Sakshaatkaar Evokes Unprecedented Response

By S.M. Pandit

November 2010

Sakshaatkaar-An Encounter with Truth- Photo Exhibition evoked unprecedented response as thousands of people witnessed it at the two venues in Jammu. The Photo-Exhibition was organised by Panun Kashmir at Invitation Banquet Hall, Roop Nagar for four days and Purkhoo Camp for two days. The exhibition was originally planned for three days in Roop Nagar but had to be extended in light of heavy response and subsequently the organisers had to postpone the exhibition in Bohri with a promise to organise it in the area at the earliest possible date.

Unlike most of the exhibitions, Sakshaatkaar had different connotations. It reflected the pain and agony of the visitors as they were subjected to genocide that led to their exodus and subsequent plunder of their property and desecration of their temples and shrines. The visitors were not to appreciate the artistic skills but to witness the reflections of their ownselves. Most of the visitors have themselves experienced what is reflected in the exhibition. The exhibition also reflected the resilience of the community and creation of symbols of hope even in exile.

Sakshaatkaar gives an insight in the genocide perpetuated against Hindu community in the Valley. The photographs are self speaking and underscore the fact that the genocidal and anti-national campaign did not end with the exodus of the Hindus from the Valley but continues to destroy and desecrate all those symbols that are Indian or Hindu in nature. It discredits all those attempts aimed at giving legitimacy to the obnoxious campaign with veil of secular or freedom struggle movement.

The exhibition is the outcome of a deep research work and continued efforts to put the facts in right perspective. The photography displayed in the exhibiton have not been clicked by the professionals with sophisticated cameras by the victims themselves. Braving all risks, a team led by Panun Kashmir Chairman Dr. Ajay Chrungoo made extensive tour of the Valley and collected the exclusive evidence of the genocide. Shailendra Aima, Vice-Chairman Panun Kashmir, Journalist Ajat Jamwal and Sh. Puskhar Nath Razdan were the main members of the team.

The first phase of the exhibition at Invitation Banquet Hall, Roop Nagar was inaugurated by Smt. Meenakshi Trakroo in presence of Prof. Hari Om, an eminent writer and historian, Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman PK and Sh. P.N. Raina, Chairman organising committee. A large gathering witnessed the inaugural function. Smt. Meenakshi Trakroo is the widow of Late Dileep Trakroo, JCO Dogra Regiment, who contributed a lot to the counter Insurgency in the state and sacrificed his life at the highest battle field in the world-The Saichen. The second phase of the exhibition was inaugurated jointly by Prof. M.L. Koul, a prolific writer and member PK Advisory, Prof. B.L. Fotedar, Convenor Prakash-A Socio-Cultural initiative of PK and Sh. ON Trisal, President ASKPSC.

The photographs displayed in the exhibition included the photos of victims of massacres like Wandhama, Nadimarg, Chitti Singhpora and Kulhand, Doda, the torture victims, Hindu houses-torched, plundered and illegally occupied. The desecration of temples and shrines-breaking of idols, destruction of temples and writing of obsescenities even on the remains has been well documented and stand witness to the religious intolerance of the Islamic fundamentalists. The press cuttings reflecting hate campaigns were also included in the exhibition. The exhibition also reflected the community struggle, the camp life and creating symbols of hope and faith in exile. The organisers have   honestly projected the victimisation of minorities that is a continuous process by including the photo of Pandits who guised as Muslims to escape the erucifixion in 1947 and a press cutting about the vandalisation of only Jain temple in the Valley recently.

Many of the visitors left heart broken and many with a resolve to reclaim their Homeland. The reflections of the visitors give an insight into the impact of the exhibition.

Menaakshi Trakroo, who inaugurated the first phase of the exhibition, paid her gratitude to Panun Kashmir for honouring  her husband and other martyrs by giving her honour of inaugurating the exhibition. Seeing the photographs she said, “what we could see, we have been face to face with the reality”.

The elderly people and who have witnessed the vandalism were nostalgic but pained to witness the exhibition. 91 year old Sh. Badri Nath Razdan, with a stick in his hand and supported by another elderly man, watched the exhibition keenly and described it “heart rending and killing remembrance”. He added that they have been tortured since 1931 and recalled couplets that were being sung to mock the Pandits. Emotional 82 year old JL Raina described the exhibition a praiseworthy achievement and said that Pandits should struggle and move forward and the exhibition is a step towards awakening those who are asleep.

Sh. R.K. Safaya, a Rtd. Income Tax Employee, appreciated the attempt of Panun Kashmir and described it no mean achievement and exhorted the community not to lose courage. He described it a transitional period and quoted from Shrimad Bagwat Geeta. “Yadha Yadha Hi Darmase…” to underscore the fact that evil will be annihilated. 75 year old Prof. T.N. Koul described the exhibition  “a laudable attempt and recreation of history”.

Sh. D.N. Trisal, Retd. IAS officer said, “It is a marvellous effort on the part of Panun Kashmir. It does not only remind us of the atrocities the community has faced, particularly with the worst human rights violation, which unfortunately has not been taken note of society, intellectuals and other so-called political setup. This effort by PK is really praise worthy and will remain historical documentation for world at large and our progeny”.

P.N. Shad, renowned Kashmiri poet who has depicted pain of genocide in some of his poems said scenes depict genocide that resulted in our exodus. “Kashmir is, was and will be ours. The devilish people will be annihilated by Lord Krishna and we will get back Panun Kashmir and live their more prosperously,” he added.

Sh. P.K. Raina said, “the exhibition organised by Panun Kashmir is an eye opener for those Kashmiri Pandits who speak of return to Kashmir Valley. It gives up a message that we should not hide facts and should reveal it to our children so that they may know what made us to leave our homes and hearths.” Sh. L.K. Moza, advocate, summed up the Sakshaatkaar “a morale boosting effort in otherwise dismal scenario for KPs”. Roop Krishan Koul Principal said, “the Sakshaatkaar makes us nostalgic of Kashmir Valley. It reminds us of barbaric acts of Pan-Islamic Jehadis”.

Sh. Anil Bhat, senior journalist, described Sakshaatkaar “my remembrance to my life of exile. This is my rich past for taking lessons for future”.

Senior President of the Purkhoo Camp, Sh. B.L. Thussu described the exhibition a very good effort to depict the real picture of the community and suggested the involvement of the youth to carry forward the message. Dr. Vijay Pandita said, “It has deeply touched my heart and made me more stronger to fight against atrocities committed against us”.

Smt. Sheela Handoo, a former corporator, appreciated Dr. Ajay Chrungoo for sincerly  highlighting the agony of KPs. “The exhibition reminds KPs of their roots, their victimisation that beckons us for the struggle,” she added.

The visitors who lost their kith and kin in terrorism were highly emotional and couldn’t control their emotions and were in tears and unconsolable. Same was the case with the elderly ladies. Sh. Prathvi Nath Kabu, whose son was martyred at Gool, Gulabgarh said, “I think the exhibition displayed by Panun Kashmir will go a longway in explaining tragedies faced by our community members by losing their nearest kiths and kins, I think since 1947.” A fourth standard student Shriya Bhat, whose grandfather was killed by terrorists, recorded her impressions in the visitors’ book, “I was shocked when I saw these photographs. And what the terrorists have done to our community and our temples. And the terrorists have killed Kashmiri people and why? And many parental grandfather was also killed by terrorists.”

Anjali Gadroo brokedown on seeing her maternal uncle and cousin in a photograph who were massacred alongwith other six members of the family at Wandhama. “My maternal uncle, who was in medical profession, had compromised to the level that he used to be taken blindfolded by the terrorists to treat their injured ones but same terrorists did not spare even him,” she said.

The children, particularly those born in post migration era, were highly influenced by the exhibition. It gave them an insight in their rich cultural heritage, their prosperity and the brutalities their elders were subjected to that led to their exodus. Most of the children vowed to preserve their cultural identity and reclaim their homeland by becoming party to the community struggle and even some talked of revenge.

Aakrati Wali said, “It is the biggest human tragedy ever as Kashmiri Pandits were haunted from their motherland by a particular community (Muslims). This exhibition gave me a sure short picture of the human atrocities done with Kashmiri Pandits. I definitely will help Panun Kashmir in making a separate state where only Kashmiri Pandits or Hindus live in other words where humans will live.”

Shriya Koul, a 10th grade student, said, “I am greatly depressed at the situation faced by our Kashmiri (Pandit) community. Kashmiris wake up! stop acting as dumb cow fight for the preservation of our community.” Himanshi Raina, another 10th standard student said, “we should get Homeland where we have our own government. The people who committed the crime should be punished and government should listen to our woes”.

Ishna Raina, a 12th standard student said, “I totally felt speechless, particularly when I saw the kid brutally killed and heart gouged out of the body. (I want) total anihition of all the anti-national elements and at the same time we should be more transparent and vocal about our plans for the future.”

Meenakshi, a student of Master in Tourism Management (MTM), who migrated as late as  2007 and witnessed the terror, said, “the exhibition displayed by Panun Kashmir has reminded us that what had happened to us for the last two decades. It was so painful. Now it is the duty of new generation to think about it and save our community from extinction.” Vidhi Koul of 9th standard said the exhibition has awakened the people. “Destruction and torture of Kashmiri Pandits was a tragedy. The terrorists are so stone hearted that they do not feel sorry or regret what they did and still are doing” she said. The tiny toddles were pained to see the photos. Vanshy, a four year old girl, said innocently, “I am pained to find people killed and temples destroyed”.

Though most of the visitors were Kashmiri Hindus, yet a large section of Jammu people also visited the exhibition. The visitors included the Jammu leadership, intelligentsia and students who also appreciated the organisers for the Sakshaatkaar.

Sh. Uday Chand, President Duggar Pradesh Party, said, “photographs displayed the truth which meted out with the Kashmiri Pandit community in Kashmir. The cruelty meted out with them is highly condemnable and shame for the whole nation who could not react so far.”.

Sh. Ramesh Sabharwal, convenor Jammu and Kashmir People’s forum, described the exhibition a good attempt to highlight the barbaric actions of Kashmiri Muslims against Hindus and Sikhs.

Prof. N.N. Sharma (Rtd.), ex-Secretary J&K Board of School Education, was shocked to see the brutalities of fundamentalists and trampling of human values under their feet. He described the exhibition “an eye opener for pseudo secular rulers of India” and added that “Hindus, Hindu culture and temples are not safe in Kashmir”.

Advocate Ravinder Sharma, was pained to see the exhibition. “Any reference to Kashmir used to take me back to the glory of Kashmir, today has dragged me to the pain and distress. When I see the pictures of destroyed houses of a particular community, I feel pain in my mind and reaction which immediately comes-what would happen to this nation. When I see pictures of massacre, I feel pain in my heart and I feel what would happen to mankind and when I see pictures of destroyed temples my simple and soft reaction is that a demon in always killed by Lord….perhaps, God is in process since June, 2010. Pictures have simply pained my mind, soul and heart.” Kanchan Sharma, senior journalist, said, Sakshaatkar shows the worst ever tragedy of the Kashmiri Pandits. It has opened the eyes of nationalist forces. “It would be better if government takes action to preserve the age old cultural identity of Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley.”

Sh. R.K. Bamba said that the exhibition depicts injuste and described it a good effort to make public aware of as every one cannot go there and experience himself. An eleventh class student Dheeraj Singh of Bhagwa, Doda said, “we had heard about it and now I have seen the tragedy myself. The culprits should be punished and Pakistan is facing the music as it is an old adage that one who digs pit for others falls himself in it.”

There were suggestions of organising the exhibition at Ashrams and places like Katra so that most of the people can become aware of the genocide and inclusion of photos of prominent personalities killed and other temples desecrated. Some people underscored the need of unity while others extended their help in organising the exhibition. Sh Sampat Prakash, senior Trade Union leader, offered to provide a hall at the venue of ‘National Trade Union Conference” at Delhi for the exhibition of Sakshaatkaar.

Panun Kashmir General Secretary Sh. Kuldeep Raina described Sakshaatkaar an attempt to educate Indian masses about vandalism in Kashmir and underline the fact that the movement launched in Kashmir has a communal and separatist ideology behind it. “The secessionist and communal movement in Kashmir was accompanied by disinformation campaign to hoodwink the masses.  Sakshaatkaar is an important milestone in dislodging the disinformation campaign,” he added. Kuldeep Raina said that Sakshaatkaar was organised at many places in India like Delhi, Maharashtra and first time in Jammu on public demand. He described it a sincere effort to put the so-called freedom struggle in the right perspective which is regressive and destructive in nature and aimed at annihilation of the minorities. He summed up Sakshaatkaar at Jammu as the exhibition by the victims, of the victims and for the victims.

Sh. P.N. Raina, Convenor of the Organising Committee, expressed happiness on the successful conduct of the Sakshaatkaar . He thanked all those involved in the organisation of the exhibition and expressed his gratitude to all the Panun Kashmir activists for dedicating themselves completely during the conduct of the exhibition.