When I mentioned that I was reading her book, “Kashmir: A Tragedy of Errors” the noted writer Tavleen Singh regretted that the book had not been printed after that first edition way back in 2000. For most of India, and this is my educated guess, the image of Kashmir is that of a strife-filled state which has been at the heart of bitterness between India and Pakistan ever since Partition took place in 1947 and the British walked away leaving the two newly founded countries to figure out what to do with disputed territories on their own.
I found Tavleen’s book quite fascinating because as an experienced journalist she has the knack of getting straight to the point and though at times the book tends to become a bit repetitive, there is a lot of new insight on Kashmir to readers. I, for one, had not realized the importance of a few events described in this book, such as :
- When the Pakistani raiders first attacked the State of Kashmir, most of the Hindus fled and it was left to Sheikh Abdullah’s party to stem the tide till the Indian military forces stepped in.
- That Dr Farooq Abdullah was a fun-loving medical doctor settled happily in the UK till he was pulled back home by his ailing father Sheikh Abdullah to take over what was his legacy in difficult circumstances
- That the Central Governments in Delhi had a huge role to play in mis-governing the troubled State, bringing matters to a head through the act of vengeance by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in dismissing Farooq Abdullah’s Government in 1984 or the widespread rigging in the elections of 1987.
Events like these led up to the major problems that erupted in the Kashmir Valley in the late 1980’s. It is surprising that the then Government did not forsee how some of the actions they took, like the Farooq-Rajiv Gandhi Accord of 1986, were doomed to fail the way they were designed and implemented.
It was troubling to read in this book that the media too was terribly biased and wrote only what the powers that be wanted them to write. Most major journalists ( Tavleen was an exception) didn’t go to Kashmir at all but wrote up their reports sitting in the comfort of Delhi based on inputs sent in by local stringers, many of whom were biased or incompetent, Not surprisingly, the rest of India had to settle for what appeared in the media or what they conjectured could be the real situation in Kashmir.
An interesting book and I wonder if Tavleen will write a sequel now that we are in 2016, or are things in Kashmir still the same as they were in 2000, or earlier, or even going back to 1947? Highly recommended for history buffs and anyone with an interest in contemporary Indian politics.