Prof M K Raina
My Kashmir in Peace and Turbulence: Story of a Native in Exile is a Saga from early times, when militancy and terrorism were not known in Kashmir valley and the forces inimical to pluralism, harmony and peace did not have much voice. The book has been presented in 18 chapters an epilogue, bibliography and Index totaling 296 pages.
The first chapter deals with the river Vitasta, rightly called by the author as the river of life. The history of the river from Nilmat Purana and Vedas to the present times has been scientifically, traced out. Its legendry origin, different names in their historical perspective have been given. The story of this river from ancient times to the recent floods has been wonderfully narrated. Each and every tributary of the river has been mentioned. A lot of research has been done in framing this chapter. The story of Suya the Kashmiri Pandit engineer, who used a novel method to save the valley from floods is also given. The description of this river is poetic and many a ritual and religious festivals of KPs, connected with this river have been described, which are at present only relics of the past, and no more existing now. Although there is a mention of all the types of boats floating in this river, yet the author has missed to mention the shikaras and the infamous fight of boatmen called “Haenz Ladaiy”.
In the subsequent chapters, the author has brilliantly, scientifically and harmoniously described his autobiographical sketch and life story along with the, political changes, historical events, the Indo-Pak wars, agitations, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, exodus of Kashmiri Pandits and other upheavals which took place in the valley of Kashmir during his life time. In fact the connection and narration of life history and the historical events has been harmoniously and tactfully dealt in all the chapters, so that it makes a good reading.
Origin of Kashmiri Pandit names and their love for nick names, living in mud roofed houses, the prevalent killer disease, tuberculosis, backwardness and the poverty of Kashmiris in the early forties have been dealt with in the second chapter. The author mentions, how Tuberculosis used to take a heavy toll of lives in the valley and diseases like hypertension and diabetes remained undiagnosed in majority of cases. The evolution and transition from the old type of living to the modern life style is also given.
The first Indo-Pak war popularly known as the Tribal Invasion or the Qabaili Raid is the subject matter of third chapter. The sufferings of Hindus and Sikhs in Muzafarabad, Mirpur, Rajouri, Kupwara, Handwara, Baramula, etc. who were subjected to loot, rape and killings are narrated. The author has vividly depicted the scenes in which the raiders would keep Hindus in a line and shoot them, including the great massacre of non Muslims in Mirpur.
The author’s observation that, Maharajas forces would not have been defeated but for the fact that Muslim soldiers of his army deserted him and joined the raiders and Pakistani army is a faithful description of the reality which many earlier workers have intentionally ignored. I highly appreciate this quality of the author who has not suppressed the facts in the present book.
Maharaja Hari Singh believed in equal rights and hence had a good number of Muslim soldiers in his army. Even after this desertion, the rest of the Maharaja’s army under the command of Brigadier Rajinder Singh, fought valiantly up to their last breath. Earlier Pakistan leaders had signed the standstill agreement with the Maharaja but at the nick of time they deceived him and backed out of it.
The only alternative to save the State at that time was to go for accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India and get the military aid. How we lost major portion of Jammu and Kashmir due to the mistakes of some leaders of that time, is all given in detail in this chapter. Information about loot, rape and killings in groups by the raiders and Pakistani Soldiers is vividly depicted. The sufferings of local people caused due to shortages of Petrol and food items including salt which used to come through Jehlum valley cart Road from Pakistan side are described in detail.
It is pertinent to mention here that, Chapter 4 “Sheikh Abdullah’s Naya Kashmir” gives details of the early village life of the author when amenities like electricity and potable water were not available in most villages. However, the chapter is full of personal anecdotes of the author, many of which are filled with humour and are worth reading. He also mentions, “Land to Tiller” as a revolutionary step which changed lives of the peasants but at the same time created hardships to many land owners of small holdings. Digressing from personal events, the author in this chapter says I quote, The departure of the English from the country and Hari Singh from the State had drastically changed the political scenario and hope of a new era had kindled the hearts and souls of the people”. May be it is true with respect to the departure of the English, but not with respect to Hari Singh. Hari Singh was a pious ruler and believed in democratic values. It is during his time that development in different fields in Kashmir took place. His times were the most peaceful in Kashmir. The woes of Kashmiri Pandits started right after he was forced to abdicate in 1947 and culminated in 1989- 90.
Chapters 5, 6 and 7 deal with the educational scenario in Kashmir and cover author’s own education at school, college and university levels. Chapters 10, 11 and 12 deal with his postings, experiences and contributions to higher education in the Kashmir and Jammu divisions of the State.
Chapter 8, 15 and 16 are travelogues, and are very interesting and informative. Chapter 14 has been fully devoted to devastating floods of September 2014. In the chapter 13 titled, “The 7th Exodus”, the turmoil caused by militancy and terrorism leading to exodus of Kashmiri Pandits has been described in detail. In the last chapter author has thoroughly discuss the Kashmir conflict, tackling the problem from all possible angles. The genesis of the problem and suggestions to solve it have been completely analysed.
In the epilogue the author has touched the latest and recent developments in Indo-Pakistan relations from year 2015 to 2017, which include, the Foreign Secretary level talks, meeting of two Prime Ministers in Ufa, Russia, Prime Narinder Modi’s visit to Pakistan, various terrorist attacks on India namely at Nagrota, Gurdaspur, Pathankot, Uri etc. Present strained relations between the two countries, cancellation of SAARC Summit, China-Pakistan economic corridor, surgical strikes by India etc. have also been discussed. On analyzing all these issues the author has concluded that, building peaceful relations between India and Pakistan is the only key to progress and prosperity of the two nations. On the whole the book is a good addition to the literature on Kashmir.