The Homecoming - Kashmir As I See It: From Within and Afar by Ashok Dhar
Stories of the trauma and betrayal faced by Kashmiris have been told, the events retraced and analysis offered. And yet, one of the most long-standing disputes in India’s post-Independence history remains unsettled. If it were up to Lal Ded, a Sufi poet, she would offer the most difficult solution so far—to look within. Kashmir As I See It, a personal journey interspersed with geopolitical analysis, is not only about the state but also about the voice that yearns to be home again.
Ashok Dhar slowly and carefully uncovers multiple layers of the conflict to show that apart from being a territorial dispute, it is also about historicity, morality and leadership—aspects that have been neglected so far. He holds that looking merely at the legality of the state’s accession is like looking at an iceberg; peace will not come if we have not examined what Kashmiriyat is. This rigorously researched and passionately honest account shows us a way to look for solutions that are not merely reflective but practical, using tools extracted from management studies such as game theory. A radical approach that throws open a new window of inquiry to resolve an age-old issue!
Kashmir- As I see it - from within and afar is an interesting book which gives us a glimpse of the real Kashmir from as close as possible. Part memoir and part political essay, it makes for a unique read with its honest observations. The book is neatly divided into three parts where in the first part, the author talks about growing up in Kashmir and shares various anecdotes from his childhood which left a lasting impression on him.
Part two deals with his experience from travels to Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan. In this segment he talks about the differences in practices of Islam and the true meaning of Kashmiriyat in these countries compared to Kashmir. Here he briefly also talks about the role of Indira Gandhi, Maharaja Hari Singh and Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in the history of Kashmir which has brought them to where they are. Part three is more of a discussion on the Kashmir issue. Analyzing it from various perspectives, based on his research an observations, the author tries to look at it from a third person's perspective and gives it an extremely neutral treatment.
I have read many books and articles on Kashmir, but this one has to be by far the most honest, vivid and to the point book on Kashmir which gives you an in-depth picture of real issue behind it all. Growing up what we read in newspapers and saw in TV was more of what can be termed as "What they want us to know". It needs an attempt to try to see beyond it all, see what needs to be seen and understand the gravity of the situation. Like the author says in the introduction,
"It is important for people in J &K and decision makers to know who we are and what we want to be."
I believe it is important for us, as fellow countrymen to know this too.
Backed with immense research, the author has broken down his observations further into actionables, mistakes and corrections needed. I really admire him for the effort put behind this book and present it with a neutral tone all throughout. Written with sensitivity owing to the topics it covers, he has also maintained the status quo of not blaming a particular party or person for the current situation in Kashmir which if you read the book and absorb its true meaning you would also agree with.
It is years of conflict, hurt, anger, hatred and dejection which has led to this bitter feelings in hearts. Is face to face discussion a solution? Maybe. Then why has not any one thought about it so far or taken the initiative? Well... for that you need to read the book and understand the repercussions some of the actions taken in the past have led to. Living in a different state or a country and being a mute spectator to the conflict does not give us the right to comment on the whats, could haves and should haves for we do not know the whole story.
The third segment of the book has to be my favourite for it managed to answer a lot of questions for me on this issue. Though I did try referring to different books and sites, the story which I knew still had lot of loopholes and unexplained angles. After reading this book I can safely say I now the whole picture and it helps me understand the situation in a better fashion.
While you connect with the author, warm up to his childhood memories and enjoy his travels, it is his research that leaves you with goosebumps. The findings are not for the fainthearted and threaten to leave you numb with its data. The staggering number of Kashmiri Pandits who have fled homes since the 90s is gut wrenching and the circumstances that led to this, equally numbing.
Would strongly recommend this book, for one and all. It is a need of the hour and should be read to understand what is happening in our country.