The Odyssey of Kashmiri Pandits -Book Review

Dr. M.L. Bhatt is a retired Professor of Chemistry. He was born in in a tiny village in Kashmir. He has been a victim of the militancy in Kashmir and since the exodus, he has been living as a refugee in his own country for the last thirty years. Dr. Bhat has authored several seminal books and articles.

Dr. M. L. Bhat’s book “The Odyssey of Kashmiri Pandits,” released in 2017, is an autobiographical account of the horrible and deplorable tale of the cruelties and barbarism perpetrated on the Kashmir Valley’s indigenous people. The book completely depicts the harsh and brutal treatment of Kashmir’s ancestral people, the Kashmiri Pandit community, which culminated in their mass exodus in 1989-90. The author’s narration style of his own experience gives a devastating and heartbreaking narrative to the readers, allowing the readers to sympathize with the author about the suffering of his community.

The author has utilized the title appropriately, focusing on the entire journey and voyage of Kashmiri Hindus, including their history, culture, sorrow, and evolution. The author begins with the tragedy and tribulation of Jews and compares it to the six-century-old sorrowful story of Kashmiri Pandits. He compared the atrocities committed against Jews to those committed against the Pandit community, concluding that Kashmiris are one of Israel’s lost tribes.

Throughout the initial chapters, the writer recounts his early recollections of how Hindus in general, and Pandits in particular, have been the target of all maledictions, prejudice, and stereotype in the Valley, and how the pandits have absorbed and confronted this abuse hurled by the majority population. In the latter chapters, he depicts the scene following the collapse of 1989, describing how things heated up and how the situation deteriorated day by day. He highlighted the terrible occurrences in Kashmir in order to show the terrifying existence that the Kashmir Hindu population lived in their own motherland. He discussed about the heinous and horrifying incidents of killing prominent Kashmiri Pandit leaders in broad daylight, as well as how gun culture was spreading in Kashmir. He then discusses the horrific events that occurred after a local Urdu newspaper published a press release issued by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a Jamaat-e-Islami organization established in 1989 to wage jihad for Jammu and Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan, on January 4, 1990, asking all Hindus to pack up and leave. He further described the hardship of Kashmiri people when curfews were the norm, and how caravans of taxis and vehicles transporting Kashmiri Pandit families to Jammu or Delhi could be seen every morning.

The author has adequately addressed the suffering of the pandit community by illustrating their predicament not only in Kashmir, but also in Jammu, where the majority of the population has migrated. The author’s story demonstrates how harsh and brutal governance led to the deportation of a peaceful society from their homeland, as well as how the community withstood the vicious and mean forces that acted against it. He also illustrated how, despite challenges, the group has been viewed as a “coward” due to its adaptation and assimilation in their new homelands. The author has fully documented the health situation of these pandits residing in various regions of the world, and has even provided pertinent statistics to back up his assertions. Diabetes caused by sadness, skin problems, gastro-intestinal ailments, anaemia, renal failure, emotional breakdowns, and cancer are all common, according to him. He also stressed the mental torment inflicted on them, which is still plaguing the souls of the entire town.

In the book’s final Chapter, M. L. Bhat shares his experience of visiting Kashmir after 27 years since their exodus in 1990. Through his narration, he shows the readers how each and every Kashmiri Pandit longs to return to their motherland, the country where their ancestors have lived for ages. He even displayed the community’s difficult heroism and fortitude in choosing the road of keeping their community and faith above mass conversions.

Throughout the book, the author criticizes how the international community and India have stayed mute about the misery of Kashmir Pandits. The chapters in which the author detailed the predicament of the community living in various regions of India also represented how the world and Indian government remain mute about his group’s struggle. The author’s visiting back to his homeland and desire to live back in his hometown also demonstrated how the author has accurately attacked the government and international community for failing to act adequately for his community even after 27 years of mass departure.

To conclude, the author has developed a groundbreaking book by giving readers firsthand knowledge of the predicament of the Kashmiri Pandit population. The incredibly detailed examples and occurrences let the reader comprehend the situation in Kashmir and what the population has gone through. The author has well described the situation of the Kashmiri Pandit population in Kashmir, as well as in migration camps and other locations around India, and has demonstrated that even after 27 years, the government has failed to develop strategies for their return to their homelands. It vividly depicts the author’s autobiographical recollections of living and experiencing the awful tales of Kashmir, and it also informs readers about the community’s dire position. I feel that the author could have offered some recommendations for improving people’s situations. Despite this, the book is a remarkable exposition of pandits’ plights and critically assesses their predicament in around 170 pages. The book’s pricing is also appropriate, allowing people from all walks of life to comprehend the plight of Kashmiri Brahmins.

Liza Gupta
Liza Gupta
Liza Gupta is a student currently pursuing Masters in Diplomacy, Law and Business from O.P. Jindal Global University. She is fascinated about the Kashmir issue and the gender issues and wants to pursue doctoral studies in the subject.