Wednesday, January 29, 2020

‘Kashmir is Free’: The book that isn’t free from prejudice

Kashmir is free by Arun Kumar, IAS and Prasenjeet Kumar.

About this Book:

Just imagine the unimaginable. India walks out of Kashmir and makes Kashmir FREE. How could that seemingly impossible situation be brought about? And what happens to the regions of Jammu and Ladakh and how will they react? And what happens to the Kashmir Valley once it achieves its long-cherished goal of independence? KASHMIR IS FREE is that fictional, what-if peep into a not-too-distant future when Kashmir attains freedom from India.

Book Review:

With a rigid and dry narrative suiting a bureaucrat and a flimsy as well as filmy plot, Kashmir is free fails to be relevant in the literary world. A book which talks about Kashmir’s freedom but does not make it to the Hows and Whats even after 200 pages is sure to look better closed on a shelf than in the hands of an avid reader.

Any person who knows Kashmir even remotely understands that Kashmir issue is a complex one. India’s relation with Kashmir might be tense, yet Kashmir remains a priority for the Central Government. But Arun Kumar’s book ‘Kashmir is Free’ gives a hyper-nationalist’s perspective of Kashmir by terming Kashmir’s freedom as ‘Operation Load shedding’ by the Indian government. The book is neither completely analytical hypothesising about the turn of events that may lead to Kashmir no longer being a part of India, nor is it complete fiction since the characters and events have a glaring similarity with the real world.

The points worth mentioning are that to any common reader, this book would look like a compilation of news stories from propaganda-spreading media houses, whether it is pro-India or pro-Kashmir. What would really happen if Kashmir got its freedom and how it would happen – these are the aspects that any reader would be most interested in and these are both the aspects that are never thoroughly and critically explored.

As for the characters, they are more of a caricature than the literary representation of a real person. While some similarities, like the odd names show striking similarities with real people, the actions, the personality and the thought-process are all exaggerated with what seems like a biased mindset. As a reader, I could see that it wasn’t done for its comic factor since the book intends to be a serious one, but it is an aftermath of the preconceived notions of the writer.

The plot despite its filmy twists and turns has the charm of workings of a government office which is slow, lethargic and hardly attracts anyone’s attention. The biggest disappointment for the reader is that the book is without a purpose. Unlike most non-fiction books, its intention is not to inform or educate and it fails at being entertaining or engaging like most good fiction. At best, the book aims at getting the writer’s frustrations, wild imaginations and fantasies on paper. At worst, it aims at one sided portrayal and mockery of Kashmir and its fight for ‘Azaadi’.

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