Because they will never give us equality. And because they are
Hindus and we are Muslims." "Oh come off it..."
counters Habib. "After all Kashmir did voluntarily accede
to India... and the Indian Army only came in to knock out the
Pakistani invaders when your friends in the Jamait are so fond
of. Yes, Delhi does periodically misbehave with Kashmir and I
get as angry about it as anyone else. But that happens with
other states as well." "These states,"
maintains Karim, "do not have the history which Kashmir
does. And these states are not Muslim majority (ones)."
radical Qureshi tells Habib that he was the son of Kashmir,
"born of the mountains, lakes and the rivers" and
yet he had not realised that he was a slave in his own land...
a subject living in chains under the rule of an alien people
from across the mountains who "rape and defile our
motherland". Habib responds to that ill-defined essence
of Kashmir identity, a fusion of liberal Islam, Sufi beliefs
and vague nationalism. He "learnt with anger" the
discrimination they had suffered at the hands of the Dogras
who ruled Kashmir for more than a century. Added to this
identity problem, there was anger against corruption, against
bad roads... against government employees who do not work and
against unemployment... all too easily transformed into
secessionism... It becomes us and them... no use hanging
around with kafirs. People have been screwed for long by them.
well-knit plot, Chandra traces history since the Pakistan
sponsored invasion in October, 1947, and brings into bold
relief the reality through Hindu-Muslim relations based on
what is generally termed as Kashmiriat, the migration of
Kashmiri Pandits, the mounting hatred and killings of Hindus,
rapes, arson and the growth of terrorist groups. I believe
that Chandra is not fixated with any particular ideology, nor
does he indulge in mawkish sentimentalism to establish his
secular credentials.Vikram draws a graphic picture of the
Pan-Islamic movement and its influence on Kashmir.
We have a
comprehensive account of the involvement of Pakistani and
Afghan militants in the movement. In such a fluid situation,
the ISI established the Markaz Dawar, a centre for worldwide
Islamic activities with Maulana Zaki as its spiritual leader,
who declared that the trainee’s destiny was to liberate the
land of Allah from infidels. About one thousand Afghan
mujahideen, zealous soldiers of God, were sent to Kashmir.
Lashkar-e-Toiba set up more than 2,000 training camps to wage
a prolonged jehad. Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Al
Badr recruited mercenaries to fight in the valley. Darra,
close to Peshawar, emerged as a market for arms and
ammunition. These nurtured the killer instinct.
fidayeen, the suicide squads. Jalauddin, an Afghan, remarked:
"I thought the jehad was over. The Russians have left and
now our brothers are killing each other... No, this is a new
jehad against a new enemy." Langryal intervened: "I
am going to Kashmir... We beat the Soviets. How much trouble
can a bunch of Banias be?"
madrasas run in Pakistan thousands of young boys are taught to
believe that salvation lay in the holy war and the greatest
honour was to die in jehad, dreaming of the imminent break-up
of India and absorption of its fragments into Pakistan.
There is a
mention of a conspiracy to kill President Clinton while he
addressed the Indian Parliament. The conspirators occupy a
farm house on the outskirts of the capital! And, of course,
our intelligence agencies work.
The novel is
replete with scenes of killing and butchering the members of
the families who do not subscribe to separatist ideas. There
are sad moments too. There are characters like rationalist
Habib who are physically battered and ideologically defeated,
kneeling every morning near the increasing number of graves!
Writing on contemporary
issues is a hazardous task. It calls for a keen sense of
observation and a practising eye to follow the chain of
events. Also it needs some research and analysis in sorting
out the material. I must say that TV journalist Vikram Chandra
has presented the pathos of the lacerated valley through its