Agnishekhar-Kshama Kaul who represent the Kashmir Pandits with a burning desire to return to their homeland.
A programme involving an interaction with the much-discussed Hindi poet of Kashmiri origin, Dr. Agnishekhar and his wife Hindi writer Kshama Kaul was held on Jan.20, 2017 under the auspices of Rathabeedi Geleyaru, Udupi.
The couple laid bare before us pain and despondency of thousands of Kashmir Pandits who are longing to return to their homeland. These Pandits were the victims of inhuman atrocities perpetrated by the terrorists and radicals when terrorism was at its peak 27 years ago in the valley. The Pandits were forced to leave their hearth and home, only to lead a hell-like life in the temporary camps in places like Delhi and Varanasi.
Besides being the author of the collections of poems in Hindi, Kissi Bhi Samay, Muzse Chheen Leegaye Meri Nadi, Kaal Vriksh kee Chhaya Mein, Meri Priya Kavitayein, Dr. Agnishekhar has also written a few collection of stories like Dozakh, Jawahar Tunnel He is also well known as a translator of Hindi-Kashmir literature; as an editor of books and also as a cinema screen playwright. He has been living in exile for the last 27 years, having been forced out of his home in the valley by terrorist and separatist activities. He still nourishes a hope that the day will come before long when he can safely return to his own home. He has assumed an important role in “returning home movement” under the umbrella of Human Rights and in this role has set forth the right of the displaced Pandits to return to their land of birth in the international fora in America, London, France, Hague, and Amsterdam.
At the outset, Dr. Kshma Kaul, who has been subjected to sharp criticism for her novel Dardapura shared her experiences with the audience. For her naked portrayal of the exploitation suffered by the three generations of the Kashmiri women, the reaction of her relatives was this: “Was it necessary for you? Why did you set out to write all these”? But it is an indisputable fact that in any military expedition, rebellion or invasion, it is women who are directly affected.
She further said that at no time their people believed in caste divisions. “Our grannies and moms had felt blessed in their devotion to the Lord. On arrival in some other place, having been displaced from their base, our women used to visit the temples of other communities. Unfortunately, they were summoned by the temple authorities to tell them that their visits to these temples were forbidden. They just wondered what wrong they had committed, why they were being denied entry to these temples and in their innocence they felt sad. But the real reason for the decision to keep our women away was that we belonged to the Kashmir upper caste Brahmins community! But the fact is that there is no such high-low feeling in us at all.
After seeing the cruel face of the aggression, the feeling that all the Hindus are one in the family frame is further strengthened in us. That’s why when our daughter Bhasha, a graduate from the National School of Drama, told us that she was in love with a boy she liked, the only thing we wanted to know was whether or not the boy was a Hindu. We did not ask anything else. While narrating this, Kshama became a little emotional.
Speaking later, Dr. Agnishekhar said, “We belong to the clan of Kalhana, Bilhana and Bhamaha etc. Until we landed in Karnataka which revere all these writers, we had no idea that Karnataka was a region so near to us. As for the problems we are facing in Kashmir, you people may feel that it is something happening at a faraway place. But if you think that it is something you need not worry about; there can be no greater tragedy. Today Kashmir, tomorrow some other part of the country... there is no end to the lust for devouring. Great writers like Arundhati Roy, without any sense of geography and history, say that Kashmir is not at all a part of India and things like that. We don’t know how to react to these people. Our politicians are also no different. Our votes are not decisive in their political design. Hence our pain does not strike a chord in them. Of course, we get invited to vote through postal ballot. But we don’t have the faintest idea as to who are our representatives there, how are they, what can they do for us.
The government at the centre, the past government or today’s, does not respond to our pain. Then, who will respond to our pain? Our burnt out houses, our sisters, sister-in-laws getting raped before our very eyes, our pent-up pain ...nothing strikes a chord in any quarter.
“Through our writings in Keshur Samachar (a monthly published in three languages, Kashmiri-Hindi-English devoted to the cause of the displaced Kashmiris) we are looking forward to hopeful tomorrows, dispersed as we are over many places,” Dr. Agnishekhar confesses dispassionately.
Dr. Madhavi S. Bhandary introduced Dr. Agnishekhar and recited her Kannada translation of his Hindi poem 19, January, 1990 Ki Raat.
Dr. Usharani Rao of Baldwin Women’s College, Bangalore introduced Dr. Kshama Kaul and briefly introduced her novel Dardapura.
Speaking introductorily, Prof. Muraleedhara Upadhya disclosed to the audience some information about Dr. Agnishekhar which he had gleaned from the internet. He showered praise on Dr. Agnishekhar for his boldness in rejecting the award of Rs.50,000/- offered by the State of Jammu & Kashmir.
Dr. Madhavi S Bhandary
Translated by Subrahmanya Somayaji
Translated by Subrahmanya Somayaji