India's Arundhati Roy Moment

India’s post- partition generation may find it hard to let go Kashmir, its gene-next, however, has no time or patience, much less need, for retaining an appendage that it can do easily, and arguably profitably, without

From the momentous 1947 to, what should be termed as, ‘Arundhati Roy moment’ in 2010, it has been quite a journey; a journey that started with the theft of a nation through the fraudulent ‘instrument of accession’ in 1947. It was, at first, the snatching of the national- territorial and political Azaadi of a Kashmiri, and then the complete burial of his and her deep sentiment over the last 63 years. During this period, through a thick and black curtain of propaganda, the Indian State has quite effectively covered the repressive and bloody footprints of India’s military machine in Kashmir.

The politico-military strategists have undoubtedly ingeniously managed to keep the Indian publics uninformed about the goings-on in Kashmir. The periodic unrest in the valley has been successfully passed out as a Pakistani-sponsored agenda to weaken India. The unsuspecting Indians have understandably fallen to the attractive bait in the backdrop of the traumatic ‘vivisection’ of the sub-continent that was touted as solely M. A. Jinah’s demonic ‘fault’.

When the anti-occupation resentment detoured through the militant expressway in 1989, the Indian State bulldozed the rout, and brutally blockaded the Azaadi caravan, mining the landscape with the specter of ‘Islamic terrorism’. While India pretended to ‘shine’ elsewhere, the only light through this shining darkness for a Kashmiri was the shine from the barrels of the army’s guns- – witnessing the cold-blooded decimation of more than 110,000 of its sons and daughters. The common Indian was choreographically blind-sighted to the shenanigans in Kashmir.

Almost simultaneously, something else happened as well. The very transforming events of Information and Communication Technology revolution that ceremoniously thrust India on to the world stage was soon to unceremoniously flip the cover off the propaganda machinery in Kashmir. And, to borrow from Yeats, with an apology:: “All changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty [was] born!”

The deeply buried yearning for Azaadi came to a boil in 2008, catalyzed by a seemingly unrelated and trivial land dispute. The print and electronic media swooned on to the streets of Kashmir discovering first hand – – and probably for the first time- – that New Delhi’s penchant for brutalization of the agitation was no match to the enduring- – and caustic- – sentiment of Azaadi. Such was the turn of events that some even hinted at ‘thinking the unthinkable’ on Kashmir.

Perhaps persuaded by the arrogance of the ‘shining India’ grandiose, New Delhi’s policy makers made yet another attempt at tomfoolery of elections. Through this absurdity, the Indian State attempted to hood wink the world opinion; and through this instrument of mass manipulation, unsuccessfully attempted to pour cold water on the raging fire. The out-of-control fire, not unexpectedly for the Kashmiris, proved to be too fierce to douse. New Delhi- – by now ‘groping for a solution’ – -decided to yet again trample the Kashmiris voice under the jackboot. Several thousand military men, in addition to 750,000 already in the theater, were given marching orders to subdue the enemy- – Kashmir.

Thus came the torrential rain of bullets and teargas canisters during the summer 2010, removing from the scene Wamiq Farooq, and other 110 budding roses and tulips of Kashmir- – teenage and under teen girls and boys, who dared the Indian State with stones. While dismissing stone pelting as the handiwork of sponsored hooligans, sporting for fun, the Indian politicians, and the media, had unwittingly, slowly but surely, roused the writhing conscience of silent millions across India. Thus, several hundred thousand Arundati Roys were born, ready to bat as much for the Kashmir’s Azadi from India as they are for India’s Azaadi from Kashmir.

The ‘disturbing news’ from the streets of Kashmir is now being articulated by those who have, however belatedly, understood this inconvenient reality about Kashmir: Kashmir has always been an integral appendage but never an ‘integral part’ of India. Even Omar Abdullah, and his nemesis, the BJP, have had their ‘Arundhati Roy moment’. While the former has questioned Kashmir’s ‘merger’ with the Indian union, in the State Assembly, the latter have echoed Kashmiri’s ‘Azaadi’ sentiment in the national Parliament. Even the interlocutors, as unwelcome as they are in Kashmir, have had their Arundhati moment- – one describing Kashmir as an international ‘dispute’ and the other courageous enough to touch the forbidden apple of ‘Azaadi’; her semantics about its meaning notwithstanding.

To hear the Indians using phrases such as ‘Kashmir dispute’, ‘accession or merger’, Azaadi, ‘role of Pakistan in resolving Kashmir’, and ‘changes in the Indian constitution’ etc. in a matter of four months since June 2010, after 63 years of ‘integral part’ rant is by no standards a mean achievement; This is no less than a paradigm shift. The post partition generation may find it hard to let go Kashmir, its gene-next, however, has no time or patience, much less need, for retaining an appendage that it can do easily, and arguably profitably, without.

The Indian State has a much larger stake in settling the dispute over Kashmir than it has allowed us- – the Kashmiris and the Indians- – to believe so far. Its future lies not in eternally holding onto an integral appendage that is bleeding it from inside, rather it resides in becoming an integral part of an international system where its voice is heard as an equal among the tallest of nations: India has the potential, it has the wherewithal.

When Galileo was threatened with persecution for his iconoclastic views on the relationship between the sun and the earth, his considered response was this: “What would you say of the learned who… have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry? …if they had seen what we see, they would have judged as we judge.”

The visionaries like Galileo and Roy come in a millennium. Enjoy the company, Arundhati! Your fearless expostulation of the explosive situation in Kashmir, though not new, is more a favor to India than it is to Kashmir.

T. Shah is a citizen writer. Feed back at: