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Betrayed in the Valley

Given the knowledge of Kashmir Wajahat Habibullah gathered while serving in key positions in the Valley at critical junctures of the conflict-ridden history of the state, the promise of his book providing critical insights or an out-of-the-box solution was high. Sadly, that expectation has been lost in the verbiage of My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light. Arun Joshi writes.

books Updated: Oct 08, 2011 00:09 IST
Arun Joshi
Arun Joshi
Hindustan Times
Arun Joshi

My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light
Wajahat Habibullah
Penguin India
Rs 499 pp 236



Given the knowledge of Kashmir Wajahat Habibullah gathered while serving in key positions in the Valley at critical junctures of the conflict-ridden history of the state, the promise of his book providing critical insights or an out-of-the-box solution was high. Sadly, that expectation has been lost in the verbiage of My Kashmir: The Dying of the Light.

Habibullah swings wildly, from being an advocate of autonomy for the state to asking for an effective role for the US in resolving the issue, going on to make a case for Kashmiris having no better option than living within India. At the same time, he accuses the government of India of committing political harakari, blocking investment in the state and reducing it to a desert as far as growth opportunities for Kashmiris were concerned. He comes closest to the home truth when he says that any resolution of the Kashmir crisis "must be perceived by the people as a consideration that they have granted to India and Pakistan rather than as a charity bestowed on them," a sentiment originally expressed by Mir Nassarullah, former chief secretary of the state.

Habibullah's telling of the Kashmir story is an enthusiastic display of partially representing facts, missing critical details and dates in the process. Most of the times, he ends up hailing himself while condemning the political establishment of the state and the country.

Habibullah's USP on Kashmir has been his role in the 1993 Hazratbal crisis when more than 40 armed militants had occupied the most revered Muslim shrine in Srinagar. That the reminisces are selective is obvious throughout the book. "A settlement with the militants was reached on November 2. Everyone in the shrine would leave ...," he writes. "Settlement", however, was reached on October 29. The militants, backed out after the then US assistant secretary of state for South Asia Rabin Raphael was quoted by Voice of America as saying that the accession of the state with India was "illegal".

Factual errors abound: governor's rule did not draw to a close in 1994 but on July 18, 1990, and president's rule lasted till October 1996; there was no round table conference in 2005; the Working Groups' idea was of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and not of the state government. These inadequacies ensure that at the end of the day, the book remains just one of the books on Kashmir.