A Mission in Kashmir

A Mission in Kashmir

Product ID: 24349

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Author: Andrew Whitehead
Publisher: Penguin/Viking
Year: 2007
Language: English
Pages: 284
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0670081272


Within weeks of the birth of independent India, the Kashmir Valley was in flames. Indian troops were fighting against invading Pathan tribesmen who sought to claim the princely state for Pakistan. These were the first sparks in a conflict which remains unresolved.

Attempts to establish how the Kashmir dispute first erupted have been obscured and impeded by competing nationalisms. Retrieving stories of attackers and survivors, looters and looted, fighters and civilians, Andrew Whitehead sets out to write a full and impartial account of how Kashmir became a theatre of war. He has gathered a remarkable range of first-hand testimonies of the most notorious episode in the invasion—the desecration of a convent and mission hospital in the riverside town of Baramulla—including one written by a missionary priest and never consulted before.

It provides a powerful human dimension to what is often seen as a dispute about territory. In the process we come closer to resolving questions that have for decades been the subject of controversy: Who were the invaders? Were they commanded by Pakistan? What support did they get from local Kashmiris? And why, when Srinagar was at their mercy, did they fail to capture the Kashmir capital?

Apart from making brilliant use of oral history, Andrew Whitehead has uncovered archive documents which challenge both Indian and Pakistani accounts of the genesis of the Kashmir dispute. Also unearthed is a letter from Kashmir’s last maharaja, written at the height of the crisis, requesting immediate accession to India. Rigorously researched and immensely readable, this book not only explains how the Kashmir conflict started but also why it has proved so difficult to solve.

Press Reviews

‘A solidly researched and elegantly written account of the origins of a dispute which, sixty years down the line, is still unresolved. Its signal merit is that it takes that dispute away from the national myths and prejudices of India and Pakistan. Instead, the men and women of Kashmir are brought back to centre stage. . .

‘A vivid, empathetic, and deeply moving book.’ —Ramachandra Guha, author of India after Gandhi

‘Andrew Whitehead, known in South Asia as a commanding voice on BBC airwaves, has . . . produced an original and beautifully rendered account of the origins of the Kashmir crisis in 1947. An extraordinary tour de force.’—Ashutosh Varshney, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Michigan

‘An engaging and fast-paced book that brings new insights to bear on the study of Kashmir 1947 . . . Andrew Whitehead’s rigorous, analytical and well-researched book also performs that rare feat of being simultaneously gripping and accessible, and suggesting how a much-written history can be looked at afresh, and provide the basis for moving forward.’ —Urvashi Butalia, author of The Other Side of Silence

‘Andrew Whitehead belongs to that rare breed of journalists who leave no stone unturned to explore even the remotest aspects of a story. . . the painstaking investigative work and research that must have been put in to achieve the level of detail his book boasts of can only be described as a labour of love.’ —Zaffar Abbas, Resident Editor, Dawn

‘Andrew Whitehead, with his long experience of South Asia, has written a fascinating and original account of the genesis of the Kashmir problem based on oral history, research, and reportage.’ —Sir Mark Tully



An Italian in Kashmir

Caught in the middle

‘Wild Bearded Beasts’

The Mission

The attack

Signing up to India

Liberating Kashmir

Heading for Srinagar

‘Ten Days of Terror’


Telling Stories and Making Myths

‘I think they’ll try Again’