Posts Tagged ‘Arundhati Roy’

From- Junaidmakbool’s Blog

“Why don’t YOU write something?” A Friend asked, a while back.

Why not?, I thought. Why don’t I write my own words for once. The question was, what would I write about?

This reminded me of what Arundhati Roy once had to say about writing, “People write when they have a story inside of them.” So, what do I hold close? What is it that I couldn’t say before? What is inside me?

The answer wasn’t too difficult.

Home.

Kashmir.

Kashmir;  tricky , very tricky. I have been on twitter long enough to realize that writing anything related to Kashmir, even a single line, can be controversial business. Write anything about Kashmir, and it is generally categorized into three headings

  1. Rants. “Why are you complaining all the time?” Move on”.  You get the idea.
  2. Playing to the gallery, again, there are types of galleries here A.) Mainstream Indian Gallery. B) Pakistani Gallery. C.) The separatist gallery N . B . There is NO Kashmiri Gallery.
  3. Biased. “you missed this” “ I died too” . As if there is a competition.

I hope to circumvent the above categories, and write as a layperson, I am no expert on anything, I write as a common Kashmiri.

Phew, that was tough, categories and all, now about Kashmir. Kashmir is home, though I have been out a few years, and because of that I have realized even more that there is no place else that I can call home. Why? Let’s get to the ridiculous first;  it is breathtakingly beautiful, the weather is mild, the food is good, amazing people, even tap water tastes good, I don’t know how, but it does. You might argue that this is true for everyone, the native place is special, but, where else  do you get such a beautiful spring, when you can palpate the joy in the air, or the sunsets? And such clear demarcation between seasons? Have you seen the Chinar in autumn? You will sigh with me if you have. Dal lake in  the evenings? It indeed is heaven.

More reasons to talk about Kashmir? “The Pain” What exactly, you might ask?  There is a certain kind of pain inside every Kashmiri, kind of an dull ache,  we aren’t born with it (or maybe we are), but it is there, and it refuses to go, no matter where I am. Let me dissect this pain, the pain of Kashmir’s history, all that it has gone through, even the beauty gives me some kind of pain. What ails Kashmir?  Is it paying the price for being so bloody beautiful?  Maybe.

When did all of this start, 1947, or earlier, when Kashmir was sold for a paltry sum, (like a miserable bride, who has no say in the matter), or even earlier? I don’t know, there are no clear answers.

Let’s take it at 1947, a stupid King can’t take a decision, and Kashmir is plunged into war (That is why it is important to be firm in decision making, even if one is wrong) The King can’t decide which way to go, dreams of a “Independent “ nation, the neighboring country attacks( can’t resist free meat, you see) , the King fears for his life, calls Nehru for help (Who is a Kashmiri) , Nehru does what he has to do(Politics), the army is called in, the day is saved, but only up to a certain line (The ALC, afterwards). Kashmir is divided forever.  Nehru is even more indecisive than the King, doesn’t allow the army to take all of Kashmir back, makes a lot of huge promises( None to keep) , and goes to the UN (taking the moral high ground ).

Meanwhile , there is also a PM(CM) who is played with like a rag doll (More versions of him afterwards too). Finally, the two countries have had enough, and they go to war. Nothing happens, there is no conventional “victory” . Things cool off. Kashmir gets used to the status quo, everyone is happy, till something else happens , and all of this repeats, ad nauseum. And while all of this is going on, millions die, thousands disappear, some in mass graves, the Pandits lose their homes, mothers wait eternally for their lost sons.

And a common Kashmiri like me? Where do I fit in? No one asks me anything, I am a mute spectator, always ready and willing to be taken for a ride, you see, I have got so used to seeing promises being broken, that I am  quite the cynic now; I usually smirk( inside coffee houses, and that is mistaken for joy).  I have no dreams, I have no hopes, I just want a regular life, I don’t want to see the face of a gun, every single morning, I want some dignity, I want some degree of justice, some redemption, I don’t want you to patronize me, no sympathy either, just some empathy.

Yes, I want good roads, a thriving economy, a good regular job, I want the violence to stop.

But what is the cost?

I don’t want you to tell me what to do, I want you to ask me, “Tere dil mein kya hai?”  I want a voice, but no politicians shall speak for me. I can’t take any more broken promises, shady deals.  I want you to hold my hand, as a friend, as an equal; and then decide.

I do want to move on (Trust me, no one wants to get killed evevryday),  but to move on, one has to have a good road, the past must be buried, with dignity. Can you do that? Is that too much to ask?

I am tired, too tired right now, to think beyond the mundane, but don’t take this silence for acquiescence,  all is not well, I need help, right now, before all hell breaks lose.

This is what a common Kashmiri thinks like ( at least me) .

Ignore me now, I am lost forever.

Click here to junaid’s blog

Newredindian

In the summer of 2010, protests erupted throughout Kashmir, the predominantly Muslim part of what India claims to be its northernmost state, Jammu and Kashmir (Kashmiris have always asserted their independence from India).  Throngs of young men and women defiantly hurled rocks at Indian security forces and set tires on fire to prevent armored vehicles from entering into neighborhoods.  Their chants were bold—“Go, India, Go!” and “Azadi (Independence) for Kashmir” and “Quit Kashmir” (the last being a reference to the slogan of the Indian movement against British colonialism: Quit India).  The rare media outfits that did cover the protests began calling the movement, the Kashmiri Intifada, drawing explicit comparison to the other longstanding occupation in Palestine.  For fear of having international opinion turned against it, the Indian government quickly clamped down on all media coverage of the resistance in Kashmir and opened its playbook to its favorite page: the rock-throwers in Kashmir were quickly dubbed Islamic terrorists.

At the same time, the repression in Kashmir against the population was brutal.  Protests were met with shootings, lathi (baton) charges, the firing of tear gas, curfews, mass arrests, shootings, disappearances, and torture.  The viciousness of the crackdown has its basis in the suspension of any legal oversight or consequence for the Indian security apparatus; since 1990, Kashmir has come under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows, among other things, any soldier or officer to fire upon any group of five or more people or anyone suspected of having a weapon, arrest anyone without a warrant and conduct home invasions. It also gives military personnel full immunity from prosecution for their actions.  Additionally, Kashmir is also one of the most heavily policed and militarized places in the world, with estimates of Indian security forces in the region at well over 700,000 (the Government of India refuses to release official numbers).  It bears underlining that the population of Kashmir is approximately 5.5 million, which means that there is one security personnel for every eight Kashmiris, a ratio which beggars Mubarak’s Egypt.  The carte blanche given to the police and military and the constant rhetoric of Islamic insurgency have proven to be a deadly and humiliating mix for ordinary Kashmiri civilians.  In one shocking video that was uploaded to youtube, Indian soldiers were seen parading young Kashmiri men naked through their village en route to a military camp.

Kashmir: The Case for Freedom, with contributions by Tariq Ali, Hilal Bhatt, Angana Chatterji, Pankaj Mishra and Arundhati Roy and selections of poems by the 16th-century Kashmiri poet, Habbah Khatun, comes at an important time, as new political and economic realities put the resistance of the Kashmiri people back on the map of global protest.  The book is essentially a handbook for human rights activists across the world, who have seen the protest movement in Kashmir grow but who have been left confused by the obfuscations which pass for journalism and the lies which are official politics in India, Pakistan, and the United States.  The overwhelming conclusion that any reader can come to after reading the book is the simple and straightforward one that Arundhati Roy arrives at: “Does any government have the right to take away people’s liberty with military force?  India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much—if not more—than Kashmir needsazadi from India.”

Kashmir has long tradition of religious syncretism, cultural innovation, and political resistance, but an equally long legacy of feudal, colonial, and now sub-imperial conquest.  The crux of the contemporary problem stems from the opportunistic way that the independence and partition of the Indian subcontinent was carried out and the vicious way that those terms are enforced on the population.  When British rule was established in Kashmir in 1846, Kashmir (recently conquered by the Sikh invader Ranjit Singh in 1819) was sold off to Dogra royalty (the Hindu rulers of neighboring Jammu) for 7.5 million rupees, 6 pairs of shawl goats, and 3 shawls (under the absurd Treaty of Amritsar).  Dogra rule was economically ruinous for the population who were reduced to a condition of absurd poverty; the few young people who could, escaped to other places in India, where they were radicalized and returned to raise slogans of freedom, justice, and land reform.  Before thepartition of India, the dominant politics of the movement for Kashmiri independence, led by Sheikh Abdullah, were a heady mix of socialism and nationalism, not political Islam as is often claimed by more contemporary analysts.

When the British left India, the 565 prince states which had maintained a degree of political autonomy through treaties with the British were given the choice of acceding either to India or Pakistan or remaining independent.  Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Jammu and Kashmir, still hadn’t decided; leaders of the Muslim League were attempting to woo him to Pakistan, while his Hindu sympathies seemed to incline him in favor of India.  Leaders in Pakistan decided not to wait and planned an invasion.  Hari Singh, worried about being deposed militarily, quickly negotiated an accession to India in exchange for military support.  But under the terms of the agreement, Kashmir was to be allowed a referendum to determine the will of the people on the question of accession.  Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, despite publicly proclaiming his support for the plebiscite (as Arundhati Roy’s excellent collection of excerpts of his speeches shows), ultimately reneged on his promise.  The Indian army was able to repel the Pakistani invaders only up to a point; the current Line of Control which divides Kashmir more or less marks the results of that confrontation.  Since then, Kashmir has become a pawn in the cynical and deadly game between India and Pakistan.  India uses Kashmir to claim that it is a democratic society (but does so by rigging elections, importing pliable Hindu rulers, imprisoning elected leaders, brutally oppressing the population), while Pakistan claims that it is interested in Kashmiri independence (despite having flooded the Valley with guns and an intolerant variant of Islam and denying independence to its other occupied territory, Balochistan).

The book makes two important contributions to our understanding of what has happened in Kashmir since that point.  The first has to do with the form of the resistance, which has shifted over the years from secular nationalism to Islamist politics and back again.  The period between the 1940s and the early 1980s was dominated by the secular, nationalist forces in Kashmir organized under Sheikh Abdullah who initially sought some kind of compromise with the Indian state for greater autonomy within a larger federation.  When even democratic dialogue broke down and India reneged on promises, a few groups (like the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front) broke away from the dominant nationalist coalition and began waging a guerrilla struggle.  At the same time, Pakistan flush with arms and militants it was recruiting and training for the American-sponsored resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, began both recruiting Kashmir youth to jihadi outfits and began to send Islamist groups into Kashmir as well as providing weapons and training to secular groups as well (though they eventually stopped backing these groups all together).  The devastating effects of that policy on ordinary Kashmiris are documented in Hilal Bhatt’s personal essay in the collection.  But by the late 1990s, Islamist organizations had exhausted whatever appeal they may have had as their social policies came into conflict with Kashmiri ideologies and their inability to produce a military solution meant that ordinary Kashmiris were the ones suffering for the barbaric Indian crackdown that followed those terrorist activities.  The last decade of resistance has been characterized by secular, democratic opposition to the policies of the Indian state, a reality which goes against all of the mainstream propaganda that Kashmir is another front in the war on terror.

The second has to do with the staggering scale of violence that the Indian state perpetrates against the Kashmiri population (the condition of the Pakistani administered section while poor, is not nearly as bloody).  As Angana Chatterji puts it, “Kashmir is a landscape of internment, where resistance is deemed ‘insurgent’ by state institutions.”  [Chatterji and her husband, Richard Shapiro, have been targeted by the Indian government for their views on Kashmir and were both recently fired from their jobs at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in part, for their outspoken political advocacy.]  Part of the reason that Kashmir is so brutally repressed is because the Indian state is now governed by an ideology which requires the fiction of a massive security threat in order to justify exorbitant expenditures on its military and police forces.  This fiction is propped up, as Chatterji argues, by an ideology which amalgamates Hindu chauvinism, neoliberalism, and authoritarian statecraft.  The result has been the wholesale criminalization of even the mildest form of public protest.  Most recently, the police filed sedition charges against Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education for showing a man in blue carrying a stick under the Urdu letter “zoi” for “zaalim” (oppressor).  The police have charged everyone affiliated with the book with criminal conspiracy, defamation, and provocation with the intent to breach peace, since the innocuous depiction was assumed to be a police officer.  In another instance, an English professor, Noor Mohammad Bhat, was thrown in jail for administering a “provocative” examination assignment.

Despite making the case for an independent Kashmir and offering a brilliant indictment of the Indian government’s claim to being the largest democracy on the planet, the book falls short on one important point, namely in pointing out a strategy by which that independence can come about if armed struggle, mass protest, and even political compromise have all failed in turn.  The unfortunate reality in Kashmir is that it is extremely similar to Palestine, where the indigenous populations lack the necessary social force to repel the violence of occupation forces and then are forced into taking part in the opportunistic diplomacy of larger states around them.  But like Palestine, the Kashmiris have allies in both Pakistan and India who have no interest in the occupation of Kashmir, in fact whose lives would immediately be improved if both Pakistan and India were to stop spending Himalayan sums on security personnel and instead spend money on eradicating poverty.  The Indian and Pakistani working classes have common enemies—their own states—and the end to the occupation in Kashmir will only be the result of their unified struggle.  This though is only the slightest of criticisms; the spirit if not the explicit argument of the Arab Spring runs throughout this entire book.

[Special thanks to Huma Dar for suggestions and edits.]

Check the original article here

Mirza Waheed, Sunday 29 May 2011, The Guardian
Delhi has been unwilling to solve this tragic and brutal conflict, and has scuttled any attempt at meaningful discourse

Kashmiri women confront Indian soliders during a protest over the killing of a student in Srinagar. Photograph: Farooq Khan/EPA

Many years ago, I met two journalists from India in London and we found ourselves talking about Kashmir. Mostly, they listened patiently to my impassioned tale of what goes on, but the moment I touched upon the brutal counter-insurgency methods employed by the Indian security apparatus in the disputed territory – among them notorious “catch-and-kill” operations to execute suspected militants – they looked incredulous, made a quick excuse and left. Later, I learned that at least one of them believed that Kashmiris liked to exaggerate the excesses of the Indian armed forces.

In the reaction of those two men, I had witnessed the frightening success of India’s policy of denial and misrepresentation on Kashmir. India’s decision to censor the Economist last week, following the publication of a map that shows the disputed borders of Kashmir, represents two unsurprising but ominous things: that the country’s age-old intransigence over Kashmir still runs deep; and its willingness to curb freedom of speech over what it sees as sensitive matters of national interest. On Kashmir India continues to behave as a police state, not as the champion of democracy and freedom that it intends to be.

There is nothing astonishing or new in this. For decades, India has not only been unwilling to solve one of the world’s most tragic conflicts but has scuttled any attempt at meaningful discourse on the issue, both internationally and within the country. The ultimately pointless attempt at censorship by asking the magazine to paste stickers on a representation of areas controlled by India, Pakistan and China is, sadly, in line with its inflexible and deeply flawed Kashmir policy. To come good on its insistence that “Kashmir is an integral part of India” – and it does lash out at any attempt to suggest otherwise – it maintains the world’s largest military presence in a single region, to suppress the revolt that erupted against its rule in 1989. An uprising that continues in the form of a civilian resistance.

Last year, in what we now remember as Kashmir’s bloody summer, its paramilitaries and police killed more than a hundred protesters, most of them young men and schoolchildren. Among those killed was Sameer Rah, a nine-year-old boy from Srinagar, who was bludgeoned to death and his body dumped by a kerb. The image of his bruised, purple body is now permanently etched in the collective consciousness of Kashmiris at home and across the world, and may haunt India’s political and intellectual elites for a long time. In response to this brutalisation of a people – the Kashmir valley remained in virtual siege for weeks – a cogent narrative of what I call “new dissent” began to evolve in Kashmir and India, scripted by Kashmiris themselves and by some of India’s bravest public intellectuals, writers and journalists.

However, both the central government and its clients in the state tried everything to suppress this new wave of dissent; they introduced draconian measures to silence the voice of Kashmiris and their supporters in Delhi. TV channels were forced off air, newspapers were not allowed to print for weeks, text messaging was banned, and later on, in India’s capital, a lower court even charged Arundhati Roy with sedition. But the urge to report to the world what was unfolding in Kashmir was ultimately unstoppable. Kashmiri youth turned to social media to get the word out.

And it did get out, aided by India’s fascinatingly diverse intelligentsia and those sections of the Indian media that have of late started to look at Kashmir with new understanding and empathy, and not through the disingenuous prism of national interest.

The Economist’s map on Kashmir – which must have received many more page views than had it not been declared contraband – contains nothing that contests historical facts or misrepresents ground reality. Essentially, the magazine has produced a graphical account of geopolitical status in the region – namely, Kashmir is a disputed territory, with India and Pakistan as the main contestants, but Kashmiris as the central party as it is their future that has been a point of dispute. A dispute that the UN recognises as such in its charter of 1948 – and in its maps. I have found maps produced by the UN to be the most accurate and impartial.

When, and why, do states censor maps? Mostly when the operating principle seems to be denial and obfuscation. For years, the Indian state has attempted to delegitimise people’s aspirations in Kashmir, either by raising the bogey of Islamism or lumping together the challenge to its authority in Kashmir with the US-led war on terror. For most of the 1990s and the early years of the new millennium it succeeded. Ironically, as a consequence of the emergence of “new India” and the burgeoning of the country’s affluent middle classes, the Economist – a magazine previously considered the preserve of business elites – is now selling more copies in India. It is seen as influential, and capable of altering opinion – hence the kneejerk reaction to the map. The Indian government is doing a huge disservice to its democratic credentials by trying to confiscate the truth about one of the world’s most tragic, intractable and dangerous conflicts.