo of “kill pandit men and rape pandit women” slowly faded away.

Was it the grace of Shiva or a fervent prayer of a trembling girl? I would never know…

Down the years, the same ice axe became a symbol of my strength and defiance. The same ice axe took me to Amarnath Cave as a child and shaped my life as a mountaineer later in life. The wooden ice axe has now turned to cold steel and my will is wooden now. My father is no longer around but the power of the grit that he passed onto me lingers on.

Me climbing Kolahoi peak in Kashmir

I didn’t let the exodus make me bitter but the world around made sure I only saw apathy, indifference, callousness and false narrative. In my student years, I went back to Kashmir to pursue MBBS. A part of me also yearned to connect with my home and roots and to understand why it all happened. During my stay there, all I would hear was that the then Governor, Jagmohan (and not militants) was responsible for driving Kashmiri Pandits out of the valley. Rather than being inquired about my life, I would get questions in my face whether we have sold our house and why did we run away. The smirk on their faces could not be missed.

There was a time when I would get worked up and retaliate but I have realized we can never change the consciousness of people with aggression and hate. The people believe what they have been fed and brainwashed into believing. I reckon that sensitivity is an asset you are born with.

I wonder where does this deep level of insensitivity spring from? Perhaps I would never know…

My pain and suffering have only made me more aware of what it means to see your house burned to ashes and for an entire community threatened. In the midst of all this, some Kashmiri Muslims defied the frozen apathy and made me believe in the goodness and kindness of humanity.

Our home in Habbakadal. Me posing with Papa

Whether it was my dad’s friend, Ghulam Hassan Mir uncle or my Anatomy Professor, Mudassir Sir who would recite Bhagwat Gita shlokas to many friends who loved me unconditionally. My heart is filled with warmth for strangers who have come forward and said sorry to me for what happened. I know it’s their heartfelt expression.My brother Adil with whom I shared my life stories and plans of climbing together before God snatched him from us and would too deep to heal.

My Kashmiri Muslim Sister

My dad told me an anecdote where he spotted a militant with a gun who had come to kill a Kashmiri Pandit. But upon seeing Dad, he lowered his gun and walked away as he remembered Dad and him used to play Cricket together a few years ago. Dad spared no words as he asked him to get out of there. This story made me realize that Cricket bats are mightier than guns!

There was a time when I could no longer hold back and went back to Hababkadal to see the ruins of my burned house with my father. The faint glimmer of hope was met with jeers from locals. I was glad that my pain was so deafening that the jeers merely ricocheted away.

These days, I see pictures of Kashmir and the social media influencers posing as brand ambassadors with their cosy pherans and snow walks in slow motion. I wonder at the random people talking about the Kashmir issue and katlams and kehwa and it all takes me back down the memory lane where I, as a young girl had planted a seed of French Bean before we were forced to leave our homes.

A home that once echoed with the sounds of laughter and carefree banter, now laid burned to the ground. As the land grabbers slowly encroached and my mulberry tree dried up yet stood tall as a spectator to the fury around it, I could feel my face flush with incessant tears rolling down my eyes and cooled the scorched home of mine.

Even though houses of so many people were burnt, the memories remain as fresh as ever, untouched by the flames of hate and extremism. Even as people scampered to gather their belongings, my heroic dad managed to get most of his books and a few documents. I remember people asking my dad, “why did you save these books and not jewellery and clothes?” He said that books were the only treasure worth keeping.

Mir uncle poignantly reminisces the time when together they went to see our house after it was burned down.

“As he stood amidst a somber pile of torn books at the entrance, he said that Home is where the heart lives. And my heart lives in these four damaged walls. I don’t lament as much for the house as I do for my library. It pains me beyond words to rue the loss of a hand-written 300 year old holy Quran that once graced this library.”

Why still killing of militants calls for protests and killing of unarmed Kashmiri pandits is work of Unknown forces and life goes on Kashmir.

I believe that hatred is an easy path to take but it’s no surprise that no flowers will ever bloom there. I hope someday I can go back to the place I call my home.

Dark and lonely night,
When I felt alone,
Fear held me by hand,
And I felt less alone
Death came in cloak of friend,
And yet again I was deceived
Life in fear she felt
Was much worse than death….

Kolahoi peak

There are times when I feel I am back home again. My dad is with me and we are climbing our beloved hills together. The reason for writing this article is not to condone the suffering of others but to narrate how the exodus and the violence and the unforgiving living conditions affected a young Kashmiri Pandit girl. I have neither political commentaries to make nor is there any space for jingoism or hatred in my heart.

Sometimes, I take a pause and look back. From the eyes of a child that were once full of wonder and later turned to despair and agony of losing her home. Or perhaps the entire childhood. I wonder how the world went on and on while we went down and down.

Dr. Varuna Raina
Jan 19, 2022
32nd year of Exodus and counting
Story of Kashmiri Pandits Exodus from the Kashmir Valley as a result of systematic Islamic Terrorism in 1990


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44 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sanjiv Patki

    March 13, 2022

    Dear Doc,
    Remembered a story of my Colleague who had gone through similar incident. She saw her uncle’s family slautered in front of her eyes. She along with her family had to flee minus her father who was again burned in front of her.
    She has now grown up and achieved a very senior position with a software giant. But the pain, hurt and the loss of belonging still haunts her.
    I salute you and countless others who faced this situation so bravely and have become successful inspite of all the odds.

    • Reply

      Prabhat Jha

      March 21, 2022

      I have been in Kashmir valley for 2 years during 2003-05. I could visualize the narrative of your memoir though it’s quite impossible to feel the pains and sufferings faced by those Kashmiri pandits who were robbed off their homes. Your words are powerful and since every word depicts truth and harsh realities, these have a huge impact on the mind of the readers. Read it with teary eyes.

  2. Reply

    DV

    January 25, 2022

    Thanks for sharing your story. So proud of what you’ve become and how you’ve managed to keep hatred at bay. Beautiful write-up. I hope your wish to visit your home comes true. Keep writing and sharing your experiences.

    1
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      February 9, 2022

      Thank you 🙂

  3. Reply

    Mehraj Din

    January 22, 2022

    Heart touching write up.God bless you.

    1
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you 🙏

  4. Reply

    Romesh Dulloo

    January 21, 2022

    After going through your story of pain, I could make out the strength our young generation gathered, despite all odds and reached toa level for which our community is world renowned. Our young generation will prove they are unique with positive approach and love for all. Love will win one day may be we will not see it, but I am of fir.m belief it will definitely win. God bless ❤️

    3
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and I hope love will take us home one day🙏

      1
  5. Reply

    daleep k kaul

    January 21, 2022

    Thank you young lady, for your wonderful
    Rendition of pain and sufferings of our forced Exodus from Our motherland the Kashmir.
    Nice attempt :
    Woods are lovely dark and deep but I have promises to keep . Miles to go before I sleep , miles to go before I sleep… 🙏

    2
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading 🙏

  6. Reply

    S K Munshi

    January 21, 2022

    Varuna ji, Every word has depicted fear you faced and emergence of strength and grit as a result.Wjat you expressed is similar to many of similar experiences faced by the community.Stay blessed and remain active to keep the flame of community cause alight.

    1
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading and till I am alive and throbbing that flame won’t extinguish 🙏

  7. Reply

    Motilal Kitroo.

    January 20, 2022

    Amazing write up. Your courage and warmth in the heart for everyone is really noteworthy. You have miles to go. Stay blessed.

    3
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading and warm wishes 🙏

  8. Reply

    Kripa

    January 20, 2022

    Heart Wrenching……My Heart Salute to this brave Girl who is standing strong like a Mountain. May “God” always take care of you…..💐💐💐

    2
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading 🙏

  9. Reply

    Rudra Raina

    January 20, 2022

    Tears rolled down my eyes as I read through.. Only those who have been through this pain understand what it means to survive loss of identity and motherland. Kudos to you for such powerful expression, and thank you for drawing more eyes to this subject. Always remember you in my thoughts n blessings.
    Your little sister..

    5
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you Shafu.That fight for chair will continue in our imaginary homes 🙂

  10. Reply

    Vishal Jala

    January 20, 2022

    Koshur baata is almost at the brink of illusion now, may be we generation will bury it with us and be cremated till the last wood has not turned into a soot. Though a lots of us are doing the best they can but an act differs from reality. DODO’s too could not be made to relive again.Thanks is the last word i can contribute to all fellows for being born as a BAATA.

    I too have high hopes and hands full of an illusions of going back to the future unfortunately this is not REEL life but REAL life so to pacify myself write a line or few and read them again and again to have the feel of my home land – my home:

    KHAWB VICHAE PUURO GAZHAN
    AES VASAN VETHYE TE YAARBALAN
    BAEY KOHAN TE SAARAN
    TAAR DIVAN
    AASI SHUI SHAMBU
    SOI MAAJE MEIN
    NAAD DIVAN
    VILIVO PAKOW IKWATE
    BNJEE TE BOBUJEE
    HALDAR TE BALDHR
    TINKU MINKU SWEETY TE PINKY TYE
    SYEET PAKAN
    BHE KUS CHE KUS VANSAY BEYI KUS
    HAA SAREY SYEET GYAVAN
    TAS MAAJI TEMSI SHANKARAS
    LOOL BARAN

    I STILL DREAM THE MAER (WATER BODY) NEXT TO MY HOME AND WE PERFORMING ALL FESTIVAL RITUALS AND OFFERINGS ON ITS BANKS, THE VISITS TO TULMUL ON ASHTAMIS, THE SHANKRACHARYA ON SUNDAYS, THE HARI PARBAT MANDIR AND NOT TO FORGET THE BADAM FLY, THE KADA PRASAD AT THE GURUDWARA AT THE FOOT HILLS OF PARBHAT. WHAT TO REMEMBER AND WHAT NOT TO RECALL

    4
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Poignant lines and I don’t know if going back home is an illusion but in a world where Karma is , I hope we someday can go back home.
      Thanks for reading 🙏

  11. Reply

    Dr.sushil wattal jammu

    January 20, 2022

    My dear little kp girl
    Proud of you , This is not an article written ,this is the inner voice of a representative of a 5000 year old civilisation wiped out of seat of learning called Kashmir.
    You belong to culture of tolerance, acceptance, literature, worshipers of mountains rivers trees and what not, naturalism and overall co existence. These lines are the crying souls of thousands and thousands of peace loving people of kyashp boomi . Nature has lost its glory in Kashmir. Those who did it are on cross roads to find answer, but in vain . Two generations lost but the remembrances remain . Bright sun is to glow on horizon of Kashmir again as land us SEDH PEETH, the forces inimical to nature are to vanish. Hub of spirituality is to vibrate again.
    Love you for your feelings.

    3
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you so much Pumjee for reading.
      Your words like poetry took me to the dream Kashmir once was and hope that one day we can go back to what it was 🙏
      Babjee will make it happen one day I know that.

  12. Reply

    Sayonee

    January 20, 2022

    A poignant account from an inspiring girl! Wish you more healing, strength and love <3

    2
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading 🙏

  13. Reply

    Puneet Arora

    January 20, 2022

    Hi Varuna, Awesome Mountain girl, you are amazing, and I won’t call it a good read, as it’s more than that, stay strong, take care.

    2
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading 🙏

  14. Reply

    Rajinder Kaul

    January 20, 2022

    Dr sahiba
    Touched by your brave story, infact every family has his tale of sufferings, Wounds Given to our community are not able to heal.

    4
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading.
      Wounds don’t heal but let’s try they don’t make us bitter 🙏

  15. Reply

    Nalin Chakoo

    January 20, 2022

    A splendid read and a real tour de force of your grit. Your journey proves that altruistic behaviour has the power to shape our being and, consequently, our destiny.

    3
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thanks Nalin.
      Good to hear from you after so long🙏

  16. Reply

    Zafar

    January 19, 2022

    Had to read it more than once.
    Ye dastaan kabhi kalam kabhi kafas me rahi..
    Band saanso me kabhi toot-ti nafas me rahi..

    4
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you…

  17. Reply

    Rakshith

    January 19, 2022

    So Proud of you Varuna
    More power to you.

    3
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading 🙏

  18. Reply

    BS Dabral

    January 19, 2022

    Such a touching story which is coming straight from the heart. I have only heard about the incidents in Kashmir and with Kashmiri pandits but your words brought tears in my eyes. All the very best to you to follow the footsteps of your Dad. Namaste 🙏

    1
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading 🙏

  19. Reply

    Vinod Agrawal

    January 19, 2022

    Really very bravely described, the horror of these brutalities.
    Great description.
    Let humanity take note of it, find a solution for those innocent people of Kashmir.
    Pray God for Restoring Peace.

    2
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading 🙏

  20. Reply

    Dr. P.K Koul

    January 19, 2022

    Dr Raina
    I remember the time as we all do. How can we forget it. Your tale brings back those days of horror Alive. God bless. Maek Daya kare sareni

    2
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you for reading.May Mata bless us all 🙏

  21. Reply

    Poulomi Chatterjee

    January 19, 2022

    It brought tears in my eyes!! More strength to you!!

    2
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you 😊

  22. Reply

    Sarandha

    January 19, 2022

    Very very powerful

    5
    • Reply

      Dr. Varuna Raina

      January 22, 2022

      Thank you ☺️

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