“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.”–Vera Nazarian
As prime-time debates have replaced serious research, too many people are too eager to furnish their own solutions to the ‘K’ problem. Often these solutions are nothing more than exotic opinions, featuring macho-militaristic adventures, seen as panacea for everything that afflicts the Valley. This feigned air of expertise, comes in the backdrop of complete lack of perspective of the ensuing Conflict.
But, at the same time, it is heartening to see signs of soberness in the print media. And in the print media, it is the books, bereft of snobbery, that remain last vanguards of true quality and enlighten us to what really lies at the heart of the matter.
And it is in this very spirit, we present to you, notable excerpts and quotations from some exceptional books on Kashmir:
1) The Meadow by Adrian Levy & Cathy Scott-Clark.
The overarching strategy of the Game, the detective said, was to use any means necessary to sow confusion, hatred and suspicion between the different religions, races and competing militant outfits in Kashmir, so that no one group dominated, and all remained weaker than India’s security forces. But the Game went far beyond the age-old tactic of divide and rule: ‘We slandered and manipulated. We placed words into someone else’s mouth to poison friendships. We created false fronts, fictitious outfits, to commit unthinkable crimes. We tapped phones, listened in to illicit lovers and blackmailed them. There was no moral compass. The Game had absolutely no boundaries, and this was something you only came to realize once you were no longer in it. And then you would stand back, sickened by what you have done’.
2) Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects by Mridu Rai.
The language of religion in which their demands for rights are made has given the Indian nation, espousing a secularist credo, the ideological handle it needs to delegitimize and repress popularly backed insurgency. However, this clearly is a misconceived reading of the problem. Under the Dogra rulers, as much as today, the protest of Kashmiri Muslims represents not so much a defense of Islam but of the rights of a community defined as Muslims……
…. This duality in nationalist terms is born, in the ultimate analysis, of the fact that Kashmiri Muslims have, by and large, chosen to tread a path all their own and certainly one that leads them neither to Delhi nor to Islamabad.
3) Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer.
Srinagar is a medieval city dying in a modern war. It is empty streets, locked shops, angry soldiers and boys with stones. It is several thousand military bunkers, four golf courses, and three book-shops. It is wily politicians repeating their lies about war and peace to television cameras and small crowds gathered by the promise of an elusive job or a daily fee of a few hundred rupees. It is stopping at sidewalks and traffic lights when the convoys of rulers and their patrons in armored cars, secured by machine guns, rumble on broken roads. It is staring back or looking away, resigned. Srinagar is never winning and never being defeated…
Kashmiri teenagers in the early 90s did not imitate Che Guevera and Malcolm X; militants walking the ramp of war determined the fashion trend.
4) Our Moon has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita.
For most of us, Kashmir means a calendar hanging in our parents’ bedroom, or a mutton dish cooked in the traditional way on Shivratri, or a cousin’s marriage that the elders insist must be solemnized in Jammu….
Over the years, I have often thought about displaced Pandit families. I began to worry that the story of our community would be lost in the few decades. It was only because of the previous generation that our customs and traditions were being kept alive. It is my father’s generation who knew how to keep track of festivals. They created mini Kashmirs wherever they settled. But after them, there will be nobody left to remember…
5) Kashmir: The Vajpayee years by A.S. Dulat.
One day during my tenure in PMO- where I unexpectedly landed, after my time at heading the R&AW was up- I was as usual discussing Kashmir with Brajesh Mishra, the principal secretary to PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee. ‘Do you know, Dulat, the only thing straight in Kashmir are the poplars?’ he said…
The Kashmiri is a most complex character, and not easy to fathom or engage with. He is the nicest, gentlest, kindest, most sensitive of human beings. Yet he can also be devious and prone to exaggeration…. The Kashmiri rarely speaks the truth to you because he feels that you are lying to him… The problem with Delhi has been that it sees everything in black and white whereas Kashmir’s favourite colour is grey.
6) The Many Faces of Kashmir Nationalism by Nandita Haksar.
I say I don’t now. The Hindus are dreaming of a Hindu Rashtra and the Muslims of a Caliphate—How can country unite to face challenges, not only in Kashmir but across India?
Sampat says it is not true that all Hindus and all Muslims are dreaming such dangerous dreams; the vast majority of them are just dreaming of peace.
I ask him what could be the path to this elusive peace, especially when official India is celebrating war.
Sampat says it can only be Kashmiriyat.
I say it can only be Insaniyat.
I know we are still a long way from defining Insaniyat or humanism. But, like Sampat, I refuse to stop hoping….
7) Lost in Terror by Nayeema Mehjoor.
‘If freedom requires truth, justice and humanity to be wiped away from society, let us prefer slavery instead. The people who had dreamt of Azadi would not want us to die a death of shame and disgrace. We did not object to the gun when it was forced in our society, but we never believed that it would be used against us,’ Tahira burst out, crying and wailing.
‘How could they be so cruel? To torture her by ironing her private parts? Who says they are liberators? They are criminals and barbarians, more dreadful than soldiers!’
I wanted to prevent them from making inciteful statements, but I couldn’t. The least I could do was close the heavy door to the studio to prevent anyone from eavesdropping…..
8) My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light by Wajahat Habibullah.
‘My conviction is that the people of Kashmir can no longer be ignored, that Kashmiris will not allow others to ignore them. If anybody in Kashmir was not a Kashmiri in 1989, they all are now. Too much has happened. If any agreement or process denies this reality, it will fail. Today, each and every Kashmiri is faced with an existential problem having to do with the yearning of their homeland, with being part of a culture, with winning a battle to remain themselves, as Kashmiris belonging to a people with a distinctly Kashmiri consciousness…
Much of Kashmir has been reduced to desolation and ashes… My conviction is that all of us in generation next, in our humble ways must hope, pray, search and work so that, from these mountain of ashes in Kashmir, a phoenix will rise, not phantoms.’
9) Secrets of The Kashmir Valley by Farhana Qazi.
In their “day of rage”, Kashmiris shared their stories, reimagined and retold, to honour their sacred past and shaky present. Together, they could survive the cruelties of conflict.
Tethered by history, this new generation of Kashmiris proved they would not be forgotten. Nor discredited forever. It was, in the words of an American novelist William Faulkner: “ The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
10) Kashmir: The Untold Story by Humra Qureshi.
Srinagar is a city under siege. It has been under siege, every single day, for nearly a decade and a half. People outside Kashmir read or hear reports of spectacular sorrows— half a village gunned down, bus passengers blown up, young men disappearing from home and often being found as disfigured corpses days or months later— and soon reach the inevitable stage where the news barely registers before they move on to the next page, a different channel. Horror fatigue has prevented any real understanding of what ordinary Kashmiris go through on a daily basis: fear, uncertainty, humiliation.
The journey of understanding begins with a single book. Godspeed.