A REGION FORGOTTEN

‘Ignorance of facts is a curse that Nations and its people will pay for heavily in terms of security, strategy and overall handling of situations’ says the author pithily and through this book, he has tried to clear the all-pervasive ignorance about Gilgit- Baltistan, the most significant part of Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK).

The book provides archeological and documentary proof of the ancient cultural and historical linkages of the region with the rest of India and in so doing, transports the reader to the era of ancient trade routes when the region was the centre of a thriving Bharat. Archeological monuments establish firmly the Hindu and Buddhist past of Gilgit-Baltistan, which prompts the question: Why has this not being taught in schools and colleges in India?

The Chapters on Geography and the Ethnic Inhabitants are fascinating full of in-depth research that shows in great detail the unique geographical features and the fascinating tribes of this region. Ethnic and linguistic diversities of the inhabitants open our eyes to all that India has lost by the occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan. Cultural and genetic links of various tribes to Ladakh and other regions of Jammu and Kashmir have painstakingly been established and make for interesting reading.

Events leading up to Independence, subsequent invasion by Pakistan army under the guise of tribal raid, accession of J&K to India and the occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan, have been explained, backed up by deep research and legal documents. The chapter on Jammu & Kashmir’s accession to India is very succinctly written and should be in school text books and college reference books. This will put to rest, numerous fake narratives that are being peddled by motivated groups.

Gilgit Baltistan has been under Pakistani Control for over seven decades. The state of its residents, who are constitutionally Indian’ citizens is extremely distressing. The book explains and contextualises the extreme Human Rights violations perpetuated by the Pakistani State. The impact of Karakoram Highway on the deteriorating condition of the ethnic inhabitants has been explained well, as also the impact of the upcoming China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The ‘hapless’ citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan have been deprived of basic rights and have no say in their own governance. The removal of State Subject Rule, which had been promulgated by Maharaja Hari Singh to maintain the unique character of the State, has led to huge migration of outsiders to the region threatening the unique demographic composition of this remote region. Archaic, British era Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), that prescribed collective punishments and mandated every resident to report to the local police station monthly and restricted free movement was retained in Gilgit-Baltistan.

The author also delves deep into the reasons for the present state of sectarian violence. The attempts by President Zia ul Haq to introduce Sunni Deobandi Islam in a region inhabited predominantly by Shia Muslims, have been enumerated and its impact on the social, cultural and political paradigm is assessed and analysed. A well researched and referenced book, it has a number of colour photographs, which add value and also highlight the enormous scenic beauty and pre-Islamic legacy of this exotic region. Maps supplement the information content of the book which is a treasure trove for researchers and human rights students with large number of pages dedicated to references and Appendices including the gem like the petition of Gilgit Scouts to the erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. However, to a casual reader some of these huge appendices may seem to be a drag.

This region has been a blind spot in our National discourse for decades until PM Modi mentioned the region in his 15 August 2015 The book will add value to libraries and is a good reference material for countering international lies on Gilgit-Baltistan.

Ms Nidhi Bahuguna is a social media activist and freelance writer focussing mainly on
geopolitics and Kashmir

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