Though other regional conflicts may capture more headlines, none reaches as deeply into the past nor haunts the present as ominously as Kashmir. The region, divided between India and Pakistan in 1947, is today perhaps the most militarized place in the world.
At this Open Society Institute event, four panelists discuss the remote origins of the Kashmir conflict, as well as its longterm consequences, including its incalculable human costs, its effects on Indian and Pakistan polities, the American role in the dispute, and the prospects for a resolution. In addition, they will trace the tentacles from Kashmir that have extended to other regional conflicts, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the streets of Mumbai.
Steve Coll is President and CEO of New America Foundation, and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. Previously he spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent and senior editor at The Washington Post, serving as the paper's managing editor from 1998 to 2004.
He is the author of six books, including The Deal of the Century: The Break Up of AT&T (1986); The Taking of Getty Oil (1987); Eagle on the Street, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the SEC's battle with Wall Street (with David A. Vise, 1991); On the Grand Trunk Road: A Journey into South Asia (1994), Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004); and forthcoming in 2008, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century.
Pankaj Mishra was born in North India in 1969. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in commerce from Allahabad University before earning his Master of Arts degree in English literature at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.
In 1992, he moved to Mashobra, a Himalayan village, where he began to contribute literary essays and reviews to The Indian Review of Books, The India Magazine, and the newspaper The Pioneer. His first book was Butter Chicken in Ludhiana: Travels in Small Town India (1995), a travelogue that described the social and cultural changes in India in the new context of globalization.
His novel The Romantics (2000), an ironic tale of people longing for fulfillment in cultures other than their own, was published in eleven European languages and won the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum award for first fiction. His recent book An End to Suffering: The Buddha in the World (2004) mixes memoir, history, and philosophy while attempting to explore the Buddha's relevance to contemporary times.
Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond (2006), describes Mishra's travels through Kashmir, Bollywood, Afghanistan, Tibet, Nepal, and other parts of South and Central Asia.
In 2005, Mishra published an anthology of writing on India, entitled India in Mind (Vintage). His writings have been anthologized in The Picador Book of Journeys (2000), The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature (2004), and Away: The Indian Writer as Expatriate (Penguin), among other titles.
Mishra writes literary and political essays for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Guardian, and New Statesman, among other American, British, and Indian publications. His work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, Common Knowledge, the Financial Times, Granta, The Independent, the London Review of Books, n+1, The Nation, Outlook, Poetry, Time, The Times Literary Supplement, Travel + Leisure, and The Washington Post.
Basharat Peer is a Kashmiri journalist and author who will write a book on India's 154 million Muslims, one of the largest religious minorities in the world and the third-largest Muslim community. Peer will draw upon the stories of individuals and places to illuminate the challenges posed by religious violence, prejudice, and systemic injustice to democracy and human rights in contemporary India.
Peer has worked as an editor at Foreign Affairs and is the author of the acclaimed memoir Curfewed Night (forthcoming in the U.S. from Scribner). He served as a correspondent at Tehelka, an English-language investigative newsweekly, and has contributed to the New Statesman, the Nation, the Financial Times Magazine, the Guardian, and the Times of India, among other publications. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.
Mridu Rai is associate professor of history at Yale University. She was educated at Delhi University; the Centre for Historical Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; and Columbia University, where she received a PhD in modern South Asian history. Her doctoral research focused on the problem of religion and politics in the making of protest in modern Kashmir between the 1840s and the 1940s.
In 2004, her book Hindu Rulers, Muslim Subjects: Islam, Rights and the History of Kashmir was published. Rai's new research looks at the region of Bihar and the relationships between caste, territory, region and nation as they evolved from the period of British colonial rule into the postcolonial era.