Reviewer: Mushtaq Ul Haq Sikander
Book: Jale-ae Watan (Banished to Exile)
Author: Khaliq Parvez
Publisher: Mir Son Publications, Baramulla Kashmir.
Year of Publication: Not Mentioned
Pages: 356, Price: 350 Indian Rupees
The Politics in Kashmir was shaped by the events in the wake of partition of the subcontinent; hence partition is responsible for the Kashmir Issue which is described as its unfinished business. The Maharaja entered into conditional and temporary accession with Dominion of India, but in its aftermath Sheikh Abdullah and his National Conference adored the mantle of maintaining the affairs of the government and in his new form Sheikh and his National Conference (NC) silenced every voice which spoke about the promise of plebiscite or Pakistan. Most of these dissidents especially the leaders and activists of Muslim Conference, a party which supported accession with Pakistan were exiled to the Pakistan held Kashmir also known as Azad Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah was too dictatorial in his new garb and over confident of his friendship with Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru that he opposed the dominant aspirations and sentiments of his people, but his dismissal on 9 August, 1953 made him realize how vulnerable he was to whims of the Centre who still considered the loyalty of Kashmiris to be under suspicion.
From 1947-1953 till Sheikh Abdullah was in Power he crushed all dissent, yet it was kept alive by Kashmir Political Conference (KPC) all these years and then in 1955 Plebiscite Front was formed which Sheikh Abdullah patronized. Those days and after 1953 a Brigade known as Peace Brigade was formed which consisted of notorious criminal elements, activists of NC and Police who carried out attacks on the Political Dissidents and ‘enemies’ in an unconstitutional, inhumane and brutal manners. They were headed by the notorious Ghulam Qadir Ganderbali who used to send shivers down the spine of dissidents as his torture methods were savage, inhumane, terrorizing and brutal which consisted of running hot iron on body parts, pushing a hot potato in mouth and beating mercilessly. The book under review captures the story of one such dissident who had to face the wrath of Ganderbali when he arrested him along with five others during a nocturnal raid at their party office, but didn’t torture them, he simply ordered him and his other two friends to be pushed into Azad Kashmir via Uri on the same night when they were arrested i.e. 25 January, 1957 when it was bitter cold outside with snow falling unabated.
The families of these three unfortunate men were unaware about their fate as everything happened so rapidly, next day they were handed to army men who just gave them two options either to cross the icy cold river or be shot on spot and they chose the former and miraculously survived despite the author being no more than twenty years old he helped his other two comrades to cross the river and we always witness him as being a source of inspiration, help and hope when the circumstances cowed them to give up. The weather, mountainous passes and hostile conditions break the spirit of people in these areas especially of travelers, but we read about a number of adventures they go through while trying to reach Muzzafarabad, at one time they are buried under snow only to be rescued by some mountain dwellers, another time they have a tryst with an avalanche and they all gave up hope but survive miraculously again.
The author appears adventurous, daring and naughty since his childhood as he speaks about his exploits be it drinking secretly milk of a shopkeeper, unfurling a Pakistani flag at his school or clandestinely robbing the N.C cadets of their uniforms and wooden guns in the wake of 1947 Tribal raid, but while undergoing all these hardships reaching Muzzafarabad he encounters numerous close shaves with death, but the attitude of inhabitants of these areas is self-evidently helpful, kind and selfless which eases their hardships and makes them to overcome the adverse hostile situations.
Parvez subsequently describes his happiness after witnessing a Pakistani army check post, and the army men were too kind to help them, but the suspicion was still looming large like Damocles sword over their heads as Police and CID were suspecting them to be spies or Indian agents, because nobody could survive the hostile weather and mountainous passes and reach alive to Muzzafarabad. This vulnerability of Kashmiris hasn’t even now left them as they are still discredited as being double agents, but ultimately they all were granted permission to live as citizens of Azad Kashmir and carry on their activities.
Parvez describes the heroic welcome they received when their accounts were published in the local dailies and scores of Kashmiris who were exiles or migrated to Azad Kashmir would come daily to meet them and know more about what was happening in their motherland. Over the years the author met a number of prominent political and religious personalities of Azad Kashmir many of whom like him were exiled and they shared a common heritage and similar agony of being exiles and Parvez was pained to witness many Kashmiris who had severed relations with their past but they couldn’t save themselves from the dichotomy of split personality and were dejected as their sacrifices bore no fruit and their dreams were shattered, as the sacrifices of exiles were unsung hence died down in oblivion. Even Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah died a dejected death as an exile.
Parvez explains that the over politicized environment in the aftermath of 1953 was responsible for dragging him to politics but once he became a member of KPC he became more aware about the political situation and dedicated towards his cause. The tone of the book is quite gripping which holds the reader till the end though most details included are of autobiographical nature and serious academic political discussions and ideological moorings have been given very less space than they deserved, still it is a welcome addition to the already scarce literature of Political Discourse of Kashmir after 1947, and it reveals how difficult it was in those days to be a dissident and you had to pay with your life for upholding your political principles and beliefs, and Parvez appears one such soul, who would inspire many with his dedication towards his cause and goals, but still the paucity of discussion on Political Discourse of Azad Kashmir, and how Parvez reached back to Kashmir leave the reader confused?
I would like to suggest Parvez to write a sequel of this book but avoid autobiographical details in it and initiate serious political discourse about the contested claims, clash of ideologies, disgust and angst of people in Azad Kashmir, and factors responsible for the change in ideology as well as reasons leading to his return back.
Overall the entire book is a good read and opens many facets of discussions and debates and describes the hardships and sacrifices of being a dissident.