Kashmir is a Russian doll of a story. It’s a story of stories, each describing what is or what ought to be, none entirely. Still, one story has come to dominate, the story of Kashmir as the land of eternal strife. Not without reason, of course. Kashmir has long been the centrestage of one of the world’s most protracted geostrategic and political conflicts – as well as a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe – involving, besides the people of Kashmir, India, Pakistan and, increasingly, China. That’s a third of the world’s nuclear-armed nations. Duly then, one might argue, the story of Kashmir has for the most part been told in the earnest, often leaden, tones of historians, geostrategic thinkers and, especially in India, political pundits.
Kashmir Ki Kahani interrupts the trend. Not just because it’s in the form of a comic, which is rare for stories of and about Kashmir, but also because of how Sumit Kumar infuses this grave narrative with the sense of the absurd, the dark humour and, above all, the everydayness of being. That’s not to suggest that his story is superfluous. In fact, such treatment only serves to humanise Sumit’s story and its characters. At the same time this enables him to trace the weave and weft of a complex problem in a relatable way, especially for the non-expert reader.
Although he’s sometimes guilty of overgeneralising and of privileging the Indian state's narrative over the testimonies of the Kashmiri people, Sumit strives to make his a sincere story of the war-torn region’s modern political history. Or, one of the stories. He combines a storyteller’s craft, a journalist’s nose for detail and an artist’s flourish and irreverence to create an arresting narrative. That Sumit tells Kashmir Ki Kahani as an artist should – without much regard for his reader’s social, political and even personal sensitivities – will surely ruffle feathers. But what good story doesn’t?
– By Mehraj D Lone
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