J= J&K from Ministry of Utmost Happiness

J was a conflicting choice for me. Let me tell you first that I am going to talk about Jammu & Kashmir from Ministry of Utmost Happiness today. I have a friend who dislikes the author Arundhati Roy so much that he is not ready to give any of her books a chance. We had had a dirty shouting match about the left-right political ideologies, and since then, I have been very afraid of talking about this book. I tried to change my choice to Japan, but that didn’t feel right. I thought shifting the book to Delhi because the book covers almost all of the country, but that also didn’t feel right. So, here I am, writing about Jammu & Kashmir of the book that I know somebody hates.

What do you think of when Jammu and Kashmir comes to your mind? A paradise? Or as the book starts with the description of Kashmir—“snowy landscape and happy people in warm clothing sitting in snow sledges?” But this book shows the murkier water of Kashmir.

Next time the Jammu and Kashmir she talks of is in Delhi—sitting near Jantar Mantar, protesting. She wraps this J&K in “Association of Mothers of the Disappeared, whose suns had gone missing, in the war for freedom in Kashmir”. She explains their banner as

The Story of Kashmir

Dead= 68000

Disappeared=10000

Is it Democracy or Demon Crazy?

I ask again the question I kept on asking myself as I read the book. What do I think of when I think of J&K? The answers I had were “Pakistan”, “India”, “Wars”. But the book hinted on the mass exodus of Hindu Pandits from their houses. And I could not stop thinking of how many partitions we are going to go through?

The book further explores the concept of “freedom of Kashmir” and how absurd it is to the people from outside Kashmir. She goes deeper explaining the Kashmir from dissociative POVs—there is J&K which calls for our sympathy, where people are killed and imprisoned without any reasons, where terrorists are borne out of nowhere, where they are fighting to survive. There is J&K which is stupid in being swept away in the wind of “Jihad”, which does not understand what is good/right, which is an enemy of humanity.

I will deny the fact that the book is a chaos. There are threads crawling in the book from so many places. It is like you untangle one tragedy, there will be a next one waiting for you in the next lines. Despite that, the book made me think and wonder and worry. It made me rethink the meaning of humanity for me. There is a chapter in the book called “The Death of Miss Jebeen” which describes how a three-year-old girl ended up becoming a martyr along with her mother. Even the thought about this gives me Goosebumps.

There are many villains in the story. In fact, every character is a villain of some or the other kind. What J&K was left in my mind after reading the book? The J&K which is explained in this passage:

“In every part of the legendary Valley of Kashmir, whatever people might be doing—walking, praying, bathing, cracking jokes, shelling walnuts, making love or taking a bus-ride home—they were in the rifle-sights of a soldier. And because they were in the rifle-sights of a soldier, whatever they might be doing—walking, praying, bathing, cracking jokes, shelling walnuts, making love or taking a bus-ride home—they were a legitimate target.” 

Please understand this is one of the most political books I have read, and it happened to have quite a lot of vitriol in it. But then when I read, I dissociate and see from different perspectives. If your are in any way bothered by such thoughts, don’t read it.

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