`Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan’ Focus of New Book by UNK’s Dr. Nyla Ali Khan

Dr. Nyla Ali Khan
Department of English, 308.865.8129

UNK– “Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan” is the title of a newly published book by Dr. Nyla Ali Khan, University of Nebraska at Kearney associate professor of English.

Dr. Khan is the granddaughter of the late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the first Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. The book, which was published by Tulika Books, is described as “…a scholarly and literary analysis of her grandfather’s legacy, along with the cultural, political, religious history of Kashmir, and most importantly, contemporary gender issues in the militarized social and cultural fabric of Kashmir.”

The 185-page book is divided into five chapters, an introduction and a conclusion, plus an “Afterword” by Ashish Nandy, a well-known Indian postcolonial theorist at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.

“Sadly, Kashmir has been captive, during the past 60 years, in the making of the myths of origin of India and Pakistan,” Nandy said. “Even more sadly, it now seems unable to resist the birth of a new creation of myth of its own, which promises to replicate the efforts of its tormentors faithfully. Once a community experiences the trauma of state-formation at its expense, its capacity to envision a different kind of political arrangement weakens. Happily, the myth may not have yet gelled in Kashmir. This is where Nyla Khan comes in.”

“The inhabitants of the state, Jammu and Kashmir (J & K), were neither intimidated nor hindered by the aggressively centrist policies of the government of India or the fanatical belligerence of the government of Pakistan,” Dr. Khan said. “Kashmiris were heavily invested in the notion of territorial integrity and cultural pride, which, through the perseverance of the populist leadership and the unflinching loyalty of the people, had sprouted on a barren landscape of abusive political and military authority.

“But the refusal to wallow in grief and a desire to deconstruct the Camelot-like atmosphere of that period impelled me to undertake this cross-disciplinary project regarding the political history, composite culture, literature of the state; the attempted relegation of Kashmiri women to the archives of memory, and their persistent endeavors to rise  from the ashes of immolated identities.”

Agha Ashraf Ali, former chair of the Department of Education at the University of Kashmir, said: “…[this is] probably the first time a Kashmiri woman rises above herself and her unfortunately limited role (particularly in the last two decades of violence, destruction and mayhem) and attempts to voice her opinion so emphatically. You will come to clearly understand through Nyla Ali Khan’s instructive style that a journey into Kashmir symbolizes a strange exaltation that is an indefinable quest but, like a torrential rainstorm both cleansing and destructive.”

“The book is the first through study of the tragedy of Kashmir done by a Kashmiri woman,” Neerja Mattoo, an emeritus professor of English at Maulana Azad Government College for Women, said: “Her account is dispassionate yet passionate in its concern for Kashmir. Here is a truly Kashmiri voice, speaking a language honed by post-colonial scholarship. This is its first point of distinction. There are several others.”

And, finally, Dr. John Hawley, chair and professor, Department of English at Santa Clara University, wrote: “Dr. Nyla Ali Khan’s ‘Islam, Women, and the Violence in Kashmir: Between India and Pakistan,’ is written by someone who loves Kashmir and its people, and this itself is refreshing in the loud and masculine skirmishes that continue to be fought in its name.

“Refreshing, too, is Khan’s insistence on the “between-ness” of Kashmir, her plea for the agency of its people, and her reliance not only on personal interviews but also, most pointedly, on conversations with its women. Written with the sophistication of one familiar with the gurus of cultural studies, Khan’s book beautifully instantiates the components of postcolonial theory that arise from actual people–from the lives of subalterns, if you like–rather than from what they merely represent in new grand master narratives in the academy,” he concluded.

“At any rate, my primary goal is to ensure that future generation of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir don’t forget, because if we stop remembering, we stop being,” Dr. Khan said.

Dr. Khan, who has been described as “a feminist-activist-scholar,” received her undergraduate degree from Lady Shri Ram College in New Delhi, and her master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Oklahoma-Norman.