Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Arundhati Roy at Delhi Conference on Kashmir

Arundhati Roy, writer, began her speech by asking those who wanted to throw shoes to her to do so now. She said that about a week or ten days ago at a tribunal in Ranchi on Operation Green Hunt, a TV journalist asked her whether Kashmir was an integral part of India. Her reply was that it has never been an integral part of India and the Indian government recognised it as a disputed territory and took it to the UN on its own accord. In 1947 we were told that India became a sovereign democracy. But it became a country as per the imagination of its colonizer, and continued to be a colonizer even after the British left the country. Indian state forcibly or deceitfully annexed the North-East, Goa, Junagarh, Telangana, etc. The government accuses the Naxalites of waging a protracted war against the state. But the truth is, it is the Indian state which has waged a protracted war against the people which it calls its own. Who are the people it has waged war against? The people of North-East, Kashmir, Punjab, etc. This is an upper caste Hindu state waging a continuing struggle against the people.

Arundhati narrated her experience of Kashmir during the days of the Amaranth land issue in 2008, Kashmir needs azadi from India as much as India needs azadi from Kashmir. By India needs Azadi what she meant was the people of India for whose liberation the freedom of the Kashmiri people was a must. Any of us who have visited Kashmir know how militarized it is. Every time there is an election, the government asks as to why a referendum is needed, since the people of Kashmir have voted, and they have voted for India. She further brought to the notice of the audience that a convention of this kind was historic in the capital city of this hollow superpower that is India. It is also important to know where one stands on this issue. The British colonial empire too once considered Indians to be unfit for self-rule. The same argument is being used today by the powers-that-be to deny azadi to Kashmir. It is the same Indian ruling class which once preached non-alignment, but is now bowing before US imperialism and the MNCs. We need to continue this exercise of debate, and at the same time be aware that we are up against a serious adversary. We must realize that the bows and arrows in the hands of the adivasis or stones of the Kashmiris alone are not enough. We need to make serious and meaningful alliances. There has to be an alliance between all the struggling people and what will connect them will be the idea of justice. We need to be aware of the fact that not every movement or slogan is for justice.

Arundhati wished that the people fighting for azadi in Kashmir will not be let down by their leaders. She urged that those who are fighting for a just society must align with all the struggles of the powerless and the oppressed. Kashmiri people have an experience of over 60 years of struggle, but cautioned against isolation from other oppressed people. She extended her support for the struggle for azadi, but also appealed for a debate on the meaning of azadi among the Kashmiris. She asked everyone in Kashmir to have a deep discussion on what they are fighting for. And it has to come from within the Kashmiris and not from the so-called critics of azadi as a divisive ploy of the enemy. On the question of Kashmiri pundits, she said that much of the stories of atrocities on pundits have been concocted to sow misunderstanding and distrust among people, though what happened to some of them is tragic and unfortunate. Justice is to be fought and upheld for everybody, whether a minority of religion, caste, or nationality. It is not enough to ask for justice if the next person does not have it. People in Kashmir have said that Kashmiri pundits are welcome back, and this is a commendable gesture.

Arundhati concluded by saluting the struggle of the young people, women, children who are out on the streets facing the brutal Indian army. The first great art which the Indian state has mastered is to wait and wait and hope that people’s energies will go down. Killing them is the next. It is up to the people of Kashmir to take their struggle further in solidarity with other people’s movements. At the same time, the people in Nagaland must reflect on themselves why is it that a Naga Battalion is sent to kill people in Kashmir and Chhattisgarh. A direct confrontation with the state is not enough. It is necessary to know ones enemy and make alliances locally, as well as internationally

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