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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

State, Identity and Violence: Jammu. Kashmir and Ladakh
Navnita Chadha Behera

New Delhi, Manohar Publishers, 2000
384pp. Biblio. Index. Hb.: Price; Indian rupees 600.00; ISBN 81-7304-360-4.

In a well-knit ten chapters, Behera addresses the core problem of social formations in terms of religion, ethnicity, and cultural and linguistic identities and their politicization , especially in the context of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India. The first chapter deals with concepts of state and identity as far back as the 19th century. Behera purveys a detailed survey of the identity issue from pre-colonial India through its national freedom movement to the birth of India as an independent state in August 1947. At the end , she concludes that "the levers of state power tends to alienate and marginalise the sub-regional identities."(p.30). It is a sweeping and simplistic conclusion.

In the second chapter , Behera traces the genesis of the identity problem in the state of Jammu and Kashmir from ancient times when "an individual's loyalty was primarily to the tribe, clan or caste group?"(p.35). Behera tries to explain how the rulers of Jammu and Kashmir continued suppressing the voices of workers and peasants. She blames the Hindu King Hari Singh for suppressing factory workers who had opposed his "oppressive attitude of authorities".

In chapters three to nine, Behera returns to her main theme to prove how discriminatory policies practised against the Muslims from the days of the Dogra rulers have contributed to the process of the construction of the Kashmiri Muslim identity. After accession of the State of Jammu and Kashmir to the Indian Union in October 1947, ruling elites of both State and Centre failed to address socio-economic problems of Kashmiri Muslims. As a result of which, as Behera has rightly pointed out, they could not "secure the emotional integration of Kashmiris into the Indian nation"(p.134). Also she seems to be correct that the failure of the Centre including ruling leaders of the state to address developmental problems of the Valley, ultimately resulted in an ever deepening internal unrest, and consequent upon Pakistan's direct hand in sponsoring militancy in the Kashmir Valley since 1989. In her last chapter, Behera recommends that it is vitally important to "remodel state structures and transform the relationship with the sub-national identities.."(p.302). But how? It is for readers to find out.

Although the book does not offer fresh ideas or any innovative approach to deal with the problem of identity, it provides an excellent analysis of events in the historical context with a rich bibliography and valuable appendices indispensable for scholars and informed readership.

B.M. Jain
University of Rajasthan

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