Review of the Book “Secrets of Kashmir Valley”

Co-Written by Firdous Hameed Parey & Ishfaq Abdullah                          Secrets of Kashmir Valley

 “Secrets of Kashmir Valley”  is written by a well known and reputed Author Farhana Qazi. The Author is an American scholar with good reputation of writing on conflicts in the Islamic world. The book has 308 pages and its publication has been done by Pharos Media and Publishing House Pvt. Ltd with first edition published in 2016.

The “Secrets of Kashmir Valley” which author has highlighted as his journey through the conflict between India and Pakistan covers wide range of aspects of life of Kashmir’s people, who have endured years of pain. The pages of the book itself reveal the skill of author while maintaining its title in “word and deed”. In the beginning there is description of writers own family with much objectivity regarding the liberty in talk about the familial relations. She never hesitates in describing the difference of taste between her mother and grandmother. This creates curiosity and gives reader assurance of author’s clarity in fact presentation throughout the book. The track of presentation has been so subtly maintained in the book, that one will never find distaste of reading ,thinking and then discussing with the author while going through the pages of it .It makes one to be passionate ,attentive and sometimes it makes you to cry within. The collective feeling comes to ones mind with the urge to be always with a humanitarian look to address the problems surrounding us, while reading the lines of those pages of the book which are absorbed with presentation of alienation, atrocities and longing for loved ones. The most important feature of the book is bringing women to limelight. Most of the literature produced in the conflict zones highlights much about the valour of the Men rather women. However, this piece of writing focuses upon the women, their problems, sufferings, longings, alienation and courage.

The book while putting the beauties of the land into description cherishing for its scenic looks, at the same time laments of its fading character between the two giant powers of south Asia. The way physical beauty of the land has been destroyed, in the same manner the beauty of its women folk has been defiled over the years in the conflict ridden zone. The author not only highlights the individual women, but it also highlights them in collective sense their sufferings and distortion through which their life is going on. She highlights the facts lying underground, brings them to limelight and has shown how women in conflict zones suffer more than men. These women have become victims of different weapons like rape, molestation, alienation and internment. But this suffering instead of discouraging and making them feel distaste for life had further strengthened their resolve to sustain themselves within the society. These women have not subjected themselves under the excuses of conflict but have started to do away with the everyday difficulties of living by starting different institutions and other ways to help the children suffering because of this conflict. These women have decided to marry with the conflict, to live and die with it. The author has not only brought to light usual weapons used for suppression, but the draconian laws like AFSPA and PSA has been shown how these rule the land and how badly these laws have affected the day to day life in Kashmir. For example she has highlighted cases of number of people who got disappeared and killed with the impunity to the crime perpetrator. It has been character of cruelity, tyranny and suppression which has played its role in attaracting youth and women towards the anti-state organisations, and operations on the indian side of border. In the same manner the false hope has made others to pick arms with Pakistans backing on the other side of the border. It has been also brought to fore that many have become disillusioned after getting the thorough knowledge of Pakistani designs. The atrocities on the side of Indian Kashmir pushes youth to anti state aspirations and the suppression of these forces is being done by the state. The picture on the other side of the border is with same story where women with urge of going back to home has been put to seal forever by the Pakistani forces. Means the author shows on both sides Kashmir’s are suffering and are made scapegoat for the national interests of the two countries. The media is also showing the double standard instead of acting as healing mechanism. It has always twisted the stories in wrong ways, which has impressed the common folk of countries with wrong notions about Kashmir. The author also highlights the new wave of struggle taking place in Kashmir which shows the change on large scale. As it is people who have taken reigns of movement in their hands. With stone in hand and chanting voice for freedom has turned the character of movement highlighted by the author. Besides the third party America also shows disinclination because of the changing geo-political spectrum. Due to America’s quite focused attitude on Middle East and Afghanistan. Kashmir has lost its relevance in the politics of America. The factors like India becoming a space for world market and its growing influence at the international level has also helped India a lot. It inhibits the peaceful process of putting Kashmir problem to its desired end.

Besides focusing on the dismal picture the author has also stated about social description of both sides of border which make it tasteful to read. Living standards, dress, customs and sometimes writers own involvement of local marriage parties brings happy side of picture to fore. The author also highlights the problems of day to day life faced by people on both sides of the dividing line. How the locals in Indian part of Kashmir have put efforts to help each other during floods of 2014 and have shown their valour. How this valour has been given the touch of army involvement in order to highlight the soft nature to conceal the real designs of them stationing in Kashmir.  The other side of the border called Pakistan occupied Kashmir is with same story that how during earthquake of 2008 promises were made and how hopes of rehabilitation were dashed to ground.

The author has also brought not only the facts to light hitherto unknown, but has put to fore that how women have been victimized in the conflict zones like Kashmir.  That is how the presence of armed forces has steeled the charm, beauty of land on both sides and to large extent the dreams of freedom has been shattered. The focus has not only been on suppression and oppression but also on day to day life like highlighting of the power cut issues, the issues of other amenities in the space .

The study shows how both countries try to suppress the voice of common kashmiris and keep world oblivious of the facts necessary to be known to address the problem. The need of the hour is that everybody should come forward to feel the pain, anxiety, trauma and suppression the kashmiris going through. Then only the problem will get notice and ways of putting it with solution to desired end. Because the problem though may seem under control does not look so and if the problem is out contextualized a time will come when both countries will regret on its repurcussions.

I will end the description with authors quoting lines from American novelist William Faulkner that “the past is never dead, it’s not even past”. Because the past creates memories and widens wounds which every time pushes one for healing touch. What is that healing touch only is known to one who strives for it. Author is also concerned about the healing touch to Kashmir is in solving the long standing problem and to give Kashmiri’s what they desire with their own deciding about their lives.

However, there seem some limitations in the writing of this book . Farhana the author has concentrated her energies more on individual women and those who are leading some organizations of repute. This has limited her scope of understanding the women of Kashmir exhaustively. It reveals that had the author done and absorbed the study of women in totality in her work ,it would have been more fruitful and led more understanding of women in conflict zones, their problems and ways of fighting them. She has also generalized the individual facts with the whole of Kashmiri women.

Most of times she depends, upon the oral expressions of actors, taking them up to point, which steals the shine of her book to very large extent. It would have been more successful study had she comparatively studied the facts. She also shows more feminist approach as she has focused more on the sufferings of women and their valour. As most often men are blamed for the suffering of women, the author forgets that if men have taken paths those disliked by the women they have done this out of compulsions and desire to see their women flourish and free. She also shows distaste for violence rejecting it as brewing nothing but destruction. Here she fails to grasp that violence has its role to play, The great stalwarts of non-violence themselves were absorbed when need was felt of it. When other alternatives show exhaustion the men becomes crippled and he takes course to what he thinks perfect.

Moreover, the context is must while taking any stance on any attitude here author lacks it. Sometimes writer wishes that the individual women who had been interviewed by her should adapt to ideologies liked by her. She forgets that social and cultural environment plays its role in shaping our attitudes, apart from that we can’t force anybody to the wishes of ours. Nevertheless, despite some errors in this work the author has quite focused. It is nice contribution to the history of Kashmir and should be read by everyone to know the facts with which we are still oblivious.


 Firdous Hameed Parey, PhD Research Scholar, Aligarh Muslim University, Email Id: [email protected]




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