It’s been an interesting fortnight—and apologies for no blog piece last week. I had a few things going on in my life.
About a week ago, I received a wonderful and positive message on Facebook about my book Kashmir: The Unwritten History from a person whose professional expertise I admire. Anuradha Bhasin of the Kashmir Times seemingly accepts my analysis that people in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call them—instigated the dispute over J&K’s international status. Certainly, in her concluding statement on Facebook, Anuradha states “that this is one book that is a must read”. This, of course, is gratifying for me.
Conversely, a few days before this Facebook posting, I read a report titled Gilgit-Baltistan: Between Hope and Despair by an Indian analyst who has done considerable work on ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, as Indians call those parts of J&K under Pakistan’s administration, and who has read and reviewed my book. Interestingly, in seeking briefly to explain the term ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, Priyanka Singh states that Azad Kashmir “was usurped after [the] deceitful tribal invasion launched by the Pakistani army whereas Gilgit Baltistan was forced to accede to Pakistan after a mutiny by the Maharaja’s forces led by British Major William Brown”. Her statement totally denies that Azad Kashmir came into being as a result of people’s actions in Jammu Province: the anti-maharaja Poonch uprising that began soon after partition and some serious inter-religious violence that occurred in Jammu Province in September-October 1947. As for Gilgit-Baltistan, while Brown was certainly involved in this incident, so too were some enthusiastically pro-Pakistan Gilgitis.
A third event recently was a discussion about my book on 10 July at the India International Centre, New Delhi, which I unfortunately was unable to attend. The Chair was B.G. Verghese, an “eminent journalist and writer” who also reviewed my book in The Tribune on 28 April 2013. I am hopeful that an audio will be released about this session. It will be interesting to hear the discussion, especially as Verghese considered my book “useful … [but] sourced and seen entirely from Pakistan and Islamabad [with] virtually no Indian or international citations or analysis that questions or controverts this one-sided version”. The book and its Bibliography suggested otherwise.
I should not be precious. Since the release of my book about Azad Kashmir in June last year, I have learnt two things and I am reminded of a third. First, regardless of what one says, writes or does, people will generally always believe or disbelieve what they want to believe or disbelieve—even in the face of contrary facts and information. Second, one has little or no control whatsoever over what other people write or say about another person or their work. Third, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I accept these three ‘rules’, noting that politicians, who also adhere to them, must have incredibly thick skins at times.
These rules also suggest that the Kashmir dispute will be difficult to resolve. Indians and Pakistanis have totally different positions and understandings, certainly at the official level, on almost all aspects of the dispute, even though, in my opinion, some of these positions and understandings are inaccurate, or just plain wrong. As I state on p. 219 of my book, “the only point that I have found on which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over possession of the former princely state is that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can become independent”. This does not provide a strong basis for resolving the Kashmir dispute. Nor does it offer much scope to involve the people in my “ridiculously utopian” suggestion—as Omair Ahmed disparingly (as I see it, although he is entitled to his opinion, of course) calls it in The Sunday Guardian of 1 June 2013—to enable J&K-ites to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
The question for me is: despite writing what I consider to be a truthful, non-partisan account of what happened in J&K in 1947, can these official and unofficial perceptions of the Kashmir dispute be changed? If so, how? Finding common ground, politically and metaphorically, is one of the greatest issues in relation to resolving the Kashmir dispute.
15 July 2013