Listening to the troubled voices from the Valley

Listening to the troubled voices from the Valley

In The Valley Of Mist
Justine Hardy
Rider, 2009,
pp 271

Yes, it does and it  gets rather apparent that it’s not written from some air-conditioned den of any of the  metros, but by someone who is absolutely and passionately drawn to the place. Writer, journalist and documentary filmmaker Justine Hardy considers Kashmir to be so close to her heart that she offloads in a certain context — “Why I have become woven into the  fabric of this tattered place?” Today, living in Kashmir, Delhi and London, she seems so  familiar with the patterns in the Valley, as though she were a local born and raised right   there.

Travelling through... taking the  reader along, through a highly readable prose. You  flow along with those words, as she takes you to those well known locales of Srinagar and even beyond, towards those far-flung, once forbidden territories. And what could be  termed  rather significant is the manner in which she has woven the present with the  past. Connecting grim events which hold their sway to this day, Travelling against odds to those interiors to describe some of those ghastly happenings, I quote from this volume — “On the night of Friday, 22 February, 1991, a unit of the Indian Army’s Rajputana Rifles  surrounded a mountain village in the Kupwara region of the Valley. More than 800  soldiers rounded up the men of Kunan Poshpura. This was the standard procedure during  a crackdown. The men of the village, or the local area, were ordered to assemble for  identification. They were held whilst houses were searched for weapons and explosives. On this occasion, the soldiers then ransacked each house they searched and they raped  indiscriminately. Kunan Poshpura is a small village. Many of its women were victims, their  ages ranging from 15 to 85. News of the crackdown and rapes spread. The army threw a  security cordon around the village, but not before the story had reached far enough to make it into the international press.”

She pulls out more facts and factors of the political turmoil in the Subcontinent — the  beginnings of the conflict, the very build-up, the mass migration of the Kashmiri Pandits, the administrative cum political blunders, the hovering presence of the intelligence agencies and their men, the rising numbers of the ‘disappeared’ young of the Valley (presumably picked up and detained for interrogation and not to be seen thereafter), the   harsh settings in which the average Kashmiri is somehow surviving.

And she does this by focusing on Kashmiri characters in one particular family with whom she interacts on a daily basis, or even those she has known over the years, and managed to develop a bond with. Webbing and inter-webbing not just the political and the geographical, but even the social norms and those distinct living patterns of the average Kashmiri household. Not leaving out those details of what they wear and eat and  cook, and more along the strain... She also focusses on the rise of psychiatric disorders in the Valley.

I could on and on with what she has laced out in this book. In fact, whilst reading those descriptions sheer nostalgia gripped me, as I had travelled through several of these  places. The book put me in a restless mood, nudging me to travel back to the Valley. For there is something about the Valley, something  so  special that once you land there, there begins a bonding of a kind.

Perhaps, this could be one of the reasons why those sufis who had travelled to the  Valley from far-flung areas in Central Asia, Iraq and Iran, never returned to their native  lands. Living and dying in the folds of this Valley... to this day their shrines and dargahs  lie dotted, in and around Srinagar. Adding to the wonder called the Kashmir Valley.
     

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