It is not fair to tamper with truth. It is equally unfair to silence a voice that speaks up for a tormented people. Intimidation may or may not work, but it will certainly subdue the fiery spirit of this and other writers who wish to draw attention to injustices in Kashmir or elsewhere.
By Ehtisham Amir
Lies can’t be hidden or hushed up for ever. This principle applies to states as well as it applies to individuals. And the worst lies pop up to surface at the worst possible time. Kashmir, the jewel in the crown of India , has attracted enough light in recent days. It is the one bleeding wound of Indian democracy which refuses to heal. Indians accrued maximum advantage to apply healing touch to Kashmir in the wake of 9/11. The struggle for self-determination was made synonym to terrorism using zero tolerance of the world to any kind of violence in the post 9/11 world. But such cosmetic treatment did not heal the wound or address the underlying causes of unrest in Kashmir. Since 2008, Kashmir is radiating signs of extreme unrest. And this time round, it is not violent or militant movement which could be branded as terrorism. Instead, it is a peaceful movement, led by none, except the ideology of liberating masses from the shackles of Indian occupation. Daily protests, sit-ins, funeral congregations are its tools of expression instead of guns and bombs. Highhandedness of the Indian law enforcement agencies is providing fuel to fire.
The Indian propaganda and smart diplomacy were successful in portraying the Kashmir movement of 1989-2001 as “foreign sponsored” “terrorist activity” and all possible pejorative nouns were labeled. But now, even the saner elements within India are coming out in open to refute the Indian state propaganda about Kashmir. Ms Arundhati Roy, an acclaimed writer and social worker, who won various international accolades for her conscientious voice, has been booked on sedition charges. What sedition, if a person of conscious lays bare a historical lie? Moreover, her comments were nothing newer that what she has been saying since long time. In 2008, she had almost uttered same words about Kashmir . But then, India was supremely confident that it had squashed the Kashmir uprising and such lonely voices were considered no danger. But then came fateful year of 2010 and world is witnessing a resurgence of anti-India sentiment in Kashmir . Despite creating unsafe working environments for media and reporters through various explicit and implicit methods, the Kashmir movement has started attracting greater media attention. Under tremendous pressure, Indian state is now displaying signs of perplexity as to how to handle resurgent Kashmir movement. In this state of frustration, it has chosen to silence dissenting voices through coercive means.
But Indian state apparatus acted very smart in Roy ’s case. She participated in a conference on Kashmir on October 26, a day prior to October 27, which is mourned all over Kashmir as a “Black Day”. There was sudden uproar in rightwing Indian media to harass her and bully her on her remarks. Feverish pitch resonated in government’s corridors, too. But India was then busy preparing for visit of Obama and New Delhi did not want a controversy over Kashmir coinciding with his visit. To many people in and outside India , government’s slow reaction was portrayed as ‘strength of Indian democracy’, ‘liberalism’ and ‘tolerance’ of dissent. But as the events unfold now, it was only a cloak to hide the dagger. Had Roy been booked on sedition charges during or prior to Obama’s visit, Indians would have been at an awkward position to defend their historical lie.
Now that India has gained from the visit whatever it intended to, there is no fun displaying benevolence to a religious minority person for revealing India ’s heinous face. Axe has now fallen on Ms Roy. It is surely likely to create ripples in global media. World would witness how India treats dissenting voice while championing the cause of “the oppressed” world over. Pakistanis haven’t forgotten the naked Indian aggression against erstwhile East Pakistan in the name of alleviating suffering of Bengali people, under state oppression. When news first broke that Ms Roy may be booked for sedition charges, she defended her stance in a written statement as “I said what the million of people here say everyday. I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world”. This is not a Pakistani voice but an Indian one. This by no stretch of imagination can be termed as mere propaganda since Dr Arundhati Roy, has enough fame already. At the heart of this controversy and xenophobic uproar is her statement or in fact a line from her speech “Kashmir has never been an integral part of India . It is a historical fact. Even Indian government has accepted this”. That’s it for so much of furor. She only said what is historically correct.
Dr Arundhati Roy has been used as a decoy to divert attention of Indian masses from other burning issues. Timings of the uproar coincide with the BJP and RSS coming under immense pressure on their involvement or complicity in fomenting and orchestrating anti-Muslim riots in the recent past. The probes by Indian CBI had pointed on pointing fingers at involvement of BJP and its militant subsidiary RSS in carnage of Godhra and false flag violence attributed to Muslims. Before the storm could gather and unravel the BJP plans to pitch Mr Modi (as candidate for PM in next general elections & controversial CM of Indian state of Gujarat ), issue of Ms Roy was blown out of proportion.
What is more surprising, and it has been pointed out by Ms Roy, that responsibility of punishing her for her remarks on Kashmir has been taken up by the rightwing parties in connivance with rightwing media. Her house was vandalized few days after she made the comment, and a media van was recording the lynch mob. She very aptly described the action as “fabricating the news instead of reporting it”. This collusion of rightwing storm troopers and media are nothing strange to minorities of India . Ms Roy, being a Christian, can easily be framed in any charge which will then be shoved down the throats of Indian masses with the assistance of collaborative media.