A HOUSE ON A HILL
Perched above the Dal Lake in Srinagar, on the slopes of the Shankaracharya mountain, is one of Jammu and Kashmir’s least known monuments: a modest two-storey house that sits under the shade of a magnificent Chinar tree. It shows signs of neglect – the hand-carved walnut-wood ceilings have been painted over with hospital-white enamel, and a spectacularly unappealing concrete office block has come up on its right flank – but even the considerable efforts of the Public Works Department have not succeeded in obscuring its beauty. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, India’s third Prime Minister and the architect of its most decisive military victory over Pakistan, is reputed to have spent a part of her honeymoon in this house. While the story might be apocryphal, few who have seen the house would disagree that she would have been well advised to do so. On all sides of the house on the hill are other landmarks of Jammu and
Kashmir’s recent political history. A few hundred metres to the left is the house of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the leader who was central in crafting the state’s independence from monarchical rule and was without dispute its most important political figure. The Lieutenant-General of Indian Army’s XV Corps, who commands the military forces that defended what is now Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir from Pakistani assault in 1947-1948 and have held it ever since, lives and works across the road. Other centres of power are scattered all around: the home of the Indian state’s supreme representative in Jammu and Kashmir; that of the head of its external intelligence service, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Pari Mahal, or the Palace of Fairies, which has served both as a home to many of Srinagar’s most powerful bureaucrats and as a top-secret interrogation centre. Students of the spatial geography of power might find the location on the
house of the hill significant: from there, it is but a short downhill stroll to any of
these places. Their inhabitants, on the other hand, must march up the slope if they wish to visit the home of the Assistant Director of India’s Intelligence Bureau, the covert service responsible for the nation’s domestic security and counterintelligence. This book is a history of the secret storm that swirled around the house on the hill: the long jihad that has been fought in Jammu and Kashmir from 1947-1948 to the present day. In the first half of this introductory chapter, I shall provide a brief overview of my arguments and a discussion of their significance, an introduction to the sources and documents I have used, as well as some conceptual questions. The second half of this chapter provides an overview of the strategic significance and pre-Independence politics of Jammu and Kashmir, leading up to the long jihad that began in 1947-1948.