Book on Kashmir by R&AW officer’s daughter fans furore

Saiba Varma’s book The Occupied Clinic: Militarism and Care in Kashmir has been published by Duke University in the US and Yoda Press in India.
While Das describes the book as “brilliantly written” and “powerful”, she now feels that it is problematic.(HT File)
While Das describes the book as “brilliantly written” and “powerful”, she now feels that it is problematic.(HT File)
Updated on Sep 17, 2021 01:53 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A book on Kashmir written by an Indian anthropologist from the University of California is at the centre of a major controversy after it came to light on Thursday that the author’s father was an officer with India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) who was posted in the Valley in the 90s.

Saiba Varma’s book The Occupied Clinic: Militarism and Care in Kashmir has been published by Duke University in the US and Yoda Press in India. However, a series of tweets by a pseudonymous twitter handle, @Settler_Scholar accusing the author of writing a book on trauma in the Valley while her father “create(d) the trauma’’, has led to Yoda now distancing itself from the book. A group of anthropologists are also planning to write a letter of protest to the American publishers regarding the book.

“Just found out something about an author and a book we value deeply that puts all her work in question. These are terrible moments for a small independent publisher like ourselves,’’ tweeted Arpita Das of Yoda Press, adding, “and this is also why scholars MUST locate themselves clearly and transparently in their research writing -- full disclosure or nothing!.’’

Varma did not immediately respond to HT’s queries.

Yoda’s Das claimed Verma has not responded to her queries too.

The incident has become a major talking point with some arguing that her father’s work should have no bearing on Varma’s, while others have called out her failure to declare her antecedents, and that she accompanied her father during his posting in Jammu and Kashmir. Yet others, see it as another example of the cancel culture.

Krishan Varma retired from R&AW eight years ago, and according to two retired officers that HT spoke to, was not completely identified with his work in Kashmir. He retired as special secretary and used to head the Aviation Research Centre or ARC in the agency. “ He is a China expert and was also staff officer to two chiefs, Vikram Sood and CD Sahay,’’ said one of the officers, who didn’t wish to be quoted.

While Das describes the book as “brilliantly written” and “powerful”, she now feels that it is problematic. “It’s the sort the thing you do declare if you are writing a book on Kashmir-- how can you not declare it?” said Das.

But others disagree. Especially former RAW secretary AS Dulat, who has also written on Kashmir. “It’s a lot of bunkum. Krishan is a good friend. I have seen her book, and my only grouse and my complaint was that my book wasn’t in the bibliography. He was there ages ago and she has done her thesis there. Krishan doesn’t know half of what his daughter knows about Kashmir.’’

The Twitter handle which went public with this said that they were a group of intellectuals and activists in the Valley who didn’t want to go public, fearing a backlash.

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Friday, May 20, 2022