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Multiple Realities Under the Lens

Samreen Mushtaq

By Manisha Gangahar
Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, 2013, pp. 173, Rs. 450.00


The accounts on Kashmir will generally tell stories from a particular prism, explaining that either there is no problem and that peace has returned to the Valley after a violent phase, or keeping in mind the global concern for human rights, that the Kashmir issue is nothing but a case of Human Rights violations that needs to be addressed. For many of those ‘outside’, ‘Kashmir is Happy’1 and you’ll fall in love with it. For those ‘inside’, the story is darker, one that not many will dare venture into.   When Manisha Gangahar’s book starts with a statement as powerful as ‘Aapka India, Hamaara Kashmir’ (Your India, Our Kashmir), you realize here is one of those works that has perhaps dared enter the field which the veil of nationalism otherwise makes one so conveniently ignore. The work emphasizes questions surrounding Kashmiri identity, how Kashmiris define themselves, to what extent they relate to the idea of Kashmiriyat and how feasible this idea is. Combining theoretical perspectives with writings and cinematic works specific to Kashmir, she looks into factors like violence, politics, power, nationalism, democracy, religion and their interplay to give the Kashmir conflict the shape that it has acquired today. She acknowledges the mass sentiment in Kashmir being anti-India, the Indian state being looked at as the colonizer and how it has used coercive measures to silence the voices from Kashmir. What Agha Shahid Ali expresses as ‘They make a desolation and call it peace’,2 Gangahar expresses it through phases of ‘violence’ and the deafening roar of ‘silence of violence’. She goes on to analyse how in the varied narratives of space and time, Kashmir and Kashmiri identity have been lost somewhere.   The author maintains that Kashmiriyat has from time to time been used in different contexts, by people from varied political leanings, giving it specific meanings at specific times as per the convenience of those using the term. If Kashmiriyat gives the state an identity unique enough to demand Azaadi, where do those who wish to stay with India fit in? Hasn’t the ‘ethnic cleansing’ of Kashmiri Pandits been a ‘blotch on Kashmiriyat’ and belied the very notion of this Kashmiriness, for a community within Kashmir had to become a casualty of the freedom struggle to assert this unique Kashmiri identity? Haven’t both Indian secularism and Kashmir’s nationalism failed when it comes to the tragedy of ...

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