Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Eighty-Three Days: The Story of a Frozen River

Summer of last year, I found my grandfather reading a book titled Eighty - Three Days: The Story of a Frozen River by Dr. S.N. Dhar. Curious, I decided to take up this book.

The author, in twenty three stories, writes about being held captive by Kashmiri militants for eighty three days and surviving to tell his tale. The book provided an insightful look into the early days of militant movement in Kashmir. His kidnapping took place in the early days of militancy in Kashmir when most of the pandit families had already left Kashmir. Being a doctor, believing himself to " a popular civilian", the author had decided to stay on in the valley. On March 31, 1992, he was kidnapped from hospital premises by men of Al Umar group of terrorists. He was held as a hostage by them for eighty three days and this books is as much an account of his captors as it is of his captive days.

He writes, "The first casualty of a violent situation is truth, [...]."

A casual reading of the book, and you may conclude that he was suffering from Stockholm syndrome. He portrays his captors as emotional human beings even though he is aware of their taste for violence. Some may even conclude that he is clenching tight the last remnants of an invented idea known as Kashmiriyat and at the same time is looking for the remains of this ideal in his captors also, hoping that Kashmiriyat lurks beneath the violent extremities of their minds and actions. The author never forgets that his captors are Kashmiri, maybe a crucial reason behind his safe release. In the years to come, as the violence in Kashmir grew beyond comprehension, Kashmiris died and a new breed of mujahid arrived. Maybe, the author realizes that he could have never survived among the new breed of extremists.

Dr. S.N. Dhar was finally released on June 22,1992, liberated from his eighty-three day ordeal. He continued to live in the valley.

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Found names of some old teacher of Tyndale Biscoe School in the author's acknowledgment to this book. He writes:
In school I had the privilage of being taught by remarkable teachers like Shambhunath Kachru, Shivji Kaul, Nand Lal Bakaya, Arjan Nath Sapru and Peer Salamuddin. They nourished my intellectual self and tried to prepare me for upholding the school motto, 'In all things be men."
Will add these names to wiki page of Tyndale Biscoe School

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For those interested in buying the book:
Buy Eighty-three days- The story of a frozen River from Flipkart.com

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