Friday, August 6, 2010

A frontline memoir of life, love and war in Kashmir

In February 1990, Basharat Peer saw a procession moving through his Kashmiri village towards a Sufi shrine. The bookish 13-year-old felt a rush of joy as he heard the men chanting for freedom: Aazadi! Aazadi!
They were protesting against the killing of Kashmiri demonstrators by Indian soldiers; but they were also calling for the disputed region to be allowed a plebiscite on its own sovereignty, as the UN had once promised.

Although Kashmir is Muslim-dominated, this idyllic land with snow-capped mountains and gorgeous lakes was divided between India and Pakistan in 1948. Since then various groups have campaigned – peacefully and violently – for the whole of Kashmir either to join Pakistan or to become an independent state. The Indian army, in response, has fought the rebels and carried out atrocities which, in turn, have further fuelled the rebellion.

Curfewed Night is an exceptional personal account of the conflict. Peer has a superb feel for language and incident. Words such as “frisking, crackdown, bunker, search, identity card, arrest and torture,” he tells us, formed the lexicon of his childhood. His village is shadowed by militants showing off their Kalashnikovs; Peer and his school friends carry their cricket bats like guns, “in imitation and preparation”. But though he was tempted, like one of his cousins, to join the militants, Peer grew increasingly suspicious of their tactics.

Full report here Telegraph

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