SRINAGAR Journalist and political commentator Gowhar Geelanis book Kashmir: Reason and Rage was formally released at a ceremony here on Wednesday, followed by a panel discussion by eminent writers and thinkers of the State.
Addressing the gathering, which was attended by prominent journalists, commentators, doctors, traders, students and the family of the author, Geelani delved on the process that set him on the path of writing the book.
When I was working in Germanys Bonn miles away from the conflict, it was taking a psychological toll on me. And when I returned to Kashmir in 2009 I wanted to make sense of what was happening on the ground. The killings of the 2010 street agitation became the reason to think of writing a book to tell our own story, said Geelani.
He said the images of fathers carrying the coffins of their sons and the mothers offering food to dead in 2010 became his motivation. Death keeps no calendar in Kashmir. Our pain has been interpreted, ridiculed at or even joked about, but by the outsiders. One gets to read either Western authors, else writers from India and Pakistan. This book is our story, said Geelani.
He said the book offers peoples story woven together for a fresh perspective. I have made an attempt to explain the Kashmir story in its historicity and current context. I was immensely guided by George Orwells book Homage to Catalonia to write this book, he added.
The author described the cover picture of the book, which is shot at a funeral in north Kashmirs Handwara, as a depiction of suffering of the three generations of Jammu and Kashmir.
Four panelists — historian, writer and former vice-chancellor of Islamic University of Science and Technology Siddiq Wahid; academician Hameeda Nayeem; columnist and Greater Kashmir edit page editor Mehmood-ur-Rashid and doctor and author Mir Khalid — discussed the book in the current larger context and the prevalent ground situation in J&K.
A story told by a Kashmiri adds much more value in how we define the dispute and conflict. As more stories are told, more refined the definition gets. The problem is most of the time its the oppressor who writes the history, said Wahid.
He said the conflict in J&K has four layers of definition. Post 1947, J&K became a territorial problem between the newly-created states of India and Pakistan. Its interesting that a few days old states were deciding on the future of a state with over 100 years of history. Second, it morphed into a political movement and then into an identity issue. Now, what we see largely a religious identity issue. Our narratives, therefore, are needed more than ever before. This book tries to fill the gap in the understanding, Wahid said.
Mehmood-ur-Rashid said he found Gowhar as a journalist in every page he read. Gowhar comes across as a journalist as well as a thinker at the same time. There are lot of details about the conflict since 1990. Along these details are questions posed. Unfortunately, Kashmir has reached a stage where the State is in rage and the people need to find its reasons and possible responses, said Rashid.
Hameeda Nayeem, who teaches at Kashmir University, termed the book an attempt to show mirror in the face of falsified narratives being built around the Kashmir dispute and the ground realities.
The book is a significant narrative, our own narrative. This book is a reality, which is quite often being submerged in a delusion falsified narratives. Our narratives are important given the fact that we face a memory-cide besides homicide. Forces are out to destroy our homeland as well homes. There is deliberate attempt to annihilate and devastate our memory, history and identity through a false narrative, said Nayeem.
Author Khalid Bashir said people and their stories are central to the book. I see such books will become our historical resources for the future generations. However, we need to reach out to wider audiences, outside India too. Authors like Ben Okri, a Nigerian poet and novelist, are the examples of how non-English writers have made an impactful attempt with their own narratives, said Dr. Khalid.
The discussion around the book was followed by a question and answer session.
The book was launched earlier in New Delhi at the IIC seminar hall.
The book is published by Rupa Publications.
The panel discussion in Srinagar was moderated by journalist Shahana Butt.