Even those suffering from ‘ostrich syndrome’ cannot deny it. For the past sixty-five years, ‘Kashmir dispute’ has been running through India and Pakistan narratives as blood runs through veins in human body. It has been steering and shaping the foreign policy of the two countries and has been hugely influencing their domestic politics. To think of politics in the two countries without Kashmir is unimaginable – any major history work on the post-independence India like ‘India After Gandhi’ by Ramachandra Guha testifies it that Kashmir has been at the centre of Indian polity – and all other issues have rallied around it.’
Since January 1948, when Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru took Kashmir to the United Nation, with all its lows and highs the dispute is seen as threat to global peace. For its geostrategic importance, it attracted the attention of historians and international media throughout the cold war. The interest did not diminish after the end of the cold war or for that matter even after the 9/11. “After India and Pakistan became nuclear” as rightly pointed out by Laura Schuurmans, an Indonesian researcher on Kashmir, “the Kashmir dispute turned into one of worlds’ most dangerous conflicts.” In the post 9/11 scenario ‘Kashmir’s right to self-determination might have been eclipsed, the Kashmir dispute has gained greater international space’ and attention because of related issues’.
Notwithstanding our complaints against international media not giving due space to Kashmir- right from 1947, it is being reported in the international media. In 1964 and 1990’s it remained in headlines almost in all international newspapers. Just in 2010, Kashmir according to a study got over two thousands articles, columns and editorials in the international press.
What we have been lacking in has been proper documentation of writings on Kashmir. Had everything published on Kashmir been compiled these would have taken thousands of square meters of libraries. However, of late Kashmir writers have become conscious of this deficiency. One of the major contributions in this regard has been compilation of eighty-seven articles and nine important documents as appendices in a voluminous book, “Kashmir Facts, Told and Untold’ edited by Sheikh Nazir Ahmed, Majeed Asmi and Showkat Farooqi. The book has lucidly written copious introduction by editors and a Foreword by historian Dr. Abdul Ahad.
In his hard hitting foreword to the book while highlighting importance of the book to Kashmir narrative Dr. Abdul Ahad writes, “For proper appreciation of various perspectives of Kashmir- this volume is an important lever. It traces the genesis of Kashmir’s resistance movement and projects the Kashmir’s burning desire for change.”
Talking about the genesis of the problem, the wars it caused, and it having emerged as a nuclear flashpoint in the region, the editors in the introduction like peaceniks enthusiastically pleading for peace write, “ Almost all disputes and issues across the globe have been sorted out for final solution by peaceful means and methods. Therefore, it is in the interest of both the countries in particular and for the wider world in general that realistic and open minded dialogue; to cull out some tangible solution to the vexed issue is continued uninterruptedly in conformity with aspirations of the people of all regions of Jammu and Kashmir including those living across the Loc.” In their introduction, the editors have been extraordinarily cautious in the use of “idioms” and almost followed the “official stylebook”. In their effort to strike a balance between the “dominant discourse” and the “people’s narrative”, they sometime look like ‘fence-sitters’ and this finds a reflection in the selection of some articles for this compilation- nevertheless the introduction objectively introduces Kashmir dispute before the readers.
I as an intense Kashmir watcher have had the opportunity of reading most of the articles carried in the book as and when these appeared in newspapers, magazines and journals but rereading these articles is not only refreshing but also compelling to relook at the the political developments in the state. ‘Kashmir Question’, by A.G. Noorani, that is first chapter in the book is an ‘article for all times’- so far Kashmir problem is concerned. It not only looks at the dispute in its historical perspective but also enables the reader to understand how deep mistrust between New Delhi and Srinagar is even in “pro-India” leadership. Quoting statements by Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti he very subtly suggests that these leaders also nurse “separatists” sentiments. He quotes PDP president having said on November 1, 2009, “The Accession of Jammu and Kashmir has proved counterproductive” and he equally quotes Farooq Abdullah on November 19, 2007, questioning righteousness of the decision of his ancestors of acceding to India. Referring to some killings, he is quoted having said, “These incidents force us to think whether signing of instrument of accession by Maharaja and endorsed by my late father was fair or not”. Such articles contained in the book will not be of interest to researchers and scholars only but will be of interest to common readers as well.
True, there are some apologetic writings that contribute to the ‘dominant discourse’ but at the same time there are some scholarly and path breaking articles by eminent people like Prof. Richard Bonney, Arundhati Roy, Ambassador M. Y. Buch, Richard H. Curtis. Karen Parker and Anthony Wanis St. John. The editors have done a wonderful job by bringing in as diverse views as that of G. Parthasarthy and Dr. Maleeha Lodi in one volume.
Contrary to the view that in the post 9/11 scenario there are no takers for Kashmir’s right to self-determination some of the articles in this volume suggest that the dispute has not only engaged academia but also some think tanks are involved in finding a solution to the problem.
Some internationally known experts on conflict resolution and scholar on South Asian like Richard H. Curtis, (Died in Jan 2013), and Anthony Wanis St. John advocate third party mediation. Karen Parker continues to be strong advocate for right to self-determination for people of the state.
Scores of articles by Kashmir scribes, writers and historians in the book give a kaleidoscopic view of the Kashmir narrative. Interviews of some prominent Kashmir leaders carried in Greater Kashmir from time to time, other magazines published in the book, and articles by some prominent Kashmir Diaspora leaders provide an insight into their understanding of the Kashmir dispute and its resolution.
The hardbound book with dustcover, spreading over 535 pages, priced at Rs.1500, published by Amicus Books, Srinagar is not only important addition to literature on Kashmir dispute but a treasure of information on contemporary Kashmir- a must read for scholars and researcher not only interested in Kashmir but in South-Asia as a whole.