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The Second Victims of Jihad.

Author: Shourie Bannai
Publication: Myind.net
Date: August 28, 2018
URL:    https://www.myind.net/Home/viewArticle/the-second-victims-of-jihad

A warm August morning, I was driving southwards from Dallas to Houston, with two of the finest intellectual minds from India in the car. I had thought a lot about this drive, with exactly these two greats, for a long time. There was so much to ask them, listen to them and learn from them. And if I hadn’t doggedly insisted, I might have lost this opportunity of a lifetime (for this I’d like to thank the President of our organization).

Sitting in the front passenger’s seat next to me was Sushil Pandit, whose voice is the Hindu answer to Morgan Freemans’. And sitting in the rear passengers’ seat, was Shefali Vaidya, a bit off color, since she had caught cold, but witty and brutally sharp as always. With these two in the car and the third being me, a small-town boy from semi-rural India, I was sure that all the decisions in life that had led me to that moment were exactly right. I was sure that there would be at least 1000 others who would have liked to be where I was, at that moment.

As we drove, we began to talk, and the talks ranged from the faith, God to Indian politics both regional and central. I listened as the two spoke eloquently about a range of subjects. As they always do. Like a sponge soaking water, I was trying to absorb, learn and frankly, not sound stupid if I spoke.

With Sushil Pandit in the car, Kashmir had to come up in the discussion. It did. Sushil ji narrated a story to us. And as is evident from the multiple videos available on the net, when Sushil ji talks, the audience listens with rapt, undivided attention.

As children growing up in Kashmir, Sushil ji’s grandfather had a daily routine he performed like a ritual. Every morning after his bath and visit to the temple, he used to buy bread from the baker who sold bread on the steps to the ghat, slightly ahead of the temple, at Batayar in Srinagar. As it happens, he was a Hindu baker and used to bake fresh, soft bread early morning, in his bakery and made a living off of it. Sushil ji’s grandfather after buying the freshly baked, soft aromatic bread, used to feed half of the bread loaves to the stray dogs of the neighborhood, before taking the rest of the loaves home for his household. Sushil ji found this act of kindness towards the canines very moving and fondly remembered it.

In 1990, the ethnic cleansing of Hindu population happened.

It was sometime around in 2008-2009, when Sushil ji wanted to show his teenage children their ancestral home, Kashmir. Sushil ji said, “I wanted to spare my children the stories of blood and gore while they were growing up, so only as teens did I want to take them to Kashmir”. So, he took his sons and nieces and some members of his family to Kashmir.

When the whole family reached their ancestral home in Batayar, they realized their own home was taken over. So, they went to the same temple to which Sushilji’s grandfather went every morning. They had to clean the temple, since it was ages anybody had worshipped or even thought of looking at the temple. It was in fact surprising to Sushil ji that the temple was actually standing.

After cleaning the inner space and the compound of the temple, they offered a puja and an aarati. Few hours later, someone called out aloud from outside the temple, “Has Mohini’s son (presumably Sushil ji himself) returned?”. After exchanging pleasantries, a long conversation followed about the  years past. While leaving, Sushil ji enquired from the person whether there still was a baker on the steps to the ghat, as in the past. To which the person replied in the affirmative but added in good measure that he was a Muslim, meaning thereby that I may not want to buy from him.

To which Sushil ji obviously replied that the religion of the baker did not really matter to him, because all Sushil ji wanted was to buy some loaves to repeat his grandfather’s ritual.

At this point, the visitor gave Sushil ji a startled look and said, “There are no dogs left in the neighborhood, the jihad had consumed all the dogs too. After driving all the Hindus out, the jihadis had gathered the dogs and killed them all”.

After that sentence, a heavy silence hung in the car. Shefali ji and I looked at each other incredulously, in disbelief. I was perhaps unable to comprehend what we had just heard, perhaps unable to come to terms with the fact that the list of victims of Jihad in 1990’s did not stop at humans. Three people in the car, all three silent, all three with heavy hearts, trying to find some morsel of sympathy if they hadn’t run out of it.

I was wondering, what kind of savagery was that which would kill completely innocent four-legged best friends of humans? And for what reason? What kind of psychopathic degeneracy calls for an ethnic cleansing of human beings, and when done with humans extends the frontiers to animals?

Many great men who have fought evil, have always said that evil is a letdown. It never matches the image built up fighting it. Neither does it exhibit the same intensity and rabidity with which it fights when it comes down to the last battle. But can the same thing be said about sadness? Sadness is the eventuality after fighting evil, victor or vanquished. These are questions that we as a society, as a civilization will need to find answers to.

What exactly are we fighting for? And what are we sad about? Losing our identity or losing our decency or both? We drove into the warm Texan sun on the east trying to find answers.

(This article is being published after receiving permission from Sushil Pandit and Shefali Vaidya to mention their names in the article).
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