ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Curate's Egg

State, Identity and Violence: Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh by Navnita Chadha Behera; Manohar, New Delhi, 2000; Rs 600, pp 384.

This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Jammu and Kashmir, despite its flaws. Behera, an academic, has laboured hard and in earnest and her work seeks not only to chart a new course but also provide, a fund of information. The flaws are serious. There is a selectivity if the use of source material and glaring instances of neglect of relevant and significant material. There is a mass of very revealing archival material not only on Kashmir’s relationship with the union of India but also on the inter-regional issue, the Valley-Jammu equation, the volumes of Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, which the author has totally ignored. M C Mahajan’s autobiography has also been ignored. A more limited writing is included. The text of the Instrument of Accession figures as an Appendix. Studiously omitted is the accompanying, collateral letter from the maharaja to the governor-general of India of the same date, October 26, 1947 and Mountbatten’s reply which contained a vital stipulation. It lies at the root of the Kashmir problem and bedevils its relationship with the union to this day “the question of the state’s accession should be settled by a reference to the people”. Once law and order had been restored in the state “and her soil cleared of the invader”.

Patriotic bias and the tendentiousness that goes with it, mar the work in many a place as do polemics even where they are out of place. Take for instance her expression of regret, “Much though I wished to undertake a comprehensive study of the entire state, I was struck by the total absence of literature on the internal politics of Azad Kashmir and the Northern Areas. Whether this is so by design or coincidence remains a puzzle. It was a strange revelation that considering Kashmir has always been projected as ‘integral to Pakistan’s national identity’ and securing the Kashmiris’ right of self-determination lies at the core of Pakistan’s ideology, polity and foreign policy, the social concerns, political aspirations and political choices of Kashmiris living under the control of Pakistan have evoked no scholarly interest. Despite my best efforts to procure some research material from Pakistan, I drew a blank. Unfortunately, that leaves this study incomplete to that extent.”

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