Kashmir has been a disputed territory ever since its erstwhile ruler Raja Hari Singh managed to botch up the issue of its accession to either India or Pakistan. Since its acquisition by India after Partition of 1947, the region has been enveloped in turmoil. Unrest in the Valley began in the late 1980s, when the eruption of violence and insurgency led to a military occupation of Kashmir and plunged the paradise of the East into the perpetual embers of fire. India exerts its control over Kashmir through its military occupation which it justifies by perpetuating the view that Kashmir is ‘Atoot Ang’, meaning a fundamental, unassailable or ‘integral part’ of India. The Kashmiris have spent the last three decades in the perpetual shadow of unspeakable violence.
Kashmiri writers have begun to explore the plight of their people only recently. Basharat Peer’s memoir Curfewed Night (2009) was the first publication to break the long silence and retell the harrowing story of Kashmir. It was followed by Mirza Waheed’s two novels, The Collaborator (2011) and The Book of Gold Leaves (2014), which encapsulated the bitter realities of the Kashmir conflict. These texts of resistance are filled with the tales of trauma and torture, wanton killings, arson, arrests, disappearances and terror that define post-1990 Kashmir. As a twenty-five-year-old Kashmiri, I have spent my entire life in the valley against the backdrop of the public struggles and private tragedies to which such writings bear witness. Both Basharat Peer and Mirza Waheed speak directly to me; and translate the tragedy of millions of innocent Kashmiris into a universal language. Now, there is a new, bold voice: Shahnaz Bashir. Born and brought up in Kashmir, Bashir intimately knows what he is writing about. ‘People are born with certain responsibilities and writing is one of them,’ he says. His debut novel The Half Mother is a powerful unflinching work that will leave readers shaken to the core.