Gowher Geelani, a celebrated journalist came out with his book Kashmir: Rage and Reason in year 2016, three years after the deadly encounter of Burhan Wani book place in Tral. The book published by Rupa publications justifies the title and delves deeper into the reasons of rage among youth in Kashmir.
The first chapter of the book is titled as “Teenage to Rebel Icon”. In this chapter Gowher brings back the haunting memories of cold blooded murder of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani. He gives the account of fiery Friday as vividly as possible. His right choice of words intensifies the interest of a reader. He shares his experience of visiting Tral and getting answers to different questions pertaining to Burhan’s life and his life choices. He walks us through his life as a teenager who was fussy about his food and looks.
While reading, I felt as if Burhan was still alive, his powerful writing makes readers fall in love with a dangerous land Kashmir. The chapter comes to an end where Gowher writes that slogans of ‘Geelani-wali azadi’ (‘Geelani’s brand of freedom’) are being replaced by ‘Burhan-wali azadi’ (‘Burhan’s brand of freedom’), an explicit reference to Wani and evidence of his growing eminence as an icon of the popular sentiment of Azadi in Kashmir. The second chapter as the title suggests,” Why Tral Bleeds Green” is a detailed account of his visits to Tral and know the reason of it being the hub of resistance movement.
He describes his meeting with father of slain Burhan. He also writes about Maseeulah, preacher at mosque who also lost his life due to insurgency. In chapter three,”homeland or caliphate”, who brings forth the migration of Hindus which is often termed as exodus. He mentions that it was Governor Jagohan who was responsible for migration of Hindus and Muslims had little role in it. In chapter three, Homeland or Caliphate, Geelani gives a perspective whether insurgency in Kashmir is a political or islamist movement. People have been accused of being paid agents who throw stones and kill people. “The reason why people continue to support local militants is because most Kashmiris feel oppressed, dispossessed and disempowered on multiple fronts, as spaces for democratic dissent stand choked in the restive region.” Writes Gowher. He believes that people support militancy in Kashmir because they are a symbol of defiance and resistance towards New Delhi. He furher gives a clarification regarding slogans in this chapter. Similarly, a slogan like the following does not seek to establish the Caliphate in Kashmir, ‘Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa’ (‘The Prophet of Islam’s system of governance will prevail’). Rather, it is an articulation by the Muslims of Kashmir that they will not accept either the military invasion or the cultural aggression of a perceived ‘Brahmanical Hindu India’ he writes.
In chapter four, titled, “A nationalism of multiple identities”, the author argues that many identities have played a role in rallying public opinion in J&K. The first mobilization among masses was against Dogra rule in 1931.There was rigging in 1987 elections to the rise of MUF (Muslim United Front), which caused eruption of militancy subsequent Kashmir. He gives a funny account of his life experience where a young officer at immigration encounter asked him if he was relative of that firebrand Kashmiri separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who’s seeking freedom from India?’ to which he replied. ‘I’m related to Syed Ali Shah Geelani in the same way as India’s off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is related to the (then) Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh,’. In chapter five titled, “Violence to Non-Violence: A lost opportunity”, he blatantly writes that most of the violence that ravages Kashmir emanates from New Delhi. Young children are forced to learn and talk about violence.
He writes about an ugly encounter with a paramilitary soldier and how it affected his psyche. In last chapter of the book, “A leadership crises”, he writes that young children in Kashmir want to fight with the oppressor even in a small way, be it a poem, graffiti or pen. He writes that the leadership across the ideological spectrum—or lack of it is the reason for the continuing crisis in the lives of common Kashmiris. People in Kashmir are inured to the theatrics of politicians who have deliberately left the doors open for temptations of all kinds, and who, at any given stage, are liable to change their colors with the ease of chameleons. I suggest this book to all the students who want to know about Kashmir and its inside story.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Azra Mufti is an author of TEARFUL PAGES and can be reached at [email protected]