‘Kashmir is a place Indians want to know about’

Kashmiri journalist Bashareet Peer's book Curfewed Night was rejected many times before it was published.

Zainab Imam February 07, 2011

KARACHI: Kashmiri journalist and author Basharat Peer thought he would sooner publish a book of rejections than the book he was getting all the rejections for – Curfewed Night.

“I received letter after letter saying “we love the writing, but we’re sorry”. Most rejections came from England,” Peer told a riveted audience at a session, moderated by Javed Jabbar, of the second Karachi Literature Festival on Sunday.

Surprisingly, India was most receptive towards the possibility of publishing his book. “I had no problems in India. Kashmir is a place Indians want to know about,” the author said.

“Finally, I had to change my publisher and met an American woman over coffee, who told me she will sell my book in two weeks,” he recalled.

English-language readers should be grateful to that American woman, for Peer’s Curfewed Night provokes every reader to think of Kashmir beyond what history books provide.

Peer believes that before 1990, Kashmiris did not know violence. “They were not aware of what violence does to you or to society,” he said. “In residential areas, contact between military and the people is never pleasant,” Peer says, adding that a whole generation of Kashmiris is now coming forward with a will to tell their truth. “A new generation is coming up and bringing out people’s stories. Kashmiri journalist Mirza Waheed has written a book called ‘The Collaborator’ and a young filmmaker is making a movie called ‘Hurd’, which is the Kashmiri word for autumn.”

After 2008, there was a transition in Kashmiri politics, he says. “The phase of Kashmiri-driven insurgency is over. Now, the fight is like the Intifada in Palestine. There is no gunfire, but there is stone-pelting. There are protests. And then, when you talk to people, they tell you their stories. You ask them ‘what did you see’?”

It is what they have seen that Kashmiris carry with them wherever they go.

Peer has written his book from many places – from his home in the capital of Indian Kashmir, Srinagar, to a coffee shop in New Delhi, where he studied at the Aligarh Muslim University and a library in New York City, while he was enrolled at the Columbia University.

For Peer, being in Indian Kashmir was not a requirement to write – his memories were all too clear. “Sometimes, it is important to be in a place that allows you to work.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2011.


sanjithmenon | 10 years ago | Reply what Kashmiris initially wanted was a society, free from corruption and nepotism, thats endemic in India, but then, the mistake they did was to ally with jamat islami and the ISI, who took the movement towards Talibanisation . They kicked the pandits out of the valley, killed opposing nationalists, and created fear factor , to one and all. And the movement lost its legitimacy in front of Indian public. Please people without consent from Indian nationalists, in ur movement, u guys are never going to reach any where. We have run COIN ops for more than 50 yrs in places like North East India, and we can go on and on in Kashmir. Kashmiris can either throw stones and waste their lives or study and take up jobs in India. Its ur life, ur choice.
deep | 10 years ago | Reply As long as the liberals here and elsewhere in Pakistan believe that condemning Taseer's killer and being silent on the Kashmir infiltration is alright, the likes of Basharat Peer will find a fertile ground for strife-inspired literature. Hail to more curfewed nights.
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