This Unquiet Land


This Unquiet Land: Stories From India’s Fault Lines
Published by Aleph Book Company, a nonfiction By Barkha Dutt.
Priced at Rs 599 (Hard Cover)

We loved the sheer adventure of it, the opportunity to be chroniclers of history as it unfolded” – Barkha Dutt, This Unquiet Land.

Barkha Dutt chronicles history that she witnessed and seeked to decipher in her non-fiction, “This Unquiet Land”. The book is divided into seven parts: The Place of Women, The Cost of War, A Chronicle of Kashmir etc, each dedicated to her encounter with “India’s fault lines”.

The book, to begin with, is extremely gripping. The blessing of “the anticipation of adventure ” which she credits to journalism is felt throughout her narrative. When we read “Roll”, I shouted, pushing him (Camera men) in panic, “Roll!” one inescapably feels the thrill of the moment.
The account about gender is particularly impressive. She starts with her years as a student of Delhi University which becomes interesting as it is quite relatable. She also recounts her experience with sexual abuse at less than ten years of age. Through the stories of Bhanwari Devi, a Dalit who had been raped by a group of the ‘upper caste’ men, Barkha foregrounds “I became acutely aware of how much the class I belonged to had protected me”. In addition, she admits that through her knowledge of the oft ignored caste dimension of feminism, her “feminist preoccupations began to feel more text-bookish than fully thought through”. 

Barkha is indeed a rightful Chronicler of Kashmir,  because ” It’s beauty, it’s scars, it’s hostility, it’s warmth, it’s danger, it’s tragedy” account for her well known attachment to the state. It is one of the best accounts of Kashmir that I have read so far. She abundantly states the trauma that the state has suffered and pays homage to the army too. No matter how many times you dismiss her account for being too much in favor of the army, she would lure you back with her account of the brutal and unforgivable human rights violation in Jammu and Kashmir. But one cannot overlook the “our” tone in her narrative. “Our” some of us would think is a voice which she gives to herself and Kashmir (because of her unswerving devotion to the story of turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir), but she means to associate herself with her Indian Identity rather than her Kashmiri empathy. Whether it is apt or insensitive is tough to decide.
If her pronouns betray a sense of support to the kashmiri cause, her account restores our faith in her journalism as far as Kashmir is concerned. She admits that the complexity of the truths, “creates pressure to take sides and be boxed in by simplistic labels of for and against” . 

The book is jam packed with present and past taken together. She covers contemporary stories from Modi to Mohammad Akhlaq and issues from War to Religious Fanaticism.
A revelation made in the book about a secret meeting between Nawaz Sharif and Narendra Modi last year which was facilitated by the business tycoon Sajjan Jindal, has now been confirmed by the presence of Jindal in Pakistan for Sharif’s birthday, when Modi made a surprise stopover in Lahore.
With such interesting retelling of past, an impressive commentary on the present and a few surprises, the book is quite engaging.

Tooba Towfiq
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Image Credits: The Quint