“War is a continuation of policy by other means.” – Clausewitz
Kashmir, described as a paradise on Earth has become one of the longest outstanding geopolitical conflict between two belligerent nations resulting in endless bloodshed, rise of terrorism, human rights violations, etc. It’s not that the conflict cannot be resolved if willed by those in power; however, it has become a golden goose for corrupt politicians, ISI, religious zealots to justify their relevance and therefore, ‘Like most geopolitical conflicts, Kashmir is held to ransom by a handful of individuals in positions of power, albeit without accountability to the people of Kashmir.’
Using Kashmir as a backdrop where peace is transitory, Kashmir House narrates a story of disgruntled spies betrayed by the very nation they are ready to sacrifice their lives for, of a holocaust survivor who sells dangerous secrets for money, of a dangerous human experiment, of a brave new leader not guided by the traps of power and money and of a treacherous enemy who does not play by the conventional rules of war and fair-play. Beginning with an urban myth of ‘the sightings of weird soldiers’ whose very existence has become a taboo, the story moves to the inner power circles of Pakistan to the narrative of two soldiers who have been abandoned by their own nation, ‘The Indian Government, as a gesture of ill-advised goodwill towards Pakistan, compromised all its spies and secret agents operating within Pakistan. As always, the Pakistanis tricked us yet again, they went after our agents with vengeance, without bothering to inform India about their key agents operating here.’ However, in a nation where everyone has hidden agendas and their own interests, is it just naivety of a leader to trust an enemy known for its deceitfulness and duplicity or are there other factors that drive the leader to forsake their soldiers in a hostile enemy territory.
Narrated in a conversational style, the author tells the story of Kashmir from the viewpoint of the key players involved in the conflict, from the point of view of Pakistan who ‘…won this lottery…of being bang in middle of the most volatile region in the world’, from the viewpoint of Indian soldiers whose ‘…morale is hitting rock bottom, thanks to their bureaucrats and ministers’, from the point of view of a determined new leader who is ready to defy ‘the witches and wizards of Indian politics’ and an agnostic cleric who plays the role of a mediator between the corrupt politicians and the ISI. Against all this lies the Kashmir House, ‘A house of horrors, your worst nightmare, all sorts of impaired women and their children held against their will and subjected to experiments not even fit for guinea pigs.’
Written as a political thriller, the story moves on a rapid pace and details the events from the viewpoint of different characters and also exposes the hidden motives and agendas that often guide the actions of those in power.
Although a work of fiction, it seems that the author has done an ample research to give the book a semblance of reality. In one of the interviews, the author has himself explained that the story has been weaved from ‘first-hand accounts from retired spies, bureaucrats, serving army officers, journalists,…Kashmiri friends, schoolmates and acquaintances’ who gave the author an unique understanding of the politics of Kashmir.
Despite having fast paced action and thrill, the ending of the book falls short when compared to the rest of the book; unlike conventional thrillers, the book leaves a lot of gaps and loopholes and question marks, it might be because the author is planning a sequel which might be great or because the author wants to leave the book open ended as the politics of Kashmir which is still unresolved. Either case, the book is a good read and gives a glimpse into the politics of Kashmir.
Title: Kashmir House
Author: Vikram Dhawan
Genre: Political Thriller
Publisher: Frog Books (an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd)
Pages: 210 pages
About the Author:
Born in the seventies, to parents whose families fled to India from Pakistan in 1947 after the Partition, Vikram Dhawan grew up in Northern India in the eventful 70s and 80s. Playing in the trenches still around many years after the 1971 war, garish sterilisation campaigns, and silent Emergency days, are some of his earliest childhood memories. Vikram is well-travelled, well-read and passionate about world history and is inspired by personal experiences of soldiers, spies and survivors of wars across the globe.