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Mainstream, Vol XLVIII, No 46, November 6, 2010

Arundhati Roy’s Errors and Interlocutors’ Bloomers

Wednesday 10 November 2010, by Sailendra Nath Ghosh


Arundhati Roy and myself were on the same wavelength in stressing that the government’s policy of allowing factories in fertile farmlands and giving mining leases in forestlands was responsible for alienating the adivasis and farmers, thereby breeding the Maoists. I, too, condemn the fake encounters staged by Army- men and the vandalism by paramilitary forces in Kashmir and demand that both the Union and the State governments seek the people’s forgiveness for whatever heinous acts these agencies did, side by side of their acts of bravery. But when Roy says that Kashmir was never an integral part of India or that India is colonising Kashmir, she shows her ignorance of the history and course of political events of Kashmir.

Kashmir’s ancient history claims that more than 35 per cent of Sanskrit literature originated in Kashmir. Shaivism, as an endogenous religion, flourished in Kashmir before the advent of Islam. Due to Maharaja Hari Singh signing the Instru-ment of Accession, the princely state of J&K became an integral part of India under the Indian Independence Act of British Parliament, under international law. The Resolution passed in June 2000 by the body of the State people’s elected representatives—namely, the J&K State Assembly—demanding maximum autonomy from the Government of India was a clean endorsement, by the people, of the State’s accession to India. Can anybody claim autonomy from India without being its part?

She would have indeed been righteous if she had called upon India’s Armymen and paramilitary forces to be worthy of the Indian civilisational ideal and severely condemned their hamhandedness, which could make them proximates to a force of occupation. But when she makes a sweeping statement that India is colonising Kashmir, she forgets that it is the Indian Union that is allowing its resources to be depleted so that Kashmir’s people prosper. That these resources are getting leaked mid-way, to fill the pockets of some politicians and bureaucrats of the State, is another matter. She also forgets that the Indian Union has not suppressed Kashmir’s traditional culture, which colonisers do. It is the proponents of Wahabi Muslimism that is suppressing it. And the federal government has done nothing to alter the demography of the State, which colonisers normally do. Brutality in Kashmir was not one-sided. M.L. Kotru, the former Resident Editor of The Statesman at Delhi, has invited her to visit and see the “brutality of raw terrorism” perpetrated last week in Malru, a prosperous village on the outskirts of Srinagar. Arundhati talks of justice. Were it not the insidious slayers of Kashmiryat who drove out nearly half-a-million Kashmiri Pundits from the Valley? What does she recommend to get them justice?

Ms Roy might have been shocked to see that the people of this State enjoy much less democratic rights in their daily lives than the people in the rest of India. That is due entirely to the nonchalance of the State’s political class who had the constitutional power to bestow even more rights on the people but provided for much less. This point has been illustrated in my two articles published in this journal on September 18 and October 23.

NOW, a word to the interlocutors. They have been appointed to reach out to the people at the grassroots level, to engage them in conversations and draw out their inner thoughts. At the end of the detailed reports on the people’s thoughts and suggestions, the interlocutors could append their own recommendations. But they have, at the very start of their interlocution process, started giving their a-priori recommendations which are not expected of them. Such conduct can only create hurdles for their assigned task. Everybody knows that for the ultimate happiness of the Kashmiris, free movement of the people and goods between both sides of the Banihal is necessary. But that can be achieved only by thorough long-winded efforts through diplomatic channels, which is not the cup of tea of these interlocutors.

When the team of interlocutors starts by saying this, one can be sure they have no mind to do a thorough job of carrying out their assigned task. They will not reach out to the people of hundreds of blocks under the 22 districts of the State to know the differing political aspirations of the respective areas. (This is a State of huge heterogeneity.) They have started finding alibis for doing a perfunctory job. Moreover, their kind of public statement at this stage can only thrust in the Pakistani establishment’s hands a veto power.

Sailendra Nath Ghosh

77 Manavsthali Apartments, Vasundhara Enclave, Delhi-110096

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