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The Girl Who Loved Saffron

January 18, 2010


Crossing her arms round his neck, she closed her eyes and kissed her lover. She let herself go free – No mind working, No worries, No hurries, No who’s who, No reasons – just inexplicable euphoria. She knew lovely pictures: Birds tweeting ecstatically, rabbits and squirrels doing the Tango, flowers blossoming just like their love. The Chinar shed its leaves, so as to chrysalis the lovers and Time after Time by Cyndi Lauper played aloud in the background.Their love was being celebrated. She looked in to his eyes.”We needn’t fear anyone”. She tightened her grip and said, “I will never let you go and nothing shall ever separate us : parents, religion, money nothing!!.” Truly, none of those could part them. What did was Militancy and Fanaticism.

Her Schmilblick lover was Saffron.Her name was Shivranjini Kak.

Shivranjini fell in love with saffron when she accompanied her grandfather to their saffron fields in her ancestral village, located in the heart of Kashmir. She would get few streaks of Saffron and adore it all day long. She loved everything about her Darling: the aroma, the color, its intense nose, the golden-orange color it imparted to kheer and was godsmacked on how proficiently it cured cough and cold.

But the romance was disrupted on January 19, 1990.A diktat was issued from the mosques for the Kashmiri Pandits to either accept Islam, abide by the Nizam-e-Mustafa or to leave the Valley within 48 hours. Before the Pandits could fathom what had happened, their slaughtering started all over the valley. Posters threatening their life became ubiquitous. Local shops broadcasted tapes of Benazir Bhutto imploring the Kashmiri Muslims to ‘sanctify’ their blood by eliminating the Pandits. The reports of butchering, rape, Shivalinga desecration and temple demolitions poured routinely from all over the valley, in similar fashion with which the Ganges flows through Benaras.

The attacks became brisk and so did the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. For months to come, only fear, tension and uncertainty shadowed the Pandits. Families from Shivranjini’s villages: the Mattoos and the Razdans left their roots with lachrymose eyes for a safer Jammu. The Kaks were optimistic of Indian intervention into the issue, which never came. What came one night were men, clad in unusual uniforms and flagging Kalashnikovs like some toy purchased at Disneyland, crying,” Panditon!! Kashmir Chhodo“(Pandits!! Leave Kashmir) . They paraded All the Pandit families, took the elderly, tied their hands and hung them by the same Chinar tree beneath which the village panchayat had presided for decades. Shivranjini’s grandfather was one of the murdered. It was after losing their maître de la famille that the Kak’s decided it was time to pluck their roots. They choose to save their Janeu and the legacy of Sage Kashyapa. Next morning the grimacing Kaks rented a fiat and left the valley.

She came to Jammu, only to find Pandits being detested as Refugees. She had never seen so many people at once. She saw faces: mourning the loss of their native homes and grieving of their loved ones who were claimed by the fanatics. In some eyes, she sensed relief and security. In some she saw optimism that in near future they would be restored to the valley. She observed people succumbing to despair and accepting what fate had slapped on them. Some planned to move to Delhi and settle whereas some wanted to stay in Jammu, in hopes of return. Shivranjini’s father decided to go to Delhi, thus paying a requiem to his native land and shattering all her chances to romance her prince again.

Shivranjini Kak came to Delhi with her family. They were given houses: houses which would make the shabbiest slums on earth feel sanguine. It was a small room, partitioned by cardboards into eight chambers, with a asbestos roof on top and a single lavatory to share.

It was difficult to adjust. Kashmiris, who had enjoyed the heavenly climate of Kashmir and were largely unaccustomed to Delhi’s summers, suffered sunstrokes and other health concerns. Water scarcity became rampant in those days and Pandits had to literally save water drop by drop. Hospitals were all far off and the government dispensary was perennially deserted. Amidst her new premises, Shivranjini saw many miscarriages and deaths, which could have been averted if Medical facility was up-to-date.

For Kashmiri Pandits, it was hard to break the umbilical cord to Kashmir. Shivranjini Kak particularly wept the day she met Augustya Amar Katju and his wife, Radha. The Katjus were the Rockefellars of Pulwama and owned big businesses. Following pogrom against Pandits, resulting trauma had made Augustya Katju insane. His beautiful wife Radha, who once owned the costliest of Kanjivaram and Banarasi saris, had been left with two pairs of ordinary saris. She saw three generations living in a congested, small room, where the any amatory behavior is involuntarily restricted. At times, the elderly would sleep out under the sky so that their children could have some amorous interaction. NGOs blame this denial of sexual life for the dwindling of Kashmiri Pandit population. Shivranjini heard tales of escapes, which in most cases, had been facilitated by amicable Muslim neighbors.She also met Yosef and Eli, the two surviving members of the miniscule, relatively unknown Kashmiri Jewry.

But of all what pinched her the most was separation from her beloved. The saffron available in Delhi was ‘Paper’ Saffron, manufactured in factories of Amritsar. At times, real Saffron would make its way to the refugee camps through Kashmiri shawl-wallahs and traders, who like the Pandits, lamented the misfortune of Kashmiriyat. But then like Shivranjini herself, her lover couldnt stand a non-Kashmiri climate.Saffron loses its traits as climate gets hotter. To Shivranjini this Saffron was a charmless stranger. She knew she could meet her beloved and love him only in the valley of Kashmir.

She refused to admit that her affair had come to cul-de-sac. Before her sleep she would contemplate what had gone wrong. Religion had never been pivotal in Kashmir. It was Kashmiriyat which governed the valley. It was in Kashmir that Hindus, Muslims and Sikh sat side by side and enjoyed to the melodies of Santoor. It was in Kashmir that the Brahmins, unlike their vegetarian contemporaries in rest of India, ate and cooked ghosht (mutton) and murgh(chicken). She knew Muslim men in her village who would pay devotion to Lord Shiva and celebrate Diwali. Her grandfather had been more proficient in Urdu than in Sanskrit and carried an attire similar to his Muslim Friends. It was in Kashmir that Jesus, or as they called him in Kashmir Yuz Asafhad come and laid in peace at Roza Bal.It was here that Prophet Muhammad’s hair was enshrined and it was in Kashmir that Lord Shiva would appear in caves of AmarNath. Kashmir: Home to Gods and Prophets – the Paradise on earth!! What could be the cause of its doom?

After many years in camps, Shivranjini managed to get a Bachelor of Arts. She travels to Jantar Mantar every year to join in the demonstrations by Pandits. She sees different banners and Posters-“350,000 LANGUISHING”,”60000 DEATHS, 7 LAKH DISPLACED, 1500 TEMPLES”,”BARAMULA:100 TEMPLES IN 1990, NONE TODAY….IS THIS SECULARISM”,”200 VILLAGES RENAMED TO ISLAMIC NAMES, WAKE UP!!”,”KASHMIRI PANDITS REFUGES IN THEIR OWN INDIA”. She acknowledges the sterility of such protests. These protests find places in 7th or 8th page of the newspapers, catch the attention of people for a minute and dissipate away. At times, they may implore one or two undergraduates to write up essays and blogs. None of this has been triumphant in waking the Government of India from its Kumbhakarna sleep. The government kept silent when the orgy of violence had thundered the Kashmiri Pandits. Shivranjini abhors intellectuals and secularists and Human Rights people, for they all had been quiet when the Pandits were ousted from their own origins. They had all been a party to the crime : they all were no different from the agent provocateurs. She is aware that the sole reason no political party chooses to champion their rights is the fact that Kashmir Pandits make up a very low population which would not be of significant contribution in their political quest. Plus, no one wants a financially disabled community in their political entourage. America, in 2006, acknowledged the barbarian acts of slaughter of Pandits as ethnic cleansing. Our own Indian government is yet to do the honors.

Shivranjini believes in Bush Sr.’s opinion of constitution being a ‘Just a Goddamned Piece of Paper’. Unless Kashmiri Pandits are restored to their roots, calling India secular and democratic will be a sham eulogy. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” spoke Edmund Burke. The genuinity of the quote is incontestable. Much damage has already taken place.Indian Government must act before the fanatics and Separatists deliver their coup de grâce to Indian sovereignty.

Shivranjini strikes cords easily victims of Sikhs riots and Gujarat riots, who like her, have been demanding justice. She wants to tell them that their attempts will be fruitless. She however, chooses silence for she knows the alchemy of hope. It was hope that kept her family struggling through the ordeal, it is the same hope that gathers thousands of Kashmiri Pandits every year at Jantar Mantar and it is the same hope she possesses to one day unite with her Lover in the valley of Kashmir.

Shivranjini, like her lover, is fictitious. However, Shivranjini Kak is a stereotype that every affected Kashmiri Pandit family can swiftly empathize with. As 19th January 2010 marks the twentieth anniversary of their adversity,Mine is just an attempt to remind people of the cause, for many in India are still unaware of the cause of Kashmiri Pandits. One of the biggest abuses of human rights, Kashmiri Pandits have lacked much of representation over the last two decades.The government of India has failed pathetically at resolving the issue.In the spirit of Humanity and Righteousness, Let us all bolster the voice of Kashmiri Pandits.

In solidarity with the cause of Kashmiri Pandits

Shrey Vats

Take a look : Few pictures which aim at speaking – “Kashmir sans Kashmiri Pandit : 22 years later.” HERE

46 Comments leave one →
  1. Ash permalink
    January 18, 2010 10:35 pm

    very sad about them….well written shrey..

  2. Akanksha permalink
    January 18, 2010 10:40 pm

    gr8 story ..dun knoe frm wer do u get such stuff !!!!!

  3. January 18, 2010 11:31 pm

    touched my heart, well i have faith in u shrey, u will become the leader we all need. such purity of thought has become a rarity now a days.

  4. Noor Akhlaq Qureshi permalink
    January 18, 2010 11:55 pm

    Great job. India can not be called a secular place until all minorities whether religious or cultural get respect and freedom.

  5. January 19, 2010 11:06 am

    Dear Brother,
    Trust …my eyes are filled with tears…. pls e-mail me …i want to communicate with you.

  6. January 19, 2010 11:38 am

    My personal account of the Holocaust day – 19th January 1990…

    and … Talibanisation of Kashmir

  7. Kaushik lath permalink
    January 19, 2010 6:13 pm

    A great attempt shrey…………Keep it up man.
    You have choosen a good way to raise these issues.
    Best of luck

  8. Chirag permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:44 pm

    Bro…It’s really great to find you indulged into an action solely concerning the betterment of humanity. While the Government has failed to take action and the media finding it interesting to showcase the filmy drama rather than issues concerning something as such, It really is something to praise.

    I join you in the campaign. Further, the ruling Govt. in the centre proclaims it to be Secular (in nature), solving the issue might help it keep its words.

  9. impact permalink
    January 19, 2010 7:59 pm

    awesome article………

  10. Prof.Poornandeshwar Sharma permalink
    January 20, 2010 7:14 am

    Really touching article…being a Kashmiri Pandit, I know the callousness that struck the community. You have rightly described the sentiments and in the form of a love story is of course, a mark of you youngsters.Keep it up!!

    Prof.Poornandeshwar Sharma
    Department of Agriculture
    Meerut University

  11. Mahima permalink
    January 20, 2010 7:16 am

    Hey nice blog….liked it.I wasn’t aware of the plight of kashmiris.Glad I got to know abt it.Its a shame on the Indian democracy.(or i must add Indian Hypocrisy)

  12. Raghu_romeo permalink
    January 20, 2010 7:17 am

    Good to read…..nice work

  13. Ishan Malvankar permalink
    January 20, 2010 7:18 am

    appreciable attempt..nice outlay

  14. January 20, 2010 8:04 pm

    Suberbly written…kudos that you took a matter not much heard of ,but still needs needs reprimanding on govt’s part!! Kashmiri Pandits — plight of their lives is blot on our tall claims of welfare system !!
    Shrey, choice of words and apt placing of phrases make it a engrossed reading….keep it up!!

  15. Chandan Agarwal permalink
    January 20, 2010 9:18 pm

    a very commendable effort Shrey..

  16. Akhilesh permalink
    January 21, 2010 4:42 pm

    Hey…..what a wonderful story!!!Good that you could couple fiction with reality..kudos!!

  17. akshay permalink
    January 21, 2010 6:04 pm

    very nicely written….show a deep understanding of the subject. keep it up.

  18. Kashmiri Pandit permalink
    January 21, 2010 8:32 pm


    You have done a very good job of explaining the plight of the kashmiri pandit community in very simple language. You have taken me back down the memory lane forcing me to think and write the following verse

    Naino me neer liye , maan me eik aas liye
    Bees varsh beet gaye , aapne ghar (Kashmir) mein saans liye
    Intezar kartu hun , pakka vishwas liye
    eik din to aayega , khushion ka ehsas liye ……………

  19. January 22, 2010 12:47 pm

    Wandhama Massacre – 12 years later

    Sub Divisional police officer Ganderbal Showkat Ahmad, who was then Station Hose Officer for the area told Kashmir Times, “The case has been closed, as no one was identified as the killer of these Pandits.”

  20. February 3, 2010 2:47 am

    There is obviously a lot to learn. There are some good points here.

    Robert Shumake

  21. Sidhartha permalink
    February 5, 2010 10:22 pm

    nice one dude…
    trying to Promote hindu-muslim unity…

  22. Hari permalink
    February 5, 2010 10:47 pm

    awesome article…
    infact its d frst one i read till d end…found it very interesting and informative.
    i guess many of us aren’t even aware of these issues..
    and a well shaped love story relating all the issue.
    i dont understand why d media doesnt cover issues and bring dem 2 limelight…

  23. February 6, 2010 9:24 pm

    Keep up the good work! and may God be with Kashmiri Pundits

  24. February 12, 2010 6:07 pm

    Kashmiris are the worst suffers in whole of the world , One must have sympathy to them

  25. February 12, 2010 6:10 pm

    They , the Kashmiri Pandits do have the difficulty in living .

  26. February 25, 2010 11:00 pm

    Hey very nice blog!!….I’m an instant fan, I have bookmarked you and I’ll be checking back on a regular….See ya 🙂

  27. emily permalink
    March 25, 2010 4:03 am

    I enjoy reading this blog, I usually find out something interesting facts.
    Emily R. from Husky Training

  28. PiterJankovich permalink
    March 30, 2010 7:25 am

    Informative blog….World is full of people trying to kill each other fr religion and race

  29. sushant permalink
    June 18, 2010 1:10 pm

    nd this diaspora has been happening since Aurengzeb……this exodus is never talked about

    great work……we should have had some discussions back in college…..

  30. Ranjeet permalink
    August 16, 2010 3:46 pm

    Excellent I wish people in larger India understand sufferings of our community i.e. Kashmiri Pandits. Outside world is not aware about the origin of Kashmir and its culture pre Aurengzeb. his Admin used to burn 100 Kg of Janue a white 6 Lear thread which KPO wear and on Janue is .5 t0 .6 grams .Think of the number of people killed to reach 100Kg in a day . …………………………. Govt. of India doing the same but in a different manner………..

  31. Nazir permalink
    August 17, 2010 11:48 pm

    We all yearn for that era to return.For that peace to dawn on our land.Wish we witness those stories of harmony that our elders share.Violence has shattered all of us,it gave all of us a life of humiliation.

  32. October 1, 2010 10:03 pm

    What a story! I just salute you for writing this masterprice.

    Thanks again.

  33. Irene permalink
    November 29, 2010 5:05 am

    Despicable!!!In the West,we never heard about the killings of Hindus Brahmins in their dominated country. Thanks for enlightening. I urge the Kashmiri community to bring this matter up on the international stage.

    Yours trully, Irene.

  34. VALVE permalink
    January 19, 2011 6:42 am

    wake up people and spread it like a fire.

    Report to United Nations about this.

  35. January 19, 2011 11:41 pm

    धन्यवाद … हम तो समझ रहे हैं दर्द को ये कठोर कायर सरकार कब समझेगी … सही में कभी कभी शक होता है और ग्लानी होती है कि क्या ऐसा हीं था भारत
    राजा सशंकित, प्रजा सशंकित और यह ध्वजा सशंकित,
    सोंचता हूँ देश की धरती, तुझे त्याग ही दूँ ।
    पर, … … …
    (भ्रष्टाचार, राष्ट्रद्रोह के प्रतिकार में पूरी कविता जरूर पढ़े)

  36. February 5, 2011 4:35 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to my notice, Shrey – through Twitter (This is the first time I’ve understood a bit about how Twitter works!). The point you make is exactly the point I make in my Kashmir article that you cited. The only concern I have is that we don’t yet have the kind of leaders India needs:hence the drift is continuing and even worsening, particularly in Kashmir.

    I’ll share this on my Facebook page.


  37. Pooja permalink
    March 21, 2011 7:27 pm

    Amazing post! One of the best I’ve come across…I loved the way you have handled emotions and at the same time brought an almost forgotten issue (atleast amongst our generation) to light.Im sharing this on Twitter. Hoping to see more soon..

  38. Revanth permalink
    March 21, 2011 10:15 pm

    Brilliant….absolutely commendable Shrey, glad that I know you personally 🙂
    I liked the stress on the aspect of Hindu – Muslim unity in the past. It is seriously awful to know about this situation. Incidents like this refute the very statement that India is a secular country. Thanks Pooja and Twitter for letting me know this.

  39. June 26, 2011 3:38 pm

    Shrey, nice attempt to highlight the plight of KP’s. But I will say too little of no avail.

    It’s not your fault. Its the character of the majority India. And this kind of attitude has a long history of persecution, degradation, denigration, loot, character assassination, and many other happenings.

    You have mentioned about the Kashmiriyat (Hindu-Muslim Unity). This Kashmiriyat is a myth spread by the Muslims and even by majority of KP’s (only because of fear). KP’s have always been made to follow the dictates of majority (Muslim) population. Going against them meant inviting consequences. Majority of the populace of India don’t know much about the history of Kashmir. I mean to say the day-to-day happenings, which is of more importance. And without knowing those happenings, one can’t understand the kind of cruel times KP’s had been going through or living under. We (people of my age) may not have undergone those cruel times, but going by the recent barbaric times, it is not difficult to visualize. The phrase Kashmiriyat started from 1931 and it has a history. Want to know, get back to me.

  40. January 19, 2012 12:34 pm

    nice writing there 🙂

  41. January 19, 2012 4:07 pm

    Thank you for this…I was searching for a personalised story, behind the curtains…and this was the one. I hope/intend this triggers change for Kashmiris.

  42. February 23, 2012 10:33 pm

    gud work..thumbs up 🙂

  43. Bhaskar permalink
    February 5, 2013 9:09 pm

    India is a country in which people saying n doing are totaly different.this is not the promblem wdh politicians even all indians includes in ds category.india with diff. cast system,india with diff. state system,india wdh diff. Language system,different economy level aal these different thing will never going to met all indian with equality level feeling.
    And with all ds issue here people are just thinks of dere own…
    N my dear wdh all ds thing who cares what happend to the kashmiries pandits,what happend in sikh n gujarat roits..who cares.
    Bhaiya yahan sab apni gand chamkane main lage hai…n if u cares then dont worry our sypstem are managed in such a way that soon ur caering type felling flew away…
    A single man can burn the house if he has sufficient fuel…
    Same way one has aplly kaam daam dhand bhed to mange ds then only there is some ray of hope…
    Only dn we could manage our system our democratic system…our working system

    dn only we can think of various issue happening or happend…only
    A strong base can handle the burden of adding briks…


  1. JAu
  2. Indian Media ignores plight of Kashmiri Pandits « The Kashmir

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