Evangelist beaten up in Assam *Book Review: Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir

March 13, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

persecutionAssam, March 11, 2012: Santhosh K. Jose, an evangelist from Gophur in Assam was beaten by a anti-Christian mob on 3rd of March. He was mocked at, a garland of sandals put around his neck and made to walk through the villagers. He was also brutalised by the Gopur villagers. He sustained inuries and proceeded to Kannur (Kerala) for much needed tretment and rest. The evangelist has also earlier worked in Ittanagar of Arunachal Pradesh. Please pray for him and his family, so that they may continue the work they had started.

– gcic

Book Review: Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir


Dr. Nyla Ali KhanJammu & Kashmir, March 11, 2012: Now that my new book, ‘ Sufi Courtyard, Dargahs of Delhi’ is out, I can relax and do what I enjoy most, that is reading the books that have been piling up on my bookshelf. Amongst these, the one that I enjoyed most is ‘ Islam Women and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan’, by the beautiful and erudite Dr. Nyla Ali Khan.

Nyla is the granddaughter of the late Sher-e-Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah. Daughter of Suraiya and Mohammad Ali Matoo, she teaches in the departments of Women’s Studies and English at the University of Oklahoma. Nyla lives with her Kashmiri husband and daughter in the United States, often traveling back to Kashmir to be with family and friends. Although I have known the Abdullah family including Nyla’s mother, I first met her in Jammu last summer at a conference where she spoke passionately on ‘Kashmiriyat’.

Nyla believes Kashmiriyat is not some abstract idea, but the secular syncreticsm of Kashmir popularized by Sheikh Abdullah to defeat the centralizing strategies of successive regimes in Independent India. It includes the eradication of feudalism, the rights of the tiller to the land he worked on, education and health facilities, preservation of language, culture, art, and a political solution based upon the aspirations of the Kahsmiri people.

First published in America by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010, the Indian edition of the book has recently been published by Gulshan Books. Nyla’s work is a scholarly and literary analysis of her grandfather’s legacy. Along with the cultural, political, religious history of Kashmir, she articulates contemporary gender issues in the militarized social and cultural fabric of Kashmir. The 185-page book has an ‘Afterword’ by Ashish Nandy.

islam_women_n_violence_kashmirIn the introduction, Nyla expresses her anguish lyrically, ‘ The seductive beauty of the valley of Kashmir that evoked a desire to live to the hilt, untarnished by sordid passions and murky politics, is now blemished with army camps and militant hideouts. The redness of the roses that once awakened sensuality now evokes the violent bloodshed and loss of innocent lives that now mangle the landscape. The land in which dervishes would willingly renounce the self is now a chessboard for wily politicians. The strains of mystical music are now drowned by the cacophonous sounds of hate and virulence. The lush meadows carpeted with daises reek of death and destruction. The soothing fragrance of pine covered hills have been overwhelmed by the odour of false promises and false hope’.

Nyla starts from the premise that the syncretic ethos of Kashmir has been violated by the outburst of religious nationalism, secular nationalism and ethno nationalism that have facilitated a political and social structural violence. Beginning with an introductory short history of Kashmir’s Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Sikh rule, Nyla delves into the conflicting political discourse in Kashmir including partition, plebiscite, autonomy, political debacles and the militarization of Kashmir.

‘Islam Women and Violence’, is the first thorough study of the tragedy of Kashmir done by a Kashmiri woman. Nyla writes dispassionately, but one can sense her passion and concern for Kashmir. In the chapter, ‘ Boundaries of Gender, Community and Nationhood’, Nyla uses the analytical tools of postmodernism and feminist criticism to focus on the role of women in Kashmir, that differentiates this book from others written on the subject.

From the fourteenth century Lal Ded, a mystic woman poet who laid the foundations of Kashmir’s syncretic culture to the present day Parveena Ahangar who represents the Association of the Parents of the Disappeared People, Nyla covers the vast canvas of Kashmir’s turbulent history. The book retrieves the tremendous impact of Lal Ded on the Muslim and Hindu communities. It details stories of those brave women who fought and those who continue to struggle for Kashmir’s integrity as a secular space. Nyla raises some valid and uncomfortable questions about the role of women and religion in conflict zones.

At the same time, the book reveals the complex realities of the beautiful and strife torn valley, and how women continue to suffer at the hands of both state and non-state actors. Nyla probes the role of reactionary women’s organisations such as the Dukhtaraan e Millat that use questionable tactics to propagate a patriarchal culture and enforce Islamic dress codes, robbing Kashmiri women of the freedom they traditionally enjoyed.

Nyla worries that the insurgency in Kashmir, India’s and Pakistan’s ideological differences could result in a crisis much worse than already exists. She is wary of the mistrust and paranoia of Hindu fundamentalist groups to rewrite the history of India and the recasting of Pakistani history by Islamist organizations. I look forward to Nyla’s next book and hope that she decides to play an active role in Kashmiri politics, to reclaim and reconstruct the ‘Kashmiriyat’ that she represents and loves.

– tcn

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