Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Patrick French, Rage Boy and Kashmir

I did not want to go back to Kashmir, did not want to destroy a fragile memory with sights of guns and roadblocks.
Writes Patrick French in Younghusband: The last great imperial adventurer, a book that was first published in 1994. For writing the wonderful book, the author even trailed some of the footsteps of Francis Younghusband, hiking right up to Rohtang Pass and taking up a challenging journey through Gobi Desert. Younghusband represented British government in Kashmir for a period of three-year starting1906 and ending in 1909 with him leaving India forever.
This would have been an important stop for Patrick French but he couldn’t trail Younghusband's footsteps into Kashmir. In the Chapter titled Fame in disgrace and diversion in Kashmir, he writes:
The State of Jammu and Kashmir was exploding in anger, Kashmiri separatists detonating bombs and Indian paramilitaries responding violently.
This was the fiercest period of insurgency in Kashmir and he couldn’t go to Kashmir, a place which he had visited earlier (in the 80s) when the place was still a “pastoral idyll”. Still at that time, there were “dark mutterings against Indian rule” and the conflict was only “simmering”. The book does not offer much on Kashmir conflict, the roots of which Patrick French discusses rather in detail for the chapter Midnight’s Parents for his book Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division (1997).

Then last year, Patrick French wrote an article in Daily Mail, a paper notorious for its conservative voice ( and for this reason often reffered as Daily Hail), introducing the readers to The surprising truth about Rage Boy, . Patrick French traveled to Kashmir, a trip he acknowledges to be the first in the last 20 years, he had been last there as a teenage backpacker who spent his days enjoying the “pastoral idyll”. This time, he was taken by a local reporter to 'the Gaza Strip of Kashmir' to meet the ‘Rage boy’ and French ended up meeting Shakeel Bhat, a rather eccentric Kashmiri boy who became America's hated poster-boy of Islamic radicalism. The article starts with him quoting various dissuasive voices from the web, and in turn the comments that his article got, is ironic.

Read the full article by Partick French here.
(Don’t be put off or turned on by the images that you are going to see to the right of the page)

Also, read this report to read about the toll that the ongoing conflict is taking on psychological health of Kashmiris caught in the conflict zone.

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According to
The Hindu :
Having finished writing Naipaul's biography The World is What it is, Patrick French is now working on a sequel to his 1997 book
Liberty or Death: India's Journey to Independence and Division
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