Books Knock-Down The “Dominant Discourses”, The Joy of Re-readings

In a scenario, when politics in our state has become crazy, the ‘hegemonic discourses’ have the sway, and a big lie projected as truth is accepted, restlessness is a natural corollary. To fight this restlessness instead of reading new books on Kashmir by authors published by big houses in India,- of course, tutored, of late, I have started re-reading books already read many years back. Many friends consider re-reading books already read a waste of time. They have a genuine question ‘why read an already read book once again when there is some new book out there.’ It may be right about pulp fiction.

Kashmir A Study in India Pakistan RelationsNevertheless, there are dystopian novels like George Orwell’s 1984, that are read and re-read and re-read as enthusiastically as on first reading. “It rocketed up 9,500 percent in sales following Trump’s inauguration.” As someone has rightly said about Orwell’s ‘1984’, and Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit’ 451′ “their political relevance seems to be timeless. I would love to put Jesse Ball’s, ‘The Curfew,’ also in the group of ‘timeless.’ In this work of fiction, the protagonists William is any one of us, and the terrifying scenes in the imaginary city of ‘C’ are so close to the scenes in the city Srinagar (S) that it is hard to draw a distinction. The city of ‘C’ is comparable to many other cities in the world where the state terror reigns supreme. I read, it a couple of times every time with subtlety it carried had a different message.

So is correct about books on the Kashmir Dispute, written decades back. Most of these works are of critical importance for knocking down the ‘dominant discourse’ and conjured ‘alternative narratives’ and bringing out the whole truth in the public domain. These also help to quiz many a ‘pedestrian narratives’ orchestrated by the ‘collaborative demagogues’ and still believed by a section of the older generation as gospel truth. My personal experience has been old classical works on the Kashmir Dispute like Danger in Kashmir by Josef Korbel’s or ‘Horned Moon’ by Ian Stephens or even for that matter ‘Kashmir: A Study in India-Pakistan Relations’ by Sisir Gupta is more revealing on re-reading decades after having read the first time. Perhaps, the reason for the old works becoming more revealing on re-reading is the perspective that evolves over a period after studying even works written from the ‘dominant’ standpoint and other sources. For instances, Josef Korbel writes, “when the fateful day of August 15 dawned, Muslims celebrated Pakistan Day, with flags enthusiastically displayed throughout the State. The Maharaja ordered them torn down and retaliated by closing all-pro-Pakistan newspapers”. The Maharaja admits rebellion in Jammu and his administration failed to suppress it. In this scenario what had puzzled Korbel was the release of Sheikh Abdullah on September 29, 1947, sentenced nine years imprisonment for rebellion in May 1946. The release intrigued Korbel and caused doubts in his mind, “Abdullah was without explanation, released from prison, while the state was in the midst of a revolt.” The question that haunted the mind of the Korbel was answered almost five decades later when Indian Home Minister, Sardar Patel’s correspondence was published. Prime Minister’s Jawaharlal Nehru’s letter dated 27 September 1947 to Sardar Patel unraveled the riddle- that Abdullah’s was released to undertake a task for New Delhi.

In 1995, I read for the time ‘Shahab Nama’ autobiography of Qudrat Ullah Shahab ’s on the suggestion of a civil servant friend. Qudrat Ullah was the first Muslim from Jammu and Kashmir selected for Indian Civil Service in 1940. My friend was impressed with his work at Nandigram, Bengal during the famine of 1943. He admired him for his forthrightness as a civil servant. With his tutorial on the book, he had conditioned my mind, so during my first reading of the book I was overwhelmed with his style of writing, and my whole focus was on diction. Some days back, Khurshid Wani, a friend referring to the autobiography made me read it once again, but from an angle, I had previously glossed over. In quick reading, I had not appreciated its importance to the Kashmir narrative. From his personal experience, he has recorded lots of stories that speak about the resolve of the people on the other side of the line (AJK) after they had got delinked from Srinagar and Jammu. Stories about the partisan role of some members the UNCIP are quite revealing.

In July 1949 India and Pakistan signed the Karachi Agreement establishing a ceasefire line to be supervised by the military observers. Nonetheless, the state had been temporarily divided almost a year and a half back. On our side the government installed by India with Sheikh Abdullah as its head had inherited administration intact and two well-established capitals- Srinagar and Jammu. It is a different story that the workers of the National Conference had become an extra-Constitutional authority immediately after PrimeMinister R. C.Kak, was dismissed by Maharaja Hari Singh on 10 July 1947. Ghulam Mohidin Kara “underground” issued instruction to police and administration and after 27 October 1947, the Halaqas of the party became an authority unto themselves- of course, that is not subject for this column. On the other side, Qudrat Ullah Shahab ICS was appointed as Chief Secretary of AJK government and Yusuf Buch, KCS as an advisor to President of AJK. (the SMA government had exiled Buch). The AJK government started functioning from mud houses and tents, with no money in the state treasury and many of its towns like Mirpur flattened by Indian bombers. It was the resolve of people like an old couple of Mirpur, who after scrabbling through the rubble of the bombarded town had collected two gunny bags of gold and deposited the same in the State Treasury. That resolve had made the other side to survive.

On re-reading, the autobiography revealed many stories that are of critical importance to the Kashmir narrative. But, exposure of the partisan role of Huddle of the United States and Mr. Graef of Belgium members of the UNCIP, is subject that should attract the attention of the research scholars. Qudrat Ullah had accompanied them during their touring of the AJK. Pronouncing them as cunning, he tells us how they helped India to capture Mendhar, Rajouri and Poonch city. Later on, Kargil and Leh also were taken over by the Indian army. (p 419-421) Munshi Ishaq in his memoir tells that India had succeeded in taking over some areas on Kargil because of espionage by the N.C. workers. Indian army would not have proceeded beyond Handawara but for the support of Maulana Masoodi, General Secretary of the National Conference and his brother Nazir Ahmed Masoodi In his book, The Untold Story, Lt. General Brij Mohan Koul writes, “The operation Handawara began on 16 May. A day before, a man called Nazir once a forest officer now at the disposal of the army voluntarily went out in disguise to penetrate the enemy’s forward defended localities and brought back whatever information he could.” “It was this “valuable intelligence” that enabled to moved beyond Kupwara. (P 107-108)

I for one see, re-reading old classic books on Kashmir a rewarding experience.

Z.G. Muhammad is an author and columnist based in Srinagar, Kashmir


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