In 2006 Arvind Gigoo initiated a new genre in English writing, viz; cameos by writing his book The Ugly Kashmiri (Cameos in exile). After this trend, writing of cameos became a new trend and more books of cameos followed. B L Saraf wrote A New Lexicon of the Kashmiris and R N Kaul wrote A Misanthrope from Kashmir (A kaleidoscope of cameos).
These books have Kashmir politics and the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits as the main attractions. Degrading socio-cultural values, political hypocrisy and regressive mindset prevalent both in Kashmir and at other places in India form the themes of these satirical writings. The small sentences expose the new environ where the Pandits live as refugees and are called ‘migrants’.
Rajesh Dhar’s cameos target those who are responsible for the destruction of Kashmiri ethos and culture in 1990. He sneers on the leaders who provoked others to create unrest in the valley. Dhar’s cameo reads:
Down with India but not till my kid graduates.
Criticizing those whose sole objective is to amass riches Gigoo’s cameo says:
This shouldn’t end. I have become rich.
Many educational institutions were set on fire by the miscreants called ‘militants’. They get money for burning these institutions and the government provides funds for rebuilding them. Rajesh Dhar writes:
It makes business sense to burn the bridges and schools.
R N Kaul boldly exposes the so- called human rights activists:
News: Road accident in Srinagar kills three women and four children.
A strong proof of human rights violation by security forces.
The duplicity and the double standards of the leaders of the unrest stand exposed. When a militant commits atrocities on the common people the news is ignored as if nothing has happened. On the other hand the people who inflict the miseries on the innocents are surprisingly rewarded in the name of jihad. Rajesh Dhar, being a master, sneers thus:
The mujahid was promoted. He had shot dead a six-month old infant.
Kashmiris have always believed in rumours. A rumour spread about the tallest leader of Kashmir Sheikh Mohd Abdullah that his name appeared miraculously on the leaves of the chinar trees. Syed Ali Shah Geelani became the new leader of the Kashmiri Muslims. While drawing the sketch of the lack of conviction, belief and chameleon-like character of the Muslims, Gigoo writes:
From Pakistan to plebiscite to India to Pakistan to independence to anything and anywhere is one breath.
B L Saraf in this context calls Hurriyat Conference ‘A body of men and women who meet to repeal earlier resolutions of mass destruction.’ Kashmiri Muslims vacillate between the ideas of Pakistan, independence, autonomy and self-rule.
Making mockery of the separatists and their slogan of azadi, R N Kaul makes a veiled reference to a die-hard separatist leader and names him as Mr. Hartal.
Rajesh Dhar targets only Kashmiri Muslims but Arvind Gigoo, B L Saraf and R N Kaul have not spared even their own community. Despite the fact that tonsuring of the heads exercised by Kashmiri Pandits attracted world-wide attention at that time yet Gigoo feels that such kinds of moves cannot be result-oriented. Time proved his suspicion right:
‘What did you do to regain your homeland?’
R N Kaul’s cameo about homeland reads in reference to Bhutto’s lecture. No Pandit will survive to see it.
‘When shall we return to Kashmir?’
‘Only when Panun Kashmir becomes a reality. Let it take Bhutto’s one thousand years.’
This is a natural tendency that everybody is concerned about his own pain. While going through the pain of being killed, the mind cannot give rise to thinking about the pain of others, and then it is very pompous to mention that the degree of pain varies from person to person and is directly proportional to the level of patience. And a very big factor to be taken note of is to analyze its intensity and purpose. Some buy pain for some returns and some give pain to others for no fault of theirs. Kashmiri Muslims still believe that it was the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Jagmohan who made Pandits flee from Kashmir. But Arvind Gigoo’s cameo ‘The Nurse’ reveals the agony which the Kashmiri Pandits were subjected to:
‘We will saw you.’
‘What have I done?’
Rajesh Dhar writes:
A six inch nail was hammered into his forehead——–at the spot where he had applied the tilak.
On one side R N Kaul has tried to expose the negativity that the Kashmiri Pandit community has developed in displacement, be it hypocrisy and degrading social values like the young leaving their parents unattended, but on the other side he has strongly batted in favour of them on the issue of their sufferings for no fault of theirs. From the political point-of-view the author has summed up the history and historical knots in just one cameo
Extinct Community in 2110.
This compels the readers to introspect and dissect the historical turns and their aftermath.
B L Saraf has also condemned the establishment for the poor response shown towards the Pandits. The sufferings of the displaced community are multiplied on one pretext or the other. Despite living in exile for two decades now Kashmiri Pandits have been asked to prove their identity by producing affidavits and pass through cumbersome rules and regulations. They have been denied the right to vote. His cameo ‘Affidavit’ speaks volumes in this regard.
Even their educational, cultural and literary duplicity has been unfolded genuinely by Gigoo:
Passport Officer: ‘Show me your Ration Card.’
Kashmiri Pandits are nowadays experiencing new difficulties which are the after-effects of their exodus. Their children are away from them. Some are pursuing education outside and some are doing jobs. Even at the time of death children are away and the dead bodies are made to wait for the last rites to be performed by children. R N Kaul’s cameo Parent’s Address has become a reality of our elders.
‘Hello-yes bother, note down our parents’ address: Home for the old, Banishabad, Jammu—.’
So-called secularism stops the Indian polity from helping the Kashmiri Pandits and the appeasement policy towards the Muslims has been willfully projected by Gigoo:
Listen! How can I talk about the plight of Kashmiri Pandits? I am a secularist.
Writing cameos demands a creative acumen coupled with abundance of knowledge. Arvind Gigoo added an Appendix (notes) to the second edition of his The Ugly Kashmiri (Cameos in exile). B L Saraf’s cameos are bombastic with extremely difficult words. As for Rajesh Dhar is concerned, his one sided tirade against the Muslims does not give a complete and full picture of the Kashmir imbroglio. Who knows the lengthened exile of Kashmiri Pandits may add more fascinating cameos in future?