SRINAGAR: Internationally acclaimed writer and outspoken critic of India’s handling of Kashmir, Arundhati Roy, has voiced apprehensions that India might use vicious and underhand tactics to drive the current mass uprising in Kashmir off the streets. In an uncanny foretelling of what has already begun to unfold in Kashmir, Roy said that the government, which she calls the Deep State, may engineer the “return” of militants, and take recourse to targeted assassinations by renegades, made to look like fratricidal, intra-Hurriyat killings.
“The State is perhaps making a cold calculation of how many casualties it can take (rather inflict) without causing an international uproar,” the writer told Srinagar based ‘Honour’ magazine in an interview, adding that the curfew in force in the valley then was a prelude to a major crackdown.
Asserting that the blame-tactic had already been tried in the case of the slain Hurriyat leader, Sheikh Abdul Aziz, by the subsequent statement by National Security Advisor, M.K. Narayanan, Roy said that the move had backfired.” But I think they might try it again,” she said. “There might be a media war; a huge propaganda campaign dressed up in the sophisticated language of a secular democracy being reluctantly forced to take stern measures,” she said.
She said that the Indian state did not appear to be willing, even now, to listen to what the people were saying. “It is trying to work out a way to defuse the situation – how to manage the crowds and send them back home,’ she said. Roy sees the current uprising in the valley as the biggest chance that people in Kashmir have had in their struggle for Azadi for a long time, but cautioned that people could not go on for ever without a clear idea of where it was all going.
Maintaining that the intelligence agencies were trying hard to break up the fragile coordination committee in Kashmir, Roy conceded that there were real issues of contention between the liberation leaders themselves apart from the divisive efforts of the Indian state.
“I think having differences is actually a wonderful thing, the best thing, for Kashmir provided they are genuine ideological differences and not some shadowy game initiated by Intelligence Agencies. Think of all the major leaders of the Indian struggle for freedom? How differently they all thought. I really do think it is positive and that Kashmir should be able to accommodate all of them with gratitude and generosity. In an armed struggle I can see the need to be a little vague, because airing differences can lead to disastrous consequences. But a non-violent struggle needs to be absolutely clear, outspoken. It can lead to terrible confusion if it is not”, she said.
Roy said that there was a rough consensus among the pro-freedom groups in Kashmir on how to end the occupation, but there was a confusion about occupation and post-occupation issues. Roy advocated an ANC-like clear spelling out of what the future state would be, what rights people would have, so that everybody agreed upon and knew what it was all about. Without that, everybody, including the Indian state and the rest of the world would be free to put its own spin on what is going on, she said.
She said that it in such a scenario it would be easy to portray the whole movement as a sort of a fundamentalist uprising, constituting a danger to the whole world. “It is important to correct this image, because otherwise Kashmiris would have to fight the whole world as opposed just its occupiers,” she said.
She said that even if –for the sake of argument, Kashmiris were fighting for an Islamic state governed by the Sharia, they needed to clarify that too. In context of the slogans raised during the recent protests, Roy said that the movement needed to understand that it was not fighting in a vacuum, but in an extremely complex and extremely prejudiced media-driven world. “In a non violent struggle, words and perceptions and images are powerful weapons. Those using them must know how to handle them and ensure that they do not shoot themselves in the process,” she said.
The writer who has had to face a lot criticism at home for saying that Kashmir and India need freedom from each other said: “What has it meant to me? Well just a whole heap of the usual shrill insults, threat. Some people have said that I should be charged for the offense of sedition. If so, it would mean that millions of Kashmiris should be charged too. If they are not but I am, it would mean a tacit acceptance of the fact that Kashmir is not a part of India, and that, going by their own logic is seditious! “Anybody who has walked the streets of Srinagar cannot but see the moral legitimacy of what people are demanding. It’s the least I could do for those who have faced so many years of terror, torture, disappearances. I don’t think there could be a single Kashmiri in the valley who has not been humiliated in one way or another by the occupation. That includes those who are collaborators and renegades… isn’t that the worst kind of humiliation? The humiliation of selling your soul? It’s the least I could do. But don’t let’s forget, that I also said India needs Azadi from Kashmir. The soldiers who are posted there come from the poorest sections of Indian society. It doesn’t seem to matter to the government that so many are killed and psychologically damaged. For the government they’re just canon fodder. Plenty more where they came from. Also, the crores and crores that are being spent on sustaining this occupation ought by right to be spent on schools and hospitals and food for India’s poor.” -SANA