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]


  1. I think we are making a grave error in thinking that secession of Kashmir will end all our troubles. I think that will be the beginning of the end. Why because it is common to hear Malayalis talk about Kerala being a separate state. And I have seen Maharashtra can be easily instigated to feel the same way. We have in our genes to fight with each other, that is all we have ever done and if Kashmir goes, apart from the bickering that will continue on the Jammu-Kashmir border, there will also be increased incidences of armed encroachment in Punjab and Rajasthan. No, I do not think any part of India should ever be seceded. Kashmir was not always like this, when my sister went to Kashmir in 1985 (I think), the animosity had just begun, and because we handled it so badly, with total disregard for human just kept getting worse. And this can happen in any part of India, no matter what the history of that place.
    I am not talking of patriotism. I am just terrified of the consequences of any such secession. We are so ignorant we do not realise what will happen if this country breaks into little states...we will have Ranveer Senas, MNSenas, ShivSenas, Bajrang and VHPs ruling us. That will truly be the end.

  2. Yaamyn, I find this piece beautifully articulated.

    Like you, I am surprised and glad as well that people are increasingly becoming a lot less het up by the very mention of 'azadi'.

    While I feel a little too uninformed (having been away from India and the thick of things for a couple of years with only access to the foreign media and the internet) to accurately gauge how the general public feels about this, I am glad that there are sensible, moderate voices (like yours) that are being heard over all the political din..

    I'm glad our collective conscience finally seems to be kicking into gear (judging by how many blogs are talking about this)

    Thanks for voicing this. It informed as well as opined.

  3. @indian home maker:

    I understand your concerns about a 'domino' effect in the event of Kashmir seceding from India.

    But you must also understand that Kashmir cannot be treated same as any other state in India for the simple fact that it was a precondition for the temporary accession to the Indian union that Kashmir maintain its autonomy.

    It's sort of like a contract between the Indian people and the Kashmiri - which, unfortunately, the Indians have failed to carry out despite 61 years of 'Independence'

    You must also understand that while Kerala and Punjab and Maharashtra have exercised their rights to join the Indian Union out of free will, the Kashmiris - even after 61 years - are not being allowed to make their choice.

    :-) While it may not solve all of India's problems, it'll definitely be a first step towards righting a historical wrong!

    Ultimately, the choice must lie with the Kashmiris, neh?

    @mercury: Yes, it's definitely a positive change.. Yet, it's nowhere near gaining the kind of momentun it deserves!

    Whenever a moderate voice calls for reason.. there're far more extremist, jingoist cries of outrage.. and a need to keep their false pride.

    Thanks for voicing your opinions!

  4. There are other voices saying what Arundhati is saying. Malavika Sanghvi says pretty much the same thing ( Omar Abdullah has been requesting autonomy as well.

    All voices of reason are drowned out by te loud rhetoric of people who know nothing about the ground realities.

  5. hey yaamyn, before i comment on your post (which i will do shortly and after i read your response...could you please enlighten me as to what and who do you define as a kashmiri.

  6. Among these voices you actually hear things like 'Kashmiris are pampered' and 'treated with kid gloves'.. sheesh!

    They have no idea what they're talking.

  7. Well written...

    In fact I wrote a similar poast few days ago

    But I was attacked from all sides ,that I am being anti-national,Im being extremista talking againat national integrity..bla bla bla..

    In fact I was only trying to share the concern that the people of kashmir have to suffer simply for the sake of our security concern..

    Dispute for 'Azad Kashmir' can't be compared with those outcries from punjab,assam or Maharsatra,as the later ones are simply anti-national..They are part of India,whereas,Kashmir is/was a temporary setup done by Hari Singh,bcoz he needed our support to fight against riot then..that doesn't mean Kashmir is ours..

    I believe that my antion,india,is mighty enough to take care of seciruty concerns.By claming that "if kashmir is gone,we are in danger",We are doing nothing better than Amrica who bombs every corner of the world,in the name of their own secirity..

    As UN says it,let people of Kashmir decide what they want..

    Good day

  8. One thing I'd like to point out is that we are probably taking this patriotism thing too seriously.
    We never heard an outcry when UP was sliced into Uttaranchal & UP, or when MP when sliced into Chhatisgarh & MP, or when Jharkhand was carved out from the heart of Bihar. Why? Simply because they're still within our territorial borders?
    Is it possible that the UP-ite, MP-ite & Bihari felt hurt at the division?

    If that is the case, why is there so much of a fuss over Kashmir?
    Our uber-nationalism?

    I'm just asking. I personally don't want to lose Kashmir as a state.


Apologies but Moderation is a necessary evil, what with spam, bots, flamers & trolls abounding.
The publishing of any comment that is abusive or way off-topic remains at the discretion of the administrator.
Thank you for commenting.