It is a sad story. In our premier academic institutions, hardly any serious work is done on the Kashmir problem. Notwithstanding insularity of our own academicians and ‘scholars’, Kashmir continues to be abuzz in a good number of academic institutions in the world. In a number of policy institutions along with other important subjects, concerning global peace Kashmir continues to maintain its primacy. It is read, written and talked about.- every year a number of books are published on Kashmir.
‘Kashmir: The case for freedom’ is the latest book that has been added to the shelf. The book published by Verso, a radical publishing house is in fact a compilation of articles by Tariq Ali, Hilal Bhat, Angana Chatterji, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy. Most of the chapters in the book have been already published in various magazines and newspapers during 2008 and 2010.
In incisive introduction to the book, Pankaj Mishra has touched an important subject concerning insensitiveness about Kashmir in ‘the Indian liberal conscience.’ Calling Kashmir as a “great suppression story”, he confronts those ‘Western Pundits who are always ready to assault illiberal regimes worldwide on behalf of democracy ought not to be tongue tied.’ He questions intellectuals ‘assuming that democratic India, a natural allay of liberal West , must be doing right thing in Kashmir, that is fighting ‘Islamofacism’, without heeding to urges aspirations of “well-educated Muslim population, heterodox and pluralist by tradition and temperament, and desperate for genuine democracy.”
Taking a dig at Indian writers and intellectuals that notwithstanding being ‘acquainted with messy realties’ on ‘Kashmir often appear evasive as their Chinese peers on Tibet’. He reminds them of the role played by intellectuals in the United States during sixties against American involvement in USA. “There was hardly a public figure in the United States- from J.K. Gilbert to Philip Roth- who did not feel compelled to build up chorus of denunciation against country’s deeply dishonorable involvement in Indochina.” One is here reminded of the galaxy of American writers like Robert Bly, David Rat, Robert Lowell, Grace Paley and many others who under the banner of American writers Against Vietnam War raised their voice against their government. He very subtly objurgates Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen for his ‘nervousness’ at his mentioning of Kashmir in a footnote in his books The Argumentative Indian and Identity and Violence—“I am not taking up thorny question”. A scholar like Sen lacking courage for talking about Kashmir not only sounds ridiculous but also speaks volumes about intellectuals in India. He castigates, “The choleric TV anchors, partisan journalists, and opinion makers of Indian corporate media routinely amplify the falsehood and deceptions of Indian intelligence agencies.”
Pankaj Mishra believing that Kashmiris will speak for themselves points out that Indian media ‘works in concert with government, to deny any legitimacy to ‘protests in Kashmir.’
The book is an important addition to literature in Kashmir. The contributors to the book Arundhati Roy, Angana P Chatterji and Pankaj Mishra for their outspokenness and involvement have become exalted household names in the state. The only Kashmiri contributor is Hilal Bhatt, a journalist. The chapter titled, Fayazabad 31223 gives chilling account of Kashmiri students studying in Aligarh University traveling in a train and attacked by Kar Sevaks killing two of his friends- the chapter agonizingly reminds about the awaiting uncertainties for future generations.
‘The Story of Kashmir’ by Tariq Ali is the only chapter that has botched, otherwise a candid book. This chapter covers more than one third of hundred and forty page book. The chapter that encapsulates history of Kashmir from advent of Islam in Kashmir to 2010 is a pedestrian account of seven hundred years Kashmir history. It not only faults on facts, indulges in concoctions, inventing stories but also attempts at hurting Kashmiris sensibilities.
He mentions about ‘forced conversion’ before the Sultan Zain-ul-Abidan forgetting what unbiased historians like Stein have said, ‘Islam made its way into Kashmir not by forcible conquest but by gradual conversion.’ He seems having bought stories by biased historians and painted advent of Islam in Kashmir in bad colors forgetting two centuries ‘rule of drunkards and profligate women’ before the advent of Islam. “There was neither law nor order in the country”,
writes Prem Nath Baza, “The rulers were profligate drunkards and their ministers and advisers were cruel men with no intelligence.” The first ruler after Rinchan Shah was Shah Mir, about him PNB says, ‘He was neither a debauchee nor a profligate. His simplicity of character no less than his political acumen and intelligence made him popular— Hindu kings were atrocious tyrants- Shah Mir ruled on liberal principles.’ The chapter suffers from in accuracies; years even are not correctly recorded. He has not bothered to check details about simple historical facts like Friday Khutaba in Jammu and election of seven representatives at Srinagar in June 1931 that he puts as eleven. While mentioning about the protest against Jawaharlal Nehru in 1945, he hurts sensibilities of Kashmir by malicious story:
As boats of Jawaharlal Nehru and Congress leaders approached women in protest “turned their backs and bared their buttocks. Muslims had never protested in this way before, and have not done so since. Ghaffar Khan roared with laughter, but Nehru was not amused. Later that day Ghaffar Khan referred to the episode at a rally and told audience how impressed he had been by the wares on display.” (pages27-28). Most of historians on Kashmir Freedom that include Bazaz, Saraf and Rashid Taseer make a mention about ‘massive demonstration’ against river procession of Nehru and other Congress leaders and clashes thereafter but none has mentions about this ‘nonsense’. Many who have been witnes to the happenings are living and they denounce it outrageous.
The chapter by Tariq is largely an account of hearsay full of prejudice. To preserve sanctity of the book the best course available to co-authors would be to delete the story of Kashmir chapter from the book.
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