Friday, August 06, 2010

Kashmir - Paradise Shattered

Kashmir has been in the news a lot lately – the political unrest and the flooding, Kashmir, which was the inspiration for James Hilton’s Shangri-La in Lost Horizon ,was created as a result of the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Kashmir's political problems date back to the 1947 partition, when Pakistan was carved out as a home for Indian Muslims. Kashmir was divided -- and remains divided -- between the two countries. India claims that Muslim-dominated Kashmir is an integral part of the country. Pakistan sees Kashmir as simply an unfinished task of partition. Most Kashmiris would like to be left alone by both sides. Sixty percent of its roughly 10 million residents are Muslim, the remaining 40 percent are Hindu. Estimates vary, but anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 people have been killed during the conflict. Both sides have committed widespread human rights abuses, creating an environment of fear and distrust.

In the 2005 novel that's set in Kashmir, Shalimar the Clown, by Salman Rushdie, the author's epigraph is “a plague on the both their houses”, referring to India and Pakistan. Salman Rushdie's grandparents, on his mother's side, were born and raised in Kashmir. He and his siblings spent their summers there. To Rushdi, Kashmir is paradise on earth, with its unique combination of intense physical beauty - lush valleys, majestic Himalayas - and a history of tolerance among Hindi,, Muslim and Sikh. But India and Pakistan have trampled over this culture of tolerance. Shalimar the Clown is a tragic love story between a Muslim and Hindi, and a history of Kashmir. A claustrophobic marriage causes a young woman to leave her husband, which begins the transformation of a gentle young man into a ruthless murderer, but the tragedy of Kashmir also contributes to his downfall. The Library has over 20 copies of the book, with just one copy checked out, so there are plenty to go around.

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