Sunday, August 31, 2008

Azadi for Kashmir

Just some days back, I picked up a copy of the Outlook magazine - and was pleasantly surprised.

The cover story was 'Azadi for Kashmir, Azadi for India' - a compelling essay by Arundhati Roy on the Kashmir dispute and the latest clamour for 'Azadi' in the valley.

The essay touched on the plight of the Kashmiri, the life under torture and army cruelty and presented the brutally suppressed Kashmiri's arguments for the right to freedom.

The article came out amid the massive outbreak of protests in the valley demanding freedom.
This time, it wasn't a mob that could be shrugged off as 'militants' or 'ISI backed miscreants'.. but hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris pouring out into the streets, marching peacefully and fearlessly demanding their rights. It's simply not common for an Indian to use mainstream Indian media to launch such a scathing attack on the Indian state and its repressive, inhuman policies in Kashmir.

But that was not why I was surprised. It was the letters to the Editor in that issue that I found very refreshingly interesting. For the first time ever, I was hearing Indian voices actually suggesting that perhaps India should consider withdrawing from the valley.

For the first time, in a mainstream magazine, I read letters from regular Indian citizens asking valid questions pointed at themselves - at the Indian government and its role in Kashmir - Asking if India had any moral authority left to cling on to Kashmir, that too at such a heavy price; Yes, Indians speaking FOR the Kashmiris right to self-assertion.

There was none of that Pak-bashing and breast-thumping emotional outbursts of patriotism (that's so much on display in times of war, cricket tournaments and discussions of Kashmir) filling the reams. Instead, intelligent voices pleading reason, fairness and justice were prevalent in that issue. Humanist, rational voices.


Everytime I try to sneak in the Kashmir debate onto an Internet forum, I'm immediately attacked and vilified by numerous angered Indians I didn't mean to offend. It wasn't necessarily even the right wingers or Hindutvis who reacted with such vehement outrage. The average Indian will frown at you if you so much as suggested that perhaps the Indian state might be at fault in Kashmir.

Hundreds of Human Rights organizations - including Amnesty International - have come down heavily on the Indian army for their brutal practices in the valley. When I try to assert these facts and the fact that despite numerous UN resolutions to that effect, there's still no likelihood of a referendum/plebiscite to be held in Kashmir, I normally face a deluge of angry retorts:
  • 'ISI has infiltrated all the Human rights organizations'.
  • 'Kashmiris want to be with India.. it's just a handful of militants who want secession'..
  • 'Indian army is a noble and efficient organization doing a lot of sacrifice in the valley to protect the Kashmiris'
  • 'India spends way more on Kashmir than any other state, so they don't have any right to protest'..
  • "Pakistani elements.."
  • 'Referendum should be held for all 1 billion Indians...'
  • 'First, the Kashmiri Pundits have to be rehabilitated'
  • And of course, the easy way out. 'Arundhati Roy is anti-national!'.
I was surprised then, to see a section of the Indian public so openly advocating a just solution for the Kashmiris. It was also surprising to see the Indian government showing restraint and talking with the protestors - and letting them protest peacefully among chants of 'Azadi'.

Well, for a while at least.

Then the crackdown began - 20 battalions of CRPF troops entered Srinagar overnight. Curfew was imposed. Recently introduced mobile services were interrupted. Separatist leaders were rounded up and arrested. SMS facilities, cable TV and Internet were shut down. All the Foreign journalists in the valley were expelled and local newspapers banned. Several people have been killed and hundreds injured.

A column in the New Indian Express attacked Arundhati Roy. In the absence of any valid arguments to counter her solid reasons, it sought instead to sully her image and thus, her opinion. (It's the same treatment even I face on Internet forums. When there's a complete absence of counter-arguments, the debate turns into a nasty, personal mudslinging match!) Instead, the column provided some statistics that milk production was somewhat higher in Kashmir(or something to that effect..) and thereby, Kashmiris "weren't hurt" - and thus Arundhati Roy was clearly wrong.

The Indian government has once again tried to stifle the Kashmiri voice. The discovering of mass graves of thousands of unidentified bodies in Kashmir is only a slight indicator of the army atrocities. Tens of thousands have been killed, thousands have gone missing, rapes and executions are common. The government spends a shocking amount of money and resources into maintaining it's heavy military presence in the most densely militarized zone in the world.

Against this background, the Sangh Parivar and the VHP/RSS in Jammu continue to carry out blatantly communal acts of war against the Kashmiris by blocking the only highway linking the valley to India - and the government has proved quite inefficient against them. Despite the decades, India has failed to win over the hearts and minds of the Kashmiris. They still demand Azadi - and a right to self determination.

I've always noticed that the Indian public is, on an average, very reluctant (and in most cases, too ignorant of facts) to criticize itself, but quick to point fingers at the same time. I've seen numerous Indian commentators on forums pleading - rightly - for the sake of justice for the thousands of Kashmiri pundits who have been forced to flee the valley. But these same voices will continue to live in denial and delusion when it comes to admitting that there exists a massive human rights problem in Kashmir, and a highly repressive state.

The first step towards finding a solution is acknowledgement of the problem. [To quote from an example in Ms. Roy's essay.. trucks in the Indian mainland carry quotes as frightening as 'Dhoodh maango toh kheer denge, Kashmir maango toh cheer denge!']

I only wish this topic is discussed more extensively in the Indian media and public, with more reason and logic and less jingoistic pseudo-patriotic fervor. I strongly recommend that everyone read Arundhati Roy's poignant, effective essay - and educate themselves on the ground realities in Kashmir.

Truly said that India needs freedom from Kashmir as much as Kashmir needs Azadi from India. If not for reasons of justice and compassion, then at least for the large financial burden and drain on resources that retaining Kashmir under Indian occupation has proved. I urge citizens all over the country to take a moral stand and take a lead in giving Kashmiris their long suppressed right to self determination and dignity.

[P.S. - This article is NOT written by 1conoclast, nor necessarily endorsed by him. All abuse/brickbats/hate mail/comments are to be directed to ME]

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Award! An Award!!

Never did I believe that this day would come. Not that I didn't dream of it, I just didn't believe it would happen! Never mind what they say about this award.
Thank you Dear IHM (as I refer to you). Thank you for making my day!
So I have to pass this on now? Here goes!
I would like the following to have this award:
The Mutiny. Obviously it's originator chacko deserves a mention, but it's current commander-in-chief 2S or Sandy has to be one of the funniest writers ever; not just in the blogosphere! Here's a sample.
There are other bloggers like Yaamyn & Ashish Gorde that write & write well & I would've liked to give them the award, yet the passion & logic displayed in their eruditely argued comments on the Mutiny is missing from their blogs. So while they as individuals are deserving of this award, their blogs are on the shortlist until they evince the same passion that is inside them.
I would like to give this award to IHM, but she's already won it!
Anyone think of giving it to Mr. Bachchan, Aamir Khan or Omar Abduallah yet?
So congratulations to all the winners before me. And to those who win after me. Have a great night!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Citizens for Peace

Most regular bloggers & blog readers will know of Citizens for Peace.

Theirs is an honest, earnest attempt to use the resources at their disposal to give the peace-loving Indian a voice in these days of violence & madness.
Their site is loaded with essays & comments from modern day intellectuals and if you choose to visit them you will have lots to read.
I have linked to them in the past, and I should more often.

Here are two of their latest offerings:

In the first one Ms. Azmi very eloquently takes on her detractors (unfortunately the mainstream media didn't carry this essay). An excerpt: "In the same interview that has become the subject of such mud-slinging, I have also stated that the Indian Muslim feels safer in India than elsewhere because he has a stake and a space in the country’s democracy...... That the time has come for Muslims to stop looking at themselves only as victims and do some soul-searching on the need for reform within the community. Why then does only one remark get pulled out of the interview and become the subject of such acrimony?"

Please read & pass on. Do spread the good word. :-)
And since this is a very relevant topic these days, here's Malavika Sanghvi on Kashmir.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A First for this Blog...!

In my various flights around the blogosphere, I met more vultures than doves flying around, more blind bats than wise owls.

Only recently did I serendipitously bump into someone who has the same pro-peace, proequality, humanist approach that I've had; the same well informed keen intellect & the same passion for fairness & justice to argue an unfair allegation as ardently as I do!

I've done the best thing I could do in the circumstances; add him as a contributor to this blog.

Ladies & Gentlemen, please welcome Yaamyn!!!