Story behind the Story
THE STORY OF JAVED AND FARHAT BEGINS WELL BEFORE THE STORY BEGINS
BOOK REVIEW BY BILAL BHAT
Kashmir: The Case For Freedom, a collection of essays by various authors is a passionate call for attention towards one of the intractable conflicts. Pankaj Mishra’s brilliant introduction of the Kashmir conflict, Tariq Ali’s rich anecdotes establishing how Kashmir case has been buried, and to cap it all Arundhati’s mesmerizing lines in the backdrop of 2008 uprising make the book a riveting read. However, the only Kashmiri contributor, Hilal Bhat in his gripping narrative, makes a real addition to the recent writings on Kashmir.
It talks of pre-militancy times; how 1987 elections dashed the hopes of Kashmiri youth to ground, and strengthened the atmosphere of dissent. It beautifully narrates how that dissent accumulated among the masses like a ‘Headmaster’ who ultimately encouraged the youngsters, including his own teenager son to take to arms.
The story goes on to underline twin trends in Kashmir. One, Kashmiri boys crossing the Line of Control for arms training, and the second, Kashmiri boys moving to other states in India to seek education. The fact that parents sent their children to various schools, colleges and universities shows the complexity of Kashmir’s relation with India.
It was during these days that Aligarh Muslim University became the sanctuary for Kashmiri students. Javed Ahmed Andrabi and Farhat Ahmed were among the bright students to arrive at the campus. Javed, from Ratnipora, Pulwama aspired to become the first bio- technologist of Kashmir while Farhat from Islamabad was a topper in his class at high school in AMU. I knew both Javed and Farhat.
5th December 1992, a day before Javed’s gruesome killing, he asked me some money to buy his train tickets, longing to see his family as the whole campus wore a deserted look following the riots over the Babri Masjid demolition. Shadow of death was visible on his face, which I pointed out the moment he entered my room. Javed was eager to go home as the hostel mess was running out of food and every time we had to wait for our Biryani, arranged by the locals from a neighborhood called Upper Court.
Hilal’s major part of the essay takes the reader to the entire post Mabri Masque demolition riots in north India. The story of Farhat and Javed, two innocent Kashmiri teenagers traveling in a train full of Karsevaks – volunteers of the Hindu radical groups mobilized at the time of Babri Masjid demolition – is harrowing. Hilal’s eye witness account of how his friends were ruthlessly killed Faizabad 31223, is traumatic. The essay reads: “The kar sevaks attacked Farhat and Javed who had not faked their identity as I had. What I recall is Farhat hiding his face with both hands. As soon as he did, someone forced a trident (an emblem of God Shiva, carried by many of kar sevaks) into his chest, provoking a piercing cry, ‘ Hatai Mojai !’ (Oh, Mother!). A shabbily dressed man stabbed a knife into his neck and a powerful fountain of blood arose from my friend’s throat.”
After this incident, many parents restrained from sending their children outside the valley.
Hilal’s essay throws the entire issue of Kashmir politics beyond the valley of Kashmir and reinforces the notion that the resistance movement in the valley is largely shaped by not just the historical events of pre and post partition, Indo Pak relation, Srinagar- Delhi relation and the completive politics among the indigenous leadership, but also by a much ignored failure of Indian society to assimilate the Kashmiris within the country’s vast diversity. It opens a fresh debate reminding how Indian society largely failed to offer a homely space for Kashmiri students in various Indian states.
Angana Chatterji in her essay substantiates Hilal’s account underlining the image India portrays of Kashmiri Muslims living outside Kashmir as violent, impure and anti-national. She tells the untold stories of detention centers and jails where young boys in their teens are mercilessly baen and abused. Her essay at a place where she testifies that these young detainees were not just physically attacked but verbally abused, reads: “your “race” is deranged. You are criminals. You are thieves. ..She uses a pseudonym “Bebaak” for a protagonist and tries to establish Indian ruthlessness through the eyes of the victim - “Bebaak”.
Verso’s acknowledgement to the rich Kashmiri literary heritage is admirable for linking the genesis of “oppression” to the lyrics of Habba Khatton, the medieval poetess who also figures as a co-author in its cover page. Tariq Ali, editor of the book tries to plead the Kashmir case by bringing not just India as a colonial patron but criticizing western commentators for staying silent and blaming United Nations for not holding discussions and debates on the cold blooded murder of innocent Kashmiris.
While an informed Kashmiri reader will note at first instance that the essays of Tariq Ali, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy are already read, reviewed, and debated, a small essay by a Kashmiri Journalist is something new a reader can find in the book.
The book strongly legitimizes the Kashmir’s case for freedom through the collection of facts, poetry, memoirs, anecdotes and historical accounts, it would have done better by giving more space – may be placed higher in the order– to the contribution by Hilal Bhat.
The reviewer is a media professional and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lastupdate on : Tue, 29 Nov 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 29 Nov 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 30 Nov 2011 00:00:00 IST
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