Kasheera: A Powerful New Novel on the Kashmir Tragedy
16 January 2019 | 3 minute read
It is often the case that one gets a better idea of a tumultuous historical period from a fictional work rather than a non-fiction history book. As examples we can cite Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, and Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front detailing the horrors of World War I trench warfare. When we come to India, we have Kushwant Singh’s Train to Pakistan and the lesser known but no less powerful A Bend in the Ganges by Manohar Malgonkar.
Coming to more recent times, we have the controversial novel Aavarana by the eminent Kannada writer S.L. Bhyrappa set in Aurangazeb’s time, and the now all but forgotten but brilliant historical novel Raja Singha by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. With Avarana (Concealment or “The Veil“), Bhyrappa seems to have created a new genre of story within a story to relate history and current interpretation/misinterpretation by so-called intellectuals serving politicians of the day.
The just released novel Kasheera, meaning Kashmir in the Kashmiri language, by the young Kannada writer Sahana Vijaykumar (her second novel) follows a similar course with the tragic and complicated Kashmir problem. The influence of Bhyrappa, who has written the Foreword and released the book last year, is evident. It is nevertheless a powerful and original work by a talented and serious author who has thoroughly researched her subject by exploring little known areas in Kashmir where dispossessed Hindus are forced to lead a miserable existence in ghettos.
The book is especially painful to read for those of us who have close association with Kashmir through friends and relatives. It is important to note that the victims are Hindus in general and not just Pandits, a term misleadingly used by journalists and politicians that tends to minimize the magnitude of the tragedy. Pandits, usually refers only to one sect, the Saraswat Brahmins. There exist other Hindus (and Brahmins) who have been victimized who should not be overlooked.
Kashmir is India. Let there not be any doubt about it with names like Srinagara, Ananthanag, Kishenganga River and the like. It has produced scholars and sages like Kshemedra, Kashyapa, Kalhana and possibly Kalidasa himself. And in addition to the Shankacharya Peetha, there is the great Martanda Temple and the Ananthanag Cave Temple, that leave no doubt about its Hindu identity.
The author also provides references to the relevant Muslim scripture (Quran and Hadis) to explain the conduct of key figures. It has a range of interesting characters, who are vividly drawn. An interesting observation is the serious role played by Article 370 in keeping Kashmir poor and underdeveloped. It also exposes Nehru’s duplicity in making the temporary article all but permanent, and almost impossible to remove.
Anyone that wants to get the correct picture of the Kashmir tragedy is advised to read the book studiously. It is in Kannada but will soon be available in English. It is a book in addition to being a moving novel that has historical nuggets such as Nehru’s attempt to shift his blunder to Sardar Patel by misleading the naïve and ill-fitted Gopalaswamy Iyengar.
Chapter 24 gives a brief historical account of the mishandling of the situation by Nehru and his associates that turned a dispute into a tragedy. The author must be complimented for her thorough grasp of the history. None of this is mentioned in mainstream history books, and the blame is conveniently shifted to Mountbatten by Nehruvians like Ramachandra Guha, though Mountbatten too was a participant in the crime.
One hopes it will be translated into other Indian languages. The author can expect to be attacked by the secularist gang of Nehruvian courtiers but she surely knows that, and will have many more supporters. It is brilliant, moving and informative, a must read book for all Indians.