India & Kashmir: Breaking the silence

27 April 2013

In Kashmir, the scale of human rights violations—from collective punishment and assassinations, to custodial deaths and disappearances—is staggering. Yet little of what goes on in that Himalayan region reaches the outside. Those who resist Indian rule, the Indian government tells the world, are fundamentalist jihadis backed by Pakistan. But the reality is quite different. Kashmir is an unsettled issue, dating back to the disastrous 1947 British partition plan to divide the subcontinent in two: a Hindu-majority India and a Muslim-majority Pakistan. Today, Kashmir is one of the most volatile places on the planet.

Pankaj Mishra writes for the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Book Review, and the Guardian. He is the author of Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, An End to Suffering, Temptations of the West, and From the Ruins of Empire.

ISR regular contributor David Barsamian, host and founder of Alternative radio (www.alternativeradio.org), spoke with Mishra in Boulder, Colorado.


David Barsamian: In your introduction to a collection of essays Kashmir: The Case for Freedom, you wrote: “Once known for its extraordinary beauty, the Valley of Kashmir now hosts the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world. With more than 80,000 people dead in an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan, the killing fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet.

In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curfews, raids, and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers, the Valley’s 4 million Muslims are exposed to extrajudicial execution, rape and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into penises.”

And then you proceed to ask the logical next question: “Why, then, does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination?”

Pankaj Mishra: There are several reasons for this, particularly in the last decade or so, there has been this idea of India emerging as a great economic power and also as a strategic ally of the United States. There has been a lot of bad news coming out of India that’s not been reported internationally, certainly not in the Western press. I think the government also places very heavy restrictions on reporting out of Kashmir, even on foreign correspondents.

Many of them start their tenure by going to Kashmir and being shocked and appalled, because nothing has prepared them for what they see there, so they go and do these anguished reports about this horrific situation. Very soon the government cracks down on them, and they are told to stay within their limits. And for the next of their three or four years in India , they observe those limits, because the price is you might have to leave your job or it might become harder for your newspaper to maintain a bureau or an office there. So there isn’t really enough reporting happening of the kind that happens, for instance, in Tibet. Even though the Chinese government does not allow journalists to go there, still reports filter out all the time. And when there is a massive event there, like the riots in Lhasa back in 20 08 09, it’s on the front pages and in the headlines for days on end. Continue reading

How Occupied Kashmiris “Celebrate” Freedom

Jashn-e-Azadi (How We celebrate Freedom)

a film by Sanjay Kak (2008)

Synopsis

It’s 15th August, India’s Independence day, and the Indian flag ritually goes up at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar, Kashmir. The normally bustling square is eerily empty – a handful of soldiers on parade, some more guarding them, and except for the attendant media crews, no Kashmiris.

For more than a decade, such sullen acts of protest have marked 15th August in Kashmir, and this is the point from where JASHN-E-AZADI begins to explore the many meanings of Freedom – of Azadi – in Kashmir.

In India, the real contours of the conflict in Kashmir are invariably buried under the facile depiction of an innocent population, trapped between the Terrorist’s Gun and the Army’s Boot. But after 18 years of a bloody armed struggle, after 60,000 civilians dead (and almost 7,000 enforced disappearances), what really is contained in the sentiment for Azadi, for freedom? Continue reading

Some historical background on the struggle for self-determination in Kashmir

 

The division of Kashmir, dating back to the India-Pakistan war of 1947--a legacy of British colonialism

This is an excerpt from an article by a World to Win News Service dated October 25, 2010.

Kashmir lies on the northern borders of India and Pakistan. Its more than 12 million people are mainly involved in farming or work in workshops and small factories making shawls, rugs and carpets. Kashmir’s population is multi-ethnic and multi-religious, with a Moslem majority but also many Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians.

After World War 2, before British imperialism ended its formal rule and left the subcontinent, the colonialists deliberately aggravated the differences between various nationalities and religions, as they did in other parts of the world.

This policy resulted in the partition of the former colony of India and the creation of the country of Pakistan after a bloody war between Hindus and Moslem that led to millions of deaths and several millions refugees. It was the biggest displacement history had ever seen until then.

After partition and the creation of Pakistan, the subcontintent’s small states that had never been under direct British colonial rule were not allowed to choose whether or not they wanted to be independent. In practice, they were forced to choose to be part of India or Pakistan. Continue reading

I fight for the love and pride of my people–Arundhati Roy

Dawn.com, October 26, 2010

New Delhi: Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy who has been canvassing for freedom of Jammu and Kashmir from years of military occupation said on Tuesday that far from seeking a break up of India, as alleged by her rightwing detractors, she fights for the love and pride of the people of India.

Amid reports that the Indian government had given permission for her arrest for alleged sedition following her recent call for justice for all Kashmiris, Ms Roy, who is currently on a visit to the Valley said in a statement to the Indian media that it would be a sad day for her country if its writers were jailed for expressing their ideas while “communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters” roamed free.

Some rightwing newspapers and TV channels close to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been campaigning for her arrest after she addressed a meeting on Kashmir in New Delhi last week at which Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani reiterated his call for azadi. Continue reading

Statement by Arundhati Roy on threats of arrest

I write this from Srinagar, Kashmir. This morning’s papers say that I may be arrested on charges of sedition for what I have said at recent public meetings on Kashmir. I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years.

Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.

Yesterday I traveled to Shopian, the apple-town in South Kashmir which had remained closed for 47 days last year in protest against the brutal rape and murder of Asiya and Nilofer, the young women whose bodies were found in a shallow stream near their homes and whose murderers have still not been brought to justice. I met Shakeel, who is Nilofer’s husband and Asiya’s brother.  We sat in a circle of people crazed with grief and anger who had lost hope that they would ever get ‘insaf’—justice—from India, and now believed that Azadi—freedom— was their only hope. I met young stone pelters who had been shot through their eyes. I traveled with a young man who told me how three of his friends, teenagers in Anantnag district, had been taken into custody and had their finger-nails pulled out as punishment for throwing stones.

In the papers some have accused me of giving ‘hate-speeches’, of wanting India to break up. On the contrary, what I say comes from love and pride. It comes from not wanting people to be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their finger-nails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians. It comes from wanting to live in a society that is striving to be a just one. Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.

Arundhati Roy

October 26, 2010

 

Final Report and Resolution of the Delhi Convention on Kashmir-Azadi the Only Way

The convention on Kashmir that was held on the 21 October 2010 proved to be historic in every aspect given the topicality of the issue. As can be noticed from the title of the convention itself we at the CRPP [Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners] thought it necessary to pose the question directly, as the people of Kashmir in their persistent struggle for their right to self-determination braving the repressive apparatus of the Indian State had dared even in their death.

When people are being killed in hundreds; maimed, tortured, raped and put behind bars in thousands; it is of utmost significance as a responsible body which gives paramount importance to right to life, liberty and equality, right to freedom of speech and movement and last but not the least the fundamental right to raise one’s voice and resist all forms of oppression and exploitation, it was of necessity to stand up for the fundamental right of the people of Jammu &Kashmir—their inalienable right to determine their own future, their Right to Self Determination.

What better way can one make oneself democratic than to be in solidarity with the genuine urge of a people in their relentless struggle for their inalienable Right to Self-Determination. It is this conviction that has given us the strength to organize this convention. And we are confident that this convention would go a long way in the hearts and minds of all freedom loving people—who cherish the word justice—as a definite step in forging the solidarities of all who have been mistreated, discriminated, oppressed and exploited.

The following is a summary of the proceeding of the convention.

S A R Geelani, the Working President of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) conducted and initiated the proceedings of the Convention on Kashmir titled ‘Azadi: The Only Way’, at the LTG Auditorium, New Delhi on 21 October 2010 by welcoming the chief guest, the speakers and the audience on behalf of CRPP. He recalled that in just the past four months, more than 100 people -mostly teenagers- have been martyred in Kashmir. He recounted how a small boy was brutally beaten to death by the CRPF, which was just one example of the untold atrocities and oppression committed by the occupation forces of India. Thousands have been injured, many have been blinded, raped, maimed and yet many are languishing in prison. Continue reading

Campaign moves to arrest Arundhati Roy for support for Free Kashmir

October 24, 2010 , Pioneer News Service

Serial sedition: Will Govt act this time?

Under pressure from the BJP to act against controversial Booker prize winner Arundhati Roy for her latest reiteration of Azadi for Kashmir, as the Congress-led UPA Government continues to weigh legal options, it turns out, social networking sites like the Facebook not only had the instant emergence of ‘Arrest Suzanna Arundhati Roy’ — like petitions no sooner than she made her opinion public a couple of years ago but also dished out the course of action.

The ‘arrest Roy’ petition on Facebook, addressed to the Government of India and the Prime Minister, demands arrest of the 49-year-old author-turned-political activist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 (amended in 2008).

“The offences listed under this law include any assertion or statement ‘which is intended, or supports any claim, to bring about, on any ground whatsoever, the cession of a part of the territory of India or the secession of a part of the territory of India from the Union, or which incites any individual or group of individuals to bring about such cession or secession’,” the petition points out to back its demand.

Roy’s remarks on Kashmir aren’t new. She has been there and done that on earlier occasions too, only to invite customary rebuttals like “Kashmir is and will remain an integral part of India”. Continue reading