By Ehsaan qazi
Renowned Indian novelist and political activist, Arundhati Roy Friday called for the end of the Indian occupation of Kashmir.
Arundhati Roy made a strong case for Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination before an American audience, with an impassioned call for an end to the brute Indian occupation of Kashmir. “I think that the people of Kashmir have the right to self- determination—they have the right to choose who they want to be, and how they want to be,”he said in the course of a discussion on ‘Kashmir: The Case for Freedom’ at Asia Society. “Kashmir is one of the most protracted and bloody occupations in the world and one of the most ignored,” Roy told a large number of people jampacking an auditorium. “While India brutalizes Kashmir in so many ways, that occupation brutalizes the Indians,” said. “It (the occupation) turns us into a people who are able to bear a kind of morally reprehensible behaviour done in our name, and the fact that so few Indians will stand up and say anything about it is such a sad thing.”
She called for the demilitarization of Kashmir as a step towards peace in the region. “Why the international community doesn’t see that when you have two nuclear-armed states, like Pakistan and India, there couldn’t be a better thing than a buffer state like Kashmir between them, instead of it being a conflict that is going to spark a nuclear war.”
In her remarks, she lamented the fact that so little is known about the atrocities being committed by more than half a million Indian troops, the continuing repression and indignities let loose on Kashmiri men, women and children.
More than 700,000 troops were concentrated in the tiny valley, with check points at every nook and corner of Kashmiri towns and cities, The huge Indian presence is in sharp contrast with 160,000 US troops in Iraq, she said.
Two other Indian scholars—noted writer Pankaj Mishra and a Ph.D student, Mohamad Junaid ,from Indian-held Kashmir—also deplored the fact that the international community gave such little attention to the suffering of the Kashmiri people.
Both Mishra and Junaid read out their respective papers containing moving stories of the Kashmiri victims of brutalities of Indian occupation forces. Under the Indian military rule in Kashmir, Roy added, freedom of speech is non-existent, and human rights abuses were routine. Elections were rigged and press controlled. She said the lives of Kashmiris were made miserable by gun-toting security personnel were harassed and terrorized people with impunity.
Disappearances were almost a daily occurrence as also kidnapping, arrests, fake encounters and torture. Mass graves have been discovered and the conscience of the world remained unstirred. Roy attributed the apathy towards Kashmir, especially in the western world, to their pursuit of commercial interests in India where they were more eager to sell their goods than human rights.
India had also successfully used the argument that if it gave up Kashmir, another Islamic state would emerge—a prospect the West feared. That’s why India had made no effort to bring back to the valley the Kashmiri Pandits who fled to camps in New Delhi at the height of the 1998 uprising in the state. “Aren’t 7000,000 troops enough to protect the Pandits?”
“Even as the world speaks about the Arab spring—three years ago there was massive unarmed uprising in the streets of Kashmir,” she said, adding that the Indian army or the security forces were not looking away; they were killing young children.
Roy acknowledged that Islamic sentiment was prevalent in Kashmir, but the Kashmiris were not radical Islamists, Wahabis or jihadists as India portrayed them. In this regard, she strongly deplored the Indian attempts to demonize Kashmiris who were moderate Muslims. She reminded that before his election, President Barack Obama had pledged to resolve the international dispute of Kashmir between Pakistan and India. But seeing “consternation” in India over the remark, Obama hasn’t said a word about Kashmir since, she said, adding that he was more interested in selling military aircraft and Boeings to India.Despite the threat of being slapped with sedition cases, Roy told the Americans that Kashmir was not an integral part of India, as New Delhi claimed. She reiterated that Kashmir was never part of India historically.
Secularism was a misnomer in India, she said, citing the killing of Muslims and other minorities across the country. Was the killing spree in Gujarat several years ago represented secularism, she asked. India should find some other word for secularism.
Source: Frontline Kashmir