Book Review Curfewed Nights

Curfewed Night

Why I Picked This Book?

I wanted to know more about Kashmir and read a few books on Kashmir. There is no better way to understand Kashmir than through the lived experience of the people of Kashmir. It gives you a perspective of what the general people think about the rest of India. Their views about the military presence in Kashmir and as a result the day-to-day challenges faced by them. To get some more insight about Kashmir, I picked Curfewed Nights to read.

The Book

Curfewed Night is a memoir of a Kashmiri youth documenting the period between 1987-2008. An insider’s view into the complex world of Kashmir, the conflict and how a whole generation has affected due to it. A Personal memoir of the author mixed with reportage and history of Kashmir that gives you a personal and tragic account of the Kashmir conflict.

Curfewed Night starts with the author narrating about his village where he was born and the general atmosphere during his early childhood days. Taking you through the period of late 80s, when in 1987 the Indian government rigged the state election in favour of Congress and National Conference. This triggered protests in all over Kashmir, which were brutally suppressed by Indian government. The suppression led to anti-India feeling among the Kashmiri youth and it soon took a form of pro-independence protest across Kashmir. To control the pro-independence protest the security forces killed and tortured many Kashmiris, including separatist leaders. This flared up the situation alienating the people of Kashmir from India and prompting youth to take up militancy.

The author captures how things have started to change in the early 90s. In their school anti-India sentiments were peaking and the seniors in the schools told them not to sing the national anthem even if the principal says so. Also, the empty chairs in the classrooms telling that many of their pandit classmate left Kashmir for good. Increase in pro-independence protests and increase in military presence in Kashmir. The increase in militancy, killing and torture of civilians by security forces, the fear of militants all these factors were too much for a common Kashmiri to et used to. He recalls, how they use to cheer for Pakistan in an India-Pakistan match and how there was sense of sympathy and respect for the youth who picks up the gun. The slogans of “Aazadi”, bullets, bunkers, armored vehicles, tear gas all became part and parcel of Kashmiri day-today life.

Curfewed Nights also captures the history of Kashmir, the composite culture and the various rulers who ruled Kashmir over the period. You will get to know some interesting and informative stories. His school/college days in Delhi also gives you a glimpse of what the rest of the India thinks and how they treat Kashmiris. The attack on Indian Parliament and how it affected the lives of Kashmiri Muslims living in Delhi. Like SAR Gilani, a Delhi university lecturer who was arrested in connection of the Parliament attack, later acquitted by the court.

Curfewed Nights captures the tragic and barbaric human rights abuses in Kashmir. There were so many and most of these are unheard of by the general population in rest of India. Only the academics, human rights activists and Kashmir sympathizers know about the news which are censored for the common people. And, when they raise their voices against it, they are termed as anti-national or anti-India working on behalf of foreign forces. The easiest way to discredit anyone.

The Author, Bashrat Peer interviewed many people in Kashmir, who spent years in jail and torture center. They were either former militants or civilians who were picked up security forces on suspicion of being a militant. The stories they narrated about these torture centers are spine chilling and sometimes heart breaking. More distressing is the fact that how they are abandoned by the leaders who encouraged these young Kashmiris to take up gun.

Curfewed Night is fine book to understand the insider’s view of the Kashmir and Kashmir conflict. Using his personal memories and experience and his reportage the author captures the changes that happened Kashmir in two decades starting from 1987 to 2008.  

About The Author

The author, Basharat Peer, is an Indian journalist born in Kashmir but currently based in New York. He has been associated with various publications such as Rediff, Tehelka, Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, FT Magazine, The New Yorker, The National, and The Caravan as a journalist. He currently runs his blog named India Ink.

Our Verdict

An honest account of Kashmir and the Kashmir conflict weaved beautifully with his personal memoir. The book is tragic, sad, frustrating, depressing but at the same time an important read if you wish to know about Kashmir beyond the mainstream narrative.

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