The most satisfying outcome of the success of The Kashmir Files is the germination of the idea of setting up of a Genocide Museum in Bhopal. Vivek Agnihotri has proposed and the MP CM has already agreed to provide land and other support for setting up a House of Remembrance to commemorate the victims and honour the survivors among the Kashmiri Hindus of the Valley.
The mandate of this Museum must be made crystal clear from the very beginning, else mischievous elements would try to hijack its purpose at the first available opportunity. There should be no scope for doubt that it is the ethnic cleansing of the Kashmiri Hindus at the hands of extremist Islamist elements, both local and from across the border, at the behest of Pakistan, while the local administration looked the other way, is what is being sought to be commemorated. The mischief-makers, that is the pseudo-secularists, Islamopologists and leftists would want to generalize the message, if they ever get to exercise control over the museum administration. They might argue that it is not just the Hindus, but the Kashmiri Muslims as well, who have lost their lives in the four decade-old insurgency and proxy war launched by Pakistan. There is no gainsaying that they indeed have, but their difficulties cannot be compared with the Hindus, simply because what the latter faced was ethnic cleansing, which the former did not. They might also seek to introduce victims from other parts of the country to dilute the gravity of the tragedy faced by the Kashmiri Hindus. But if anyone wants to honour the victims and survivors of any other tragedy, they must find a different place for the purpose, the proposed Bhopal Museum must not allow for any such future invasion of space.
It is not just those who were killed by the jihadis, or perished because of the circumstances, who are the victims. The family members of the dead have lived-on with the horror and pain of those times. Those who had to flee, leaving behind their ancestral houses and livelihoods, found themselves uprooted from the ecosystem they well-understood, and had to begin again from the scratch, and struggle of make something of their lives. Many others, who could not leave, or chose not to stay have borne years of misery and persecution, and must also be considered victims, as much as the survivors. Every Kashmiri Hindu is a victim of the circumstances.
The perpetrator is well identified – Pakistan, including its Army and the ISI, foreign mercenaries, jihadist elements on both sides of the border, local backers like politicians and sectarian leaders, the willing accomplices among the Kashmiris and even those ‘good locals’ who remained silent while this genocide went on. Let me not forget the role of powers-that-be in Delhi, who could have done something about the whole situation, but failed to do so. It is role of cinema, literature, enquiry commissions and the courts to list, shame and punish those who were guilty. The proposed Museum must not waste space or potential upon them, rather train its focus upon the tragedy, its victims and survivors, and how their lives turned out after the exodus.
Notable examples of Holocaust museums in the world include Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, and the US Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C. among many others. They exhibit refugee artefacts, artworks, photographs, writings, oral history records, interview footages, lists of victims and survivors, as well as scholarly archives, accessible to the public. There are numerous other site- museums across the world. Although these sites differ markedly from traditional museums in that the buildings themselves serve as the exhibits, most also contain such items as possessions taken from prisoners as they entered the camps, written records kept while the camps were running, and clothing and shoes removed from prisoners just before they were killed. There are survivors’ own keepsakes, written records, and photographs, which serve to testify against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. The documentation, study, and interpretation of the history of Kashmir Genocide must be approached with an aim to help global leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent pogroms, promote human dignity, and strengthen democracy everywhere.
Such modern museums must in their new spaces reflect the symbolism and significance of the material that they house. At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the space is intended to render the visitor slightly off-balance to keep him on edge. The Holocaust Memorial Centre in Budapest resides in an asymmetrical building with dislocated walls, which are intended to symbolize the “distorted and twisted” era of the Holocaust. The Illinois Holocaust Museum building is divided into dark and light sections. Visitors are supposed to descend into the darkness to view exhibits revealing the horrors of the time period. They then view a Book of Remembrance with the names of the victims at the centre of the museum before exiting through a portion of the building filled with natural sunlight that symbolizes the time of rescue and renewal. The architecture of the proposed Genocide Museum must similarly try to capture the horrors experiences by the Kashmiris, and appeal to the visitors with its innovative design.
Vivek Agnihotri takes a lot of pride in the fact that not even a single Kashmiri Hindu took up arms in revenge, or even to protect himself. The displaced families educated their kids, and as of today, most of them are well-placed across the globe. That education and not violence is the way to live well, as per him, should be the message which must be conveyed through the Genocide Museum. But along with it, a subtle message must also go to the survivors and their co-religionists that not even God helps those, who do not rise up to save themselves. This should serve as a warning to those of us who remain oblivious to the threats around them, and carry on with their lives, hoping that the state shall come to their rescue, if and when they face threat from fundamentalists and terrorists. The events of Kashmir in the 1980s are just a trailer, and a timely reminder of the shape of things to come. Be ready, or be dead, or prepare for another exodus.
The Partition Museum in Amritsar, which was inaugurated in 2017, provides a fine model from which the Genocide Museum might derive some inspiration. It took us 70 years to wake up and establish this fine and necessary institution, which commemorates the immense tragedy faced by its victims and survivors.
On that note, there is a vital need to build Hindu Holocaust Museums on numerous sites ravaged by Islamic invaders and Padishahs like Mahmud of Ghaznavid, Taimur, Nadir Shah, Aurangzeb, Sikandar Butshikan and many others. Broken idols, temples, literary evidences and laser re-creations of the pre-destruction grandeur should be exhibited at these places, so that generations to come are sensitized about the intolerance and cruelty of those marauders, as well as the resilience shown by the Hindu ancestors. Bhopal is just a small beginning, Kashi-Mathura-Ayodhya-Somanth and other places eagerly wait for their turn.
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