Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Self and the World in Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s 'Aatish-i-Chinar'

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

This paper focuses on the Kashmiri leader Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s posthumously published Urdu autobiography, Aatish-i-Chinar: Ek Aap Biti (Flames of the Chinar: A Life, 1986) to locate the narrative as part of a longer tradition of telling lives in the Kashmiri context, and to understand the contradictions and conflicts that defined his life and also shaped the history of twentieth-century Kashmir. Born in relatively impoverished circumstances in 1905, by 1948, Abdullah had ascended to the position of Prime Minister of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and by 1953, had been deposed and become India’s most famous prisoner. He died as Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 1982, after narrating his autobiography to his amanuensis in the last few years of his life. The paper argues while in some senses Aatish drew on the Urdu genre of ‘Ek Aap Biti’ narratives, in other ways it was a continuation of Kashmir’s tazkira (Sufi hagiographical) and tarikh (historical) traditions, in which the concerns for recounting and preserving the past blended with the anecdotal narration of life stories. Aatish is the life story of not just an individual, but also a place, defined in relation to each other and to the outside world, grappling to reconcile the private and the public, religiosity and secularity, and regional identity with national citizenship.

Chitralekha Zutshi

College of William & Mary, United States

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1 - Self and the World in Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s 'Aatish-i-Chinar'



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