In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

[ 188 ] asia policy Robert Wirsing is Professor of Security Studies at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. Previously he was a South Asia area specialist in the Department of Government and International Studies at the University of South Carolina. He is available at . Re-mystifying Kashmir Robert Wirsing Behera’s earlier book on Kashmir, State, Identity and Violence: Jammu, KashmirandLadakh(Manohar,2000),whichinnovativelyexaminedhow the unitary structure and centralizing ideology of the Indian state gave shape to ethnic separatism in the chronically restive state of Jammu and Kashmir, heralded her arrival as a serious scholar of the Kashmir dispute. The present work, Demystifying Kashmir, incorporates and elaborates upon the earlier work’s themes. Having a far larger canvas, impressive documentation, and formidable argumentation, this book plants Behera firmly in the front ranks of Kashmir scholarship. This new work is, however, burdened by theoretical and ideological baggage that seriously diminishes the enlightenment promised in the book’s somewhat ambitious title. Let it be said at the outset that Behera is a skilled writer with few equals when it comes to dissecting the intricacies of Kashmir’s internal politics. Doggedly (and correctly) insistent that most other writers on Kashmir have been overly focused on Kashmir as a zero-sum territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, she persuasively draws the reader to consider the much more complicated political and ethno-religious situations found within both the Indian- and Pakistan-administered portions of the state. Behera’s re-examination of Kashmir does not stop with its internal dimension. Boldly cast as “an attempt to redefine the Kashmir conflict,” the book in fact leaves few aspects untouched. Behera probes in detail both India’s and Pakistan’s Kashmir strategies, the local political (especially ethnic) dynamics on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC) (including a rare look at what she calls the “forgotten” landscape of Pakistan’s Azad Kashmir and Northern Areas), the evolution of the Kashmir insurgency, the international context, and, in a final chapter, a wide-ranging look at the ongoing peace process. This last chapter, which in my view is the book’s most realismimbued discussion, is an unrivaled deconstruction of what she terms “the peace puzzle.” With commendable objectivity, and without raising any false hopes, she deftly surveys the possibilities as seen from Indian, Pakistani, and Kashmiri perspectives. [ 189 ] book review roundtable • demystifying kashmir On the downside, the book has three fairly conspicuous limitations arising from the author’s choice of ideological, theoretical, and conceptual lenses through which to view the Kashmir conflict. How Many Madrasahs Make a Jihad? The first and probably most serious limitation is Behera’s occasional lapse into national partisanship—a noticeable tendency to set objectivity aside when addressing the India-Pakistan adversarial relationship. This tendency implies in general a pro-India tilt, yet in a few instances also results in the naive acceptance as incontestable fact the lurid characterizations of Pakistan spun out by the world’s bustling anti-Pakistan propaganda industry. This tendency, which surfaces throughout the book, is most evident in chapters two and three where Behera considers first India’s, then Pakistan’s, Kashmir strategy. The tone of chapter two is set right in the first paragraph, where Behera offers the comforting observation that “although New Delhi has now and then strayed from its democratic, federal, and secular commitments to the people in Jammu and Kashmir, over the years the Indian polity has developed a democratic resilience to learn from its mistakes” (p. 30). She seems not to be botheredthatthisexculpatorycommentwildlycontradictsherowndescriptions of New Delhi-imposed rule in Kashmir made later in the same chapter. Such descriptions include, for instance, Behera’s assertions that Kashmir’s political system,createdbyBakshiGhulamMohammad(“Delhi’sman”installedin1953 upon the arrest of Sheikh Abdullah) was “an undemocratic, highly coercive, and centralized state apparatus with a thoroughly corrupt administration that ruthlessly suppressed all political dissent” (p. 41) and that New Delhi’s appointment of Shri Jagmohan as governor in 1990 ushered in “a long spell of state repression” marked by routine “beatings, intimidation, verbal abuse and humiliation, widespread torture, rape, arbitrary detention of scores of youth suspected of being militants, and shootings by the security forces at public processions and in...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2960
Print ISSN
1559-0968
Pages
pp. 188-192
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.