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

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Gripping Narrative but Just One Shade of Truth

The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism: From the Cold War to the Present Day by Nandita Haksar,Delhi: Speaking Tree, 2015; pp 352, ₹315.

Narratives often give deeper insights into the complex dimensions and nuances of events, times, aspirations and political actions that shape conflicts. Kashmir is no exception; in fact it is one of the richest repositories of narratives and memories, some passed on orally from generation to generation. Its seven-decade-long history of conflict and multicultural society both of which contribute to processes of assimilation and divisiveness and its complexity have thrown up competitive narratives, some diametrically opposed to each other. There are a multitude of individual memories which are appropriated by political interests and yield to collective memorialisation of history and historic events; some of which may be manufactured. Yet, the power of singular narratives as a study of history and socio-economic landscapes cannot be underscored. Narratives offer glimpses which conventional academic scholarships do not, and fill in the gaps. However, on their own, they remain limited and myopic, looking at the larger field from just one perspective and not penetrating deeper than the surface of the issues they write about.

It would be fair then to judge Nandita Haksar’s latest book The Many Faces of Kashmiri Nationalism: From the Cold War to the Present Day only by keeping in mind the limitations of storytelling through personal narratives. The book makes a significant contribution at two levels. First, it connects two timelines in recent decades in Kashmir’s history through two protagonists, born in very different times and leading very different lives, and talks about how events shaped their lives and how their lives and their sense of nationalism contributed to the making of history. Second, it opens a conversation into Kashmir’s history in a way that in the past has not been engaged with. It does bring in fresh ­insights while tracing the footprints of events through two men—Sampat Prakash and Afzal Guru. The author weaves in some more narratives, though only sketchily, into the story of these two men. The book is path-breaking in some ways as it maps the politics through the journey of trade unions prior to years of militancy and the changing aspirations and ideas of young men through the various phases of militancy.

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