A Sociological study of Kashmir
The Kashmir issue was born in the aftermath of the Partition of the subcontinent. Kashmir, since then has remained the bone of contention between India and Pakistan; Kashmiri society as baffled by many new, unique and complex problems on social, political, economic, demographic and cultural level, whether contesting claims gave birth to these problems, or these problems would have come to the fore anyway is yet to be studied? Whether these problems wouldn’t have arisen if the majority population of the Valley wasn’t Muslim, hasn’t been answered, in any academic study, and the present volumes under review does not offer answers to these brutally honest questions, though a lot of issues related to the conflict, its ramifications and its consequences on the common people have been taken into account.
The author of these volumes, Dr Bashir Ahmad Dabla is a serious researcher, prolific writer and profound academic, above all a veteran sociologist who studies, analyzes the changing, emerging and new Social issues and discourses in the Kashmiri Society. The first volume of the book is divided into five broad chapters, each covering various research, conference papers and articles written by the author from time to time, particularly during the last twenty two years of the armed struggle, and its impact on the people of the Valley especially women and children. The first chapter deals with the Kashmiri Muslims, and the sub chapters, deal with a range of Issues and seriously seeks to answer many political questions as to what were the reasons for the failure of Islamic Ideology and leaders to sway the masses and lead them in contrast to the secular-socialist ones, the Indian highhandedness in not tolerating the smooth functioning of democracy in Kashmir, the failure to incorporate plurality as well as diversity of prevailing social and cultural units which must have equal participants in the process of political participation and socio-economic development, which is witnessed in the resentment of all these parts of J&K against each other, and accusing the government of appeasing one part at the cost of the other.
The second chapter deals with the Kashmiri Identity, which has neither assimilated nor integrated yet with the core body of India, and still proudly maintains its distinct ethnicity and identity which as the author claims is under attack from various quarters. As the name of these volumes suggests, these papers and articles deal solely with Kashmir valley, but some part of Kashmir is under the suzerainty of Pakistan too, and Dabla proposes that “Kashmiris living on both sides of the line of actual control must be allowed to meet, interact and live together,. The artificial wall of Jang Bandi line must be demolished as early as possible”. (p. 77).
Chapter three studies the conflict and its impact, and deliberates how each death in the conflict contributes towards making 3-4 members of the victim’s family add to the statistics of the newly created “suffering group”, plus the manipulation of schemes about welfare of orphans and widows and how the money is embezzled by the workers and political activists of the ruling elite, and how the statistics or sociological study of raped women is yet to be undertaken.
Chapter Four deals with the Social Demography and Dabla is concerned about the declining Muslim population in Kashmir and this chapter brings forth the horrors of demographic change of Muslims in J&K and unveils the sinister designs of those who are perpetuating it. Dabla also quotes former Chief Minister of J&K, Dr Farooq Abdullah who is on record, saying that “Census data has been manipulated against Muslims by the concerned agencies (see Kashmir Times, Jammu, 1 November, 1998).” (p.139). The last chapter of the first volume deals with women, impact of migration on them, problems of working women, Gender issues in the valley, changes among women, social problems of women in Kashmir, Mehr, Dowry practices in Kashmir and scores of other issues related to women are discussed threadbare in this chapter.
Volume two consists of four chapters. First chapter deals with stratification of Kashmiri society, Family and marriage and deliberates issues related to these; the vale of Kashmir despite being Muslim majority, practices strictly the casteism and the whole Valley is stratified into various castes, who rarely intermarry, and Dabla looks into the genesis of the casteism in Kashmir, the rituals and dress patterns, and the jobs that different castes undertake though due to globalization, spread of education and modernization the grip of casteism is becoming weak, but still there are no signs of its early death.
The Second chapter deals with Tourism as Kashmir is called the Heaven on Earth and millions visit the valley each year to enjoy its pristine beauty and be close to nature, though this inflow had been nearly stopped because of the armed insurgency. Dabla deliberates the Impact of Tourism on natives especially those who have direct dealing with them and whose economy is dependent on tourists. The study titled “Tourism and Sex Practices in Kashmir” is a powerful one, and offers the reader an insight into how poverty, unemployment and compulsive exploitation of women push them in the Flesh trade. Dabla offers us a detailed analysis of this trade and how deep it has struck roots in Kashmir by discussing the various sex scandals which rocked the valley from time to time and in the process the women always got exploited and demeaned. Dabla also discusses the impact of migration on Sex practices.
The third chapter deals with Child Labour, which is an emerging social problem in Kashmir as numerous bread earners of the families have been killed leaving behind them large families to fend for themselves, hence little children are compelled to drive the cart of the family, taking its complex responsibilities on their tender shoulders and while doing so they are exploited by one and all, especially the girl child labourers who are discriminated against and not paid equal wage and not according to their work, and in this manner their childhood is brutally snatched from them by cruel hands.
The last chapter deals with the Social Problems and discuses the emerging crime situation in Kashmir, emergence of late marriages in Kashmir, alarming rate of suicides in Kashmir valley, the apathy and official discrimination towards orphans, divorce rates in Kashmir and Social problems related with children in Kashmir.The book is a laudable and a refreshing read of high academic standard and empirical order and must be high on the reading list of anyone who wishes to know what went wrong with the Kashmiri society as well as to understand the change and chalk out a future course to cope with the challenges. Dabla needs to be highly appreciated for bringing out this much needed book which deals with a multitude of Issues, Problems and concerns. Some grave mistakes on pp. 89, 102 and others sour the taste of reading as well as the professional editing by a linguist editor is missing. Moreover, the book is too expensive for a lay man to enrich his personal study.
The reviewer is a writer-activist based in Srinagar, J&K