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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kashmir, a view from the ground.,
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Kashmir, The case for freedom is a significant book; however it is also flawed. A collection of four relatively disparate essays and some extras focusing on the state of (mostly Indian occupied) Kashmir "the case for freedom" provides readers with a useful and engaging, if in places dull, and slightly disjointed account of the current situation in Kashmir.
As this book is in six distinct sections, it makes sense for certain sections to be reviewed separately.
The book starts off with a rather long winded and tedious history of the modern day Kashmir region. Having read Tariq Ali previously (him having co-authored the book was the main reason I bought it) I was disappointed to find a fairly generic historical account interspersed with usual anecdotes about his meetings with key political figures. This is Tariq Ali's style and hence expected, however he said little which he has not said before and provided little real insight. A real shame considering this section constitutes the largest essay in the book.
The sections that follow next were a pleasant surprise, and are the heart and soul of the book, essays written by people on the ground in Kashmir, providing insight like only someone who sees what is happening with their own eyes can.
Arundhati Roy provides an excellent and impartial account of her experience in Kashmir during the anti-government protests of 2008. Her accounts are vivid in their details, thought provoking and well written.
Hilal Bhatt does well to deliver his first-hand experience of being a Muslim Kashmiri persecuted in India for his background at the hands of extremist Hindu nationalists. Bhatt certainly succeeds in conveying his feelings and trauma; however whether such an essay adds anything to the book depends on what the reader looks for in a political book.
A P Chatterji delivers perhaps the most impressive essay in this book, highlighting the various human rights abuses that are allowed to take place by aggressively militarising Indian Kashmir. She also excels in tying in the impact of said abuses to the socio-economic destruction they cause. If any essay in this book truly provides the reader with insight into what drives the tensions in Kashmir this is it.
There are also sections on Kashmiri poems, and reprints of Nehru speeches on Kashmiri right to self-determination which add little to the book, and I suspect are merely page fillers, which is a shame considering how certain sections of the books were crying out for more page space.
In the end it is this that detracts from an otherwise impressive and important book. Take out Tariq Ali's section, the poems and speech reprints and you are left with sixty odd pages of interesting and perceptive prose which I believe make this book worth the time of anyone interested in this subject, whether that is enough to justify the price of the book however is another matter.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is Tariq Ali a Liar,
Is Tariq Ali a Liar?
Mohammad Nazir Tabassum
One of my friends in Pakistan often forwards me articles written by a variety of writers including one Srinagar based columnist of Greater Kashmir of the name Zahid G Muhammad. I could hardly afford time to go through his valuable deliberations. The last one of the series was titled "TARIQ ALI IS A LIER - HE DISTORTS HISTORY SPOILS NAME OF CO AUTHORS TO BOOK". I took it as a harmless mischief of my friend, a usual taunt that he often throws at me for being still a committed leftist and Tariq, also being one; I took it as my friend's derision. I retorted "I'm not the least influenced by Tariq".
But then I saw in the message "Have you seen the book. Enlighten us Prof Nazir Tabassum Sahib". A few weeks ago, while roaming about the City Centre of Bradford I spent some time in the local `WATERSTONE'S', where I happened to see KASHMIR : THE CASE FOR FREEDOM by Tariq Ali. I had just ignored it because I'm not much interested in Kashmir for my own very good reasons. Now I visited the bookshop again but was disappointed to see that it was no more in the stock. I asked the management about the coveted book; gave some deposit and ordered for three copies, one each for my three friends in Pakistan. After going through the chapter written by Tariq Ali "The Story of Kashmir", I logged in once again and went through Mr Zahid's write-up about the book. I'm sorry to say that Mr Zahid purposely avoided to pin point those parts of Tariq Ali's article that may be the actual cause of his irritation and which made him use bad language for the highly reputed, pre-eminent writer of the book.
The book Kashmir: The Case for Freedom is a collection of five essays:
1. The Story of Kashmir by Tariq Ali
2. Azadi: The Only Thing Kashmiris Want by Arundhati Roy
3. Fayazabad 31223 by Hilal Bhat
4. The Militarized Zone by Angana P. Chatterji
5. Seditious Nehru by Arundhati Roy
The book also contains English translation of eight poems by Habbah Khatun. The introduction is written by Punkaj Mishra. The epilogue entitled AFTERWORD: NOT CRUSHED, MERELY IGNORED is also written by Tariq Ali. It's a small book spread over 140 pages.
Our friend in Srinagar is hurt by Tariq Ali's views on the following grounds:
1. The seven hundred years Kashmir history, starting with the advent of Islam to 2010 is a pedestrian account.
2. He faults on facts, indulges in concoctions, invents stories, hurts Kashmiris sensibilities.
3. He borrows stories from biased historians and paints advent of Islam in Kashmir in bad colours.
4. Inaccuracies like election of seven representatives in Srinagar in June 1931 and not eleven.
5. Arouses sensibilities of Kashmiris while describing the mode of protest when Nehru and Ghaffar Khan visited Kashmir.
In the end the commentator says: "The chapter by Tariq Ali is largely an account of hearsay full of prejudice. He in fact has tried to corrupt Kashmir narrative by fictionalizing the scarlet history of Kashmir".
The commentator does not forget to issue his fatwa : " To preserve sanctity of the book the best course available to co-authors would be to delete the story of Kashmir chapter from the book".
Let us now see how far the irritation of the commentator is justified.
First of all, the advent of Islam in Kashmir can certainly be credited to a large number of Sufis but at the same time coercion cannot be ruled out in the historical perspective. There has been a mass conversion; only the Pundits did not embrace Islam. The history of Kashmir is silent about: who converted the people to such a large scale? In the 12th century, Kashmir was entirely Hindu. At the turn of the 16th century the demography was turned topsy- turvy: 85 % Muslims, 15 % Hindus and others. How were they converted? Sufism can be taken as relief to the rigours of Puritan Islam but how it all happened? These questions certainly leave some room to imagine that coercion must have worked its spell.
In his book ISLAM IN KASHMIR (Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century) Muhammad Ashraf Wani quotes from A HISTORY OF MUSLIM RULE IN KASHMIR 1320-1819 by Dr R K Parmu:
"We cannot, however, exonerate the Hindu community from their cowardice and pusillanimity. Most of them cowardly embraced Islam simply to be allowed to exist in the land of their birth, while a large number committed suicide. When their religion, culture, life and liberty were in danger, they should have made a common cause and offered united resistance especially when they predominated numerically. We are told that only the Brahmans resisted long and in consequence were tormented and tortured with the result that only a couple of thousands were left behind to preserve and maintain ancient religion and traditional culture. Other castes, who outnumbered the Brahman community exceedingly, failed to make any sacrifice. It is a very sad commentary on the state of social and moral degeneration and degradation, which had by this time generally set in the Hindu society in Kashmir".
Mr Zahid just blames of concoctions and of borrowings from biased historians but desists from pointing out the concoctions in Tariq Ali's writing. As far as the sensibilities are concerned, if Saraf or others have not gone into the details of the mode of protest, that doesn't mean that others should not record the history. I've never been to Srinagar but I have heard from many Kashmiris who migrated from the Valley and lived in Mirpur about the incident exactly in the same words. Moreover Mr Zahid should not be over sensitive if at any time an author describes in detail how the folks living in the thickly populated streets, lanes and alleys of Srinagar express their love or hatred over usual day to day quarrels amongst the neighbours. The expression of disgust for Sheikh Abdullah and his guests from Delhi in a protest over the bridges and banks of the Jhelum may be seen in this context. However, there are certainly some areas in Tariq's description that may have aroused Kashmiri sensibilities and these are the dealings of Kashmiri leadership with Pakistan's SENSITIVE organisations. For these Mr Zahid should blame his leadership and not Tariq Ali who has only uncovered the filth.
If Mr Zahid is pleased of the writings by Mishra, Bhat, Chatterji and Arundhat Roy, it is only because their narratives were restricted to the maltreatment of Kashmiris at the hands of Indians. Who so ever had to look at the role of Pakistan in Kashmir he would never ignore how Kashmiris were made to suffer by Pakistani misadventures.
And what inaccuracies? Number seven or eleven representatives in Srinagar in June 1931? Mr Zahid has ignored his own inaccuracies in his brief comment on the book and I've quoted him without any editing(Just look at the title of his commentary only). But I don't base my rebuttal on these minor things. It saddens me to think why Mr Zahid is not pin pointing his actual irritations. What are those? I'm now going to quote Tariq Ali, asking Mr Zahid if these are inaccurate in any way.
"An Islamist Kashmiri sits in the House of Lords as a new Labour peer; another Kashmiri stood as a Tory candidate in 2001 British general elections".
About September 1965 war:
" On the eve of the invasion, the self-appointed field marshal Ayub Khan had boasted that they might even be able to take Amritsar-the Indian town closest to Lahore - as a bargaining chip. A senior officer present (another of my uncles) muttered loudly: `Give him a few more whiskies and we'll take Delhi as well.'
Is it inaccurate or sensitive? I'll go on quoting
About the events that led Ayub's fall in 1968:
"The traditional parties on the left had not grasped the importance of what was happening , but Bhutto put himself at the head of the revolt, promised that after the people's victory they would `dress generals in skirts and parade them through the streets like performing monkeys', and prospered politically".
About Farooq Abdullah: "an amiable doctor, fond of wine and fornication, but not very bright - as his successor".
About Mrs Gandhi's assassination:
"A civil servant I met in Delhi the following year told me they had evidence linking the assassins with Sikh training camps in Pakistan that had been set up with US assistance with a view to destabilizing the Indian government. He was sure the United States had decided to eliminate Mrs Gandhi in order to prevent a strike against Pakistan that would have derailed the West's operations in Afghanistan".
About the security of the Gulf States:
"Francis Fukuyama's position paper `The Security of Pakistan: A Trip Report' was taken very seriously by the military dictatorship. Officers and soldiers were dispatched to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi to strengthen internal security. Salaries were much higher there, and a posting to the Gulf was much sought after. Pakistan also exported carefully selected prostitutes, recruited from elite women's colleges. Islamic solidarity recognised no bounds".
If you mind the last sentence in this quote, I may justify your sensibility. Let us go on further quoting.
About Shaheed Maqbool Bhat:
"I had met Bhat in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir in the early 1970's. He seemed equally hostile to Islamabad and New Delhi and determined to remake a Kashmir that would not be a helpless dependent of either".
Is it inaccurate, Mr Zahid? You may not have seen Bhat Sahib but I knew him very closely. Do you still intend to refute me?
About Pakistan-sponsored Jihad in Kashmir:
"Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the head mullah of the Lashkar, told Pamela Constable of the Washington Post: `Revenge is our religious duty. We beat the Russian Superpower in Afghanistan; we can beat the Indian forces too. We fight with the help of Allah, and once we start Jihad, no force can withstand us".
Do you dispute the validity of this report, Mr Zahid? Let us go on quoting more:
"If NATO could overfly borders without any legal sanction, so could they. By May 1999, as the yellow roses were about to bloom, the Indian Army had retaken most of the ridges it had lost. A month later, its forces were poised to cross the Line of Control. Pakistan's political leaders panicked, and falling back on an old habit, they made a desperate appeal to the White House.
"A US general was sent to Pakistan to have a quiet word with the military, and Nawaz Sharif was summoned to the White House. Clinton told him to withdraw all his troops, as well as the fundamentalists, from the territory they had occupied. Nothing was promised in return. No pressure on India. No money for Pakistan".
I'm reasonably sure these hard facts would have annoyed Mr Zahid. As he cannot refute them, so without referring to them he charged Tariq Ali of lying. Let us continue quoting:
Here you can compare the duality of Sharif Brothers who have gone to the Supreme Court against Memo scandal, and just look how they have been blaming Pak Army before their Masters.
"In private, Sharif told the Americans that he supported the rapprochement with India and had resisted the Kargil war, but he had been outmanoeuvred by the Army. The lie went down well in Washington and Delhi, but angered the Pakistani high command. When he got home, Sharif hatched a plan to replace the commander-in-chief of the Army, General Pervez Musharraf, with one of his placemen, General Khawaja Ziauddin, head of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Sharif's brother Shahbaz made an unpublicised visit to Washington with Ziauddin in tow in order to get approval for Ziauddin's appointment. The two men were received at the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA and made many rash promises".
Tariq Ali continues to describe coupe d'état of 12 October 1999:
"This was the first coup d'état carried out in the face of explicit American institutions to the contrary: in a statement issued three days before these events, Clinton had warned against a military take-over. In Pakistan, the fall of the Sharif brothers was celebrated on the streets of every city".
Like every military dictator of Pakistan, Tariq Ali states that Musharraf too pledged to wipe out corruption and stressed his affinity with Kamal Ataturk, but soon his anti-corruption zeal disappeared. He transferred the fiercely incorruptible General Amjad from Accountability Bureau to a military command in Karachi. About Amjad:
"he had amassed evidence revealing extensive corruption in every institution in the country. Supreme Court judges were for sale to the highest bidder (defence lawyers asked clients for six figure sums as the `judge's fee' payable before a trial began); many senior civil servants were on the payroll of big business and the narco-barons; businessmen pocketed bank loans worth billions of rupees; senior military officers had succumbed to bribery. Amjad insisted, to no avail, that the new regime clean up the armed forces. Unless retired and serving officers were tried, sentenced and punished, he believed, Pakistan would remain a failed state, dependent on foreign handouts and a black market economy fuelled by narco-profits. His transfer shows that he lost this battle".
About people's assumption that Musharraf would disarm the Islamists, Tariq Ali states:
"When I was in Lahore in December 1999, I was told about a disturbing incident. The Indians had informed their Pakistani counterparts that one of the peaks in Kargil-Drass was still occupied by Pakistani soldiers, contrary to the cease-fire agreement. A senior officer went to investigate and ordered the captain in charge of the peak to return to the Pakistani side of the Line of Control. The captain accused his senior officer and the military high command of betraying the Islamist cause, and shot the officer dead. The Islamist officer was finally disarmed, tried by a secret court martial and executed".
Tariq accepts the existing state of affairs in Pakistan's armed forces in which, as generally agreed, 25 to 30 per cent of the servicemen are Islamists, and the reluctance to act against the jihadis is intelligible. He states:
"The fundamentalists' boast that in ten years' time they will control the army and hence Pakistan conjures a deadly image: an Islamist finger on the nuclear trigger. This is what has concentrated minds in Washington, Delhi and Beijing, but so far with little to show for it".
How can one challenge Tariq Ali when he says:
"Neither Pakistan nor India favours the cause of Kashmiri independence. Nor does Beijing, worried about the ramifications in Tibet. And yet independence is what the Kashmiri people appear to want. In the Valley itself, Farooq Abdullah and his BJP chums, backed by Karan Singh, are plotting a Balkanization of the province, dividing it into eight units along religious-ethnic lines.... For the people who live here, 11 September did not change anything. The Jaish-e-Muhammad group carried out a brutal terrorist act in Srinagar days later. It is the same group that, a few weeks later, killed a group of Christians in the Pakistani city of Bahawalpur. The reason this group cannot be disarmed is that it is a creation of Pakistani military intelligence. The links between official and unofficial are inextricable. In retaliation, India bombed a few targets inside Pakistani territory. The message was obvious. If the West can inflict punitive bombing on Afghanistan, then India can do the same to Pakistan. The terrorist attack on Indian Parliament by one of these groups in December 2001 led to war between the two countries".
Keeping in view the geography, demography and an unending belligerence between the neighbouring states of South Asia, that is, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with the surrounding Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, Tariq Ali suggests in his conclusion:
"Economic and political logic dictates the formation of a South Asian Union, a voluntary confederation of republics. Within such a frame work, in which no state fears a challenge to its sovereignty, Kashmir could be guaranteed complete autonomy, as could the Tamil region in Sri Lanka".
In the epilogue of the book "Afterword: Not Crushed, Merely Ignored", which the Greater Kashmir's columnist has ignored altogether, Tariq Ali has denounced the latest atrocities committed by Indian Army in Kashmir. He has catalogued the Kashmiri youth martyred in June/July 2008. In his criticism of the inept Kashmiri leadership he states:
"I rang a journalist in Srinagar and asked him about the current chief minister, Omar Abdullah, a callow and callous youth whose only claim to office is dynastic. `Farooq Abdullah', he said, `is our Asif Ali Zardari when it comes to corruption. Now he has made his son chief minister so that he can concentrate on managing his various businesses'. The opposition is not much better. Some Kashmiris, the journalist said, call Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the effective leader of the opposition, and his cronies, `double agents. That is, they are taking money from Pakistan and India'. He is the twelfth `Mirwaiz', or self-appointed spiritual leader of the Muslims in Kashmir Valley, and is adept at playing both sides. `Mirwaiz' security outside his house is provided by the Indian state', a friend in Srinagar told me. His wife is Kashmiri American, he lives very comfortably (without any source of income), and he is engaged in secret talks with India, news of which is constantly leaked. Furthermore, he also makes an annual pilgrimage to Pakistan to keep that channel open as well. He hangs out with `separatists' in Kashmir who are open to being used by both India and Pakistan, for a good price, of course. The Indian authorities do not have to do much to crush Kashmiris while there are people like Mirwaiz. So, all in all, our leadership is working against us. India has always used this to its advantage'.
I need not to elaborate why Kashmir doesn't interest me. This passage is more than enough to explain my disgust. But Tariq Ali expresses his optimism with the new generation Kashmiris. He writes:
"Now a new generation of Kashmiri youth is on the march. They fight, like the young Palestinians, with stones. Many have lost their fear of death; they will not surrender. Ignored by politicians at home, abandoned by Pakistan, they are developing the independence of spirit that comes with isolation, and it will not be easily quelled".
Lastly a word about Mr Zahid's fatwa: my dear! Sanctity lies is preserving as a whole and not in deleting the indigestible parts of a book. It was Maulana Maudoodi who edited his publications such as Musalman Aur Siasi Kashmakash after the establishment of Pakistan. I can quote many more who, in the eagerness to preserve sanctity, edited the most sacred books on Islamic history, Seerat and Hadith. But I don't want to arouse your sensibilities.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Interesting and Impressive book on Kashmir that could have been more Hard-hitting!,
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I found the book Kashmir: "The Case for Freedom; by Tariq Ali, Hilal Bhatt, Angana P. Chatterji, Habbah Khatun, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy" to be very interesting and at the same time to be problematic in that it did not do full justice to the current Kashmir issue stalemate in terms of not coming across as hard-hitting account of the present struggle there as I would have liked. It gives the usual generic historical account with many interesting meetings Tariq Ali had with many key political figures involved in the Kashmir issue. In fact, I was looking forward to reading this book - after coming across Tariq Ali's book: Can Pakistan Survive? Paperback in 1983. That was my first ever Tariq Ali book I read. Obviously, Tariq Ali's section reflects his particular style and he tends to repeat himself of what he has not said before (as I remember back in 1983). However, I was impressed with Arundhati Roy's section in the book and whose credentials on the Kashmir issue are highly respected by many Kashmiris activists.
Overall, the other sections in the book by Hilal Bhatt gives the on the ground reality of what it must have been like in the 1947 partition and in the events during December, 1992 when 150,000 Kar Sevaks (Hindu nationalist Volunteers) had gone to the Barbri Mosque in Ayodhya and had razed it to the ground and in the ensuing Hindu-Muslim riots around 2,500 people were reportedly killed across India. Interestingly, the poem sections gave me an another insight into the Habbah Khatun story and the Nehru speeches reminded me of divisive role Nehru must have played Kashmir's current stalemate and on the other hand it seems to suggest that the author(s) did not have much else to say about the current situation in Kashmir and merely acted as page fillers. Nonetheless, I was also impressed by what A P Chatterji wrote on the important aspect of human right abuses and how the militarisation there has impacted on the economic infrastructure in Indian Kashmir Occupied Kashmir.
A well worth buying book and I am not sure though if it's current price is value for many in terms of the overall written content/information.
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Kashmir: The Case for Freedom by Arundhati Roy