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Chapter I
Curfewed Night: Journey of the Self
Basharat Peer‟s Curfewed Night published in 2009, is written in the backdrop of
armed conflict in Kashmir which began in 1989. As Peer belongs to the post-partition era
of Kashmir, his early childhood has experienced the turbulent period of 90s. A vicious
cycle of conflict, violence, armed insurgency, and bloodshed had struck the valley. It is
against this background that Peer has grown up and has a firsthand experience of the
conflict. Anguished as he is about Kashmir‟s destiny, he resolutely refuses to embrace the
role of a victim or a mere spectator that could so easily have been his but he chooses to
write about it and gives it a legitimate voice. An urge to portray the misery, agony,
pathos, sufferings etc of the hapless population of Kashmir caught in a web of brutal
savagery of happenings made him to write the novel titled Curfewed Night. He has
painted this novel with the grim pictures of violence, political discrimination, horrors of
gun-culture, deaths, disappearances, rapes, trauma and torture of conflict ridden people of
Kashmir. Mudasir Ahmed Mir and Vinita Mohindra in an article, “Writing Resistance: A
Study of Basharat Peer‟s Curfewed Night” remarks:
The work is the representation of the Kashmir valley, its culture and
custom, trade and tradition, economy and commerce, life and death, pupil
and people, situation and circumstance etc. . . . It is the depiction of
Kashmiri culture since the outbreak of the armed conflict in the late 20th
century i.e. 1989. It reveals the anxiety of the natives, and their
unfortunate halt due to ubiquitous disturbance. The portrayal of the events,
episodes, incidents, and accidents etc. are authentic and based on author‟s
real life situations and firsthand experiences. (21-22)
In this novel, Peer paints the naked horrors of the conflict of 90s with all its
precision and cumulative detail. He has taken the particular events from the history of 90s
of Kashmir and discussed about their deadly effects on the life of the common masses of
Kashmir. Therefore, it appears that the novel is a reflection in microcosm about the
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reality of the events that took place during that period. Lukacs comments in Writer and
Critic:
The goal for all great art is to provide a picture of reality in which the
contradiction between appearance and reality, the particular and the
general, the immediate and the conceptual, etc., is so resolved that the two
converge into a spontaneous integrity in the direct impression of the work
of art and provides a sense of an inseparable integrity. (34)
Peer has borrowed the title “Curfewed Night” from Agha Shahid Ali‟s poem “I
See Kashmir from New Delhi at Night” which appears in The Country Without a Post
Office, which was published in 1997. Ali writes:
One must wear jeweled ice in dry plains
To will the distant mountain to glass.
The city from where no news can come
Is now so visible in its curfewed night. (1-4)
The Country Without a Post Office, originally called as “Kashmir Without Post Office,”
takes its impetus from the 1990 armed uprising of Kashmir against India, which led to
political violence and closed all the Kashmir‟s post offices for seven months. It narrates a
woeful tale and unabated sufferings of the people of Kashmir. The poem takes the reader
to a world where the large scale agony, oppression, mass exodus of Pandits, curfews,
torture, mass rapes, and army camps has made the life of the people living in Kashmir
hell. He through this poem narrates the sordid tale of his homeland which the world has
forgotten.
The title of the novel, Curfewed Night is apt and suggestive of the plot. In
Kashmir curfew is like a collective strangulation. Everything is shutdown, locked up, and
besieged. It chokes the people by cutting off the very sustenance of life: food, medicine,
etc. Kashmir‟s modern history is bookmarked by chapter after chapter of sieges and
curfews. The title of the book conveys the horrifying experience of common Kashmiris of
being trapped in never ending curfews and of living within the borders of a conflict zone
amongst the bloodshed, chaos, and the turmoil that has engulfed the valley for more than
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two decades. On reading first few pages of Curfewed Night it becomes clear that Peer
through his narrative is going to deal with the pathos, sufferings, brutalities, atrocities and
injustice meted out to the innocent people of Kashmir. He bluntly presents the misery and
grief caused to the people by the brutalities of the military and militants exposing the
mental landscape of people ruled by uncertainty and fear. It reveals an unexplored facet
of plight of the ordinary people and their daily struggle for existence in turbulent Jammu
and Kashmir. Abhishek Chaterjee in a review of Curfewed Night comments:
The atmosphere of grief, terror, threat, misery, anguish etc caused to
Kashmiris is well described through the narrative. The brutal torture
caused both by security forces, paramilitary and militants have put natives
on shocking brink. At present more than six lakh of Indian troops are
scattered for the protection and safety of the people in the valley; but the
inhabitants never feel secured rather experience threat from such
protectors. (2)
In Curfewed Night, Peer though captures the conflict of 90s but at the same time
refers to the Kashmir‟s history in order to rip open the heart of conflict. He is genuinely
interested in the present-day Kashmir problem and looks at it historically. He seems to be
fully aware of the latest concept of time and the role of history in the lives of people. He
attempts to discover the past in its relation to the present. Georg Lukacs also values
historical reality and calls it as objective reality:
The pliancy of historical material, which Feuchtwanger praises, is in fact a trap
for the modern writer. For his greatness as a writer will depend upon the conflict
between his subjective intensions and the honesty and ability with which he
reproduces objective reality. The more, and the more easily, his subjective
intensions prevail, the weaker, poorer and thinner will be his work. (244)
Similarly in Curfewed Night Peer brings in Kashmir‟s history where the reader is
taken back to the time when the last ruler of Kashmir, Yusuf Shah Chak was captured
and dethroned by the Mughal king, Akbar and taken away to northern India, never to
return back. He died in anonymity in Bihar. The unbearable separation turned Habba
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Khatoon, the wife of Yusuf Chak, an ascetic. She roamed through the villages of Kashmir
and sang songs in his memory. The songs and her epic wait embedded with sorrow and
pain earned her a title “the nightangle of Kashmir.”
Akbar, the Mughal emperor of Delhi, invaded Kashmir in December 1585
. . . Fearing an eventual defeat, Yusuf agreed to visit the court of the
Mughal emperor for peace talks, where he accepted the Mughal
sovereignty. . . . Akbar imprisoned Yusuf and a year later sent him to
Bihar as a petty Mughal official, where he died in anonymity a few years
later. Habba Khatoon roamed the villages of Kashmir, singing songs of
separation, yearning to be reunited with her beloved. (134)