Curfewed Night: A Frontline Memoir of Life, Love and War in Kashmir
by Basharat Peer
Kashmir, January 1990: 13 year old Basharat Peer’s childhood has been full of apple stealing, snowman making, cricket playing and various other forms of mischief. But life in his homeland is altered forever when Indian soldiers open fire on a peaceful protest at Srinigar’s Gawkadal Bridge on January 20, in what’s been labelled the worst massacre in Kashmiri history.
Peer’s fascinating memoir takes us through the historical lead up to that event: the political unrest that had been building since the Indian government rigged the 1987 election, the illegal raids, and the subsequent arrests and beatings of occupants of hundreds of Srinigar homes the night before the bloodshed, and the thousands of Kashmiris who peacefully took to the streets to demand their independence.
The massacre launched a devastating war torn era in Kashmir, initially mobilising a nation and then spiralling it into despair following countless further killings. Peer tells how his father’s once pleasant two-hour homeward journey from his Srinigar office becomes a harrowing, life-threatening affair. He and his friends now dream solely of crossing the Line of Control (separating India and Pakistan controlled Kashmir) into Pakistan to train as militants and join the fight to sabotage Indian rule.
Instead, Peer‘s parents convince him to get an education and he becomes a successful journalist in Delhi. As an adult, he is haunted by the lack of literature on the conflict in Kashmir and he’s drawn home to tell his story. Interviews with survivors of unimaginable torture, people whose sons have disappeared, and others who’ve been maimed, raped, beaten and forced to watch their family members killed are harrowing to read but they’re a sobering insight into a war I knew little about.
Curfewed Night is a poetic, hopeful account about the collective longing of the Kashmiri people for their freedom from India. It’s also highly educational and an eye opener if you know little about the history of Kashmir and the war that continues to rage there.