India Today - - UPFRONT - —Asit Jolly

Se­nior Congress politi­cian and for­mer Union min­is­ter Sai­fud­din Soz’s new book, Kash­mir: Glimpses of His­tory and the Story of Strug­gle, is a co­her­ently crafted chron­i­cle that delves deep into the cul­tural and his­toric ori­gins of the Kash­miri peo­ple. Cit­ing a wide va­ri­ety of his­tor­i­cal and lit­er­ary sources, the au­thor has de­voted a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of his text in trac­ing the re­gion’s roots—from the pre­his­tory recorded in Kal­hana’s San­skrit trea­tise Ra­jatarangini all the way to Par­ti­tion and Jammu & Kash­mir’s ac­ces­sion to In­dia.

But it is the lat­ter part of the book—de­tail­ing episodes linked to J&K’s Con­stituent Assem­bly, the Delhi Agree­ment of 1952, the rise of mil­i­tancy and the ex­o­dus of Pan­dits in the early 1990s and the fol­low­ing decades of tur­moil and blood­let­ting— that are pre­dictably con­tentious.

His ref­er­ence, for in­stance, to for­mer Pak­istan pres­i­dent Pervez Mush­ ar­raf’s 2007 as­sess­ment that given a chance to ex­er­cise free will, Kash­miris would pre­fer to be in­de­pen­dent. While he quotes cred­i­ble sources to re­count events that be­gan with the Indo­Pak sum­mit in Agra to June 2007, when the two na­tions seemed on the verge of a work­able res­o­lu­tion on Kash­mir, it is his con­cur­rence with Mushar­raf’s views that has riled many.

“He (Mushar­raf) had also con­vinced his col­leagues that the res­o­lu­tions of the UN on Kash­mir had con­sti­tuted a re­dun­dant sit­u­a­tion as th­ese meant a tight­jacket for Kash­miris whether they wanted to go with In­dia or to Pak­istan. Mushar­raf had ex­plained that if Kash­miris were given a chance to ex­er­cise their free will, they would pre­fer to be in­de­pen­dent. In fact, this as­sess­ment of Mushar­raf seems to be cor­rect even to­day!” Soz writes.

Sim­i­larly, Soz’s con­tention that Sar­dar Pa­tel was in favour of ced­ing Kash­mir to Pak­istan if it gave up on its claim to Hy­der­abad has drawn crit­i­cism, both from his own party as well as the BJP. But de­spite th­ese and some other head­line­grab­bing bits, Soz is clearly ar­tic­u­late about ‘the way for­ward’ to­wards a re­al­is­tic res­o­lu­tion of the Kash­mir dis­pute: “The first step in this di­rec­tion could be to ini­ti­ate dia­logue with the pri­mary stake­holder, the peo­ple of Kash­mir,” he writes, ad­vo­cat­ing talks with the Hur­riyat, while In­dia and Pak­istan re­visit the con­tours of the ‘Mushar­raf­Va­j­pay­eeMushar­raf ’ for­mula.

KASH­MIR: Glimpses of His­tory and the Story of Strug­gle Sai­fud­din Soz Rupa Pub­li­ca­tions `595; 248 pages

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