Numerous accounts have been written on Kashmir conflict. This article reviews a recent non-academic work ‘Kashmir: As I see It (From within and Afar)’ by Ashok Dhar. According to Dhar, his interest in J&K politics has led him to write the book. The book may be divided into three parts. The part first (autobiographical) is an attempt to recount his personal experience, historical and cultural differences of Kashmir vis-à-vis other states of India.
The second part of the book deals with the author’s overseas trips including Muslims countries. Dhar tells us Islam practiced in Muslim world is different than what we had in Kashmir. In the succeeding pages he highlights the political developments that occurred in Kashmir from 1930s and the role played by the political leadership. He defends Hari Singh for his development activities and reforms in J&K but contends that ‘Dogras continued 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 Zutshi and Mridu Rai in their respective works which Dhar does not seem to have gone through.
Dhar also deliberates on the fraud and rigged elections that were conducted in Kashmir and put several examples how the parties won the elections in the past. Similarly, debating about the eruption of militancy, Dhar is toeing the line of Delhi and calls Kashmir insurgency a ‘Pakistan proxy’ and ‘radicalization of Islam’. For him, the decline in ‘Sufi Islam’ and ‘spread of Wahhabi ideology’ has led to a ‘radical transformation’ of Kashmiri society. Thus, the author ignores the historical dimensions of Kashmir dispute.
The third part deals with the K-dispute and possible solution. Using social media as a source of information, he tries to understand the feelings of Kashmiris (who according to him are Waadi Ki Awaaz). Dhar contests the premise that K-conflict is a territorial one, and holds that Kashmir could be seen through the prism of history, geography, leadership, national and international players. Instead of questioning New Delhi for her policy paralysis in Kashmir, Dhar questions Kashmiris over the prevailing violent situation.
However, one must appreciate Dhar because he does not appear as an annoyed Kashmiri Pandit who simply blames Kashmiri Muslims for the exile of Pandits (unlike, for instance, those subscribing to the divisive ideology of Panun Kashmir organisation or those who are seen on TV debates). He recalls his nursing been done by a Kashmir Muslim woman whom he refers to as Dodh Maej. Narrating this story, he states that, “a Hindu child growing up on the milk of Muslim women was just a usual part of our culture”. (p. 10) He maintains the view that the persistent mistrust and politics have been the major reasons for the tragedies that Kashmir has suffered. While making his point, Dhar tells us that Sheikh, Bakshi, Sadiq, Qasim, and D.P. Dhar were probably best of colleagues but there saga of friendship had its own trails and tribulations. He claims that on several occasions even Sheikh didn’t trust his friend Afzal Beg and kept 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 a conversation with General Hamid Gul during their flight. To Gul’s question about the purpose of his visit, when Dhar replied that he was a member of a trade delegation from India visiting Islamabad, Gul replied, ‘Have a good time but don’t waste time on trade. Nothing is going to happen till the Kashmir issue is resolved (p. 80). In the succeeding chapters, the author seems very critical of Pakistan’s policy and writes, ‘Kashmir had been used by politicians in Pakistan to arouse passions for a cause that helped them keep their country united’ (p. 83). But he does not look at the other side of the coin. The similar 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 narrative that attempts to delegitimize the larger context (Pakistan factor) of K-conflict.
The most fascinating contribution of the author is his approach to deal with the Kashmir situation. He draws his personal experience from corporate sector and takes recourse to management decision-making tools especially the ‘Game Theory’ to find potential pathways for the resolution of K-dispute. After examining many papers and models, he coins a term LeLaMOKSHI and 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-Historicity and I-Identity. For him, it is important to understand the significance of LeLaMOKSHI at all levels and then we can address the issues of Kashmir. Interestingly, Dhar also compares the two divided parts of Kashmir. Although admitting 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 fails to substantiate his claim.
The central contribution of Dhar is; he studies six global models for the possible solution of the K-dispute. Simultaneously, he asserts that ‘it is difficult to find a common solution…varying interests of various stakeholders’ (p. 190). It seems he doesn’t provide any new paradigm but instead agrees with the point that both India and Pakistan must work out and solve the issue peacefully. Here he tries to explore the means and measures of normalcy and conflict resolution to J&K by writing, ‘Kashmir requires different approach and understanding’ (p. 177). One may agree with Dhar that ‘a speedy but effective resolution of the Kashmir dispute will liberate India of the mammoth task of deploying enormous resources year after year for security…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. In this context, the book adds to the collection of literature that attempts to look at the K-conflict and suggests pathways for its resolution. While concluding the book, Dhar reveals his love for his native land (Kashmir) in these emotional words: ‘Az Ashok Damch Nazah Chu Justand / Ba Khawahish-i-Dil Gult Ki Kashnir Hech’ (When Ashok was asked on his deathbed what his last wish was, he replied from his heart: Kashmir and nothing else) p. 199).
The book is written in lucid language and its terminology and framework are easily understandable. Even the complex phenomena are simply comprehensible. He has succeeded in exploring the socio-political reality for which he deserves to be acknowledged. This book, although non-academic, serves its 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 to explore some new facets and apt observations. The book also comes at an affordable price.
Javid Ahmad Ahanger is Ph.D. Research Scholar Department of Political Science, AMU, Aligarh.