Book Review

Curfewed Night: A Memoir of Life, Love and War in Kashmir
By Shahzeb Khan

“Curfewed Night” is an award winning book written by a Kashmiri writer and journalist Basharat Peer. It’s a memoir, a compilation of events associated with Kashmir and Kashmiris, immediately before and during militancy. He explains Kashmir as “…empty streets, locked shops, angry soldiers and boys with stones.It is several thousand military bunkers, four golf courses, and three bookshops.” What made him to write this book is a story per se¬ – the author mentions in this book “People from almost every conflict zone had told their stories: Palestinians, Israelis, Bosnians….I felt the absence of our own telling, the unwritten books about the Kashmiri experience…” It was necessary to write about Kashmir, Indians and the world needed to know what Kashmiris have been through due to this conflict. The reader gets lost when the author takes you down on his memory lane.

This book begins with the author’s childhood in Seer (a village located in Anantnag), he writes about his childhood days in the ‘80s, pre-insurgency era, how naïve and free they were, the naivety was such that people looking at red sky during dusk hours would speculate that ‘someone somewhere has been murdered’. The author also gives a brief description of his family background, which is also fascinating. During the ‘90s, the author writes about his encounter with militants, who used to stay in his school dorm and play volleyball with him and his friends. The book consists of the events related to exodus of Kashmiri Pandits, the fear of crackdowns by Indian Armed Forces, the fear of not coming back to home after leaving work in the morning. Basharat has also written a brief history about the rulers of Kashmir, he made a remarkable statement- “…Yusuf Shah’s imprisonment and betrayal by Akbar has become a metaphor for the relationship between Delhi and Srinagar.” Yusuf Shah Chak was a Kashmiri ruler who was arrested and sent into prison by Mughal Emperor Akbar when he invaded Kashmir. He also mentioned about Robert Thorpe, not many people know about him, he was an Anglo-Kashmiri writer in Maharaja Pratap Singh’s era, he came to Kashmir, assessed the situation, where Kashmiris were treated with tyranny by Maharaja Pratap Singh, he wrote a book Cashmere Misgovernment, he was ultimately killed by Pratap Singh’s soldiers. The book mentions about PAPA-2, an infamous interrogation center located in Srinagar, author has written about interviews of some former militants who were severely tortured there, who have become infirm now.