• ‘Resistance literature doesn’t mean to support a gun-wielding militant. It can be about an ordinary person who is fighting the tyrant in a smaller way by showing his dissent’
• ‘Kashmir needs more stories, more narratives to clear the picture’
• ‘Kashmiris shouldn’t limit themselves to ‘our pain vs your pain’. Stories and narratives should lead us to a journey of reconciliation between Muslims and Pandits’
State has controlled people’s narratives in conflict zones like Kashmir by drafting official history devoid of important and realistic stories, said noted Kashmiri writer and academic Nitasha Kaul.
“Governments write official history in nation states like India. They always focus on their own narratives which impact the real narrative and stories of people. This has been happening in all conflict zones including Kashmir,” said Nitasha while responding to questions from the audience at an event organized by Rising Kashmir under the banner ‘Speaking Sphere’.
Nitasha read selected passages from her acclaimed novel ‘Residue’ followed by an interaction session chaired by distinguished Kashmiri writer and critic, Prof Shafi Shauq. The function, held at hotel Comrade Inn, was attended by civil society members, academicians, journalists and students. The session was moderated by Editor of ‘Kashmir Parcham’, Raashid Maqbool.
In reply to a question about resistance literature, she said: “The resistance literature doesn’t really mean to support a gun wielding militant. It can be about an ordinary person who is fighting the tyrant in a smaller way by showing his dissent.”
“Kashmir needs more stories, more narratives and more imaginary views written in and outside Kashmir so that we would be able to clear the picture. People in Kashmir shouldn’t limit themselves to ‘our pain vs your pain’. The stories and narratives should lead us to a journey of reconciliation between two communities, Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri pandits,” the author said.
Nitasha’s first novel ‘Residue’, about Kashmiris outside of Kashmir, was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize (sometimes called the 'Asian Booker') in 2009. Commenting on the title of her book, Nitasha said it doesn’t only mean the ashes. “It means a concept that remains in us and that allows us to re-grow as we move across national borders and from events.”
“There are two kinds of movements – one when we move across the borders and the one when we move on from something and both these things leave on traces. Our past and present is all the traces of the past and those traces of past and present shape our future,” she said.
In her book, Nitasha has raised some basic questions about human existence, what exile does to humans and what it means to lose the dear ones.
“It’s a book of exploration of mobility and ethnicity. The political events are woven into personal stories of character. Leon Ali – a Muslim boy who feels the burden of his lost identity. And Kiya Rina, an insecure Kashmir Pandit, who is collecting other people’s stories. The novel narrates stories of character, linking with their parents, their roots,” she said.
The book is set in Berlin and talks about resistance and power in injustice, and not directly about a character who has taken up arms. “But that is the distance of imagination I was bridging in this book,” she said.
Speaking on the occasion, Prof Shafi Shauq praised the work of Nitasha Kaul. “Whenever I move outside I am often asked about only two writers from Kashmir- Aga Shahid and Nitasha Kaul,” Shauq said. He also acknowledged the initiative of Rising Kashmir in holding the productive interaction session.
Earlier, welcoming the guests, Editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir, Dr Shujaat Bukhari pointed out the significance of Nitasha’s novel in the context of the situation prevailing in Kashmir valley. He talked about the relevance of the novel’s plot and how common Kashmiris identify with its characters.
Referring to the idea behind the event, Shujaat said, “We used to have interactive sessions with prominent personalities from different fields under the banner ‘Newsroom Trial’ at Rising Kashmir office. We have resumed the practice with ‘Speaking Sphere’ and we look forward to organize such sessions with more personalities to discuss and deliberate over the issues that concern all of us so that we can learn from each other’s experiences.”