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The Cat in the Bag

In response to:

Himalayan Ulster from the March 4, 1993 issue

To the Editors:

Edward W. Desmond’s review of my book My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir, in your special supplement of March 4, 1993, is a shocking piece of irresponsible and superficial writing. Apparently, it has been written without reading the book and at the prompting of Ashok Jaitley whose spite and malice it carries. He lets the cat out of the bag by quoting Ashok Jaitley whom I refused to appoint as Chief Secretary despite strong pressure from his political mentor, George Fernandes. This fact itself is recorded in the book (page 409/580–581).

Desmond calls Jaitley a “highly respected senior officer,” though everyone knows him here as a disruptor and political dabbler who, by promoting factionalism in services and propping up corrupt and callous oligarchy of Dr. Farooq Abdullah, contributed a great deal to the current turmoil and terror in Kashmir.

How grievously Edward W. Desmond and your publication have wronged me would be obvious from the views expressed on the book by eminent public men and top journalists. Some of the views given in the jacket of the Third Edition of the book are reproduced below:

….it is a brilliant work, written with verve which derives its power from (the author’s) addiction to truth….”

—Dr. Mulk Raj Anand in Business and Political Observer

It is a great book indeed and it tells me much more about Kashmir than I ever learnt from any other place.”

—Michael Foot (British MP in a letter to Dr. Mulk Raj Anand)

Awesomely documented book…. He has minced no words about the indifference and incompetence and worse of Indian political leaders of all hues…. The situation in ‘Azad’ Kashmir is no different…. There is no Jagmohan there to tell the truth….”

—Bhabani Sen Gupta in an article in The Hindustan Times, Feb. 26, 1992

….the one man who saved the Valley for the country last year, Jagmohan…. His book (is) one of the most important to have been published in India….”

—Arun Shourie in Economic Times

Frozen Turbulence is an evocative expression; the book chills the readers as it takes him through the heavy past, the dismal present and the bleak future. It is a work of monumental proportion and of great archival and historical importance….”

—V.N. Narayanan, Editor-in-Chief, The Tribune

As a history of both modern and ancient Kashmir, his account is invaluable. In many respects this is the first detailed honest and forthright narration of the series of lapses and blunders which have led to the present situation….”

—K.R. Sunder Rajan in The Prisoner

In less than a year, the First Edition of the book (September 1991) saw four reprints. The Second Edition, covering events up to April 1992, was published in June 1992. The Third Edition, updated May 1993, is in the process of hitting the stalls.

The book has also been translated into five regional languages. It is under translation in six more such languages, making a total of eleven. During the last thirty years, this, perhaps, is the only Indian book to be translated into so many regional languages.

Desmond relies upon hearsay and motivated propaganda of persons like Jaitley. He ignores all well-known documented facts and contemporaneous records cited in the book.

Desmond is wrong in saying that I “was dismissed.” The truth is that I resigned. Two days after my resignation, I was nominated by the President of India to the Upper House of Parliament—a rare honor for a public servant. In four decades of the Indian Republic, not more than half a dozen such nominations have been made by the President.

Desmond shows his own total ignorance about the contents of the book when he says that I show “ignorance of the forces involved in the rebellion.” I have written three chapters, covering 128 pages (p. 127–254), on the roots of the problem, analyzing in historical perspective the underlying forces. On the basis of irrefutable evidence, I have demonstrated that the roots of the current turmoil lie embedded in the soft and permissive attitude of the Indian State, in the politics of deception, in the spurious democracy, in the habit of nursing illusions, in the fundamentalisation of religion, in the infirmities of administration, in public corruption, in environmental disruption, in regional differences, in disintegrative constitutional relationship and in the overall dynamics of negative forces.

By not reading the book or intentionally suppressing its contents, Desmond has not only been wholly unfair to me but also to you and your celebrated publication.

R.M. Jagmohan
New Delhi, India

Edward Desmond replies:

Mr. Jagmohan can rest assured that I read his book thoroughly, and that Mr. Ashok Jaitley did not “prompt” me to write anything. I quoted Mr. Jaitley because I agree with his assessment that Mr. Jagmohan’s policies greatly exacerbated the extent and the bitterness of the rebellion in Kashmir. Mr. Jagmohan’s My Frozen Turbulence is in part an attempt to validate his actions as governor, and as such I found it highly disagreeable. As to the endorsements Mr. Jagmohan presents, all I would say is that there are also many Indians who severely criticized his book as a self-serving caricature of recent history. I formed my own judgments about the Kashmir rebellion from dozens of interviews made during nearly a dozen trips to Kashmir between late 1989 and the end of 1991—twice in secret and in defiance of a ban on foreign reporters imposed by then Governor Jagmohan. What I saw and heard convinced me not only that Jagmohan was ignorant of the forces in play in Kashmir, but that his failure—or unwillingness—to contain the highly undisciplined paramilitary forces drove a large part of the population into the arms of what was at first a relatively small group of insurgent organizations.

In interviews with me and others, Jagmohan denied the existence of any such abuses, although they are extensively documented by human rights organizations. It is, moreover, impossible to swallow Mr. Jagmohan’s arguments in My Frozen Turbulence that New Delhi has all along been too “permissive” toward the Kashmiris. Even more fundamental than that, Mr. Jagmohan is unwilling to acknowledge that New Delhi had all along subverted the spirit of the agreement that made Jammu and Kashmir a part of India. He need only consider New Delhi’s suppression of democracy in Kashmir during the past three decades to find the roots of the trouble today. Unfortunately obtuse Hindu nationalists like Mr. Jagmohan continue to ignore the record of that suppression.

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