About the book
Seventy years ago, as India and Pakistan gained their independence, the region of Jammu & Kashmir also found itself divided, with parts of the territory administered by Pakistan ever since. Located by the volatile Line of Control and caught in the middle of artillery barrages from both ends, Pakistan-administered Kashmir was until over a decade ago one of the most closed-off territories of the world.
In a first book of its kind, award-winning Pakistani writer Anam Zakaria travels through Pakistan-administered Kashmir to hear its people – their sufferings, hopes and aspirations. She talks to women and children living near the Line of Control, bearing the brunt of ceasefire violations; journalists and writers braving all odds to document events in remote areas; political and military representatives championing the cause of Kashmir; former militants still committed to the cause; nationalists struggling for a united independent Kashmir; and refugees yearning to reunite with their families on the other side.
In the process, Zakaria breaks the silence surrounding a people who are often ignored in discussions on the present and future of Jammu & Kashmir even though they are important stakeholders in what happens in the region. What she unearths during her deeply empathetic journeys is critical to understanding the Kashmir conflict and will surprise and enlighten Indians and Pakistanis alike.
Praise for the book
‘The Pakistani side of the contentious Kashmir Valley is barely known to the outside world, its long suffering people ignored, its economic future uncertain, lives constantly threatened by artillery barrages from both sides. How do these Kashmiris survive? Anam Zakaria has written the first detailed human interest account of what it means to be Kashmiri and live in the middle of a battlefield… She tells a riveting tale that we need to know more about if a future war is to be avoided.’ —Ahmed Rashid, journalist and author
‘Kashmir is probably the most broken place on earth, pitilessly splintered into far too many pieces for us to begin to comprehend… Zakaria’s is an essential subcontinental project. It gives an ear to Kashmiri voices that we don’t often get to hear; not in India, not too often in Pakistan, nor, I suspect, in all of quartered bits of Kashmir. These are voices lost in the high decibel of diplomacy, politics and militarism. But that’s probably why they are critical to whatever we can understand of Kashmir and Kashmiris. The real beauty and purity of it lies in the way Zakaria has let Kashmiris speak, sans intervention.’ —Sankarshan Thakur, journalist and writer
‘For seventy years India and Pakistan have been… carrying out open warfare and covert hostilities on the Kashmiri people’s land without their permission or even any notice to them… they have tried to block indigenous voices. Anam Zakaria has undertaken the task of ending the conspiracy of silence on what goes on in the minds and hearts of the people of Azad Kashmir, whose rights as important stakeholders are yet to be recognized… What she offers us are incredible stories of human suffering, the frustrations of activists who still dream of reuniting their divided land and families and the yearning of ordinary women and men for peace and hope in their future. These stories give the author’s bold and path-breaking study the stamp of authenticity… A pioneering work indeed.’ —I.A. Rehman, political analyst, peace activist and former secretary-general of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
‘This is certainly a groundbreaking and refreshing addition to the small body of literature on “azad” Kashmir.’ —Shams Rehman, British Kashmiri writer and broadcaster
‘Anam Zakaria has written a highly valuable and valiant account that gives voice to people all too often silenced. It challenges both India and Pakistan’s official narratives on Kashmir and further fleshes out the story of one of the great tragedies of post-colonial history.’ —Isambard Wilkinson, former Pakistan correspondent, Daily Telegraph, and author of Travels in a Dervish Cloak
‘Anam Zakaria brings a new dimension to the complex narratives of the Kashmir conflict by moving beyond the rhetoric of territory, nationhood and statehood, to look at the way in which war, violence and vested interests (foreign and local) have impinged on the lives of ordinary people living amid perpetual strife along the Line of Control dividing Kashmir. The rich oral histories that she has recorded of ordinary people living on the densely populated Pakistani side of the border provide rare unusual insights into the conflict through their sufferings, difficulties, needs and aspirations.’ —Muneeza Shamsie, writer, critic and author of Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of Pakistani Literature in English
‘Anam shines a bright light on the “other side” of Kashmir, bringing us first-hand accounts of people living on one of the most volatile “borders” in the world… Essential reading. —Mirza Waheed, novelist and journalist
‘In her refreshing new book that counters official narratives on the Kashmir dispute, Anam Zakaria turns the gaze on the forgotten victims—the people of the Pakistan-administered part of the disputed state known as “Azad Kashmir”. …Zakaria sensitively conveys the intricate and withering impact of the conflict on the psyches of ordinary Kashmiris caught in the crossfires of a conflict in which they have a high stake but no say… Engaging, moving and very readable, the book shatters the silences in statist narratives, proving that fact is stranger than fiction. —Dr Ayesha Jalal, Mary Richardson Professor of History and Director, Center for South Asian and Indian Ocean Studies, Tufts University
‘Azad Jammu and Kashmir… is a silent space whose voice is rarely heard… In this excellent presentation of Kashmiri voices, Anam Zakaria has almost taken off the veil of this Kashmir for Pakistanis and the world to see how people react to conflict. The suffering of women, divided families and refugees—the book passionately unearths a bleeding and suffering land. —Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, author, military expert and research associate at SOAS, University of London South Asia Institute
‘At a time of rising tensions and ceasefire violations, Anam Zakaria’s rich narrative fills a hole in the Kashmir puzzle by giving a voice and face to the people caught in an endless cycle of violence. As Anam’s book suggests, without exploring the human dimension of the suffering and aspirations on both sides of the border, there can be no permanent resolution.’ —Rajdeep Sardesai, journalist and author
‘…an eloquently written journey through Azad Kashmir… Zakaria’s gift to her readers is the humanity she brings to each of the people she meets… She has given Kashmiris a voice, a name, a presence that says: “You can’t ignore me anymore.”’ —Kathy Gannon, senior correspondent, Pakistan/Afghanistan, Associated Press
‘A rare, incisive and courageous insight into the complexities of the Kashmir conflict… This is the first work which comprehensively deals with this at the human level using indigenous voices rather than with the platitudes of geo-politics and nation-state identity politics.’ —Saroop Ijaz, lawyer and Pakistan representative for Human Rights Watch