The book is a must-read for all those interested to understand the history and origin of the Kashmir problem. As we know, Kashmir has the privilege and honour of having preserved documented history of the last five thousand years. The book under review ‘The Paradoxes of Kashmir’ is a collection of articles written by prominent historian of Kashmir Prem Nath Bazaz and others for different issues of a journal Voice of Kashmir published between 1954 to 55. A selection of these articles has been compiled and edited by a versatile writer and researcher Mushtaq ul Haq Ahmad Sikander. The valley has been the epicentre of political upheavals, particularly since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. The book under review is first of its kind to provide its readers with an insightful and intensive exploration of some of the prominent writings of the Prem Nath Bazaz and his contemporaries about various contours of politics of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir (hereafter referred to as Kashmir) and its disputed accession with the Union of India.
The Paradoxes of the Kashmir, comprises various articles and papers published in the journal’s multiple issues before the journal ceased to publish in 1955. The book constitutes 57 articles besides an insightful introduction by the editor of the book for understanding the complicated history of the political milieu in Kashmir.
Prem Nath Bazaz, a Kashmiri Pandit was the confidant and comrade of Sheikh Abdullah, Kashmir’s first mass leader, and was a champion of Kashmiris’ right to self-determination, a stand unthinkable for Kashmiri Pandits today, and for most of mainland India. According to Mohammad Yousuf Taing, Bazaz was a great intellectual from Kashmir. A prominent writer of his times, Bazaz wrote several books and articles on Kashmir’s history and freedom struggle including Inside Kashmir (1942), Azad Kashmir (1951), and The History of Struggle for Freedom in Kashmir (1954). According to the P N Dhar, a well known Kashmiri scholar, Prem Nath Bazaz has made long forays into the ancient and medieval history of Kashmir on the plea that ‘without a knowledge of the cultural and political developments of the country during early and medieval periods it is not easy to comprehend the currents and cross-currents of the accession dispute.’
Prem Nath Bazaz established a political party called ‘Kashmir Democratic Union (KDU)’. In the 1950s, the party started a journal titled ‘Voice of Kashmir’ published in Delhi. Bazaz was editor of the journal. The journal primarily focused on the documentation of cultural, political and social affairs of the Kashmir. However, the journal was not allowed to continue for too long. Nevertheless, within a short period, the journal published several issues. It covered several themes and subjects vis-à-vis Kashmir’s socio-economic and political developments around and after 1947, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) intervention in Kashmir and first India-Pakistan war.
Even after seven decades, each of these articles is relevant for students of Kashmir politics and history. The book’s essays offer its reader a comprehensive and rich historical background of the Kashmir problem and political developments between 1947 and mid-1950s. The book has substantial academic value and relevance to understand the complicated history of the political developments in and around the partition of the Indian subcontinent in the general and erstwhile state of J&K in particular.
The book has tremendous archival value as it allows scholars to access some of the rare and essential literature relevant to critically examine the historical background of the Kashmir problem. In doing so, the purpose of the book has been aptly achieved. The credit must go to the Mushtaq Sikander for his incredible work and painstaking efforts to bring these articles together in the form a book.
There are a few limitations and lapses. To begin with, numerous articles in the book appear to hang together loosely. It would have been appropriate to divide the book into various sections under different themes. Similarly, the editor has failed in his introduction to remain focused and clear in his purpose for compiling and editing this book. Moreover, the cost of the book is too high for students and researchers. I am sure the publisher will come up with a low price edition, particularly considering its relevance for the local students and research scholars.
Nevertheless, the book is an imperative contribution to existing literature on Kashmir studies. It gives a detailed and coherent analysis of significant events within and outside the state immediately after its de facto division into two parts that are since then being administered by India and Pakistan. More importantly, it has also added some new areas and issues for further exploration and discussion among academics, researchers and Kashmir history experts. The book has an enormous potential audience of students, research scholars, and academics interested in Kashmir politics and its history.
Samir Ahmad (PhD) is a research scholar based in Kashmir. His research focuses on human rights, Multi Track Diplomacy, and India-Pakistan relations.