Kashmir Oral History

An archive of oral history of Kashmir, recorded in video, audio, and writing. Let the people speak.

Suhail Shah


Topics: narrativesmale, 1990srinagar, englishtranscript

Name: Suhail Shah
From: Srinagar
Lives in: New York, USA
Community: Muslim
Profession: Doctor

Writing date: March 2012

Source: Self-written

suhail shah

“It was close to 5AM on a misty dull grey morning in March 1990…

The dullness was befitting, one of my best friends was leaving me. His survival was at stake. My heart was leaden, my skin was crawling with fear. I was in Batmaloo, Srinagar with a friend to help him negotiate with a Sikh trucker who would help him and his family flee as soon as possible with whatever belongings they could fit on to the truck. The trucker turned out to be empathetic and understanding, perhaps sensing our desperation and sorrow. The deal was quick and furtive, we kept looking around uneasily. He promised to show up at my friends house at 4 AM the next day with his truck. We left…I hadn’t told my family, and I sneaked back into my house.  The next day dawned equally dull and despairing, my friend had left forever…

Those were the ‘worst of times’. The ‘best of times’ were unequivocally over. Frankly, I was surprised that my friend held out so long. The nightly chants from every mosque loudspeaker struck terror into MY heart, I shuddered to think how he and every other person in his same situation would feel, walking around in broad daylight among familiar faces, hearing some of these same exact faces spout their frightening litany of hate at midnight, anonymously via loudspeakers. It was like living in a nightmare….

There was attrition all around us medical school batchmates. I guess we all naively believed that this wasn’t really happening, but each day I found another batchmate, another senior, another junior missing in this desperate exodus. There was puerile posturing amongst some of us…’its all a conspiracy’ said some, probably knowing deep down in their hearts that it wasn’t. ‘It’s Jagmohan who told them to flee, so he can order the army to kill the rest of Kashmiris’. It was inchoate or perhaps defensive, self-delusional thinking….and I felt personally ashamed of such utterances.

My other best friend was someone I grew up with from age five, a Pandit boy and was my mother’s other son; just like I was his mother’s other son. His family held out longer, perhaps because their house was surrounded by Kashmiri Muslims that would give their lives for them. When they too felt impelled to leave, my last bastion of hope that things would improve and get better crumbled around me like a house of cards. I felt intense resentment at being deprived of my ‘brother from another mother’. Never kindly disposed towards the violence unleashed in my peaceful Kashmir of yore to begin with, now I actually started feeling suffocated and strangled in my place of birth.

O what peace was forever lost! In this same Kashmir, before 1989, people used to talk for months about the rare and ocassional murder that happened. Fast forward to 1990 when one of the ‘heroes’ of the movement was ‘famous’ for his gruesome habit of tying grenades to the bodies of ‘informers’ and watching them being blown to smithereens. I will never be able to  forgive the perpetrators of this change in my Kashir. It is laughable and ridiculous to blame the KP community for their mass exodus….within the year I personally left Kashmir for good as well.

Hence my utmost admiration, esteem and high regard for sheer guts and bravery of the Kashmiri Pandits who stayed behind against all odds. They make me feel ashamed of my own pusillanimity and every time I visit Kashmir I go see them, if I can. In fact the Kashmiri Pandit principal of my elementary school still runs the same school in the same ‘high risk’ locality as he did 25 years ago, providing superlative education with limited resources to 100 percent Muslim classrooms.

My fervent hope and desire is to re-create the ‘mile-tchar’ of old. We need the giant brains and intellect of the community that left; Kashmir is bereft of their guidance. No matter how biased each community may be towards the other, the collective organism as a whole, KP + KM is much better equipped to handle the challenges posed by our neighbors across the border, and by the giant enemy within, namely the divisive forces of hatred and religious extremism unleashed by the mullahs and the saffron brigade for furthering their own nefarious agendae.

To end on a positive note, my friends and I are reunited and meet regularly.  We meet and we reminisce about the good ol’ days, and we hope….”

18 comments on “Suhail Shah

  1. Rakesh Mawa
    December 9, 2014

    Hats off to you Sir, for understanding, empathy and courage.


  2. Sunita Ticku
    December 10, 2014

    Brought me to tears cos’ i have never heard or felt this kinda empathy before from the “brothers n sisters of our other mothers”. Thank you.


  3. Sangeeta
    December 10, 2014

    When truth speaks……tears follow …..stay blessed for you courageous. Stay hopeful for our brotherhood and Kashmiriyat will return.


  4. pooja jain
    December 10, 2014

    Brilliant write up Suhail saab. Touched me. Reinforces my faith in mankind n I know not all are bad. God bless u n ur friends n all the ppl who saved other human beings at that time.


  5. Rakesh shalla
    December 10, 2014

    Refreshing………………..Outstanding write up.


  6. Avi R
    December 11, 2014

    Very poignant, Bhai! It is accounts like this which will help rekindle ‘milchaar’ and rejuvenate the lost love. I LOVE you brother!


  7. Ramesh Kumar Zutshi
    January 5, 2015

    What can one say. I keep on telling my KP types; that there are a lot of KMs who do not believe in violence or the agenda forced down the throats of Kashmiri people from across the boarder. A lot of people in Pakistan, including leading lights, know that the policy of bleeding India by a low intensity war of this type will not give them any advantage in the long run. But those, who call the shots in Pakistan wish this to continue, because they benefit from it, financially and otherwise.
    This write up demonstrates that there is hope and we shall keep on hoping.


  8. Rwoof Reshi
    January 5, 2015

    Beautiful. You stole my words and more importantly feelings. I back you up 100%.


  9. Madhulika Kak
    January 5, 2015

    thx for being honest


  10. Indu
    January 5, 2015

    Respect ! At-least someone has guts to speak TRUTH about our exodus and ethnic cleansing in Kashmir by Jihadi’s and this could be the beginning of a New Era ….


  11. Rakesh Kaul
    January 5, 2015

    Suhail Shah when can I host you for lunch or after work to thank you personally for your article. Muslims like you are the spirit of Kashmir, a spirit that was articulated in the 4th century. “If Truth tells you to do one thing and all the Gods tell you to do another thing then follow the path of Truth” Any day after February 8th works.


  12. columnistblog
    January 6, 2015



  13. Rashid lqbal Mian
    January 6, 2015

    Dear Suhail
    highly impressed by your write out.
    probably majority of the KM feel the same n emotionally are still attached to n in contact with our KP friends n neighbours.
    ut probab us the darkest turning point in history of kashmir reference to the exodus of KPs.
    I salute u to gather the courage to express it openly and wholeheartedly share the same feelings n opinions.


  14. Anu
    January 6, 2015

    Suhail Shah Ji… Thank you for a deeply touching write up. I am publishing a booklet and wanted to use your article. Can you please e-mail me for the details? Many thanks!


  15. Sanjeev Kaul
    January 6, 2015

    Hi, salute you your Mum and Dad to give you intellect and courage to stand by humanity, I could recall our class 3 or 4 standing in line to be administered a health check by your parents. I must have come across 100s of KM classmates but most of them are busy cursing Indian govt’s oppression and side stepping the Jehadi atrocities on our motherland and neighbours, you are only 2nd guy who holds the scale straight. God bless you!!!!


  16. B.L.Sher.
    January 7, 2015

    Thanks and kudos,Suhail Shah,for being honest.U r probably the first muslim to have spoken truth.I hope ur write up will encourage other muslim friends to come out clean on KP exodus.God Bless U.


  17. Girija Dhar
    January 11, 2015

    We know wat you hd told umpteen times n need guts. People hv not changed much. In US,, you’ve kmiris who hate everything about India n us.
    We undoubtedly paid a price but ws worth it.
    Yes our meeting ground, our ancestral home is lost so hv the palatial houses built in posh localities now in Lyemb.Hope sustains life, even Pamposh ws discriminated n cursed.
    Our oldies died unsung. Let us not forget, that wud b the ideal tribute to our older generation who longed to die at their ancestral n birth place.


  18. Dr. Inder Koul
    January 29, 2015

    We belong to one great family that is we are Kashmiris. Our ethnicity, culture all is mostly one. Thus I am not surprised by what you have written. Most balanced Kashmiris (Muslims and Hindus) think like you. What we need is genuine teamwork to make the Valley blossom in every manner. We follow two great religions Hinduism and Islam with the common pure Aryan lineage. May Allah (God) bless you and your family.


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