Review: Kashmir: The Case for Freedom (Tariq Ali, et al)

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 needs azadi 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 the partition 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.]

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Arundhati Roy: ‘They are trying to keep me destabilised. Anybody who says anything is in danger’

From the Guardian UK:

The Booker prize-winning novelist on her political activism in India, why she no longer condemns violent resistance – and why it doesn’t matter if she never writes a second novel

Arundhati Roy. Photograph: Sarah Lee

This is not an ideal beginning. I bump into Arundhati Roy as we are both heading for the loo in the foyer of the large building that houses her publisher Penguin’s offices. There are some authors, V S Naipaul say, with whom this could be awkward. But not Roy, who makes me feel instantly at ease. A few minutes later, her publicist settles us in a small, bare room. As we take our positions on either side of a narrow desk I liken it to an interrogation suite. But she says that in India, interrogation rooms are a good deal less salubrious than this.

Roy, who is 50 this year, is best known for her 1997 Booker prize-winning novel The God of Small Things, but for the past decade has been an increasingly vocal critic of the Indian state, attacking its policy towards Kashmir, the environmental destruction wrought by rapid development, the country’s nuclear weapons programme and corruption. As a prominent opponent of everything connected with globalisation, she is seeking to construct a “new modernity” based on sustainability and a defence of traditional ways of life.

Her new book, Broken Republic, brings together three essays about the Maoist guerrilla movement in the forests of central India that is resisting the government’s attempts to develop and mine land on which tribal people live. The central essay, Walking with the Comrades, is a brilliant piece of reportage, recounting three weeks she spent with the guerrillas in the forest. She must, I suggest, have been in great personal danger. “Everybody’s in great danger there, so you can’t go round feeling you are specially in danger,” she says in her pleasant, high-pitched voice. In any case, she says, the violence of bullets and torture are no greater than the violence of hunger and malnutrition, of vulnerable people feeling they’re under siege.

Her time with the guerrillas made a profound impression. She describes spending nights sleeping on the forest floor in a “thousand-star hotel”, applauds “the ferocity and grandeur of these poor people fighting back”, and says “being in the forest made me feel like there was enough space in my body for all my organs”. She detests glitzy, corporate, growth-obsessed modern Indian, and there in the forest she found a brief peace.

There is intense anger in the book, I say, implying that if she toned it down she might find a readier audience. “The anger is calibrated,” she insists. “It’s less than I actually feel.” But even so, her critics call her shrill. “That word ‘shrill’ is reserved for any expression of feeling. It’s all right for the establishment to be as shrill as it likes about annihilating people.”

Is her political engagement derived from her mother, Mary Roy, who set up a school for girls in Kerala and has a reputation as a women’s rights activist? “She’s not an activist,” says Roy. “I don’t know why people keep saying that. My mother is like a character who escaped from the set of a Fellini film.” She laughs at her own description. “She’s a whole performing universe of her own. Activists would run a mile from her because they could not deal with what she is.”

I want to talk more about Mary Roy – and eventually we do – but there’s one important point to clear up first. Guerrillas use violence, generally directed against the police and army, but sometimes causing injury and death to civilians caught in the crossfire. Does she condemn that violence? “I don’t condemn it any more,” she says. “If you’re an adivasi[tribal Indian] living in a forest village and 800 CRP [Central Reserve Police] come and surround your village and start burning it, what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on hunger strike? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.”

Her critics label her a Maoist sympathiser. Is she? “I am a Maoist sympathiser,” she says. “I’m not a Maoist ideologue, because the communist movements in history have been just as destructive as capitalism. But right now, when the assault is on, I feel they are very much part of the resistance that I support.”

Roy talks about the resistance as an “insurrection”; she makes India sound as if it’s ripe for a Chinese or Russian-style revolution. So how come we in the west don’t hear about these mini-wars? “I have been told quite openly by several correspondents of international newspapers,” she says, “that they have instructions – ‘No negative news from India’ – because it’s an investment destination. So you don’t hear about it. But there is an insurrection, and it’s not just a Maoist insurrection. Everywhere in the country, people are fighting.” I find the suggestion that such an injunction exists – or that self-respecting journalists would accept it – ridiculous. Foreign reporting of India might well be lazy or myopic, but I don’t believe it’s corrupt.

She sounds like a member of a religious sect, I say, as if she has seen the light. “It’s a way of life, a way of thinking,” she replies without taking offence. “I know people in India, even the modern young people, understand that here is something that’s alive.” So why not give up the plush home in Delhi and the media appearances, and return to the forest? “I’d be more than happy to if I had to, but I would be a liability to them in the forest. The battles have to be fought in different ways. The military side is just one part of it. What I do is another part of the battle.”

I question her absolutism, her Manichaean view of the world, but I admire her courage. Her home has been pelted with stones; the Indian launch of Broken Republic was interrupted by pro-government demonstrators who stormed the stage; she may be charged with sedition for saying that Kashmiris should be given the right of self-determination. “They are trying to keep me destabilised,” she says. Does she feel threatened? “Anybody who says anything is in danger. Hundreds of people are in jail.”

Roy has likened writing fiction and polemic to the difference between dancing and walking. Does she not want to dance again? “Of course I do.” Is she working on a new novel? “I have been,” she says with a laugh, “but I don’t get much time to do it.” Does it bother her that the followup to The God of Small Things has been so long in coming? “I’m a highly unambitious person,” she says. “What does it matter if there is or isn’t a novel? I really don’t look at it that way. For me, nothing would have been worth not going into that forest.”

It’s hard to judge whether there will be a second novel. The God of Small Things drew so much on her own life – her charismatic but overbearing mother; a drunken tea-planter father whom her mother left when Roy was very young; her own departure from home in her late teens – that it may be a one-off, a book as much lived as written. She gives ambiguous answers about whether she expects a second novel to appear. On the one hand, she says she is engaged with the resistance movement and that it dominates her thoughts. But almost in the same breath she says others have “picked up the baton” and she would like to return to fiction, to dance again.

What is certain is that little of the second novel has so far been written. She prefers not to tell me what it is about; indeed, she says it would not be possible to pinpoint the theme. “I don’t have subjects. It’s not like I’m trying to write an anti-dam novel. Fiction is too beautiful to be about just one thing. It should be about everything.” Has she been blocked by the pressure of having to follow up a Booker winner? “No,” she says. “We’re not children all wanting to come first in class and win prizes. It’s the pleasure of doing it. I don’t know whether it will be a good book, but I’m curious about how and what I will write after these journeys.”

Are her agent and publisher disappointed still to be waiting for the second novel? “They always knew there wasn’t going to be some novel-producing factory,” she says. “I was very clear about that. I don’t see the point. I did something. I enjoyed doing it. I’m doing something now. I’m living to the edges of my fingernails, using everything I have. It’s impossible for me to look at things politically or in any way as a project, to further my career. You’re injected directly into the blood of the places in which you’re living and what’s going on there.”

She has no financial need to write another novel. The God of Small Things, which sold more than 6m copies around the world, set her up for life, even though she has given much of the money away. She even spurned offers for the film rights, because she didn’t want anyone interpreting her book for the screen. “Every reader has a vision of it in their head,” she says, “and I didn’t want it to be one film.” She is strong-willed. Back in 1996, when The God of Small Things was being prepared for publication, she insisted on having control of the cover image because she didn’t want “a jacket with tigers and ladies in saris”. She is her indomitable mother’s daughter.

I insist she tell me more about her Fellini-esque mother. She is, says Roy, like an empress. She has a number of buttons beside her bed which, when you press them, emit different bird calls. Each call signals to one of her retinue what she requires. Has she been the centre of her daughter’s life? “No, she has been the centre of a lot of conflict in my life. She’s an extraordinary women, and when we are together I feel like we are two nuclear-armed states.” She laughs loudly. “We have to be a bit careful.”

To defuse the family tensions, Roy left home when she was 16 to study architecture in Delhi – even then she wanted to build a new world. She married a fellow student at the age of 17. “He was a very nice guy, but I didn’t take it seriously,” she says. In 1984 she met and married film-maker Pradip Krishen, and helped him bring up his two daughters by an earlier marriage. They now live separately, though she still refers to him as her “sweetheart”. So why separate? “My life is so crazy. There’s so much pressure and idiosyncrasy. I don’t have any establishment. I don’t have anyone to mediate between me and the world. It’s just based on instinct.” I think what she’s saying is that freedom matters more to her than anything else.

She chose not to have children because it would have impinged on that freedom. “For a long time I didn’t have the means to support them,” she says, “and once I did I thought I was too unreliable. So many of the women in India who are fighting these battles don’t have children, because anything can happen. You have to be light on your feet and light in your head. I like to be a mobile republic.”

Roy has in the past described herself as “a natural-born feminist”. What did she mean by that? “Because of my mother and the way I grew up without a father to look after me, you learned early on that rule number one was look out for yourself. Much of what I can do and say now comes from being independent at an early age.” Her mother was born into a wealthy, conservative Christian community in Kerala, but put herself outside the pale by marrying Ranjit Roy, a Hindu from West Bengal. When she returned to her home state after her divorce she had little money and was thus doubly marginalised. The mother eventually triumphed over all these obstacles and made a success of the school she founded, but growing up an outsider has left its mark on her daughter.

Roy says she has always been polemical, and points to her run-in with director Shekhar Kapur in the mid-1990s over his film Bandit Queen – she questioned whether he had the right to portray the rape of a living person on screen without that woman’s consent. It may be that the novel is the exception in a life of agitation, rather than the agitation an odd outcrop in a life of fiction-writing. But has she sacrificed too much for the struggle – the chance to dance, children, perhaps even her second marriage? “I don’t see any of these things as sacrifices,” she says. “They are positive choices. I feel surrounded by love, by excitement. They are not being done in some martyr-like way. When I was walking through the forest with the comrades, we were laughing all the time.”

Transcript of Arundhati Roy’s “seditious” speech

TRANSCRIPT OF ARUNDHAT ROY’S SPEECH AT SEMINAR CALLED “AZADI—THE ONLY WAY” IN NEW DELHI ON OCTOBER 21, 2010

S. A. R. Geelani: Now I request Arundhati Roy to come and speak.

Arundhati Roy: If anybody has any shoes to throw, please throw them now…

[Some people in the audience: “We’re cultured.”]

AR: Good, I’m glad. I’m glad to hear that. Though being cultured is not necessarily a good thing. But anyway…

[Interruption from some people in the audience.]

SG: Please, will you talk afterwards. Now prove that you are cultured.

AR: About a week or ten days ago, I was in Ranchi where there was a Peoples’ Tribunal against Operation Green Hunt—which is the Indian state’s war against the poorest people in this country—and at that tribunal, just as I was leaving, a TV journalist stuck a mic in my face and very aggressively said “Madam, is Kashmir an integral part of India or not? Is Kashmir an integral part of India or not?” about five times. So I said, look Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. However aggressively and however often you want to ask me that. Even the Indian government has accepted, in the UN that it’s not an integral part of India. So why are we trying to change that narrative now. See in 1947, we were told that India became a sovereign nation and a sovereign democracy, but if you look at what the Indian state did from midnight of 1947 onwards, that colonized country, that country that became a country because of the imagination of its colonizer—the British drew the map of India in 1899—so that country became a colonizing power the moment it became independent, and the Indian state has militarily intervened in Manipur, in Nagaland, in Mizoram, in Kashmir, in Telangana, during the Naxalbari uprising, in Punjab, in Hyderabad, in Goa, in Junagarh. So often the Indian government, the Indian state, the Indian elite, they accuse the Naxalites of believing in protracted war, but actually you see a state—the Indian state—that has waged protracted war against its own people or what it calls its own people relentlessly since 1947, and when you look at who are those people that it has waged war against—the Nagas, the Mizos, the Manipuris, people in Assam, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Punjab—it’s always a minority, the Muslims, the tribals, the Christians, the Dalits, the Adivasis, endless war by an upper caste Hindu state, this is what is the modern history of our country. Now, in 2007, at the time of the uprising in Kashmir against that whole acquisition of land for the Amarnath Yatra, I was in Srinagar and I was walking down the road and I met a young journalist, I think he was from Times of India, and he said to me—he couldn’t believe that he saw some Indian person—walking alone on the road—and he said, “can I have a quote?” So I said, “Yes, do you have a pen? Because I don’t want to be misquoted” and I said, “write down—India needs azaadi from Kashmir just as much as Kashmir needs azaadi from India,” and when I said India, I did not mean the Indian state, I meant the Indian people because I think that the occupation of Kashmir—today there are seven hundred thousand security personnel manning that valley of twelve million people—it is the most militarized zone in the world—and for us, the people of India, to tolerate that occupation is like allowing a kind of moral corrosion to drip into our blood stream. So for me it’s an intolerable situation to try and pretend that it isn’t happening even if the media blanks it out, all of us know—or maybe all of us don’t know, but any of us who’ve visited Kashmir know—that Kashmiris cannot inhale and exhale without their breath going through the barrel of an AK-47. So, so many things have been done there, every time there’s an election and people come out to vote, the Indian government goes and says, “Why do you want a referendum? There was a vote and the people have voted for India.” Now, I actually think that we need to deepen our thinking a little bit because I too am very proud of this meeting today, I think it’s a historic meeting in some ways, it’s a historic meeting taking place in the capital of this very hollow superpower, a superpower where eight hundred and thirty million people live on less than twenty rupees a day. Now, sometimes it’s very difficult to know from what place one stands on as formally a citizen of India, what can one say, what is one allowed to say, because when India was fighting for independence from British colonization—every argument that people now use to problematize the problems of azaadi in Kashmir were certainly used against Indians. Crudely put, “the natives are not ready for freedom, the natives are not ready for democracy,” but every kind of complication was also true, I mean the great debates between Ambedkar and Gandhi and Nehru—they were also real debates and over these last sixty years whatever the Indian state has done, people in this country have argued and debated and deepened the meaning of freedom. We have also lost a lot of ground because we’ve come to a stage today where India a country that once called itself Non Aligned , that once held its head up in pride has today totally lain down prostrate on the floor at the feet of the USA. So we are a slave nation today, our economy is completely—however much the Sensex may be growing, the fact is the reason that the Indian police, the paramilitary and soon perhaps the army will be deployed in the whole of central India is because it’s an extractive colonial economy that’s being foisted on us. But the reason that I said what we need to do is to deepen this conversation is because it’s also very easy for us to continue to pat ourselves on the backs as great fighters for resistance for anything whether it’s the Maoists in the forests or whether it’s the stone pelters on the streets—but actually we must understand that we are up against something very serious and I’m afraid that the bows and arrows of the Adivasis and the stones in the hands of the young people are absolutely essential but they are not the only thing that’s going to win us freedom, and for that we need to be tactical, we need to question ourselves, we need to make alliances, serious alliances…. Because… I often say that in 1986 when capitalism won its jihad against soviet communism in the mountains of Afghanistan, the whole world changed and India realigned itself in the unipolar world and in that realignment it did two things, it opened two locks , one was the lock of the Babri Masjid and one was the lock of the Indian markets and it ushered in two kinds of totalitarianism—Hindu fascism, Hindutva fascism, and economic totalitarianism, and both these manufactured their own kinds of terrorism—so you have Islamist “terrorists” and the Maoist “terrorists”—and this process has made eighty percent of this country live on twenty rupees a day but it has divided us all up and we spend all our time fighting with each other when in fact there should be deep solidarity. There should be deep solidarity between the struggles in Manipur, the struggles in Nagaland, the struggle in Kashmir, the struggle in central India and in all the poor, squatters, the vendors , all the slum dwellers and so on. But what is it that should link these struggles? It’s the idea of justice because there can be struggles which are not struggles for justice, there are peoples movements like the VHP is a peoples movement—but it’s a struggle for fascism, it’s a struggle for injustice, we don’t align ourselves with that. So every movement, every person on the street, every slogan is not a slogan for justice. So when I was in Kashmir on the streets during the Amarnath Yatra time, and even today—I haven’t been to Kashmir recently—but I’ve seen and my heart is filled with appreciation for the struggle that people are waging, the fight that young people are fighting and I don’t want them to be let down. I don’t want them to be let down even by their own leaders because I want to believe that this fight is a fight for justice. Not a fight in which you pick and choose your justices—“we want justice but it’s ok if the other chap is squashed.” That’s not right. So I remember when I wrote in 2007, I said the one thing that broke my heart on the streets of Srinagar, was when I heard people say “Nanga Bhooka Hindustan, jaan se pyaara Pakistan.” I said “No. Because the Nanga Bhooka Hindustan is with you. And if you’re fighting for a just society then you must align yourselves with the powerless,” the Indian people here today are people who have spent their lives opposing the Indian state. I have, as many of you may know, been associated for a long time with the struggle in the Narmada valley against big dams and I always say that I think so much about these two valleys—the Kashmir valley and the Narmada valley. In the Narmada valley, they speak of repression, but perhaps the people don’t really know what repression is because they’ve not experienced the kind of repression that there is in the Kashmir valley. But they have a very, very, very sophisticated understanding of the economic structures of the world of imperialism and of the earth and what it does and how those big dams create an inequality that you cannot get away from. And in the Kashmir valley you have such a sophisticated understanding of repression, sixty years of repression of secret operations, of spying, of intelligence operations, of death, of killing. But have you insulated yourself from that other understanding, of what the world is today? What these economic structures are? What kind of Kashmir are you going to fight for? Because we are with you in that fight, we are with you. But we want, we hope that it’ll be a fight for justice. We know today that this word ‘secularism’ that the Indian state flings at us is a hollow word because you can’t kill sixty-eight thousand Kashmiri Muslims and then call yourself a secular state. You cannot allow the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and call yourself a secular state and yet you can’t then turn around and say that “we are allowed to treat our minorities badly “—so what kind of justice are you fighting for? I hope that the young people will deepen their idea of Azaadi, it is something that the state and your enemies that you’re fighting uses to divide you. That’s true.

[Some people in the audience: “Do you know what happened to the pundits?”]

AR: I know the story of the Kashmiri pundits. I also know that the story that these Panun Kashmir pundits put out is false. However, this does not mean that injustice was not done.

[People in audience: “Do you know how many Hindus were killed?”]

AR: I think — ok, let me continue… [part of the crowd arguing loudly].

SG: I request everyone to please sit.

AR: Alright, I want to say that, I think this disturbance is based on a misunderstanding, because I was beginning to talk about justice and in that conversation about justice, I was just about to say that what happened with the Kashmiri pundits is a tragedy, so I don’t know why you all started shouting, I think it’s a tragedy because when we stand here and talk about justice, it is justice for everybody, and those of us who stand here and talk about their being a place for everybody whether there’s a minority whether it’s an ethnic minority or a religious minority or minority in terms of caste, we don’t believe in majoritarianism so that’s why I was talking about the fact that everybody in Kashmir should have a very deep discussion about what kind of society you’re fighting for because Kashmir is a very diverse community and that discussion does not have to come from critics or people who are against azaadi trying to divide this struggle , it has to come from within you so it is not the place of people outside to say “they don’t know what they mean by azaadi, do they mean Gilgit and Baltistan, what about Jammu? What about Laddakh?” These are debates that people within the state of Jammu and Kashmir are quite capable of having by themselves and I think they understand that. So, to just try and derail things by shouting at people is completely pointless because I think that people, the pundits in Kashmir, all the time I’ve spent in Kashmir, have only heard people say they are welcome back and I know people who live there, who believe that too, so all I want to say is that when we are having these political debates, I feel I have watched and have been listening to and following the recent uprising in Kashmir, the fact that unarmed people, young people armed with stones, women, even children are out on the streets facing down this massive army with guns is something that nobody in the world cannot help but salute. However it is up to the people who are leading this struggle, it is up to the people who are thinking to take it further, because you cannot just leave it there—because the Indian state, you know what its greatest art is—it’s not killing people—that’s its second greatest art, the first greatest art is to wait, to wait and wait and wait and hope that everybody’s energies will just go down. Crisis management, sometimes it’s an election, sometimes it’s something else, but the point is that people have to look at more than a direct confrontation on the streets. You have to ask yourselves why—the people of Nagaland must ask themselves why there’s a Naga battalion committing the most unbelievable atrocities in Chhatisgarh. After spending so much time in Kashmir watching the CRPF and the BSF and the Rashtriya Rifles lock down that valley, the first time I went to Chhattisgarh, on the way I saw Kashmiri BSF, Kashmiri CRPF on the way to kill people in Chhatisgarh. You’ve got to ask yourself—there’s more to resistance than throwing stones—these things can’t be allowed to happen—”how is the state using people?” The colonial state whether it was the British state in India or whether it’s the Indian state in Kashmir or Nagaland or in Chhattisgarh, they are in the business of creating elites to manage their occupations, so you have to know your enemy and you have to be able to respond in ways where you’re tactical, where you’re intelligent, where you’re political—internationally, locally and in every other way—you have to make your alliances, because otherwise you’ll be like fish swimming furiously around a fish tank bombing the walls and getting tired in the end because those walls are very, very strong. So I’ll just leave with this: Think about justice and don’t pick and choose your injustices. Don’t say that “I want justice but it’s ok if the next guy doesn’t have it, or the next woman doesn’t have it.” Because justice is the keystone to integrity and integrity is the key stone to real resistance.

Thank you.

 

India Bans US Professor from Kashmir, threatens Indian writer with sedition charges

(I received this letter last night)

India Bans US Professor from Kashmir, threatens Indian writer with sedition charges

November 2, 2010

On November 1, 2010, shortly after 5.10 am, Professor Richard Shapiro was denied entry by the Immigration Authorities in New Delhi. Richard Shapiro is the Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco. He is also the life partner/husband of Angana Chatterji, who is the Co-convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir (IPTK) and also Professor of Anthropology at CIIS.

Richard Shapiro, a US Citizen, has been accompanying Angana Chatterji, a citizen of India and a permanent resident of the US, to India since 1997, and has travelled here approximately thirty times. His area of work is not India or Kashmir, but focuses primarily on issues of race, class, gender, and alliance building in the United States, and discourses on power and subjectivity. He is not someone who has made India a “career,” but invested in thinking and learning through the various struggles that Angana has been a part of across India.

Since July 2006, Richard regularly travelled to Kashmir, and interacted with various human rights defenders, scholars, youth, to bear witness and learn from their experiences. He has been conscientious in not violating the conditions of his tourist visa. He has not participated in formal conferences, and has not conducted any applied research in Kashmir or in India. He also helped form a Jewish-Muslim Friendship Circle. Richard Shapiro had written an op-ed in 2009 and another in September 2010. These were analytical pieces based on articles and newspaper reports, and not on primary research that had been conducted by him. Any scholar can do that. This is a matter of academic freedom, and beyond the control of states and their desire to regulate thinking on the injustices they perpetrate.

This Monday, Richard Shapiro had travelled a long way from San Francisco to be with Angana Chatterji, who was traveling to Kashmir for work, to think and learn. When he first presented his passport to the Immigration Authorities, he was stamped an entry permit. Then, they started processing Angana Chatterji’s passport. She has been stopped regularly since the inception of IPTK in April 2008. As they paused over her passport, the Immigration Officer again asked Richard Shapiro for his passport. Then, he was informed that he may not enter India, and that the ban was indefinite. The Immigration Authorities insisted that Richard return immediately. They stamped “cancelled” on the entry stamp they had provided minutes ago. They did not stamp “cancel” on his visa.   However, Professor Shapiro was not deported. His visa was not cancelled. The Immigration Authorities refused to pay for his return airfare. He was made to leave at 11.50 am that same morning. The Immigration Authorities refused to give any reason, while stating that Professor Shapiro had not been charged with anything.

While no charges were framed against Professor Shapiro, the persons at the airport were categorical in stating that he is not to return to India, impinging on his academic freedom, freedom of movement, and rights to travel
with his legal partner, and visit his family in Kolkata.

The Government of India has initiated various “accesses” and confidence building measures without the consent of the Kashmiri people. With friends like Richard Shapiro, we are able to think and learn together. This is what is
urgently required to build an atmosphere in which Kashmiris are not isolated from new ideas, other worlds, from the friendship and hospitality offered by those who seek out a place that has been forsaken by so many. The ban on Professor Shapiro days before the visit of the US President speaks volumes to the arrogance of the Indian State. It is ironic too because the Government of India desires that the US Government grant more visas to Indians, even as it just evicted a US Citizen without warning or due cause.

The ban on Richard Shapiro also further seeks to intimidate and target Angana Chatterji and the work of IPTK with Parvez Imroz, Gautam Navlakha, Zahir-Ud-Din, Mihir Desai, and Khurram Parvez. JKCCS condemns this ban.

The ban on Richard Shapiro is also a ban on Kashmiris, condemning them to isolation.

The Indian state has targeted those that have been outspoken on injustices and military governance in Kashmir. Since 2008, Parvez Imroz and his family have been attacked in their home. Angana Chatterji and Zahir-Ud-Din have been charged under Section 505 of the Ranbir Penal Code, with writing to incite against the Indian State. Last week, Arundhati Roy has been threatened with charges of sedition. JKCCS condemns the attack on the home of Arundhati Roy in New Delhi, and the continued targeting of her stand on Kashmir, and the dangerous role being played by the mainstream Indian media in inciting violence against her.

These actions speak to the intent of the Indian State as it continues it impunity rule in Kashmir, with deliberate actions to isolate Kashmiris from the world and the world from Kashmiris. In the past, several academics and
journalists have been banned from entering India, and numerous Kashmiri scholars, journalists, and activists have also been banned from leaving Kashmir to travel abroad.

Sincerely,

Adv. Parvez Imroz

President, JKCCS
Khurram Parvez
T: +91-194-2482820
M: +91-9419013553
www.jkccs.org

Arundhati Roy’s public statement about the prospect of being arrested

STATEMENT BY ARUNDHATI ROY

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