Book review: Altaf Hussain Para. 2019. The Making of Modern Kashmir: Sheikh Abdullah and the Politics of the State

Date01 August 2021
Published date01 August 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
278 Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs 8(2)
Ryan Shaffer
Ryan Shaffer
Independent Scholar
Altaf Hussain Para. 2019. The Making of Modern Kashmir: Sheikh
Abdullah and the Politics of the State. Routledge. x + 309 pp. ISBN:
DOI: 10.1177/23477970211017761
Sheikh Abdullah was one of the most influential and charismatic South Asian
leaders of the twentieth century. He played a decisive role in not only the ousting
of Dogra rule from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) but also became a central figure
in creating a political consciousness among Kashmiris after the partition of the
subcontinent in 1947. Though the literature on Sheikh has looked at various
phases in his political career from an anti-Dogra activist to the Chief Minister of
J&K, few books are able to locate his politics in the overall dynamics of the South
Asian region. Altaf Para’s book, The Making of Modern Kashmir: Sheikh Abdullah
and the Politics of the State, tries to fill this gap in the existing literature on Sheikh
The motivations for writing yet another political biography of Sheikh Abdullah
are made very clear by the author: first, the numerous U-turns and contradictions
in Sheikh’s political career, including the flip-flop on the issue of Kashmir’s
accession to India, make for an interesting reading and, second, the segregated
and exclusivist approach in previous works dealing with his politics paints a
distorted portrait of Abdullah’s work (p. 2). The book offers a comprehensive and
sympathetic portrait of Sher-i-Kashmir, as he was popularly called, despite
the major limitations encountered in this endeavour, like the restricted access
to the Indian archives, showcasing the relationship between J&K and India and
the destruction of most of the documents related to Tahrikh-i-Rai-Shumari
(the plebiscite movement) patronised by Abdullah between 1953 and 1975 (p. 3).
The book has used various valuable primary sources like the Selected Works of
Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel Correspondence.
Para illustrates how the twilight years of the leader were undignified. Abdullah
ultimately compromised on his political philosophy in return for power (p. 286).
His return to office as J&K’s Chief Minister in 1974 was marked by an increased
suppression of dissent, signified by some draconian measures passed by him to
curb different political expressions during the second term, like the Public Safety
Bill (p. 269). As fate would have it, some of these legislations would come back
to haunt his political dynasty and Kashmiris who he once led.1 But, as the author
also asserts, it would not be fair to completely demonise him. The Indian state did
not commit to the various promises it made throughout his political life (p. 287).
They tolerated Kashmiri autonomy as long as their governance was aligned with

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