Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir
Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | English Non-fiction
Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir
“Everyone I met had a plastic bag ticked away in the house, which they pulled out to share the newspaper cutting sand photographs that it contained. These plastic bags were a precious possession for the women for they contained not only memories but also proof of the existence of the disappeared person.” — Sahba Husain
In this personal and passionate account, activist and researcher Sahba Husain documents her deeply engaged and empathetic involvement with the politicised terrain of Kashmir. As she meets people that she speaks with and, more importantly, listens to, she begins to question her own 'Indian' identity. Recognizing the anger, despair and helplessness of a people caught in conflict and violence, Husain forms deep friendships during her time working in the state.
It is these relationships that form the backdrop of this book, in which Husain focuses on certain key areas: the health of a people, militancy and its changing meanings for local people and the state, impunity and the search for justice, migration and the longing for homes left behind, and women's activism in the faultlines of nation-state and community. A book of surprising beauty in its engagement with human relationships, of love for a land and a people and of hope for a future free of violence, Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir is a compelling and necessary read.
SAHBA HUSAIN is an independent researcher and women’s rights activist. For the last two decades, she has travelled extensively in Jammu and Kashmir, documenting the social consequences of armed conflict, mass violence and militarization on individuals, families and communities, with a special focus on women. Her earlier research focused on problems of working women in the organized and unorganized sectors in several states of India and on the impact of development policies on women’s social, political and economic status.
International mental health experts have said that Kashmir is one of the most traumatised war zones in the world. Husain’s thorough enquiry confirms that the anxiety has only deepened.
– The Hindu
Numbers can never explain their tragedy that has hit each one of the Kashmiri population — its men, women and children alike. Besides women, Sahba Husain also highlights the plight of men who are prone to sexual violence by the military. She writes, “Sexual violence against during war/conflict remains largely invisible. Like violence against women, sexual violence against men is nearly unspeakable in its brutality.”
We chose to learn nothing from Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, and our politics has been entirely vitiated by our refusal to think about the historical and political rights of sub-nationalities at the edges of the Indian nation. Kashmir is the latest, most stark, instance of a longer process of militarized centralisation, and of the rewriting of constitutional and legal arrangements to suit the dictates of an authoritarian nationalism. To that extent, anyone who reads Sahba Husain’s Love, Loss, and Longing in Kashmir will learn about the necessity of empathy, and also recognise its political limits. Husain has done us a great service by writing this book; it is now for us to read it and amplify its concerns and values.
Sahba Husain’s Love, Loss and Longing in Kashmir joins a growing body of work about the nature and consequences of the Indian state’s war in Kashmir. Yet, it is an unusual book—an intimate, well-researched memoir looking back at Hussain’s decades of fieldwork and engagements as a researcher on violence and trauma in Kashmir, reconstructed from field notes and interviews, presented as a retrospective narrative.
– Outlook India