The greatest quality of Sujata Kanungo’s book is its freshness and originality. Sujata has gone to the origin of each source of information; virtually the makers of the information rather than rely on secondary sources and published material. To start with, this is a subject on which very lopsided views and motivated participants are common. By going behind the scenes, in a manner of speaking, Sujata has interviewed numerous citizens of the valley without being under any kind of pressure and various members of the armed forces arrive at experiences which are true and genuine. The various NGOs, Human Rights activists and the members of the press show up as helpless ‘emperors without clothes’. In fact these institutions show up as helpless agents being manipulated by those who are well versed in the more sophisticated aspects of waging a low intensity war. The political parties and the administration too show up as being superficially effective.
Sujata starts off with useful brief introductory chapters before coming to the heart of her book, the ground realities, what the troops face and what are the true concerns of the people. Thereafter she examines the institutional roles of the Army. The Judiciary and The National Human Rights Commission. The role played by the press shows up as two fold. At the local level it more or less acts as an agent of the terrorist due to fear. At the National level it often reduces itself to hearsay and “Quick Slap Bang Headline seeking” reporting. The case studies should have been more numerous. The Annexures on Fatalities, Terrorist Atrocities and NHRC cases are very revealing; the remaining annexures are handy for easy reference.
A very useful book for those who are fair minded students of the Jammu and Kashmir situation. It can also be the other side of the story for the rest. The photographs and maps are not reproduced well and are low quality perhaps because of costs. The book would have also benefitted from tighter editing.