Friday, August 29, 2008

Arundhathi Roy on Azad for Kashmir

I read Arundhati Roy's piece on the situation in Kashmir titled "Azadi: Its the only thing the Kashmiri wants: Denial is delusion" as usual she has a terrific piece. (Azadi means freedom) It can be read here. You might have to register to read it. Its free though.

Here are some excerpts and my comments:

For somebody like myself, who is not Muslim, that interpretation of freedom is hard—if not impossible—to understand. I asked a young woman whether freedom for Kashmir would not mean less freedom for her, as a woman. She shrugged and said, "What kind of freedom do we have now? The freedom to be raped by Indian soldiers?" Her reply silenced me.

I have recently heard from some and had certain conversations about the issue of minority tamils (Tamils from the lower castes). While i think the issue is a serious one that deserves meritorious consideration i believe that those who raise it have mischievous intentions. (for example when Malinda Seneviratne raises it) Reading Arundadhi's comment above, its an apt response to all those who raise questions about whether freedom or autonomy for Tamils will resolve the 'other' issues. The bigger issue weighs down. 'What kind of freedom do we have now', irrespective of whether i am from a higher caste or a lower caste as a tamil, or whether you are a man or a woman as a Kashmiri, is a persuasive response.

I post this following paragraph without much comment. It has a lot of comparison to the anxiety of what a 'free' or autonomous tamil speaking territory would turn out to be:

Arguments that spring from love are also fraught with danger. It is for the people of Kashmir to agree or disagree with the Islamic project (which is as contested, in equally complex ways, all over the world by Muslims as Hindutva is contested by Hindus).Perhaps now that the threat of violence has receded and there is some space in which to debate views and air ideas, it is time for those who are part of the struggle to outline a vision for what kind of society they are fighting for. Perhaps it is time to offer people something more than martyrs, slogans and vague generalisations. Those who wish to turn to the Quran for guidance will no doubt find guidance there. But what of those who do not wish to do that, or for whom the Quran does not make place? Do the Hindus of Jammu and other minorities also have the right to self-determination? Will the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits living in exile, many of them in terrible poverty, have the right to return? Will they be paid reparations for the terrible losses they have suffered? Or will a free Kashmir do to its minorities what India has done to Kashmiris for 61 years? What will happen to homosexuals and adulterers and blasphemers? What of thieves and lafangas and writers who do not agree with the "complete social and moral code"? Will we be put to death as we are in Saudi Arabia? Will the cycle of death, repression and bloodshed continue? History offers many models for Kashmir's thinkers and intellectuals and politicians to study. What will the Kashmir of their dreams look like? Algeria? Iran? South Africa? Switzerland? Pakistan?


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