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Radical readings on Kashmir


Kashmir, the territory disputed by the three nuclear-capable states of India, Pakistan and China, is in the ninth week of a communications blackout in the Indian-administered part of the state. All connectivity, including cellular service and internet, has been cut off in the region, effectively blocking contact with the outside world. New Delhi’s crackdown has triggered renewed concern from the United Nations and human rights groups.

The lockdown happened soon after India’s Home Affairs Minister unilaterally revoked the region’s semi-autonomous status. Since then, there have been reports of heightened militarization; thousands of citizens are thought to have been arbitrarily arrested, placed in confinement and subject to torture.

Kashmiris have been calling for self-rule and political independence for decades, and in that time a protest movement likened to an Intifada has formed, and in parallel, a growing Pakistan-backed militancy.

Here are five books that piece together the politics of Kashmir:

Kashmir: The Case for Freedom is a collection of essays by some of the world’s top public intellectuals: Arundhati Roy, Pankaj Mishra, Tariq Ali and others. While Tariq Ali gives a brief lesson on the history of conflict, Pankaj Mishra asks: why does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination? Hilal Bhatt’s acutely distressing essay recalls the event when he survived a massacre led by Hindu nationalists on a train headed for Kashmir in the 1990s.

The summer of 2010 in Kashmir was brutal and bloody, and claimed the lives of more than 120 people in anti-India protests. Of Occupation and Resistance, edited by Fahad Shah, is the product of that summer. It is an anthology of interviews, memoirs, essays and literary reportage. It also features transcribed essays of the grave-diggers, who have buried hundreds of people in unmarked graves as well as confessions of stone-throwers.

American novelist Cassandra Clare once wrote that fiction is truth, even if it is not fact. The Half Mother by Shahnaz Bashir is a brave novel from Kashmir. It addresses some of the vital issues, including forced disappearances, the fate of widows left behind, and crimes committed by Indian armed forces in the region. It is a painful story of a mother, Haleema, whose son Imran is whisked away by the Indian army, and how she fights for survival after her son’s ‘disappearance’. It’s a story that resonates with thousands of women in Kashmir.

One of the darkest chapters in the freedom movement of Kashmir was in 1990 when about 400,000 Kashmiri pandits were forced to leave their homes. A Long Dream of Home: The Persecution, Exile and Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits edited by Siddhartha Gigoo and Varad Sharma is a chilling reminder of the nightmares and scars of that forced exodus.

British historian Victoria Schofield is a world expert on Kashmir. Her book Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unfinished War traces the historical origins of the conflict and argues how Kashmir is evolving as a never-ending dispute. She explains the issues that divide India and Pakistan and assesses their military positions along the de-facto border.  

Further reading: The Hanging of Afzal Guru edited by Arundhati Roy; Resisting Occupation in Kashmir edited by Haley Duschinski and others; History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir by Prem Nath Bazaz; A Desolation Called Peace: Voices from Kashmir edited by Ather Zia and Javaid Iqbal.



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