When we started Kashmir Untold in 2018, we had to find someone willing to share their story with us. Through a mutual friend, we met Rishabh Razdan. He supported us in our project, and became the first person we met, who generously shared the story of his family with us. His parents, Shri (Mr.) Mathra Das Razdan Ji and Shrimati (Mrs.) Veena Razdan Ji were forced to leave their home in the beautiful Valley of Kashmir in 1989.
During the cold, dark night of January 19, 1990 thousands of Kashmiri Pandit families were forced to migrate from their homes. Their persecution is perhaps one of the most horrifying episodes of persecution in the last four decades of South Asian history. Rishabh's father, Shri Mathra Das Razdan Ji had started his own firm in Kashmir in 1984. However, the fate had something different planned for him.
He never thought that he will be forced to move to Delhi a few years later. Unaware of the growing tensions, he worked diligently towards his start-up and struggled to make it successful. His perseverance ensured that Emm Dee Agencies started becoming a known name in the Valley of Kashmir. However, in 1989, as a result of ethnic cleansing, he had to shut his company. The broken-hearted entrepreneur collected all the required documents, and also carried the first letterhead of his firm with him.
The letterhead became his source of motivation to start his life afresh in Delhi. He struggled once again, re-building himself from scratch, along with his wife and children.
While her husband was re-building himself, Shrimati Veena Razdan Ji became his pillar of support during these trying times. When she realized they had to leave, she packed everything she could in one night. During the dark hours, Veena Ji packed her Deyjhor with her. It was her way of not only protecting her family financially, but also keeping the culture alive.
Athoor and Deyjhor are earrings worn by Kashmiri Pandit women as a symbol of their marriage. During the wedding, the bride of given Athoor and Deyjhor from the bride and the groom's family. Wearing the two parts of the jewellery together symbolises the union of the two families. She also meticulously passed her culture to her children. Despite being away from Kashmir, her children are well versed with Kashmiri culture and artefacts, because of her diligent efforts to transfer the tangible and intangible heritage of Kashmir to them.
Deyjhor also had another immeasurable significance during this stressful times. A lot of Kashmiri Hindu women sold a portion of their Deyjhor, made of gold. A bit of the chain was removed and discreetly replaced by another metal, of lesser value, polished with gold. This helped the families survive, and also protected their social reputation.
Rishabh concluded our interview by sharing a heartwarming story of communal harmony with us, His mother was pregnant when the riots had started. When the mob came for his family, a Maulvi Sahab, along with other Muslim neighbours in his area, gathered around his house and drove the mob away. They protected his family and ensured that they left the Valley unharmed.
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