Agha Shahid Ali

              Where there is oppression, there is resistance. Michel Foucault

Kashmir, as everyone knows, has been at the onslaught of military oppression and atrocities from times aeon. It has witnessed this oppression in the form of fake encounters, mass rapes like Kunan Poshpora, crackdowns, and forced disappearances. Over the years, this oppression has given birth to its own brand of outspoken and dauntless resistance novelists like Mirza Waheed, Shahnaz Bashir, Bashrat Peer, Nitasha Kaul and others.

Military oppression on people has given a forceful flip to the emergence of resistance literature in Kashmir. This resistance literature serves to counter Indian hegemony and its dominant discourse. It gives a befitting response to illegal and heinous Indian occupation of Kashmir. Atrocities committed on Kashmiris have been chronicled through vocal, visual, and written medium by journalists, novelists, and media reporters. Genres of novel and poetry have been the most effective and vibrant genres of resistance and protest so far.

There is a long list of resistance litterateurs who are writing from the resistance front. Agha Shahid Ali, the Kashmiri-American poet has been the most sensitive writer that Kashmir has ever produced. He documented these atrocities in his engaging and painful poetic collections like The Country without a Post Office and The Veiled Suite. Mirza Waheed depicted the same thing through the medium of novel called The Collaborator (2011). Shahnaz Bashir, a quite emphatic and audacious novelist has narrated the same through the medium of novel and short stories. Shahnaz Bashir’s novel The Half Mother (2014) and collection of short stories The Scattered Souls (2016) are the literary pieces to reckon with. Military oppression on Kashmiris is the essential and explicit theme of The Half Mother. The novel is the story of Haleema whose son Imran is taken away by forces and is never given back. She runs from pillar to post in search of him but fails to trace him anywhere. She dies with Imran’s name on her lips. Haleema symbolises every Kashmiri woman who has always suffered the slings and sorrows of oppression. Imran’s fate is the fate of every youth of Kashmir.

Basharat Peer who is one of the front liner novelists from Kashmir has documented this oppression in his much-acclaimed memoir Curfewed Night (2010). Peer has recently published one Non- Fiction work titled A Question of Order: Strongmen and Illiberal Democracies (2017). In this book, he expatiates up on two of the world’s biggest democracies, India and Turkey under the authoritarian rule of Modi and Erdogan respectively. Curfewed Night has been praised for its contentious content. William Dalrymple writes about the novel:

…Already highly acclaimed in India, Curfewed Night is an extraordinary book, a minor masterpiece of autobiography that will surely become the classic account of conflict… Peer tells how a series of horrific rapes and atrocities by Indian troops radicalized a population who were vaguely pro-Pakistan, but whose activism had previously never gone beyond cheering for Pakistani fast bowlers.

If one wants to know about the conflict, oppression, and resistance in Kashmir, one must leaf through the pathetic pages of Curfewed Night. Curfewed Night is a very vibrant and kaleidoscopic account of oppression and crime in Kashmir. The New York Times Book Review defined Curfewed Night as an instructive primer on the conflict mixed with literary reportage on its human toll. Curfewed Night is a very lucid and outright report on the military oppression in Kashmir. The novel opens on a personal note. In the opening pages, Peer talks about his childhood hobbies, entertainments and memories. Alongside this, he narrates the events and incidents that have changed the serenity of Kashmir into turbulence and nightmare.

Mirza Waheed’s The Collaborator (2011) and The Book of Gold Leaves (2014) are two important novels that give us a thorough picture of Kashmir conflict and oppression on Kashmiris. Waheed’s The Collaborator was published in 2011. The temporal setting of the novel is the year 1990 when the indigenous armed movement began against Indian rule in Kashmir. The 19 years old anonymous narrator from village Nowgam is working with an Indian army officer, Captain Kadian. His job is to collect the Identity Cards from the corpses of militants who died fighting against the Indian army. His four childhood friends Hussain, Gul, Ashfaq and Mohammed have all crossed the border to Pakistan for arms training. This novel is a metaphorical representation of Kashmir conflict, oppression, and resistance. Waheed’s The Book of Gold Leaves like The Collaborator narrates the similar story of love, conflict, oppression and loss. It is the story of two lovers Faiz and Ruhi. The novel starts in the year 1990. The lives of these lovers turn into turbulence when troops start annoying men of their village. This annoyance and torture compel Faiz to go for arms training to Pakistan. Through this novel, Waheed actually wants to tell how boys like Faiz are forced by Indian forces to join the armed resistance.

Nitasha Kaul, a Pandit novelist of Kashmiri origin is also one of the most vibrant and outspoken novelists who has resisted against the oppression of Kashmiris both through her speeches and novels. She has written two novels namely: Residue (2014) and Future Tense (2020). Both these novels depict Kashmir conflict and the plight of Kashmiris under military rule. What compels a Kashmiri towards resistance and fundamentalism is the essential subtext of Future Tense. This novel is a story of former militant’s son, Fayaz and a girl known as Shireen. In the novel, Imran, a nephew of Fayaz is a young student. He gets radicalized at the hands of oppressors. This oppression compels him to join a new kind of spectacular resistance. The novel is a quintessential resistance novel. Andrew Whitehead writes that Future Tense is a tautly written account of love, resistance, militancy and betrayal.

In addition to these writers, many others use various other artistic expressions like music, painting, graffiti, and other graphic arts to give vent to their pent up angst and ennui. These Kashmiri novelists have done a great deal of work in the emergence of resistance literature in Kashmir. Through their writings, they have sensitized International readers about the oppressive and exploitative military regime in Kashmir. These novelists have given a clear account of events since 1990. The novelists have given a literary representation to how Kashmiris took up arms against oppressive military rule!

Prior to these novelists, Kashmiri literature was characterised by the themes of mysticism, love, and the idea of Kashmiriyat. As the oppressive military regime escalated, these themes and subtexts got replaced by the themes of occupation, killings, resistance, injustice, loss, and identity, etc. These novelists have given vent to the suppressed emotions, suffocated aspirations and collective memories of violence, loss, and destruction. The narratives of these novelists are like historiographies that meticulously bring to fore many unknown or unexpressed facets of Kashmir conflict and struggle for freedom.

These novelists have given Kashmir its own brand of resistance literature. This Kashmir resistance literature is a force that aims to liberate people from oppression, injustice, and incarceration. Besides this, this new brand of Kashmiri resistance literature tries to give a true representation of the conflictive events. It also serves to question the power structures, contorted truths, and oppressive discourse of the oppressor. Hence the term ‘resistance literature in Kashmir’.

Postscript: There’s no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard. Arundhati Roy

Bilal Ahmad Dar is Research Scholar at the Department of English, AMU, he can be mailed at: bilalbismil89@gmail.com


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