Book Review: Guns Under My Chinar: Kashmir’s Covert Wars by A. M. Watali

A.M.Watali’s “Guns Under My Chinar: Kashmir’s Covert Wars,” is an important testament that outlines the troubled phases in the history of Kashmir. It blends personal insights with a detailed exploration of the complex geopolitical landscape of the region.

As the former Director General of Police (DGP) of Jammu and Kashmir, Watali provides a unique insider’s perspective that offers readers a comprehensive understanding of the insurgency that has defined the valley for decades.

Watali’s narrative is rooted in his extensive experience, spanning years of service in one of the most volatile regions in the world. His memoir delves deep into the multifaceted factors that have contributed to the Kashmir conflict. 

It meticulously examines historical grievances, political manoeuvres, religious dynamics, and external influences.

By intertwining personal anecdotes with rigorous socio-political analysis, Watali not only humanizes the conflict but also elucidates the intricate web of motivations and interests that have shaped Kashmir’s turbulent history.

For scholars, policymakers, and anyone interested in geopolitics and conflict studies, “Guns Under My Chinar” offers invaluable insights. It goes beyond mere reportage by providing a behind-the-scenes look at the strategic decisions and operational challenges faced by security forces in Kashmir.

Watali’s ability to contextualize events within broader historical and political frameworks enriches the narrative, making it a compelling resource for understanding the complexities of the region.

The memoir resonates with authenticity and depth, offering a first-hand account that is both informative and reflective.

Watali’s portrayal of the human dimensions of the conflict underscores the resilience of Kashmiri society amid decades of violence and unrest. His narrative challenges simplistic interpretations, encouraging readers to critically engage with the complex realities of Kashmir.

By expanding on these themes and considerations, Watali’s memoir emerges not just as a personal account but as a significant contribution to broader discussions on conflict, security, and resilience. It compels readers to confront the complexities of Kashmir’s history and to reflect on the human dimensions of conflict amid enduring aspirations for peace and stability in the region.

However, while Watali’s meticulous attention to detail enhances the credibility of his account, some readers may find the sheer volume of information overwhelming.

The inclusion of numerous names, dates, and specific incidents, while crucial for authenticity, can occasionally disrupt the narrative flow. For readers less familiar with Kashmiri politics, patience may be required to fully grasp the intricacies presented.

Moreover, the writing style, while clear and straightforward, could benefit from occasional moments of concise storytelling to sustain momentum and reader engagement throughout. Balancing the need for detail with narrative fluency is a challenge in non-fiction works, particularly in memoirs that aim to inform and captivate a diverse audience.

Guns Under My Chinar: Kashmir’s Covert Wars” stands as a seminal work in the literature on Kashmir, offering a nuanced and balanced exploration of a conflict that continues to shape regional geopolitics. Watali’s memoir serves not only as a historical document but also as a call to critically reassess prevailing narratives about one of the world’s most enduring and contested regions.

Despite occasional challenges in readability, the memoir remains an invaluable resource for those interested in understanding the complexities of conflict resolution and peace building, both in Kashmir and beyond.

Rating: 3.9/5

Review author: Chandra Sundeep is an author, blogger, and book reviewer. Her short stories have been featured in various anthologies, online portals, and literary magazines. In 2023, she received the Bharat Award, recognizing her dedication to impactful storytelling. Additionally, she has been a recipient of esteemed awards such as the Asian Literary Society’s Sagar Memorial Award, Wordsmith Award, and Gitesh-Biva Memorial Award in 2021 and 2022.

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