Book Review: Anthology/Non-fiction: Of Occupation and Resistance: Writings from Kashmir by Fahad Shah (Edited), Tranquebar/Westland, 264 pp; Rs395 (Paperback)
Fahad Shah, a young journalist from Kashmir has been mainstreaming the Kashmiri people’s voice through an alternative, but very remarkable online magazine —The Kashmir Walla. Like his journalistic works, his first book too sets a new trend of narrative and has potential to diminish the limitless polemics channelised by ‘poet-philosopher to hand choppers’!
The essays of this anthology are handpicked under a clear editorial policy, which is guided with precision and ‘native touch’. The perspective is new and expression exuded by most of the writers of this volume drastically differs from the romantic notion —‘Kashmir is only paradise lost’. But here, one can see the personal and collective angst overturning those beliefs.
Fahad, who stays in Delhi too and has friends here, yet looking at home, makes him feel ‘disconnected’ from rest of India. This still stays a typical status of mass Kashmiris, who struggle for existence rather supremacy and feel vindicated with unrelenting misdeeds from all corners. Fahad’s long introduction of this book and his essay—Kashmir: A Colony of India affirms those unwavering tussle of ‘self and others’ generated out of political follies and adamant stand of opportunists.
Famed novelist and sensible depicter of actual social realities, Siddhartha Gigoo’s Looking Back at the Roots gives balancing touch to the book. His essay marks unending shocks—started with Pandits’ exodus from valley to their turning into a prosperous community, sans cultural affiliations. This is a void hard to fill by ‘artificial get-togethers’ or tempted to live in divisive ghettos, created by confused state machinery.
Gigoo maintains his own track-record of looking on Kashmir’s socio-cultural outbreak and does not make himself to be like partitions— the way many young Kashmiri writers are doing these days at the risk of making plights’ graver. The sense for inter-community life, which once used to be the strength in Kashmir, witnessed its intense wane in 1980’s and since then continuing with the worldview, which is sectarian in actual and holds no amicable solution.
Gigoo can read the pulse of his community—and also to his neighbours back at home—with whom he is separated physically but not at the cost memory. Here, Kashmir still exists in mind and frame—atleast this is a case with few who have been living in honest memory for over two decades. Those subtleties of memory walks further in Nitasha Kaul’s articulately presented Everything I Cannot Tell You About The Women of Kashmir.
With convincing intellectual puts in recalling an important chapter of history—Mridu Rai traces the advent of nationalism, as well as the ‘discontents’ through essay—Memorialising 13July1931in Kashmir. She presents her views on popular compulsions of convergence& alienation as:
“Beginning in the 19th century, ever since nationalism became the predominant ideological vehicle to counter colonial dominance in India, memory became apotheosized in its culture. Events, people, places, words, memory became symbolized. And memory became history; history, however, mapped out in specific ways.”
If these essays brings back the historical turnings into glare—the other pieces, particularly written with bylines less known (from band singer/ M C Kaish, young journalists, stone palters, corpse bearer etc) —too touches the core subject of the book. They are in resistance mode—in life or writing. Irrespective of checks& barriers at theoretical level—they think on sovereignty differently. But in cases, when state protects crime committed by its own men and doesn’t stop watching kitchens of its claimed ‘citizens’—such voices will be remain in vogue.
Since 1947, Indian democracy has grown-up—mostly in terrible shape but at bright side, it has made citizens overtly conscious about the dignity. Unfortunately, we see double standard quite often than not in conflict zones or with whom, who have no representation in power circle.
If, routine check-up in Kashmir makes mockery of basic citizenship rights—the powerless as hysterical level faces similar fate. Although, the variance could be noticed at the level of violence—Fahad not appears colour dyslexic when he terms ‘red is blood in Kashmir’. Those who flirts this lost paradise have no time to think for people—they are sponsoring puppets in state machinery and keeping the pressing questions out.
Freny Manecksha’s How I Understood Kashmir’s Resistance and Gautam Navlakha’s The Matter of Truth, Lies and Manufacturing Consent in a Conflict Zone gives impetus for deeper observations but at occasions, confine their viewpoint at pre-determined level. The essays written from distant geography are less serious than in totality this book comes out—the good thing is, the deviation are surfacing only on few pages.
This book is about the present Kashmir, which comes into this shape and away from age old socio-cultural equilibrium through the political overplays. Both the definition and narration can be diverse but at the end—the realisation has to come—the plagued state of occupation and resistance cannot ensure the democratic ideas blossoming.
It was wrong the way, the interlocutors sent from Delhi to Kashmir, saying—the issues of Kashmir are impossible to be solved under the India constitution. This was among the improper conclusions from the mavericks. It could have much better, had they timely acknowledged that the stone is being pelted there by the youth—not because, they are not in employment, but with urge to resist against the tyrannies of better placed and powerful state forces.
This could have controlled the violence—and peace might be imminent there. Things are in altered shape there—as the will-power lacks in Srinagar and New Delhi equally, and without even the difference of fraction second. Though with the changing time—state as well as the pampered lot of Kashmir’s local leadership has to be extra-conscious—as the young Kashmiris’ are less receptive to outdated whims& fancies.
They are looking for normalcy—and that should not be merely confused by some more political maneuverings. Fahad, with his first book has brought attention on Kashmiri people—this is a valuable accomplishment and will put forth positive turnouts. The hope has better chance to stay now!
Atul K Thakur
(Published in Rising Kashmir on August08,2013)