AN INDEPENDENT HISTORY
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