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Kashmir: Convoluted Histories - Book review
Kashmir Valley has been a green pasture for journalists, writers and authors all over the world not only for its picturesque landscape, snow capped mountains, crystal clear waters and breathtaking locales, but also for the events that led to its 'accession' with the Indian Union post the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, and the beginning of a violent uprising against the State in 1989.

In this backdrop, a long-drawn-out list of books has been published with most of them trying to give a perspective to the historical events. Kashmir: Convoluted Histories, a book by Amit Srivastava can also be seen in this context, even though the author doesn’t see Kashmir dispute an isolated issue between India and Pakistan.

Srivastava, however, sees an important role of the US and the West to solve the six-decade old dispute between India and Pakistan. But, would the US act as an “honest broker”, the author points out, is a big question. Of course, Srivastava points out, withdrawing India’s stakes or diluting it may simply create chaos for the US, given the way India has been emerging as the biggest market in South Asia.

On a positive note, the book points out that resolving Kashmir dispute is easier than the Middle East dispute between Israel and Palestinians. But, the author hasn’t managed to provide a formula, and instead suggests that “it requires modernity and innovation” to resolve the dispute. He writes: “The Kashmir dispute’s resolution is possible when all the parties understand that the others can’t be ignored.” Since Srivastava points out that there are different aspirations of people in different regions of the state, one wonders how can they reach a resolution in such a situation. Yes, it would demand compromises, but the question is whether the people are ready to give up their aspirations and make a compromise.

Rejecting Gandhism in unequivocal terms as a measure to help resolve the dispute, the author suggests that down-to-earth reality based politics and diplomacy can help the cause. While dealing with the political aspect of the dispute, the author raises concerns quite akin to many journalists and analysts that the fate of Kashmir would depend on global factors like the end of Afghan War when the NATO forces withdraw from the region by the end of 2014.

While talking about the historical aspect of the militant movement, the author toes the India’s official line by writing that the 1989 uprising was started by insurgents coming mostly from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that “locals also” participated. This may be partly true but the author can't brush aside the active participation of more than 50, 000 local militants who joined various outfits after the uprising began.

Observing that the armed movement hasn’t become communal, even after the exodus of Pandits (Kashmiri Hindus), the author, however, cautions that the dispute could become “a fight between Ishvar and Allah”, referring to Hindu-Muslim tension, if it drags for long. Blaming both India and Pakistan for failing to resolve the dispute, the author believes that India will get a seat in the expanded Security Council only after the dispute is resolved. As such the author pushes for a solution, just like the one proposed by former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf, of “divided Kashmir and united Kashmiris”, with an addition of the participation of the US through its constant nudging.

What sets the book apart is the way it looks at the world scenario, especially the ‘rise of fundamentalism’ in the Islamic world, increased consumerism in the sub-continent and therefore the increased role of the US. It doesn’t look at the Kashmir dispute with just the two-nation theory, but maintains that Kashmir will redefine Hindu Muslim relations.

Though the title of the book suggests that it would detail historical nature of the Kashmir dispute, but it seems the author has very skillfully used it to draw attention towards his understanding of not only the Kashmir issue, but Hindu-Muslim relations in India, the partition, Babri Masjid demolition and the role of the US and China in the sub-continent.

Kashmir: Convoluted Histories

Author: Amit Srivastava

Publishers: Gulshan Books, Residency Road, Srinagar

Pages: 213

Cost: Rs. 1395/-

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