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The Ghost in the Room

T.C.A. Rangachari

By Happymon Jacob
Samskriti, New Delhi, 2013, pp. 310, Rs. 1200.00


The Modi-Sharif meeting in Delhi on 27 May, following the swearing-in ceremony and the subsequent debate on the relevance of Article 370 brought J&K briefly back into public debate. India and Pakistan have, since then, reverted to their domestic preoccupations—developmental and governance issues in India; the military operations in FATA to tackle terrorism in the aftermath of the TTP attack on Karachi airport in Pakistan.  J&K, of course, continues to remain the ghost in the room. It can hardly be otherwise having bedevilled Indo-Pak relations over the last six decades. The security establishment in Pakistan and the India-oriented jihadis patronized by it want to keep it that way. The political leadership though well aware of the increasing incapacity of Pakistan to alter established realities in J&K finds itself unable to change its public rhetoric. Yet, one gets the sense that for peoples on both sides, it has now become more a question of how to erode the salience of J&K as the ‘core’ issue preventing economic, social and other cooperation in an atmosphere free from violence or the threat of it that they want to see forming the basis of a new relationship. The volume under review is a collection of articles by the author that have appeared since 2004 in Greater Kashmir and Kashmir Times (Srinagar) and The Hindu. The author notes in his Introduction that it is, ‘an opinionated, often passionate, provocative, and personal narrative’ and does ‘not pretend to be an objective, methodologically rigorous historical analysis’ of Kashmir’s contemporary political life.  The author is a Professor in Jawaharlal Nehru University and was, earlier, in the University of Jammu apart from having done a stint in the Delhi-based think tank ORF and been involved with the Pugwash and several Track Two dialogues. The ten chapters in the book are divided into two parts: i) Kashmir and ii) Indo-Pak Relations. The argument the author makes in the portion on Kashmir—one might ask, why not J&K?—is that several opportunities have been missed by India to win back the hearts and minds of the people of the Valley; that the azadi movement is a very real reflection of the alienation felt by the people there; that the circumstances that the people have to live under consequent upon the intrusive presence of the security forces and trampling with impunity upon their civic and human rights are ...

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