26th night of October. After a long day at work, I just thought it would be fit to record a few observations pertaining to the “controversial” remarks made by Arundhati Roy that seem to be all over the media. It is reported that Arundhati Roy said in Srinagar last week:
"Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It is a historical fact. Even the Indian government has accepted this."
Earlier, on 21st October, Arundhati Roy shared the stage with hard-line Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani in at a convention on “Azadi – the Only Way” organised in New Delhi. Thus there have been reports since the morning that Arundhati Roy might be booked and arrested on charges of sedition.
Quite predictably BJP has been in action flaying the UPA government for permitting an anti-India seminar in Delhi. While BJP demanded the arrest of both Geelani and Roy, the internet is full of comments (on news websites like TOI) which call for Mrs. Roy to be arrested, punished, and in some comments even ‘hanged’, for threatening the integrity of our country. [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Fit-case-to-try-Geelani-Roy-for-sedition-Cops/articleshow/6811200.cms] People are taking pains on internet to explain the “attention-seeking” “self-proclaimed” activist that it is only because of the free democracy that India, is that she is able to say things against the Indian state; it is only because of the freedom India gives that people like Geelani are allowed to organize “anti-India” seminars in Delhi. The comments further seek to explain how dissenters would be shot at in regimes like Pakistan and China. Arundhati is further behoved to leave the country as she has failed to respect and value the freedoms that the Indian state gives to its citizens. Never mind the fact that the same freedom deploys an army presence in the valley that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world; the same ‘freedom’ gives the AFSPA to the army; denies justice to Shopian victims; imposes periodic curfews in the valley; restricts free movement of people in the valley whenever it is deemed that stability is at stake; frequently orders streets in Kashmir to be emptied so that ‘peace’ and ‘normalcy’ can return! Perhaps, by peace they refer to the peace of the grave.
Anyways, let me refrain from judging over here. All I wanted to record in my blog post was how dramatically the language of the conflict has been changed within a month or just a week’s time!! The Hindu came up with a news report late in the day which asserted that the Central government was unwilling to book Arundhati Roy on charges of sedition as the government reckoned that it would be ironical to criminalize the mere speech of stating of some disputed facts, esp. at the time when ‘interlocutors’ were given the mandate to talk to ‘separatists’.
“With Dileep Padgaonkar, Radha Kumar and M.M. Ansari (the three interlocutors appointed by the GoI) urging those Kashmiris raising slogans in favour of ‘azadi' to put their thoughts down in writing, the irony of criminalising a mere speech has not been lost on New Delhi.”
Thus, it seems finally the political elite in New Delhi maybe warming up to the idea that people can have views that do not necessarily run concurrent with the government’s stand that Kashmir is an integral part of India. This bodes well as a sign of political maturity and willingness on part of the Indian government to listen, compromise and accommodate. Also, it is a great victory for the civil society in India that the jingoism and the aura of sanctity – that guarded the centre’s Kashmir policy from any scrutiny – has been finally broken.