Kashmir: As I see It

The most fascinating contribution of the author is his approach to deal with the Kashmir situation
Kashmir: As I see It

Numerous accounts have been written on Kashmir conflict.This article reviews a recent non-academic work 'Kashmir: As I see It (Fromwithin and Afar)' by Ashok Dhar. According to Dhar, his interest in J&Kpolitics has led him to write the book. The book may be divided into threeparts. The part first (autobiographical) is an attempt to recount his personalexperience, historical and cultural differences of Kashmir vis-à-vis otherstates of India.

The second part of the book deals with the author's overseastrips including Muslims countries. Dhar tells us Islam practiced in Muslimworld is different than what we had in Kashmir. In the succeeding pages hehighlights the political developments that occurred in Kashmir from 1930s andthe role played by the political leadership. He defends Hari Singh for hisdevelopment activities and reforms in J&K but contends that 'Dograscontinued to be seen more as Hindu rulers by the Muslim majority in the state'(p. 93). Why it was so has been convincingly discussed by Chitralekha Zutshiand Mridu Rai in their respective works which Dhar does not seem to have gonethrough.

Dhar also deliberates on the fraud and rigged elections thatwere conducted in Kashmir and put several examples how the parties won theelections in the past. Similarly, debating about the eruption of militancy,Dhar is toeing the line of Delhi and calls Kashmir insurgency a 'Pakistanproxy' and 'radicalization of Islam'. For him, the decline in 'Sufi Islam' and'spread of Wahhabi ideology' has led to a 'radical transformation' of Kashmirisociety. Thus, the author ignores the historical dimensions of Kashmir dispute.

The third part deals with the K-dispute and possiblesolution. Using social media as a source of information, he tries to understandthe feelings of Kashmiris (who according to him are Waadi Ki Awaaz). Dharcontests the premise that K-conflict is a territorial one, and holds thatKashmir could be seen through the prism of history, geography, leadership,national and international players. Instead of questioning New Delhi for herpolicy paralysis in Kashmir, Dhar questions Kashmiris over the prevailingviolent situation.

However, one must appreciate Dhar because he does not appearas an annoyed Kashmiri Pandit who simply blames Kashmiri Muslims for the exileof Pandits (unlike, for instance, those subscribing to the divisive ideology ofPanun Kashmir organisation or those who are seen on TV debates). He recalls hisnursing been done by a Kashmir Muslim woman whom he refers to as Dodh Maej. Narratingthis story, he states that, "a Hindu child growing up on the milk of Muslimwomen was just a usual part of our culture". (p. 10) He maintains the view thatthe persistent mistrust and politics have been the major reasons for thetragedies that Kashmir has suffered. While making his point, Dhar tells us thatSheikh, Bakshi, Sadiq, Qasim, and D.P. Dhar were probably best of colleaguesbut there saga of friendship had its own trails and tribulations. He claimsthat on several occasions even Sheikh didn't trust his friend Afzal Beg andkept him in dark due to a well-guarded strategy that he was privy to (pp.50-51).

While narrating his visit to Pakistan in 2012, Dhar had aconversation with General Hamid Gul during their flight. To Gul's questionabout the purpose of his visit, when Dhar replied that he was a member of atrade delegation from India visiting Islamabad, Gul replied, 'Have a good timebut don't waste time on trade. Nothing is going to happen till the Kashmirissue is resolved (p. 80). In the succeeding chapters, the author seems verycritical of Pakistan's policy and writes, 'Kashmir had been used by politiciansin Pakistan to arouse passions for a cause that helped them keep their countryunited' (p. 83). But he does not look at the other side of the coin. Thesimilar notion is true of India also. Similarly, he does not see shades of'Kashmiriyat' in Pakistan. The question is, does India reciprocate to'Kashmiriyat' the way it should? Here Dhar seems to be supporting the narrativethat attempts to delegitimize the larger context (Pakistan factor) ofK-conflict.

The most fascinating contribution of the author is hisapproach to deal with the Kashmir situation. He draws his personal experiencefrom corporate sector and takes recourse to management decision-making toolsespecially the 'Game Theory' to find potential pathways for the resolution ofK-dispute. After examining many papers and models, he coins a term LeLaMOKSHIand says that K-dispute has a LeLaMOKSHI dimension. The term stands for, Le-Legality,La-Land, M-Morality, O-Operationality, K-Kashmiriyat, S-Sufism, H-Historicityand I-Identity. For him, it is important to understand the significance ofLeLaMOKSHI at all levels and then we can address the issues of Kashmir.Interestingly, Dhar also compares the two divided parts of Kashmir. Althoughadmitting that 'governance is at low ebb' in this part of Kashmir, he claims,'we are better off than our brethren in PoK' (p. 159). Nevertheless, he failsto substantiate his claim.

The central contribution of Dhar is; he studies six globalmodels for the possible solution of the K-dispute. Simultaneously, he assertsthat 'it is difficult to find a common solution…varying interests of variousstakeholders' (p. 190). It seems he doesn't provide any new paradigm butinstead agrees with the point that both India and Pakistan must work out andsolve the issue peacefully. Here he tries to explore the means and measures ofnormalcy and conflict resolution to J&K by writing, 'Kashmir requiresdifferent approach and understanding' (p. 177). One may agree with Dhar that 'aspeedy but effective resolution of the Kashmir dispute will liberate India ofthe mammoth task of deploying enormous resources year after year forsecurity…resolution will bolster India's global image…'(p. 195) Thus, for Dhar,resolution of the conflict and not its management is the need of the hour. Inthis context, the book adds to the collection of literature that attempts tolook at the K-conflict and suggests pathways for its resolution. Whileconcluding the book, Dhar reveals his love for his native land (Kashmir) inthese emotional words: 'Az Ashok Damch Nazah Chu Justand / Ba Khawahish-i-DilGult Ki Kashnir Hech' (When Ashok was asked on his deathbed what his last wishwas, he replied from his heart: Kashmir and nothing else) p. 199).

The book is written in lucid language and its terminologyand framework are easily understandable. Even the complex phenomena are simplycomprehensible. He has succeeded in exploring the socio-political reality forwhich he deserves to be acknowledged. This book, although non-academic, servesits purpose when read critically in historic and political context of J&K.I recommend this book for all those interested in Kashmir politics in order toexplore some new facets and apt observations. The book also comes at anaffordable price.

Javid Ahmad Ahanger is Ph.D. Research Scholar Department ofPolitical Science, AMU, Aligarh.

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