History Reviews

‘Kashmir As I See It – From Within and Afar’ and ‘A Desolation Called Peace – Voices from Kashmir’ reviews: Roots of a conflict

Understanding the reasons that stand in the way of a solution to the Kashmir crisis

The Centre ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in the Indian Union this week and said the State would be bifurcated into two Union Territories. The simmering Kashmir issue has always drawn the attention of researchers, scholars and writers. Two books, published before the government’s move, provide another perspective on the long-drawn conflict.

‘Kashmir As I See It – From Within and Afar’ and ‘A Desolation Called Peace – Voices from Kashmir’ reviews: Roots of a conflict

A Desolation called Peace looks at the tangle from the point of view of the people of the Valley. Twelve authors argue in favour of an “independent” Kashmir, and against Indian control. While G.R. Malik narrates his personal experience, at once heartrending and informative, Zahir U Din questions the act of accession and is critical of Sheikh Abdullah and his role.

Shahnaz Bashir’s ire is against Nehru. “...Nehru would send Sheikh Abdullah to jail for eleven years, during which time he would mutilate the political autonomy of the state.” A slightly skewed retelling of history, the exodus of Pandits is mentioned in passing without probing the causes.

‘Kashmir As I See It – From Within and Afar’ and ‘A Desolation Called Peace – Voices from Kashmir’ reviews: Roots of a conflict

In Kashmir As I See It, Ashok Dhar, a Pandit, traces the State’s history and analyses the problems and a possible solution in three chapters.

He starts from the legendary Kashyapa, believed to be the founder of Kashmir, takes us through the Buddhist influences and then how Rinchan’s conversion to Islam heralded Muslim rule. He also gives chilling accounts of the insurgency and the exodus of Pandits in 1990. According to him, the issue has become more complex due to the ethnic and religious diversity and language variations in different regions of Jammu and Kashmir.

Both books leave the reader with different views of Sheikh Abdullah. While the first book claims he let down Kashmiri Muslims, Dhar devotes a chapter on him, tracing the changing nature of politics in the State. He says there is no dispute that elections from 1952 to 1977 were manipulated, rigged and unfair.

The Simla Accord

Dhar has written at length about the Simla Accord and says it was a ‘breakthrough’ and a missed opportunity to resolve the crisis. He proposes a solution using conflict resolution models, but is anybody listening? Wajahat Habibullah, a bureaucrat who worked for many years in Kashmir, describes how the situation went out of hand: “Originally it was largely an ethnic issue. However, over the years the insurgency has been carefully and deliberately cultivated into a religious one. This created an environment of intolerance, intimidation, and ultimately violence throughout the valley that only exasperated other existing tensions—a situation that led to the exodus of the Kashmiri Hindu Pandits from the region.”

Both books remind one of Nietzsche’s remark: “The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.”

A Desolation Called Peace: Voices from Kashmir; Edited by Ather Zia, Javaid Iqbal Bhat, HarperCollins, ₹499.

Kashmir As I See It: From Within and Afar; Ashok Dhar, Rupa, ₹595.

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Printable version | Mar 25, 2020 9:09:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-reviews/kashmir-as-i-see-it-from-within-and-afar-and-a-desolation-called-peace-voices-from-kashmir-reviews-roots-of-a-conflict/article28943112.ece

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