The Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] seems to have unleashed its woman power against its current bˆte noire: Arundhati Roy. About a hundred activists of Mahila Morcha attacked Ms Roy’s house in Delhi yesterday [Oct 30]. One is left wondering why political parties and their outfits cannot take the views of people like Ms Roy at an intellectual level and counter them intellectually. Why should intelligent opinions be met with physical violence?
What really amazes one is the presence of three TV channels with their OB vans ready to cover the assault live. Wouldn’t any responsible citizen first report a possible assault to the police? NDTV, Times Now and News 24 chose to rush with their accoutrements to earn brownie points at TRP ratings. One is also left wondering whether there is a nexus between the BJP and these channels. Is patriotism joining hands with commercialism? So many questions arise.
Is Ms Roy’s opinion on Kashmir really seditious? Or, is it more patriotic than the views of many of our politicians? Of course, Ms Roy doesn’t view herself as patriotic. She has described herself as "a mobile republic." Isn’t her opinion on Kashmir based on the principles of humanism and justice? Is patriotism equal to clinging disastrously to a piece of land, the loyalty of whose people lies elsewhere?
For 63 years the Indian taxpayers have paid dearly for keeping Kashmir with India. That’s a very commercial way of looking at the problem, I know. I am being absolutely pragmatic for the moment.
In 1952, an obscure journalist named Philip Sprat wrote that Kashmir "was in the grip of two armies glaring at each other, in a state of armed neutrality. It may suit a handful of people to see the indefinite continuance of this ghastly situation. But the Indian taxpayer is paying through the nose for the precarious privilege of claiming Kashmir as part of India on the basis of all the giving on India’s side and all the taking on Kashmir’s side." [Quoted by Ramachandra Guha in India After Gandhi] Tehelka dated 28 Aug 2010 carried an article by a young Kashmiri journalist, Zahid Rafiq. Rafiq says that India, "a huge economy and a growing power, has spent thousands of crores (of rupees) to win the hearts and minds of Kashmiris. It seems most of them are not buying and even if they are accepting the money happily, they are not trading the sentiment." Add to these economic packages the costs of keeping 700,000 security personnel in Kashmir for years and years. Then we may understand that Philip Sprat was indeed prophetic.
The same issue of Tehelka also carries an article based on a conversation with Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of Huriyat Conference (M). Farooq repeats what Rafiq said: "it [India] tries to buy loyalty in Kashmir through economic packages. This will not work. You have to remember that the Kashmiri is very smart. He will take the money and still pelt stones (at the security personnel)." Farooq adds, "The people of India have to know the bitter fact that the people of Kashmir are not Indians."
The Kashmiris have been alienated from India. Alienated by many factors, especially the wars initiated by Pakistan, militancy again initiated or supported by the same country, and the frustration of the people caught in the terrible jaws of apparently endless history of bloody violence. 60,000 boys orphaned and 30,000 women widowed by the Indian army or CRPF cannot but feel alienated from the country which they see as a nation of oppressors.
In the words of the Tehelka journalist, "In India, there is a myth, largely perpetrated by conformist sections of the media, that the army and CRPF protect Kashmiris. No Kashmiri feels protected by the army and CRPF. People in India call them security forces and believe they save Kashmiris from terrorists but it is from them that Kashmiris want to be saved. Kashimiris want these occupying forces off their land. The only feelings Kashmiris have for them are of fear, hatred and revenge."
Arundhati Roy spoke to Kashmiris and felt their heartbeat before expressing her opinion. By attacking her one is only trying to silence the truth. Isn’t it better to face the truth and seek a solution than live in a myth and pay heavily in terms of human lives and mounting costs?