The “Others” Narrative
Some twelve years back, Farooq Abdullah, senior scion of the Abdullah family told me he was writing a book that will tell many inside stories, never told before. The information as a student of contemporary Kashmir politics had come to me as good tidings. My belief has been that the stories of politicians, who are on the other side of the fence or are tethered to the ‘hegemonic politics’ in the state, in a situation like ours not only help in deconstructing the “dominant discourse” but also work as catalysts for strengthening the popular resistance narrative.
In the summer of 2006, I had visited Dr. Abdullah for a detailed interview, for one the books, of triology, I am engaged in writing for quite a time. It was one of the longish interviews, mostly on the record and some off the record. His takes both on the record and off the record, are important for telling the Kashmir story.
‘On 27 October 1947, when sorties after sorties of Indian troops had landed in Kashmir after the controversial “Instrument of Accession” was signed by Maharja Hari Singh and Lord Mountbatten ‘the eldest Abdullah scion, then ten years old had accompained his father Sheikh Abdullah to receive men in olive green at the Srinagar aerodrome. On seeing Sikh soldiers with huge iron rings adorning their turbans, tall as poplars desembarking from the aeroplanes he had shuddered and told his father they have come to kill us. Sheikh sahib with a pat on his back had told him, no, no, they have come to save and protect us.’ This may be a small incident, yet it makes a huge statement about the impact of the landing of Indian soldiers on the psyche of Kashmiri children’. Even, in single liners like this in the works of ‘the others’ as one would prefer to call politicians whose political outlooks and doings are not in sync with the overwhelming political sentiments in the state are leads for scholars for disengaging truth from the falsehood, deliberately mixed up for strenghtening the ‘the State discourse.’
I, for one, see even the autobiographies of pro-India politicians like Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Dr. Karan Singh, and Syed Mir Qasim, etc. despite all their distortions and prejudices important for telling the whole Kashmir story. For instance, on the landing of Indian troops at Srinagar Syed Mir Qasim, one of the former chief ministers of the state and important leader of the Congress writes, “These full blooded young men were burning with passion for avenging the massacre of their dear ones in what then had become Pakistan. As they landed at the airport some of them opened fire and killed a few Muslims.” ‘On these killings, the general masses were so much infuriated that no Kashmiri leader including Sheikh Abdullah, could possibly stem the uprising.’ This he too very subtly suggests that India started its inning in Kashmir on a killing spree. On the question of plebicite, he also very candidly exposes New Delhi double standards, ‘On the one side B.N. Rau, India’s representative to the United Nations Security Council assured the Council about India’s commitment to the plebiscite in the state. Moreover, informed the United Nations, that Indian Government was not bound to accept the decision of the Kashmir Constituent Assembly on accession. This assurance was repeated by Rajashwar Dayal, then another important Indian diplomat, but in Kashmir, Gopalaswami Ayyangar wanted to see the accession ratified. In 1953, he camped in Sringar, and advised Sheikh Abdullah to pass the accession resolution.’ It also tells, a story about Jammat-I-Islamia, that other wise perhaps would not be known. Mir Qasim suggested Indira Gandhi ban the Jammat in Kashmir, Indira Gandhi turned down the propsition because then she would be obliged to ban RSS in India, which she could not afford’. In fact, it is such hints weaved in long texts, that makes the works of ‘the others’ also another genus of history.
Farooq Abdullah so far has not published his book, that promised of telling the inside stories about New Delhi dubious role in Kashmir- perhaps after 2008 Assembly elections, expediency took him over, and he dropped the idea. Neverthless, one of his former important partyman, who reprsented the National Conference in the Indian Parliament for quite a long time recently came up with a book, ‘ Kashmir Gilmpises of History and the Story of Struggle.’ The 236 page hardbound book, with a beautiful dust cover, and nice oil paintings by Masood Hussain, published by Rupa Publishing India is a blend of the past history and the contemporary politics in the State. The book is priced at Rs. 595.
The author, unlike many Indian politicians, who in line with the South Blocks ‘style- book’ prefer to call Kashmir, an issue or a problem, Soz boldly calls it a Dispute that needs to be resolved through a dialogue with three main stakeholders – the people of Jammu and Kashmir, India, and Pakistan In fact, this take of the author is in sync with the stand of the Hurriyat Conference. He also suggests to Union of India to see reason and realize that it had gone wrong in Constitutional relations with Jammu and Kashmir.’
On the social media, some friends discarded the book as trash. True, it is not as revealing a book as expected from a man who has been in the thick of New Delhi’s politics as a Union Minister and Member of Parliament for four decades and could have the opportunity of gaining access to classified archives in the Nehru Museum and National Archives, that is generally denied to scholars from Kashmir. Nevertheless, it cannot be dismissed as unworthy of reading. For more than one reason, the book is another important addition to the bibliography of Kashmir. The author has culled out information from extant works on Kashmir and pieced them together in lucid prose to tell the story of Kashmir’s glorious and poignant past. From, chapter 28, titled the ‘Fights Against the Dogra Aristocracy’ to chapter 33, ‘the Way Forward’ the author leaves a lot to be contested and disputed. His chapter on the migration of Kashmir has an earned an appreciation for its candidness has earned appreciation from the readers. He has told facts that many authors shied away from. Nonetheless, in more than one chapter in building an argument, he has depended on works of one or two authors. For instance, in chapter 29 he quotes Ajit Bhattacharjea, so profusely that it looks as if one was reading Ajit’s book ‘Kashmir: The Wounded Valley’ published in 1994. In the same chapter, he extols Sheikh Abdullah on the basis of Abdullah’s take on his role in the UNSC without going through the works of other members of the delegation, who had denounced him as a flamboyant and disaster, who had earned the title of ‘quisling’ on the floor of the Security Council.
It seems that the author has purposely avoided writing on the controversies surrounding the “Instrument of Accession”- fact, and date of which has been questioned by many important historians. Notwithstanding, the constraints of the politician of his tribe, the chapter, ‘Armed Militancy And Its Aftermath’ comparatively is a good reading. In this chapter, he very subtly makes a case for removing of the AFSPA, that he calls a draconian law.
Despite, raising many controversial points that could fail on the litmus test of history, the author very rightly in the last chapter writes that the revocation of article 35-A is a threat to Kashmir’s very existence, which Kashmiri can never accept, in any circumstances.
The book is another addition to the Kashmir narrative.
Published in Greater Kashmir on 09-07-2018