"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

A new novel on Kashmir is a must read to understand what it really means to live with lockdowns Featured

 

Gurpreet Singh

In a post COVID-19 environment, where most of us are experiencing social distancing, self-isolation and near or total lockdowns, Future Tense comes in handy to comprehend the situation in disputed region of Kashmir.

Authored by Nitasha Kaul, a London-based academic and writer, it is the story of ordinary Kashmiris who continue to suffer from state violence in India-occupied Kashmir. It is the moving saga of shattered dreams and revenge against daily humiliation of Kashmiri Muslims at the hands of Indian forces.

The novel comes at a time when Kashmir is under lockdown since last August 5, when the Indian government unilaterally scrapped special rights given to the state under Article 370 of the Indian constitution, arresting local leaders on the pretext of maintaining public safety.  

The right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government claims that the act was necessary to stop terrorism in the only Muslim dominated state of India. Since then, Kashmir has been turned into an open jail, communication channels such as the internet have been shut, and leaders fighting for freedom and autonomy having been detained. These include political figures and activists who have been advocating for peaceful resolution of the problem of Kashmir, where people have been struggling for right to self-determination.

Kaul, an associate professor of politics at the University of Westminster, courageously testified in October before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing where she strongly defended the rights of the Kashmiri people in her statement.  

Despite being Hindu herself, through her writings she has consistently raised her voice for the Muslims who are being persecuted in Kashmir by the Indian forces.

However, Future Tense does take a critical look at the struggle for right to self-determination. Kaul goes into the depth of many complexities of the issue, such as the marginalization of Kashmiri Hindus, class difference, social and cultural divisions within the Muslim community, orthodoxy and abuse of women.  

Kaul beautifully connects all these dots together in the story that brings two people together in conversation: Shireen, a Kashmiri Hindu woman whose family had to migrate mainly because of the threat to their community by the militants, and Fayaz, a Kashmiri Muslim man whose father was a former rebel.

Despite so much bloodshed and political violence with no bright future in sight, the novel gives hope through the characters that are resilient like real Kashmiri people, living under barbaric conditions imposed by the Indian establishment, with most determined not to give up their resolve for freedom.

Future Tense might help those privileged in relating their temporary inconvenience caused by coronavirus with the everyday experience of Kashmiri people , whose cries have largely been ignored by the outside world. The novel also depicts the conditioning of mainstream Indians who remain indifferent or insensitive to the aspirations of Kashmiri people and the reasoning behind their feelings of alienation. 

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Last modified on Friday, 03 April 2020 03:45
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