3.5 / 5 Stars, Gar firdaus bar-rue zamin ast……
“Shishon ka messiah koi nahin, kyon aas lagaye baithe ho.”
― A.S. Dulat ~Orignally A nazm by Faiz
A.S Dulat has always been an enigma to me, which for a ‘spook’ I dare say is a great thing but he isn’t an enigma because he is so mysterious, he’s an enigma because he isn’t. He always comes across as a completely approachable, happy go lucky and even a little soft and malleable guy. Now, how much of this is an act, just to give the other guy a false sense of security (his whole life has been centered around accumulating information via human and other intelligence) and how much of it is really his personality is where the confusion is.
Kashmir, the heaven under siege, from outside and within, has always been a sensitive point in the subcontinent ever since independence in 1947. Numerous attempts and follies have occurred since then to normalize the situation. But The Vajpayee Years (1998 – 2004) were one of the best attempts by the Indian government to peacefully resolve all issues, yes mistakes and blunders were made even in those, in hindsight we will find blunders in almost everything but the patience and perseverance of Atal Ji and NDA at that time, despite all kinds of provocations plane hijackings, kidnappings, Kargil war, and the attack on the parliament Mr.Vajpayee to the best of his ability preached peace to the end. And A.S Dulat was there for it all, not just as a witness but as a key player himself. To know the situation and possible ways forward from his point of view is priceless.
I read somewhere “Democracy is the end of Revolution” , and for an armed misguided militant revolution this is the best possible way, I believe for Kashmir this was the strategy of IB or RAW to stop militants from taking innocent lives, please form a front and contest elections, BE the voice of the people formally and then talk through the issues with the government in the center. All through the book I saw attempts being made by the IB and RAW and AS Dulat himself personally to turn the militant commanders bullets into ballets, to turn them to sense, to make them reject radicalization and embrace the ideas of democracy. ‘Azaadi’ within the constitution, the constitution of one of the largest and successful( well…debatable but it really is) democracy in the world. From that point of view, AS Dulat writes about the hits and misses in the Kashmiri political scene, the players in it, the best of them, the worse of them. He emphasizes the important of the Abdullah family, specially Farooq Abdullah as an important part of the solution if it is ever to be realized. He writes extensively about the ‘separatist’ commanders and leaders who could have turned the tide by entering politics and could have made an actual difference, like ‘Mirwaiz Umar Farooq’ , ‘Shabir Shah’, etc bringing peace to the valley. Vajpayee wanted peace, considered Kashmiris to be as Indian as him, wanted to end their as well as the rest of the country’s pain from this situation, the separatists, politicians, militants if they were ever serious about ending this conflict, lost a golden opportunity with him.
What he doesn’t talk about is “Why?”, why in the goddamn hell are we in this mess, why for the love of god do we still entertain a theocratic, two nation theory type nonsense idea. And the reason is too much has happened, too much blood, anguish and pain has been suffered by the Kashmiri people to just let go of this idea, which to any reasonable person on earth seems ludicrous. Kashmir joining Pakistan was always a fantasy, and after 70 years it is quite clear that they can offer them nothing, that the whole concept of the two nation theory was a bad joke. Then comes ‘Azaadi’ Kashmir making itself as a separate country, firstly ‘Why?’, two nation theory is a bad idea, Ok, so leave that, then.. they have issues with the center, well so does every state in the country, that is why we have a state and a center government, to solve these issue and work for the benefit of the people. The point is to Keep the church and the state separate (why? we can see our neighbor), in our country this difference too is not absolute sometimes, but it is THERE, in the constitution, and it is the best iteration of the idea among-st all in the region.
But enough ranting, this is a good book, AS Dulat keeps a lot of things close to his chest, no operational details are mentioned, hell, no intelligence operations are mentioned at all. The impression he gives is, our job is to just talk to people so that’s what he does and that’s what he suggests talk, talk, talk and if you can’t then talk about talking. He represents the voice of reason in this mess, the dove whose job might seem to be hawkish. To know the region, the nitty-gritty of the politics and reflect on the basic frustration of the Kashmiris to try and fail to achieve the elusive “Peace with Honor” This is a great book, go for it, if you have interest in the region because this is the best way to read about it without malice towards any side, in the pursuit of a common ground.