Book review understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris

Why I Picked This Book?

Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris is yet another book in my quest to understand more about Kashmir. I want to read as much as I can about Kashmir and from as many perspectives as I can. Till now I have read books by Kashmiri Muslims living in Kashmir, Kashmiri Hindus who left the valley or were forced to leave the valley, or Indians who have written about Kashmir from what they have observed during their visits or research. This book is written by a foreigner, and I wanted to get an understanding of how someone who is not directly related to Kashmir or India view the Kashmir conflict. So, I decided to pick Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris by Christopher Snedden.

The Book

What is about?

The title of the book is self-evident that it talks about Kashmir and the disputes surrounding it. What it broadly covers is a brief about the history of Kashmir before it was purchased by Dogra Raja Gulab Singh from the Britishers. After the first Anglo-Sikh war in 1845, which the British won, one reason being the non-participation of Gulab Singh in the war and thus helping the British. As a reward, the region of Jammu and Kashmir was sold to Raja Gulab Singh for 75 lakh rupees.

The problem was, there was no defined boundary of the Jammu and Kashmir and this is the genesis of the present Kashmir issue. When the Dogra king Hari Singh acceded to India, there were some parts of Jammu and Kashmir that already declared themselves independent of the King’s rule, and some parts which were far away from Srinagar were running on their own. India assumed that with accession the whole of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India.

The author Christopher Snedden takes us through a period of 100 years before 1947 and gives us a detail of the historical, geographical, and political account of Kashmir which has shaped the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It also talks about how post-independence the two newly formed nations India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir (with their own reasons and justifications) but nobody consulted the people of Kashmir as to what they wanted. This led to serious discontent among the people of Kashmir which resulted in post-1990s rebellion against India. There is a detailed and chronological account of how the last hundred and sixty years shaped up Kashmir.

Who can read it?

Anyone interested to know what the Kashmir conflict is all about? What is the so-called Azad Kashmir, which area is Gilgit-Baltistan, what is the conflict surrounding Aksai-Chin, and how it impacts the relationship between India, Pakistan, and China? What is the government’s stand on this and what are the ground realities? How people of Jammu and Kashmir view the conflict? What are their views and what do they want?

It is a well-researched book about Kashmir and gives an in-depth understanding of the border issue with reference to J&K and Ladakh. The book provides a lot of data and historical references, and one should pick this book if they are serious about the subject. It may overwhelm the readers with the information. It is a great book for serious readers who want to enhance their understanding about the Kashmir conflict and the reasons behind it.

Inside the book

Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris gives the readers a brief overview of the history of Jammu and Kashmir. It talks about the various important rulers that have ruled it and how they shaped Kashmir. The journey from being a Sikh empire to a Dogra and then part of Independent India. How the recent two rulers before it was made a part of India ruled Jammu and Kashmir. To what geographical extent they ruled, and what were the agreed or disputed boundaries with the neighbouring countries before India and Pakistan came into being? How the British drew the map/ boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir and were they accepted by the neighbouring China.

When we finally got independence and when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession the entire Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by him or not? Why people of Azad-Kashmir revolt against Maharaja and formed a separate government? Did Maharaja or India ever have any control over Gilgit- Baltistan area? There are many such questions that the book answers. There are so many things that you get to know while reading the book. One gets to know and understand the present situation of Jammu and Kashmir and which country controls which part of Jammu and Kashmir.

Then the book moves to the post-independence politics and conflict over Jammu and Kashmir. The wars that we have fought with Pakistan and China in the last seventy years over border disputes mainly Jammu and Kashmir. The militarization of Kashmir valley and the discontent among Kashmiri Muslims, many of whom want an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir. It talks about how the militarization of Kashmir Valley (what Kashmiri call as illegal occupation by India), support of Pakistan, and religious fundamentalism radicalized the youth of Kashmir. The anti-India sentiments are strong among the people of Kashmir valley, especially the youth, and as a result we have seen the rise of militants and terrorism starting 1990.

The author also talks about and presents some pointers on how the Kashmir issue can be resolved. For that, all the concerned parties need to sit together and discuss the future course of action which is agreeable and beneficial for all. All in all, the book is a great read to understand the Kashmir conflict and the reasons behind it.

About The Author

Christopher Snedden is an Australian politico-strategic analyst who has visited J&K often and interviewed many elder statesmen involved in the Kashmir dispute. He is author of The Untold Story of the People of Azad Kashmir. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Our Verdict

Understanding Kashmir and Kashmiris is a well researched book about the Kashmir conflict taking the readers through the political history of Kashmir. A fine read to understand the Kashmir conflict.

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