Book Review The Dirty War In Kashmir
Why I picked this book?

Kashmir is one part of India about which there is so much information in mainstream media as well as social media, however, most of them seem to be biased one way or the other. To get authentic information one need to work hard to read and understand the different perspective of all the stakeholders. There is an official perspective of Government of India, a perspective of people living in Kashmir valley, a perspective of people who left the valley or forced to leave the valley and many others. I always try and get as many perspectives as I can to form an informed opinion and understanding of the history of Kashmir and current situation in Kashmir. So decided to read this one by Shujaat Bukhari who was a fine journalist.

The book

The Dirty War in Kashmir is a collection of reports for Frontline magazine by Shujaat Bukhari. All these reports are from mid-2017 to mid-2018. It captures the mood of the valley and the people living there. The policy decisions of the Government of India and the general handling of the issue of Kashmir and how it impacted the politics of Kashmir and the lives of Kashmiri people. What was promised to Kashmir during the 2014 elections? What steps were taken by the government to bring normalcy to Kashmir? And how people reacted to the approach of militarily resolving the issue of terrorism and separatism in Kashmir.

All these reports give you a fair idea of what was happening on the ground between 2017 and 2018.  The by-election of the Srinagar Lok Sabha election on April 9 had the lowest voter turnout of 7.14 % post-1989 elections. There was violence outside polling booths and many civilians were killed, resulting in the postponement of the election scheduled on 12th April. Why people were against elections, why was a boycott of elections? The Author tries to present the reasons behind it and the general mood of the people of Kashmir.

There are reports on other important events and issues that happened between 2017 and 2018. The Government of India wanted “show of strength” on display and give a message that any protest or dissent will be dealt with brute force. This alienated the people of Kashmir more and their support for the militants was more visible during any encounter or search and cordon process where the civilian openly came in support of militants and defied the orders of security forces.

This time the common people of Kashmir came in open support of militants. Other things like removing of Article 35A which was in talks as soon as BJP came to power was also adding to the growing anger of the people towards the central government. And then people were also becoming restless knowing that the central government is backing from their promise of amicably resolving the issue through dialogue.

There is a report on the heinous crime that happened in Kathua, Jammu and how BJP tried to make it a religious issue for the sake of the votes. It might be the first instance where elected members of a party (BJP)came in support of rape accused merely because the victim happened to be a Muslim girl and the accused a Hindu. The reports give an on the ground perspective of how politicians tried to play it out in their favour and how the public and civil society members have reacted to it.

All in all, the The Dirty War in Kashmir is a collection of some fine on the ground reportage by someone who has worked in Kashmir all his life and knows the pulse of Kashmir. A good book to know about the sentiments of the people of Kashmir and the politics of Kashmir around 2017 and 2018.

About The Author

Shujaat Bukhari (25 February 1968 – 14 June 2018) was an Indian journalist and the founding editor of Rising Kashmir, a Srinagar-based newspaper. Bukhari was also the president of Adbee Markaz Kamraz, a cultural and literary organisation in Kashmir. He was instrumental in organising several Kashmir peace conferences and was part of the Track II diplomacy between India and Pakistan. Between 1997 and 2012 he was a correspondent for The Hindu in Srinagar. He was shot dead outside his office in the Press Enclave area of Srinagar on 14 June 2018. He had survived three assassination attempts on previous occasions.

Our Verdict

The Dirty War In Kashmir gives a pragmatic and balanced overview of Kashmir. A good read to understand how things are shaping up in Kashmir in the last few years and the reasons behind it.

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