After the annulment of Articles 370 and 35 A (under these Articles of the Indian constitution, Kashmir was provided with a special status due to the nature of its accession to India) more than ever, Kashmir’s political history, historical facts, and politics in broader terms, all turned into mere rhetorics of right-wing and liberals alike and the vast history and political landscape of the valley was reduced to social media campaigns and Whatsapp forwards. Disinformation, falsehoods, fake news, and, in many cases, hatred supplanted authenticity and facts.
The common recourse to seeking accurate information and knowledge went downhill.
While the public is discussing Kashmir’s history, and current political scenarios and basing their arguments on propaganda films, the actual history, politics and culture are not accessed. In this non-exhaustive list of books, livid experiences of people living in the conflicted region, historical accounts and critical essays are mentioned, for a basic understanding of the region, the conflict and the politics.
1. Kashmir In Conflict
This more than 260-page, non-fiction written by British historian, and author, Rosemary Victoria Schofield, investigates the historical context of Kashmir’s conflict. The author gives insights into the era of Hindu kings and Buddhist rulers of the valley to the present status quo of Kashmir. The book gives a considerable background, context, and history of major events and even minor incidents which took place in the valley leading to a present-day dispute between the two neighbours.
The book starts with the introduction of an independent valley ruled by various kings like Ashoka, the coming of Mughal emperors and finally the British Raj. There is a considerable and nuanced context and analysis of the chain of events right from the anxieties that the Dogra ruler had while signing the instrument of accession with India to the many theories alleging conspires by both countries to annex the valley.
With well-researched nine chapters, chronologically describing events, and political and personal compromises, this book is what gives you an insight into a big question of Kashmir.
The book is a short read, but surely is a starter kit to the unfathomable politics of Kashmir.
2. Curfewed Night
Curfew Night: A Frontline Memoir of Life, Love and War in Kashmir is a memoir by Baharat Peer, a journalist from the valley currently based in the US. The book is an account of Peer’s livid experiences of grappling with atrocities committed by the Indian Army, targeted attacks by militants, and the consistent turmoil of the 90s Kashmir.
This book is a brave reiteration of the struggles of being a ‘90s kid in Kashmir,’ a proverbial phrase Kashmiris use to describe the kids born around the insurgency of the ’90s who never saw the beauty of Kashmir that it is famous for.
After becoming a journalist with an Indian newspaper, Peer’s memoir deliberates on how the identity of being a Kashmiri is always being questioned and how everything that he did drew him back to the valley. Apart from being a personal account of a Kashmiri navigating the insurgency of the 1990s, the book is a rumination of how most of the people in Kashmir navigate the nuanced conflict that Kashmir has been made a part of.
The book was removed from the syllabus of two universities in Kashmir- Kashmir University and Cluster University by the authorities, raising eyebrows on the age-old debate of the freedom of expression and press freedom in the country. So grab this book from the bookstores quickly before it ceases to exist in the resistance literature.
3. The Collaborator
Mirza Waheed’s debut novel was an immense hit among Kashmiris and the rage was justified.
The novel’s protagonist lives in the last village alongside the line of control and that last village is changing. Much like Achebe’s Okonkwo, the story deals with the inner conflict of the protagonist and the real conflict. The excellent portrayal of the Kashmiri people’s anxieties, conflicted emotions, and betrayals through the protagonist makes this a must-read for understanding the Kashmir conflict.
4. Until My Freedom Has Come
Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir is a collection of essays written by various writers, journalists, and activists from the valley and edited by Sanjay Kak. Kak is an author and filmmaker, with documentary films like Jashn-e-Azaadi accredited to him.
This collection of essays and writings explores and examines the dreadful days of 2010 summer in Kashmir when many youths in Kashmir were killed, by the Indian army while protesting or while getting bread from a local bakery. The summer was a cycle of killings and mourning in the valley that seemed to never cease.
This book is brief but the writings reflect young writers emerging from the valley with newer and fresher language.
5. Do you remember Kunan Pushpora?
The book is one of the most accurate and authentic reports on the gruesome incident of gender-based violence, mass rapes and harassment, that the Indian army committed against the women of two villages in the district of Kupwara in Kashmir valley in February 1991.
The book is divided into 7 chapters, beginning with the contribution of women of Kashmir in the resistance movement. The book’s next chapters delve into the horrific incident of mass sexual violence, rapes, and killings by the 4th Raputana Rifles of the Indian army.
The book is written by seven Kashmiri women, Essar Batool, Ifrah Butt, Munaza Rashid, Natasha Rather and Samreena Mushtaq and was published by Zubaan Books
6. The Valley Of Kashmir
This book was written by a British writer stationed in Kashmir during the last years of the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent. Sir Walter Roper Lawrence was also a settlement commissioner of Kashmir under Indian civil services. With more than 400 pages and 20 chapters, the book explores the Kashmir region, from an exoticised point of view, from a White colonial master’s view of its colony and peoples.
This book can serve as a comprehensive guide to Kashmir, including topics such as culture, geography, flora and fauna, castes, religions, and food. The book does not directly address the recent conflict in Kashmir but rather provides context for it.
7. Behold, I shine
Behold, I Shine is a short read, written by Freny Manecksha, about the resistance and perseverance of Kashmiri women in the history and politics of Kashmir. The book also delineates the contribution of women in Kashmir’s resistance movement which sometimes is undervalued and underrepresented.
The book includes interviews with Parveena Ahangar, the “Iron Lady of Kashmir,” the founder of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP). Ahangar, founded APDP after her son became the victim of the forced disappearance that Kashmir has long been grappling with and without any justice delivered to the affected.
Of course, there are hundreds of books, fiction, non-fiction, essay collections etc written on Kashmir, however, this list is a first step to learn and know more about Kashmir’s history, politics, culture, and more.
A few more recommendations are Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Agha Shahid Ali’s collections of poetry, Alastair Lamb’s Kashmir: A Disputed Legacy, the graphic novel, Munna: A Boy From Kashmir, by Malik Sajad etc.
This is by no means an exhaustive or representative list. Suggestions to add to this list are welcome in the comments section.