Book Review | Kashmiri lives matter: Book reveals how Congress betrayed paradise'
Deccan Chronicle.| Anil Bhat
Cover photo of 'Jammu & Kashmir: The Wounded Paradise' by Jawaharlal Kaul. (Photo by arrangement)
Writing about Jammu and Kashmir is not easy owing to its many complexities and much of its actual pre- and post-Independence history being suppressed and/or ‘altered’. The author, veteran journalist Jawaharlal Kaul, describes the volume as a product of his personal engagement with Kashmir, its unknown conversations and histories, and the people’s optimism to rebuild the paradise. It comes at a time when much of the misreporting and spread of disinformation by the Indian media under various Congress governments regarding the plight of the Kashmiri populace, due to the handiwork of Kashmiri militants, separatists and political leadership who, in turn, enjoy the subtle but substantial support of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), has begun to get exposed. J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha who released the book praised the author for his remarkable effort in presenting J&K in a "never-before narrative" that presents a new perspective to the readers. The book’s relevance shot up after the release of the film, The Kashmir Files.
The author has begun telling the story of Kashmir with the failure of the Khilafat movement, following which the disillusioned Muslim leadership, rejecting the concept of common nationhood of Gandhi, joined hands with the Muslim League in the name of ummah and a separate homeland. Jammu and Kashmir, with the largest Muslim population, appeared to be the right place to start with. The Ahmadiyya leader, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmood Ahmad, wanted to convert Kashmiris to his New Prophethood faith because he wanted to create a new haven in Kashmir for the Ahmadiyya movement.
Sir Muhammad Iqbal dreamed of a Greater Punjab including Sindh, North West Frontier Province, Balochistan and Jammu and Kashmir alongside Punjab, lending his own impetus to the Muslim homeland project. But the Hanafi scholar Syed Attaullah Shah Bukhari refused to allow the heretic Ahmadiyyas to lead a pan-Islamic movement and he perched on the borders of Punjab with Jammu along with his Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam volunteers. While the people of Jammu and Kashmir, unaware of these preparations, were busy with their dargahs, asthans, peers and rishis, the grim warriors from the various Muslim groups, assembled along the borders of the province, eager to grab the precious land of Kashmir and ready for a new Mahabharata. While Iqbal’s agenda would have led to the subsuming of the identity of Kashmir in Greater Punjab, it was the Ahrars who introduced trans-border terrorism in Kashmir for the first time.
However, this book is not only about events shaped by the politics of disinheriting and driving away the original occupants of Kashmir. It is about the wounded paradise and its battered people; about thousands of Kashmiri young men and women struggling with disillusionment and about how the Kashmiri language almost got lost. It throws light on how the British practiced their chicanery with the connivance of some leading Indian Congressmen, and thereafter, over a long period of 67 years (1947-2014), how the Congress overlooked the role of the Abdullahs and Muftis, who played their double game of kowtowing to Pakistan as well as sowing the seeds and watering the plant when it came to the killings of not only Kashmiri Pandits, but also the ordinary resident of the Kashmir Valley. It is based on the many letters, both official and personal, as well as secret correspondence, written by the major players in this tragedy: Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Karan Singh, Krishna Menon, Maharaja Hari Singh, Mehar Chand Mahajan, Louis Mountbatten, British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, Maulana Azad, Syama Prasad Mookerjee and some others.
Jawaharlal Kaul was born in Skardu, Baltistan, in 1937. The Partition and the painfully born Pakistan’s invasion of Kashmir threw him in the middle of political turmoil. While he did his MA from Kashmir University, it was in Sri Pratap College that he came into close contact with some political families of Kashmir, including that of Sheikh Abdullah. After teaching for some years in Srinagar he took to journalism, doing more than 36 years in The Times of India and Indian Express groups. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2016.
In an interview of the author by this writer on a programme titled SAM Conversation telecast on South Asia Monitor, YouTube and Daily Motion, when asked if all that was portrayed in The Kashmir Files were true, Kaul said it indeed was. Not surprisingly, anti-BJP parties have been branding The Kashmir Files as propaganda.
While the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A was a novel initiative, it has so far neither ended Pak-sponsored terror, nor made the lives of Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus who came back to the Valley safe, as they are being specifically targeted by the ISI. Much more needs to be done.
Jammu & Kashmir: The Wounded Paradise
pp. 376, Rs.990