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Kashmir's former Chief Secretary touches on the state's issues in his memoirs

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The biggest issue in Kashmir is still the alienation of its people, finds the State’s former Chief Secretary through his memoirs

Having spent 35 years as a civil servant, including many as Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir decades ago, author Moosa Raza strongly believes that poetry can create human bonds.

“[When posted in the State,] I discovered that poetry is part of everyday conversations in Kashmir. The ordinary Kashmiri would come up with couplets at the drop of a hat,” he tells his audience during a Madras Book Club discussion of his latest book Kashmir: Land of Regrets (Westland).

“I have spent a lifetime reading Ghalib, Iqbal, Thiruvalluvar... it helped me connect with people spontaneously,” he adds.

Mirroring the times

The Chennai-based author is a Padma Bhushan awardee with three other books to his credit, and the crowd listens intently as he recounts memories from his posting in the pre-AFSPA days, following them up with what he has seen in recent visits. His book, much like his conversation with the evening’s host, author Krupa Ge, is a memoir sprinkled liberally with opinion and analysis. Unsurprisingly, one of the first questions is the very necessity of the book, particularly in these times.

Remembering Kashmir Moosa Raza

Remembering Kashmir Moosa Raza   | Photo Credit: By arrangement

“I was not aware of this Government’s plan to abrogate Section 370 and Section 35A,” replies Raza, “Since they did, I thought to put the whole history of Kashmir into perspective: how militancy happened, what forces came together to keep the State boiling, why Section 370 had to come about in the first place. I have been mulling over it for some time, talking to everyone including shikara boatmen and taxi drivers, and getting inputs.”

Much of what Raza has to say about the State and its people stems from his personal experience and conversations. The evening only had time enough to skim over deep and complex topics. The book, on the other hand, includes other, more historic elements, like letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru about Sheikh Abdullah and the latter’s long imprisonment.

Raza says his account also looks at the State’s election, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and a number of other contentions. There is plenty to study over the decades — from pellet guns to continuous shutdowns at the cost of everyday life and education. Raza unfailingly looks at multiple perspectives each time.

A major point of emphasis during the evening is the distinction that the civil servant draws between “the Kashmir dispute” and “the Kashmir problem”.

As he explains it, “The dispute is the technical, legal one between India and Pakistan, that has been brought to the attention of the United Nations. The Kashmir problem, is the alienation of its people.” This, he says, is the aspect that has been ignored for decades. “By 2014, Section 370 had already been eroded substantially. What the locals are worried about now, is their land, their jobs.”

Kashmir: Land Of Regrets is available on Amazon.in and major bookstores.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 8:57:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/speak-to-them-in-their-idiom/article29909133.ece

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