Nyla Ali Khan : An eyewitness to K History
By: Shafiq Mir
Though it may sound new name in the public domain of Jammu and Kashmir particularly among the new generation that came up in the past three decades, however, Nyla Ali Khan a daughter of Kashmir is a known
figure not only in the literary circles of her parental state even at abroad. Genius in her talent, Dr Nyla is a respectable name in the academic and literary circles in US. She is again in discussion among the literary circles for her new book titled “Islam, Women and Violence In Kashmir”.
The book mainly revolving around the main character Begum Akbar Jahan, her grandmother and wife of once tallest leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah is also a good source of correcting history of Jammu and Kashmir. There are many myths about the Kashmir history, particularly relating to the period of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Even his own biography “Aatish-e-Chinaar” is viewed as doubtful and is missing many important events or have been deliberately distorted for certain political reasons and implications. Now it is a golden opportunity for historians and students of history in Kashmir to correct their history particularly related to Sheikh family and the events related to their era as the daughter of the historical family of Kashmir namely Nyla Ali Khan has perhaps decided to reveal some untold stories which is evident from her latest book in which she has demolished many myths.
Naseer A Ganai a senior journalist based in Srinagar says in his analysis “when Prof Nyla Ali Khan, a US based Kashmiri academic and granddaughter of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, writes about her grandmother Begum Akbar Jehan, she demolishes “many a myth”. Naseer says that in an interview, Prof Nyla told him that “the biorgraphy of Akbar Jehan provides an insight in to the history,bpolitics and society of Kashmir in the major part of 20th centrury.”
Born in 1974, Prof Nyala Ali Khan is daughter of Behum Suriya Mattoo who is younger daughter of late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Prof Nyla Ali Khan, is a faculty member at the university of Oklahoma in the US and member of Scholars Strategy Network. She is also author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism and editor of parchment of Kashmir. Apart from this, Prof Nyla Ali has dozens of scholarly papers in her credit she presented at different international conferences on various topics. Though the book has been written as a biography of Begum Akbar Jehan wife of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah but it contains most of the historical events of the state of which Begum Jehan was an eye witness .
Look how her literary work is being viewed at abroad. Linda Van Ingen, Associate Professor of History and Director of Women's & Gender Studies, University of Nebraska, Kearney, USA says in his review on her book,”Nyla Ali Khan places her maternal grandmother, Akbar Jehan Abdullah, at the center of a historical inquiry into the unsuccessful, mid-twentieth century independence movement in Kashmir and, in doing so, deconstructs traditional frameworks of understanding about women's agency in social change and the recent history of a politically contentious region located in India near Pakistan. Effectively combining personal memoir, archival research, oral history, and feminist theory, Khan produces a richly textured history of a time and place both beautiful and desperate in its struggle for autonomy from the 1950s to the 1970s. The book is important for its contribution to a collective historical memory of the region and for its deeply honest assessment of what is gained and lost not only by those intimately involved in Kashmir but by all who struggle with the politics of identity.
Natana J. DeLong-Bas, Visiting Assistant Professor of the Theology Department & Islamic Civilization and Societies Program, Boston College, USA while commenting on her book says,"Khan's The Life of a Kashmiri Woman personal memories that unpacks the legacy of Kashmiri nationalist and social and political activist, Akbar Jehan. For the first time, we hear the story of the woman next to the man in power, former Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, highlighting Jehan's agency, voice and determination to make her own contributions to Kashmir's quest for independence and the creation of a secular, pluralist society. Written by her granddaughter, it provides insight into Jehan's character and family dynamics in the midst of contentious politics and intrigues, telling the inside story and challenging the dominant narratives of both hagiographers and critics alike. Unique in its vantage point and poetically written, it is a story of both triumph and heartache that is a tribute to the spirit of love and partnership."
While commenting on her latest book, Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, Professor of Women's Studies, San Diego State University, USA saya, "This is a personal, political and devotional biography of a woman to whom the author pays homage while also recording the history of Kashmir through the various political quagmires. Through the biography of her grandmother, Begum Akbar Jahan Abdullah, the author traces the political history of Kashmir and the traumas of the political process. The author through lyrical prose and cultural sensitivity deconstructs the life of her grandmother and other women in her family to situate them as women with agency through a feminist lens.”
My point is not here to comment on the literary works and contributions of Prof Nyla Ali Khan in the field of literature. My point is only that she is an important first hand information of many of the historical events which took place in the state of Jammu and Kashmir which mainly are connected with the Sheikh family and it is an opportunity for the Kashmir historians to contact her and get the history corrected. Even Sheikh Abdullah’s own biography has been alleged of being concealing many facts keeping in view the political implications of the truth if revealed. To my opinion, Prof Khan being an academician and an outspoken woman would like to place the things in right perspective.
*(The author is a senior journalist and columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 09419170 570 )