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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Arundathi Roy and challenging the status quo in Kashmir

Politics of Kashmir is for India and Pakistan, what Isreal is for USA and many other western states, a sacred cow. Kashmir has always been there as part of the larger sub-continent identity and geography. Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists have long history in this beautiful part of the country. Security concerns, particularly with Pakistan has dominated the Kashmir politics for India, the access to the state and the Muslim majority has always made it an easy target for the Pakistani politicians.

Arundhati Roy has done yet again on the issue of Kashmir what she did for the Supreme Court, challenge the status quo, show the state machinery for its inherent weakness. Her courage is admirable though I suspect it would not politically mean much. I think it is time that someone took a serious look at Kashmir issue beyond the security concerns of India and strategic concerns of Pakistan, as though the people of Kashmir did matter and are not mere collateral damage.

When Arundhati Roy for contempt of court (in the Supreme Court) spent a day in Tihar jail a few years back, a prisoner is supposed to have given her a poem that reads as follows:
Raja bola raat hei, Mantri bola raat hei, court boli raat hei, yeh subhe subhe ki baat hei (the King claimed it is night, so did the minister and the court and all this was at dawn).

I suspect our understanding both in India and Pakistan about Kashmir is based on the propaganda of our respective governments and the apparent national issues enjoined to its future. If we see ourselves as world leader in various sphere, one of the weaknesses we need to overcome forever is the courage and conviction on the issue of Kashmir. It cannot be resolved completely for a couple of generations at least, as long as the memories of atrocities and terrorism and their effect in families remain, it cannot fade from the social discourse within the state itself. Warn torn states may need more time than children victimised by violence to regain a normal life.

But, any beginning for Kashmir resolution has to start not from earlier bureaucratic or military understanding, any peaceful beginning should start with stating the aspirations of the people and their issues. It should provide the people of this state to live through a social trauma of de-addiction to imposed violence. If we were to look at Roy's statement as one such beginning (only expressed with all the frills of international free thinker today) then this could be used to create a process of dialogue amongst the different players. Kashmir is reaching a stage where somewhere someone has to take the first step with courage.

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