The Book of the Week is “Curfewed Night” by Basharat Peer, published in 2010. This is a personal account of someone who grew up in the 1980’s in Kashmir– a region that is partly in India and partly in Pakistan. The author’s village was in the Indian portion. The people grew rice, mustard and apples. His grandfather was the headmaster of the local school.
The author’s family was Muslim but espoused some modern, Western values. His grandfather allowed him to read American comic books of superheroes. He also read Urdu and Farsi poetry, and played cricket with other boys.
In early 1990, militants killed hundreds of pro-Indian Muslims and Pandits in Kashmir. The militants were teen boys agitating for Kashmir independence. At fourteen years old, the author got caught up in the excitement of fighting for the cause. His family convinced him not to join in. They wanted him to be a civil servant. He kept his impulsiveness in check, but knew some young men who did not– who died or returned alive from the war, but ran into some serious problems.
The men who were eager to fight had to go to Pakistan for training in small arms, land mines and rocket-propelled grenades for a year or two. They learned to use an assault rifle– an AK-47 (aka Kalashnikov) and throw a hand grenade. By 1992, wealthy families were sending their kids to other continents to get them out of the war zone. Although the author’s family couldn’t afford to do that, it did send him to boarding school in Delhi.
Read the book to learn what happened to Peer, about religious conflicts in Kashmir, and the violence of the separatist movement, which continued for more than a decade.