Kashmir: Tragedy and Triumph, the book under review, is an informed and scholarly attempt to wrestle with the confusion we find today all around in every field from education to politics. The author comes up with some brilliant pieces of analyses and provocative suggestions. Aghast at the sight of a lost new generation hooked to virtual reality of cyberspace, his people’s “tel, bel, tchel and puz, apuz carriage and nalam, halam te kalam baggage” “missing Baba Demb, dying Dal and weedy Nigeen; hammered Kral Sanger; forlorn Brane; despondent Ishbur and downhearted Harwun” and similar tragedies the author does history with a hammer exposing “jobbing historians” and other “collaborators.” He argues some-provocative-suggestions-for historicizing them and attempts to search for missing links in the narrative of sovereignty of Kashmiris.
The book opens with a poetically composed prayer that shows that the author belongs to the brand of what Sartre called committed writers. Dr Ahad persuades us to revisit received myths and stock judgments about Kashmir and seeks to give voice to the so far largely dumb common Kashmiri. He diagnoses the contemporary malaise putting finger at lack of quality leadership, collaborators and neocolonialism, invokes great leaders from history all the way from Nil Naga, the founder of Jhelum Valley civilization, pleads for vibrant civil society and organic intellectuals while largely accusing the current lot for failure and ends with a big question mark regarding the possibility of fighting the status quo. Dr Ahad argues for a host of theses that need to be debated as they would question the dominant discourse on empirical grounds:
• Instrument of Accession is fabricated. Indian and NC or PDP position on Kashmir that takes it as historical thus is based on a huge lie.
• The idea of Kashmiryat has been an ideological weapon and is not for Kashmiris.
• Nationalist jingoism sells such slogans as “Indianness” that have nothing to do with the destiny or aspirations of aam aadmi.
• Most of Kashmiri leaders are neem hakeems or politically naïve. This would call for need of educating them in history and political theory.
• Educational authorities by not teaching history in schools are guilty of perpetuating lies and mutilating the soul of new generation of Kashmiris.
• “Kashmir ‘leaders’ are thriving on the agonies bequeathed to the masses by the partition for which both Nehru and Jinnah were responsible.”
• There are a few if any intellectuals around who, unlike intelligentsia, think beyond “their self, family and relations.”
• “There is no famine of so called ‘professors’, ‘philosophers’ and ‘historians’ to come to the fore to counter the rising Kashmiri consciousness with their “novel” ideas and “intellectual prowess”. Owing to their “contributions” they have risen to the position of Councilors of Legislature, Parliamentarians of Indian Parliament.”
• “It is sheer oddity to divide Kashmir in Buddhist Kashmir, Hindu Kashmir and Muslim Kashmir. It is historically, conceptually and terminologically wrong to term any era of history of any country by the religious beliefs of its ruler.”
The author takes strong positions (inviting strong reactions or responses according to the measure one is hit) that “jobbing historians” are not used to take on a number of issues like long history of our resistance, Kashmiri character (it may be useful for anyone trying to understand Kashmir character as it has eluded leaders and intellectuals alike) medieval Kashmir economy (he notes, for instance, that “Due to historical limitations Kashmir could not provide the missionaries, from Central Asia, the amenities and benefits of city life. This could be done mainly by introducing Karkahnas they were thoroughly acquainted with and in them they could have been easily employed as they were well trained in various arts and crafts”), leadership that is more led than leads, sins of bureaucrats etc.
There are many eloquent, forceful and provocative passages that would invite debate and serve to introduce the best of Dr Ahad. I reproduce only two:
Books on Kashmir, generally speaking, lack credibility and suffer from serious trust deficit owing to their being completely drenched in subjectivism and mendacity. Their treatment of the subject matter is so loopy, nasty and deceptive that it plagues the reader’s mind with prejudice and chauvinism; estranging him socially from communities not subscribing to his race, faith and ideology. These books are compiled and brought to light by authors with erratic, dubious, sycophantic, opportunistic bent of mind and religious, doctrinaire attitude.
About our leaders:
But they are proficient enough in hiding their ignorance behind the facade of “Azadi” which together with their “pro-Kashmir” stance and other related postulates and religious fanaticism have endeared them to the politically naive and religiously sentimental public and trapped Kashmir’s historical ethos in the darkness of intolerance and bigotry from where its resurrection and resurgence is unlikely. The paucity of imaginative leaders with historical perspective is, therefore, a crippling malady that has struck Kashmir perennially.
At times the passages are too long for lucidity and rhetorical imagination seems to intrude in otherwise disciplined, hard headed analysis by the author. The class question and delineating the precise role of neo-colonialism needs more attention in his future works. The author occasionally gets passionate about certain perspective and condemns rather too harshly. Although quite conscious of historian’s mandate as consisting essentially in describing or analyzing to help understanding rather than judging history the strong moralist in him leads him to take the role of a critic than an academic historian and accordingly compromise strict objectivity of approach. On the whole the book is a resounding success in its central objective of passionate search for our lost history and inculcating sense of history in us and our leaders by putting Kashmir’s tragedies in perspective for paving way for its triumphs for which he is hopeful. The book is a good contribution to the studies of folklore and some other aspects of our culture as well. Socio-anthropological insights abound in the book making its scope quite wider than simply a gripping history of tragedies.
The book is not only readable but very provocative – it rightly accuses all of us – and invites a response to the million dollar question with which he concludes the book and I conclude this brief impression of the book. “Would the political Nautankies, Seyasi Duchesses, Fasid Vejbiharis, Chogli-beigs, Self-rule Sodagars, Autonomy Kothdars, Pakistani Farhads and Hindustani Majnoons, who thrive on status quo, let the fragrance of change waft through the vales and dales of Kashmir to make sure the ensconcing of the masses as happy, self-confident, self-respecting Kashmiris?”