by Arundhati Roy
For the past sixty days or so, since about the end of June, the people of
Kashmir have been free. Free in the most profound sense. They have shrugged
off the terror of living their lives in the gun-sights of half-a-million
heavily-armed soldiers in the most densely militarised zone in the world.
After 18 years of administering a military occupation, the Indian
government's worst nightmare has come true. Having declared that the
militant movement has been crushed, it is now faced with a non-violent mass
protest, but not the kind it knows how to manage.
The Indian government's worst nightmare has come true. Having declared that
the militant movement has been crushed, it is now faced with a non-violent
mass protest, but not the kind it knows how to manage.
This one is nourished by people's memory of years of repression in which
tens of thousands have been killed, thousands have been 'disappeared',
hundreds of thousands tortured, injured, raped and humiliated.
. . . an ill-conceived move over the transfer of 100 acres of state forest
land to the Amarnath Shrine Board (which manages the annual Hindu pilgrimage
to a cave deep in the Kashmir Himalayas) suddenly became the equivalent of
tossing a lit match into a barrel of petrol. Until 1989, the Amarnath
pilgrimage used to attract about 20,000 people who travelled to the Amarnath
cave over a period of about two weeks. In 1990, when the overtly Islamic
militant uprising in the Valley coincided with the spread of virulent
Hindutva in the Indian plains, the number of pilgrims began to increase
exponentially. By 2008, more than 5,00,000 pilgrims visited the Amarnath
cave in large groups, their passage often sponsored by Indian business
houses. To many people in the Valley, this dramatic increase in numbers was
seen as an aggressive political statement by an increasingly Hindu-
fundamentalist Indian State.
. . . the voice that the Government of India has tried so hard to silence in
Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed
people have come out to reclaim their cities, their streets and mohallas.
They have simply overwhelmed the heavily armed security forces by their
sheer numbers, and with a remarkable display of raw courage. . . .
At the heart of it all is a moral question. Does any government have the
right to take away people's liberty with military force?
India needs azadi [freedom] from Kashmir just as much - if not more - than
Kashmir needs azadi from India.
Eric Margolis, "The Jerusalem of the
Himalayas," Toronto Sun, August 13, 2000
Angana Chatterji, "Disquiet Ghosts: Mass graves in Indian Kashmir," Etala'at Daily,
July 9, 2008
[The poll found that people in both India and Pakistan have expressed a
readiness to have the Kashmiri people decide their own fate, adding that if
the Kashmiris chose independence, a majority of Indians and Pakistanis would
find it tolerable. In India, the opinion poll was conducted by reputed
agency C-Voter, while in Pakistan, AC Nielson gathered views on behalf of
the WorldPublicOpinion.org polling site.
The poll revealed that more
than half of the population of India and Pakistan were open to a range of
possible outcomes for Kashmir. It found no strong majority opposition on
either side to Kashmir becoming an independent country or to dividing the
state between Pakistan and India.--Iftikhar Gilani, "Indians want Kashmiris to decide own fate:
poll," Daily Times, July 18, 2008]
[The recent trouble started when the state government said it would grant 99
acres (40 hectares) of forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board.
Muslims launched violent protests, saying the allocation of land was aimed
at altering the demographic balance in the area.
The government said the board needed the land to erect huts and toilets for
But following days of protests, the government rescinded the order,
prompting Hindu groups to mount violent protests of their own.--"Kashmir under
indefinite curfew," BBC News, August 24, 2008]
[But it fails to understand that peace isn't just the absence of fighting.
It's in the political details: withdrawing the half-million Indian troops
who still occupy Kashmir, developing the local economy and, most
importantly, accounting for what human-rights groups say are widespread
abuses committed against Kashmiri civilians by the military.--Jyoti Thottam,
"Valley of Tears," TIME,
September 4, 2008]
[In a recent column, "Think the Unthinkable," in the mass circulation
English daily Hindustan Times, columnist Vir Sanghvi posed the question: Why
is India still hanging on to Kashmir if the Kashmiris do not want to have
anything to do with India?--S. Amjad Hussain, "Dispute over Kashmir takes a new, independent
direction," Toledo Blade, September 8, 2008]
[THE Jammu province of the State of Jammu and Kashmir has a regional
identity with a rich past and a composite culture. It has produced scholars,
artists, poets and writers of high distinction. After 1947, the Sangh
Parivar foisted a communal identity on it precisely at a time when Sheikh
Muhammad Abdullah, the foremost leader of Jammu and Kashmir State with a
Muslim majority, moved for its accession to India. He was attracted by its
secular ideals symbolised by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. . . .
In October 1987, Jammu erupted in fury when Farooq Abdullah, at Rajiv
Gandhi's behest, ended the Darbar Move by which the government functioned
alternately from Srinagar and Jammu every six months. It was not communal
but regional self-assertion. But, in August 2008, it was not Jammu but the
communal forces there that took to the streets under a false regional garb.
The issue of allotment of land to the Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), a
legacy of the former Governor S.K. Sinha's communal agenda, was badly
handled by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad for his own ends in a manner that
offended Muslim and Hindu feelings.
But while in the valley the people led the leaders and the campaign was
spontaneous, in Jammu the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) acted after
preparation and in pursuit of its resolution of June 30, 2002, for the
break-up of the State into three parts. New Delhi's brutal clamp-down in the
valley on August 24, following mammoth and unarmed rallies, is in glaring
contrast to its kid-glove treatment of Jammu. It is a replay of what
happened in 1953--A. G. Noorani, "WHY
JAMMU ERUPTS: Is New Delhi about to repeat Nehru's blunder of
1953?," Frontline, September 13-26, 2008]
Bappa Majumdar, "India
to hold polls in troubled Jammu and Kashmir," Reuters, October 19, 2008
revises Kashmir death toll to 47,000," Reuters, November 21, 2008
Emily Wax, "U.S. Removes Kashmir From Envoy's Mandate;
India Exults," Washington Post, January 30, 2009
[Intense United States efforts and assurances have put Pakistan and India on
track to renew their dialogue process over key contentious issues, such as
divided Kashmir.--Syed Saleem Shahzad, "Pakistan
turns on its jihadi assets," Asia Times, July 30, 2009]