Biographies and the Narratives

An autobiography can distort; facts can be realigned,” writes an author of Indian origin. There is some truth in his assertion but it cannot be the whole truth. Notwithstanding, autobiographies and memoirs being overwhelmingly subjective, they do provide warp and weft for recording history of the political struggles. This genre of literature, besides providing an insight into behind the scene happenings that have impacted history and politics of a nation also contribute in enriching and strengthening a nation’s narrative. 

In our case, since the whole story of our ninety years old struggle for achieving political and civil rights for overwhelming majority is  yet to be told this genera of literature has an important role to play in deconstructing and demolishing the “hegemonic discourses’. 

For the Kashmir narrative, it is not only the biographies and memoirs of the protagonists of our movement or key players in our struggle for political rights that are important.   The memoirs and autobiographies of important people that have strutted across the corridors of power in New Delhi in fact also strengthen the Kashmir narrative’.  Had not M.O. Mathai, Personal Secretary of   and a member of Indian delegation to United Nations published his memoirs, ‘My Days with Nehru’, we would not have known many behind the scene stories about Kashmir in the Security Council.  We would not know that India regretted over including Sheikh Abdullah in its delegation. And words like “stooge and Indian Quisling” sticking to him before the comity of nations. Indian delegation denouncing him as ‘dandy’.  Perhaps we would not also know that Indian Home Minister, ‘Sardar Patel never wanted Kashmir to be part of India.’ That, in 1953 ‘Feroze Gandhi wanted to see Sheikh Abdullah killed and pushed down the hill at the Ceasefire line instead of being imprisoned would not have been documented at all.    

The memoirs of B.N. Mullik, ‘Kashmir- My Years with Nehru’ with all lop-sidedness are also important for the Kashmir narrative. It documents some details about the political developments during fifties and the 1964 Holy Relic Movement that otherwise would perhaps never been told. And at the same leaves some big questions for researchers that call for an answer for strengthening the Kashmir narrative. Even the memoirs of senior Indian Army Officer like Brigadier L.P. Sen ‘Slender was Thread’  and ‘Nehru’s Emissary to Kashmir’ by Hira Lal Atal are important for telling the whole Kashmir story. Had not Atal recorded his memoirs, perhaps it would have remained a secret never to be told that Sheikh Abdullah’s arrest had been planned in July and it was a military operation. Atal writes, ‘I left for Srinagar with Skelton-staff in July 1953 for assessing the situation and conducting the “exercise.” 

For telling full story about the elections and their genuineness, ‘Nice Guys Finish Second,’ memoirs by B.K. Nehru, a former governor of the State assumes are important. Even memoirs’ of some prominent Indian journalist from Frank Morass to Prem Bhatia to Kuldip Nayar do provide grist to the Kashmir narrative. Frank Morass, who was known for his proximity to first Prime Minister of India in his memoirs’ ‘Witness to an Era” takes lid off from some inside stories about Kashmir. It was but for his proximity to the corridors of power, he recorded that in 1962, USA was pushing through the idea of partitioning of Jammu and Kashmir with Kashmir going to Pakistan with provision of allowing a corridor for India to Ladakh for army supplies. 

In the post 1990, scenario I see “My Country My Life” autobiography of L.K. Advani with a foreword by Atal Bihari Vajpayee as important work for Kashmir narrative.  It enables one to understand how BJP looks at the Kashmir problem and speaks about the four pronged strategy of the party in dealing with Kashmir.  The author has also documented his talks with a section of the Hurriyat Conference which perhaps would have remain untold. I see phase five of his autobiography as important for telling the Kashmir story and New Delhi mind-set.

Surprisingly, secretive-elitists approach of preceding and contemporary leadership in not telling whole story to people has not only confounded the people’s narrative but also made the goal hazier. Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is the only contemporary leader who has been   documenting contemporary history and sharing behind the scene happenings and machinations with people. Third volume of his autobiography, ‘Wullar Kinaray’ has been published a few days back. It documents political struggle of the author exhaustively   and also mentions about his personal life. It could be classified as memoirs not as biography. 

 The 660 pages hardbound book priced at rupees 475, has been published by the Millat Publishers, Srinagar. It covers behind the scene developments from 1995- 2014. One of the most crucial period   the contemporary Kashmir history starting with the announcement of first Assembly elections  after six years Presidents rule.   The successful boycott of these elections by the Hurriyat Conference with Abdul Gani Lone, Muhammad Yasin Malik and the author in the vanguard. It is a very subtle commentary on dissension within the ranks of the Hurriyat Conference over election of the chairman of the conglomerate and boycotting of the elections that ultimately led to the vertical division in the multiparty combine.  The four point formula   of Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf, which he called as “out of box solution” is one of the chapters. Seeing this formula as total U-turn from historical stated position of Pakistan and a betrayal of fundamental right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,  the protagonists of right to self-determination movement attributes this change in Pervez Musharraf to his loss of ‘self-confidence and mental depression.’ What made Pervez Musharraf to take a U-turn is matter of debate. 

Why Syed Ali Shah Geelani had become a bete noire for the Jammat-e-Islami when he had emerged one of the icons of the ‘resistance movement’ is an important that book poses.   From custodial killings to engagement of Hizb with Government of India; from India-Pakistan summits to the summers of dissent, the book has commutatively documents every important development.  

 The author perhaps wants introduction to this volume of his memoirs cascading with pain and agony, brimming with concern about gullible people being tricked by unscrupulous and double-dealing politicians to pass as his   last testament for people of the state in general and youth in particular.