Writings of the 1990s: A Brief Note
The 1990s represents a radical break in Kashmiri literature. The extreme violence of the early 1990s forced Kashmiri literature to pose the question of its existence in a way it had never done before. Some writers such as Abdul Sattar Ranjoor and Sarvanand Kaul Premi were assassinated. Both Akhtar Mohiuddin and Rashid Nazki suffered irreparable personal loss as members of their family were killed in the violence. Some of Kashmir's best writers such as Harikrishan Kaul and Rattan Lal Shant had to live in exile.
The idea of exile dominates the work of Ratanlal Shant and Hari Krishan Kaul. Ratan Lal Shant’s Trukunjal (Triangular) and Hari Krishan Kaul’s Yeth Razdaane (This Capital City) bear witness to how the experience of life in exile has shaped the thematic concerns of these two writers. Very few writers published their new work in the early 1990s. Many Kashmiris turned to writing in English as if to reach out to a wider world. Yet the 1990s revolutionized Kashmiri literature as the dominant genres strained to deal with the history and the politics of the present. But one writer who faced all these challenges with great dignity is Akhtar Mohiuddin. And Rahman Rahi’s silence and Harikrishan Kaul’s nostalgia articulated a vision for Kashmir and Kashmiris which went beyond the possibilities opened up by the political. A new genre of protest literature emerged. Many new writers expressed themselves against the writers of the past but if these writers were able to push the possibilities of Kashmiri literature, as they claimed, remains to be seen.
Many translators such as Neerja Mattoo made an effort to make Kashmiri writing available to a wider audience. Of the established writers who turned their attention towards contemporary political events in Kashmir, a few names come immediately to mind: Rafiq Raaz, Ghulam Nabi Firaq, Amin Kamil, Rashid Nazki, Hakim Manzoor, Zareef Ahmed Zareef and Ratanlal Shant.
This much is clear- a new body of Kashmiri literature emerged in the 1990s. And not merely in the Kashmiri language but also in Urdu, Hindi and English. This new writing by Kashmiris has so far remained inaccessible to a wider audience both inside and outside Kashmir. The challenge of the 1990s has certainly allowed Kashmiri writers to finally extricate themselves from the false opposition between a morose and morbid existentialism and ‘socialist’ but mostly conventional realism. The mystical has been humbled by horror. Be it the poetry of Rahi or Raaz, darkness is the most overwhelming image. And cynicism dominates the prose. Yet Kashmiri writers have not abandoned the mystery of the ordinary. Just under the surface of the restlessness and desperation hides an attempt to open up a new path. A path beyond the political and metaphysical. Could we name it literature?