Kashmir makes its presence felt with "Curfewed Night"

NEW DELHI Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:32pm IST

Policemen sit beside anti-India graffiti during a curfew in Srinagar August 9, 2010.  REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/Files

Policemen sit beside anti-India graffiti during a curfew in Srinagar August 9, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Reinhard Krause/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Two decades after a separatist rebellion broke out, a journalist's account of growing up in Kashmir is offering readers worldwide a rare glimpse into a region beset by months of recent street demonstrations.

This week, Basharat Peer's "Curfewed Night" made it to The New Yorker's list of reviewers' favourite books from 2010, an honour it also received from The Economist.

The memoir is among the few English books set in the region and written by a Kashmiri to have found a global audience.

"Kashmir is telling its story," Peer told Reuters in an email interview from New York.

"Curfewed Night", published in the U.S. in February this year, is written from the point of view of a Kashmiri civilian and talks of human rights violations and youth turning to militancy.

"It is a book by a civilian, a journalist," said Peer, who is in his early 30s, when asked if it provided a complete picture of the situation.

"I would love to read a book by a soldier and a former militant. Such accounts will always add more to the story. And there have to be many more books by non-combatants."

Peer's abiding memory of Kashmir is as a 12-year-old boy in 1989, watching hundreds of thousands marching across the region in pro-independence marches.

The biggest flare-up in protests since then has killed more than 100 people this year.

A new generation of young Kashmiris, who have grown up with house raids, police killings and army checkpoints, feel increasingly angry at Indian rule and champion street protests rather than the violent militancy that characterised the 1990s.

Despite years of conflict, the Himalayan region has rarely caught the Western world's eye and it is only now through "Curfewed Night" that Peer hopes to tell Kashmir's story to a wider audience.

"Kashmir certainly hasn't received even a fraction of the attention that the Israel/Palestine conflict has received," he said.

But Peer, currently writing a book on India's Muslims, will not remain the lone literary voice from Kashmir for long. The coming months will see the publication of novels by Mirza Waheed and Siddhartha Gigoo, both of whom he highly recommends.

Asked if he thought Kashmir's current calm was the lull before the storm, he said:"It is also winter and nature imposes a certain peace. Who knows what the summer will be like?"

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

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