|Sunday, April 18, 2004|
THE book takes an insightful look at the events that led to the ravaging of the beautiful Kashmir valley by politicians, security forces and militants. It is a detailed account of the personal histories of 11 jehadis who chose to trudge unfriendly, snow-laden mountains, facing hunger and hostile gunfire, to cross the border and return with arms. The book reveals the disillusionment of most of these jehadis with Pakistan when they realised that its main reason in providing arms was to take over Kashmir, not to give independence. When these jehadis resisted the evil designs of Pakistan they were hounded by the ISI. Readers learn the astounding secret of how most of these jehadis subsequently reached an understanding with the security forces (albeit quietly) to fight the pro-Pakistan jehadis. Many hardcore terrorists were eliminated as a result of this strategy.
The pathos of the Valley, which once gave unstinted support to the mujahideen, and then felt betrayed when it realised that they were also culpable has been captured well. It brings home the truth that a very thin line separates a freedom fighter from a militant. It also shatters the notions of an average Indian who views the "freedom struggle" as a militant movement.
The book narrates the most significant events that took place in the lives of these jehadis, one of whom is a woman. These first-hand accounts detail the grievances of the people which led to unrest in the Valley. The historical background given in the beginning of the book lends continuity to the narrative. The background of these jehadis, most of whom are educated, belies the notion that this movement is confined to a particular segment of society. The book, despite being factual, reads like a story where the author alternates between first and third person accounts.
The effort is seminal and unique. Here is a journalist who has painstakingly analysed the tragic story of Kashmir from psychological, political, historical angles. The ideological and economic context of militancy has been adequately explained by Dr Chrungoo. The most remarkable contribution of the book is the solutions it provides which are unbiased and pragmatic. The language is simple and terse, the contents gripping. This book is the stuff of which films are made, only all of it happens to be true.