Book review: Curfewed Night

Author: Basharat Peer
ISBN: 9788184000344
Random House India, 2008
Pages: 246 Price: 299 Rs
Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc US$ 23.00

by Peerzada Kafeel 20 April 2020

Curfewed Night is a poignant account of a long pending and somehow forgotten conflicts. This memoir of fifteen chaptered non-fictitious novel is a well-received account of what the author has witnessed personally. Starting with the innocent childhood memories of calmness and peace around him, he gradually pushes a reader towards some of the heart wrenching antecedents. The heartbroken stories of innocent men and women brought up by the author gives the keynote of brutality and tyranny of security forces and moreover collectively portrays a mirror image of destruction and violence in the so called ‘Paradise on Earth’.

The author then dissects how Kashmir has remained always a disputed and deadliest conflicts between the two nuclear powers of South Asia i.e. India and Pakistan. He writes that the conflict is as old as the independence of the two claimants. However, it got a new rhythm since late 1980s, as the author argues that the valley was in midst of full blown rebellion against Indian government by 1990 and the anti-India slogans like “Hum Kya chahtay Azaadi” (we want freedom) were shouted from every corner of the valley. Thus has started the war of his adolescence and subsequently he witnessed the first mass bloodshed on 20th Jan 1990 when more than 50 people were killed by Indian security forces. It was the first mass massacre of valley historically known as (Gawkadal Massacre).

In the forthcoming chapters the author mentions how the rebels (militants) were considered as heroes for fighting against the foreign occupation. Most of the rebels crossed LOC and got training and subsequently a healthy section of youth got inspired by them and joined the rebellion organizations like JKLF and HM etc. The author himself admits that he was inspired by the rebels and even attempted a few times to join them but was not successful due to his family pressure. He was advised to stay away from rebellious movement and instead ponder on reading and writing about the Kashmir issue. Thus, he preferred pen over gun. He mentions that he was humiliated several times by the unfriendly approach of security forces like frequent frisking, and I-card checking etc.

The author in the book has touched some of the gruesome incidents of innocent killings, mass rapes like Kunan-Poshpora, enforced disappearances, unknown mass graves, bloodshed, uncounted tortures and migration of Pandits. There are various other incidents covered which demonstrates that history of Kashmir according to the author has never been so peaceful. Justice in Kashmir was never delivered to Kashmiris, the author argues. He adds, when British defeated the Ranjit Singh and won the first Anglo Sikh war of 1845, the former sold Kashmir to Gulab Singh the first Dogra ruler of Kashmir in lieu of 7.5 million rupees. This sale was called as the treaty of Amritsar (16 March 1846). The Dogra rule continued for a century up to resold of Kashmir by Hari Singh (the last Dogra ruler) in 1947 to India. Now this time the sale was termed as the instrument of accession which concluded between the Dogras and Indian government on 26th October 1947. The author tries to dissect here that when the controversial instrument of accession was signed it became the turning point in sowing the seeds Kashmir dispute. Subsequently, United Nations has promised a plebiscite to be conducted throughout the whole Kashmir, one third of which is under Pakistan. But the U.N. promise now seems a distant dream to get fulfilled.

The injustice in Kashmir according to the author continues unprecedented. There is a complete travesty of justice in Kashmir, he suggests. This account collectively shares the brutality of present occupation, rather than focussing on the whole history of the Kashmir’s saga of oppression. The author argues that not only the Indian forces but all the foreigners have pinched the valley deeply, whether it be the Mughal rule, Afghan rule, Sikh rule or Dogra rule.

Basharat Peer describes the image of Kashmir in an agonizing way where protests followed killings and killings followed protests. Where mothers and half-widows are still waiting for their (enforcedly disappeared) sons and husbands. Where military is governing the minds of people, where graves are unknown, where the people start their day with killings and funerals, where people are really in quest for peace, in quest for real ‘Azaadi’ which the UN has promised in 1948.  

The author is not happy at all with the mass migration of Kashmiri Pandits who have not been able to return their homes since they left their homes in 1990. Unfortunately it remained always a debacle for every government to deliver justice to these Pandits the way the government could not deliver justice to the majority section of Kashmiris. The author has technically also reprimanded the European and non-European countries for not showing any serious sympathy towards the people of Kashmir in resolving the long pending dispute. Peer, in the concluding chapters foresees a hope of peace and applauds the process of starting the bus service from Indian side of Kashmir to Pakistani side of Kashmir so that people across the LOC (line of control) can meet their divided families. The book is a good read and every other section of it takes the reader(s) to a different dimension of the Kashmir story and compels him/them to get a deeper understanding of the Kashmir conflict. It makes the reader feel the atrocities committed against Kashmiris which have hitherto not being presented or shown by the mainstream media.

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