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Analysis

Jan Lokpal Bill Is Very Regressive: Arundhati Roy

Sagarika Ghose Interviews Arundhati Roy

31 August, 2011 - Ibnlive.in.com

In an exclusive interview, writer Arundhati Roy said there are serious concerns about the Jan Lokpal Bill, corporate funding, NGOs and even the role of the media.

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Encounter deaths or cold blooded murders?

Sidhu Soren, CC Member of PCPA, CPI Maoist leader

Sidhu Soren, CC Member of PCPA Martyred on 26-07-2010, Goaltore - Lalgarh

July 18, 2011 by Ranjit Sur

The Supreme court of India ordered a CBI enquiry into the death of CPI( Maoist) leader Azad (Cherakuri Rajkumar), following allegations by his party and several civil rights organizations that Azad was murdered in a fake encounter by the Andhra Police. Even Ms Mamata Banerjee, the new Chief Minister of West Bengal, raised her voice in protest and demanded a proper enquiry, while addressing a public meeting in Jangalmahal before the Assembly election.

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Reporter visits Maoist territory in Chhattisgarh

Soundings from Maoist territory: a field-based inquiry

Paper presentation made by Kunal Majumder at Institute of South Asia Studies, National University of Singapore on September 20, 2010

On April 6 earlier this year, Maoists ambushed a heavily armed Central Rapid Police Force (CRPF) battalion in the jungles of Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, and blew up an armoured vehicle. Within hours, 76 soldiers were dead.

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Arundhati Roy : 'Kashmir should get Azadi from bhooke-nange Hindustan'

The Pioneer | October 22, 2010 | Deepak K Jha | New Delhi

Kashmir should get Azadi from bhookhe-nange Hindustan,” said Arundhati Roy at a seminar where the Maoists hosted Kashmir secessionist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, which witnessed large scale protests by Kashmiri Pandits. A large number of protesters were detained at the behest of Parliament House attack accused SAR Gilani, who moderated the seminar promoting secession in the heart of the national Capital on Thursday.

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Everything is broken--Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy | 05 October 2010

In its desire to become a superpower, India is rushing towards tyranny. Real power now lies with a coven of rapacious oligarchs. Meanwhile, the masses suffer and resistance movements prepare for war.

The law locks up the hapless felon
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose.

Anonymous, England, 1821

In the early morning hours of 2 July 2010, in the remote forests of Adilabad, the Andhra Pradesh State police fired a bullet into the chest of a man named Cherukuri Rajkumar, known to his comrades as Azad. Azad was a member of the politburo of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), and had been nominated by his party as its chief negotiator for the proposed peace talks with the government of India. Why did the police fire at point-blank range and leave those tell-tale burn marks, when they could so easily have covered their tracks? Was it a mistake or was it a message?

They killed a second person that morning – Hem Chandra Pandey, a young journalist who was travelling with Azad when he was apprehended. Why did they kill him? Was it to make sure no eyewitness remained alive to tell the tale? Or was it just whimsy?

In the course of a war, if, in the preliminary stages of a peace negotiation, one side executes the envoy of the other side, it is reasonable to assume that the side that did the killing does not want peace. It looks very much as though Azad was killed because someone decided that the stakes were too high to allow him to remain alive. That decision could turn out to be a grave error of judgement – not just because of who he was, but because of the political climate in India today.

Trickle-down Revolution

Days after I emerged recently from the Danda karanya forest in central India, where I had spent two and a half weeks with the Maoist guerrillas, I found myself charting a weary but familiar course to Jantar Mantar, on Parliament Street in New Delhi. Jantar Mantar is an old observatory built by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur between 1727 and 1734. In those days it was a scientific marvel, used to tell the time, predict the weather and study the planets. Today it’s a not-so-hot tourist attraction that doubles up as Delhi’s little showroom for democracy.

For some years now, protests – unless they are patronised by political parties or religious organisations – have been banned in Delhi. The Boat Club on Rajpath, which has in the past been the site of huge, historic rallies that sometimes lasted for days, is out of bounds for political activity now, and is available for picnics, balloon-sellers and boat-rides only. As for India Gate, candlelight vigils and boutique protests for middle-class causes – such as “Justice for Jessica”, the model who was killed in a Delhi bar by a thug with political connections – are allowed, but nothing more. Section 144, an old law that bans the gathering of more than five people – who have “a common object which is unlawful” – in a public place, has been clamped on the city.

The law is part of the penal code passed by the British in 1861 to prevent a repeat of the 1857 Mutiny. It was meant to be an emergency measure, but has become a permanent fixture in many parts of India. Perhaps it was in gratitude for laws like these that our prime minister, accepting an honorary degree from Oxford, thanked the British for bequeathing us such a rich legacy: “Our judiciary, our legal system, our bureaucracy and our police are all great institutions, derived from British-Indian administration, and they have served the country well.”

Jantar Mantar is the only place in Delhi where Section 144 applies but is not enforced. People from all over the country, fed up with being
ignored by the political establishment and the media, converge there, desperately hoping for a hearing. Some take long train journeys. Some, like the victims of the Bhopal gas leak, have walked for weeks, all the way to Delhi. Though the protesters had to fight each other for the best spot on the burning (or freezing) pavement, until recently they were allowed to camp in Jantar Mantar for as long as they liked – weeks, months, even years. Under the malevolent gaze of the police and the Special Branch, they would put up their faded shamianas and banners. From here they declared their faith in democracy by issuing their memorandums, announcing their protest plans and staging their indefinite hunger strikes. From here they tried to march on parliament (but never succeeded). From here they hoped.

Of late, however, democracy’s timings have been changed. It’s strictly office hours now, nine to five. No matter from how far people have come, no matter if they have no shelter in the city – if they don’t leave by 6pm they are forcibly dispersed, by the police if necessary, with batons and water cannon if things get out of hand. The new timings were ostensibly instituted to make sure that the 2010 Commonwealth Games that New Delhi is hosting go smoothly. But nobody is expecting the old timings back any time soon. Maybe it’s in the fitness of things that what is left of our democracy should be traded in for an event that was created to celebrate the British Empire. Perhaps it’s only right that 400,000 people should have had their homes demolished and been driven out of the city overnight. Or that hundreds of thousands of roadside vendors should have had their livelihoods snatched away by order of the Supreme Court so city malls could take over their share of business. And that tens of thousands of beggars should have been shipped out of the city while more than a hundred thousand galley slaves were shipped in to build the flyovers, metro tunnels, Olympic-sized swimming pools, warm-up stadiums and luxury housing for athletes.

The Old Empire may not exist. But obviously our tradition of servility has become too profitable an enterprise to dismantle. I was at Jantar Mantar because a thousand pavement-dwellers from cities all over the country had come to demand a few fundamental rights: the right to shelter, to food (ration cards), to life (protection from police brutality and criminal extortion by municipal officers).

It was early spring. The sun was sharp, but still civilised. This is a terrible thing to have to say, but it’s true – you could smell the protest from a fair distance: it was the accumulated odour of a thousand human bodies that had been dehumanised, denied the basic necessities for human (or even animal) health and hygiene for years, if not a whole lifetime. Bodies that had been marinated in the refuse of our big cities, bodies that had no shelter from the harsh weather, no access to clean water, clean air, sanitation or medical care. No part of this great country, none of the supposedly progressive schemes, no single urban institution has been designed to accommodate them. Not even the sewage system – they shit on top of it. They are shadow people, who live in the cracks that run between schemes and institutions. They sleep on the streets, eat on the streets, make love on the streets, give birth on the streets, are raped on the streets, cut their vegetables, wash their clothes, raise their children, live and die on the streets. If the motion picture were an art form that involved the olfactory senses – in other words, if cinema smelled – films like Slumdog Millionaire would not win Oscars. The stench of that kind of poverty wouldn’t blend with the aroma of warm popcorn.

The people at the protest in Jantar Mantar that day were not even slum dogs, they were pavement-dwellers. Who were they? Where had they come from? They were the refugees of India’s shining, the people who are being sloshed around like toxic effluent in a manufacturing process that has gone berserk. The representatives of the more than 60 million people who have been displaced, by rural destitution, by slow starvation, by drought and floods (many of them man-made), by mines, steel factories and aluminium smelters, by highways and expressways, by the 3,300 big dams built since independence and now by “Special Economic Zones”. They’re part of the 830 million people of India who live on less than 20 rupees (30 pence) a day, the ones who starve while millions of tonnes of foodgrain are either eaten by rats in government warehouses or burned in bulk (because it’s cheaper to burn food than to distribute it to poor people). They’re the parents of the tens of millions of malnourished children in our country, of the two million who die every year before they reach the age of five. They’re the millions who make up the chain-gangs that are transported from city to city to build the New India.

What must they think, these people, about a government that sees fit to spend $9bn of public money (2,000 per cent more than the initial estimate) for a two-week-long sports extravaganza which, for fear of terrorism, malaria, dengue and New Delhi’s new superbug, many international athletes have refused to attend? Which the Queen of England, titular head of the Commonwealth, would not consider presiding over, not even in her most irresponsible dreams. What must they think of the fact that most of those billions have been stolen and salted away by politicians and Games officials? Not much, I guess. Because for people who live on less than 20 rupees a day, money on that scale must seem like science fiction. It probably doesn’t occur to them that it’s their money.

Standing there, in that dim crowd on that bright day, I thought of all the struggles that are being waged by people in this country – against big dams in the Narmada Valley, Polavaram, Arunachal Pradesh; against mines in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, against the police by the Adivasis
of Lalgarh, against the grabbing of their lands for industries and Special Economic Zones all over the country. How many years and (in how many ways) people have fought to avoid just such a fate. I thought of Maase, Narmada, Roopi, Nity, Mangtu, Madhav, Saroja, Raju, Gudsa Usendi and Comrade Kamla (my young bodyguard during the time I spent with the Maoists in the jungle) with their guns slung over their shoulders. I thought of the great dignity of the forest I had so recently walked in and the rhythm of the Adivasi drums at the Bhumkal celebration in Bastar, like the soundtrack of the quickening pulse of a furious nation.

I thought of Padma, with whom I travelled to Warangal. She’s only in her thirties but when she walks up stairs she has to hold the banister and drag her body behind her. She was arrested just a week after she had had an appendix operation. She was beaten until she had an internal haemorrhage and had to have several organs removed. When they cracked her knees, the police explained helpfully that it was to make sure “she would never walk in the jungle again”. She was released after serving an eight-year sentence. Now she runs the “Amarula Bandhu Mithrula Sangham”, the Committee of Relatives and Friends of Martyrs. It retrieves the bodies of people killed in fake encounters. Padma spends her time criss-crossing northern Andhra Pradesh, in whatever transport she can find, transporting the corpses of people whose parents or spouses are too poor to make the journey to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones.

The tenacity, the wisdom and the courage of those who have been fighting for years, for decades, to bring change, or even the whisper of justice to their lives, is something extra ordinary. Whether people are fighting to overthrow the Indian state, or fighting against big dams, or only fighting a particular steel plant or mine or SEZ, the bottom line is that they are fighting for their dignity, for the right to live and smell like human beings. They’re fighting because, as far as they’re concerned, “the fruits of modern development” stink like dead cattle on the highway.

On 15 August this year, the 63rd anniversary of India’s independence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh climbed into his bulletproof soapbox in the Red Fort to deliver a passionless, bone-chillingly banal speech to the nation. Listening to him, who would have guessed that he was addressing a country that, despite having the second-highest economic growth rate in the world, has more poor people in eight states than in 26 of Africa’s poorest countries put together? “All of you have contributed to India’s success,” he said, “the hard work of our workers, our artisans, our farmers has brought our country to where it stands today . . . We are building a new India in which every citizen would have a stake, an India which would be prosperous and in which all citizens would be able to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill. An India in which all problems could be solved through democratic means. An India in which the basic rights of every citizen would be protected.”

If our prime minister’s reputation for “personal integrity” extended to the text of his speeches, this is what he should have said: “Brothers and sisters, greetings to you on this day on which we remember our glorious past. Things are getting a little expensive, I know, and you keep moaning about food prices. But look at it this way – more than 650 million of you are engaged in and are living off agriculture as farmers and farm labour, but your combined efforts contribute less than 18 per cent of our GDP. So what’s the use of you? Look at our IT sector. It employs 0.2 per cent of the population and earns us 5 per cent of our national income. Can you match that? It is true that in our country employment hasn’t kept pace with growth, but fortunately 60 per cent of our workforce is self-employed. Ninety per cent of our labour force is employed by the unorganised sector. True, they manage to get work only for a few months in the year, but since we don’t have a category called ‘underemployed’, we just keep that part a little vague. It would not be right to enter them in our books as unemployed.

“Coming to the statistics that say we have the highest infant and maternal mortality in the world – we should unite as a nation and ignore bad news for the time being. We can address these problems later, after our Trickle-down Revolution, when the health sector has been completely privatised. Meanwhile, I hope you are all buying medical insurance. As for the fact that the per capita foodgrain availability has decreased over the past 20 years – which happens to be the period of our most rapid economic growth – believe me, that’s just a coincidence.

“My fellow citizens, we are building a new India in which our 100 richest people hold assets worth a full 25 per cent of our GDP. Wealth concentrated in fewer and fewer hands is always more efficient. You have all heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the broth. We want our beloved billionaires, our few hundred millionaires, their near and dear ones and their political and business associates, to be prosperous and to live a life of honour and dignity in an environment of peace and goodwill in which their basic rights are protected.

“I am aware that my dreams cannot come true solely by using democratic means. In fact, I have come to believe that real democracy flows through the barrel of a gun. This is why we have deployed the army, the police, the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Force, the Central Industrial Security Force, the Pradeshik Armed Constabulary, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Eastern Frontier Rifles – as well as the Scorpions, Greyhounds and CoBRAs – to crush the misguided insurrections that are erupting in our mineral-rich areas.

“Our experiments with democracy began in Nagaland, Manipur and Kashmir. Kashmir, I need not reiterate, is an integral part of India. We have deployed more than half a million soldiers to bring democracy to the people there. The Kashmiri youth who have been risking their lives by defying curfew and throwing stones at the police for the last two months are Lashkar-e-Toiba militants who actually want employment, not azadi [freedom].
“Tragically, 60 of them have lost their lives before we could study their job applications. I have instructed the police from now on to shoot to maim rather than kill these mis-guided youths.”

In his six years in office, Manmohan Singh has allowed himself to be cast as Sonia Gandhi’s tentative, mild-mannered underling. It’s an excellent disguise for a man who, for the past two decades, first as finance minister and then as prime minister, has powered through a regime of new economic policies that has brought India to the situation in which it finds itself now. Over the years he has stacked his cabinet and the bureaucracy with people who are evangelically committed to the corporate takeover of everything – water, electricity, minerals, agriculture, land, telecommunications, education, health – no matter what the consequences.

Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul, play an important part in all of this. Their job is to run the Department of Compassion and Charisma, and to win elections. They are allowed to make (and also to take credit for) decisions which appear progressive but are actually tactical and symbolic, meant to take the edge off popular anger and allow the big ship to keep on rolling. (The most recent example of this is the 26 August rally that was organised for Rahul Gandhi to claim victory for the cancellation of Vedanta’s permission to mine Niyamgiri for bauxite – a battle that the Dongria Kondh tribe and a coalition of activists, local as well as international, have been fighting for years.)

The division of labour between politicians who have a mass base and win elections to keep the charade of democracy going, and those who actually run the country but either do not need to win elections (judges and bureaucrats) or have been freed of the constraint of doing so (like the prime minister), is a brilliant subversion of democratic practice. To imagine that Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are in charge of the government would be a mistake. The real power has passed into the hands of a coven of oligarchs – judges, bureaucrats and politicians. They in turn are run like prize racehorses by the few corporations which more or less own everything in the country. They may belong to different parties and put up a great show of being political rivals, but that’s just subterfuge for public consumption. The only real rivalry is the business rivalry between corporations.

A senior member of the coven is P Chidam baram, the home minister. In a lecture titled “Poor Rich Countries: the Challenges of Development”, given at Harvard, his old university, in October 2007, Chidambaram exulted about the GDP growth rate which rose from 6.9 per cent in 2001 to 9.4 per cent by 2007. What he said is important enough for me to inflict a chunk of his charmless prose on you:

India’s mineral resources include coal – the fourth-largest reserves in the world – iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, titanium ore, chromite, diamonds, natural gas, petroleum and limestone. Common sense tells us that we should mine these resources quickly and efficiently. That requires huge capital, efficient organisation and a policy environment that will allow market forces to operate. None of these factors is present today in the mining sector . . . The result: actual investment is low, the mining sector grows at a tardy pace and it acts as a drag on the economy.

I shall give you another example. Vast extent of land is required for locating industries . . . Hitherto, land was acquired by the governments in exercise of the power of eminent domain. The only issue was payment of adequate compensation. That situation has changed. There are new stakeholders in every project, and their claims have to be recognised.

We are now obliged to address issues such as environmental impact . . . justification for compulsory acquisition, right compensation, solatium, rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced persons, alternative house sites and farmland, and one job for each affected family . . .

Allowing “market forces” to mine resources “quickly and efficiently” is what colonisers did to their colonies, what Spain and North America did to South America, what Europe did (and continues to do) in Africa. It’s what the apartheid regime did in South Africa.

Note the standard-issue, meaningless sops in the minister’s lecture. What compensation? What solatium? What rehabilitation? And what “job for each family”? (Sixty years of industrialisation in India has created employment for 6 per cent of the workforce.) As for being “obliged” to provide “justification” for the “compulsory acquisition” of land, a cabinet minister surely knows that to acquire tribal land compulsorily (which is where most of the minerals are) and turn it over to private mining corporations is illegal and unconstitutional under the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act. Passed in 1996, PESA is an amendment that attempts to right some of the wrongs done to tribal people by the Indian constitution when it was adopted by parliament in 1950. Under PESA, “compulsory acquisition” of tribal land cannot be justified on any count.

Half a century ago, just a year before he was killed, Che Guevara wrote: “When the oppressive forces maintain themselves in power against laws they themselves established, peace must be considered already broken.” Indeed it must. In 2009 Manmohan Singh said in parliament: “If left-wing extremism continues to flourish in important parts of our country which have natural resources of minerals, that will certainly affect the climate for investment.” This was a furtive declaration of war.

If you pay attention to the struggles taking place in India, you will see that most people are demanding no more than their constitutional rights. But the government of India no longer feels the need to abide by the Indian constitution, which is supposed to be the legal and moral framework on which our democracy rests.

If the government won’t respect the constitution, perhaps we should push for an amendment to the preamble. “We, the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic . . .” could be substituted with “We, the upper castes and classes of India, having secretly resolved to constitute India into a corporate, Hindu, satellite state . . .”

The insurrection in the Indian countryside, in particular in the tribal heartland, poses a radical challenge, not only to the Indian state, but to resistance movements, too. It questions accepted ideas of what constitutes progress, development and, indeed, civilisation itself. It questions the ethics as well as the effectiveness of different strategies of resistance. These questions have been asked before, yes. They have been asked persistently, peacefully, year after year in a hundred different ways – most persuasively and perhaps most visibly by the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the anti-dam movement in the Narmada Valley. The government of India’s sole answer has been repression, deviousness and the kind of opacity that can only come from a pathological disrespect for ordinary people. Worse, it went ahead and accelerated the process of displacement and dispossession, to a point where people’s anger has built up in ways that cannot be controlled. Today the poorest people in the world have managed to stop some of the richest corporations in their tracks. It is a huge victory.

Those who have risen up are aware that their country is in a state of emergency. They are aware that, like the people of Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam, they too have now been stripped of their civil rights by laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, which criminalise every kind of dissent – by word, deed and even intent.

During the “Emergency”, the saying goes, when Indira Gandhi asked the Indian press to bend, it crawled. And yet, in those days there were instances when national dailies defiantly published blank editorials to protest censorship. This time around, in the undeclared emergency, there’s not much scope for defiance because the media are the government. Nobody, except the corporations that control it, can tell the government what to do. Senior politicians, ministers and officers of the security establishment vie to appear on TV, feebly imploring news anchors for permission to interrupt the day’s sermon. Several TV channels and newspapers are overtly manning the war room of Operation Green Hunt, a military operation launched by the government of India against “Marxist rebels”, and its disinformation campaign. There was the identically worded story about the “1,500-crore Maoist industry” filed under the byline of different reporters in several different papers. There are the several identical interviews with the female guerrilla, all of them advertised as “exclusive”, about how she had been “raped and re-raped” by Maoist leaders. She was supposed to have escaped recently from the forests and the clutches of the Maoists to tell the world her tale. Now it turns out that she has been in police custody for months.

As war closes in, the armed forces have announced (in the way only they can) that they, too, are getting into the business of messing with our heads. In June 2010 they released a doctrine on military psychological operations which, the press release said, “is a policy, planning and implementation document that aims to create a conducive environment for the armed forces to operate by using the media available with the Services to their advantage”.

A month later, at a meeting of chief ministers of Naxalite-affected states, a decision was taken to escalate the war. Thirty-six battalions of the India Reserve Force were added to the existing 105 battalions, and 16,000 Special Police officers (civilians armed and contracted to function as police) were added to the existing 30,000. The home minister promised to hire 175,000 policemen over the next five years.

Two days later the army chief told his senior officers to be “mentally prepared to step into the fight against Naxalism . . . It might be in six months or in a year or two, but if we have to maintain our relevance as a tool of the state, we will have to undertake things that the nation wants us to do.” By August, newspapers were reporting that “the Indian air force [IAF] can fire in self-defence in anti-Maoist operations”. The Hindustan Times quoted an officer as saying, “We cannot use rockets or the integral guns of the helicopters and we can retaliate only if fired upon . . . To this end, we have side-mounted machine-guns on our choppers that are operated by our Garuds [IAF commandos].” That’s a relief. No integral guns, only side-mounted machine-guns.

So here’s the Indian state, in all its democratic glory, willing to loot, starve, lay siege to, and now deploy the air force in “self-defence” against, its poorest citizens.

Of all the various political formations involved in the current insurrection, none is more controversial than the CPI (Maoist). The most obvious reason is its unapologetic foregrounding of armed struggle as the only path to revolution. It is the most militant end of a bandwidth of resistance movements fighting an assault on Adivasi homelands by a cartel of mining and infrastructure companies. To deduce from this that the CPI (Maoist) is a party with a new way of thinking about “development” or the environment might be a little far-fetched. For a political party that is widely seen as opposing the onslaught of corporate mining, the Maoists’ policy (and practice) on mining remains pretty woolly. From interviews and statements made by their senior leaders on the subject of mining, what emerges is a sort of “we’ll do a better job” approach. They vaguely promise “environmentally sustainable” mining, higher royalties, better resettlement for the displaced and higher stakes for the “stakeholders”.

Let’s take a brief look at the star attraction in the mining belt – the several trillion dollars’ worth of bauxite. There is no environmentally sustainable way of mining bauxite and processing it into aluminium. It is a highly toxic process that most western countries have exported out of their own environments. To produce one tonne of aluminium you need about six tonnes of bauxite, more than a thousand tonnes of water and a huge amount of electricity. To get that amount of captive water and electricity, you need big dams, which, as we know, come with their own cycle of cataclysmic destruction. Last of all – the big question – what is the aluminium for? Where is it going? Aluminium is the principal material in the weapons industry – other countries’ weapons industries.

Given this, what would a sane and “sustainable” mining policy be? Suppose, for the sake of argument, the CPI (Maoist) were given control of the so-called Red Corridor, the tribal homeland – with its riches of uranium, bauxite, limestone, dolomite, coal, tin, granite, marble – how would it go about the business of policymaking and governance? Would it mine minerals to put on the market in order to create revenue, build infrastructure and expand its operations? Or would it mine only enough to meet the people’s basic needs? How would it define “basic needs”? For instance, would nuclear weapons be a “basic need” in a Maoist nation state?

Judging from what is happening in Russia and China, communist and capitalist societies seem eventually to have one thing in common – the DNA of their dreams. After their revo lutions, after building socialist societies that millions of workers and peasants paid for with their lives, both countries have now begun to reverse some of the gains of revolutionary change and have turned into unbridled capitalist economies. For them, too, the ability to consume has become the yardstick by which progress is measured. For this kind of “progress” you need industry. To feed the industry you need a steady supply of raw material. For that you need mines, dams, domination, colonies, war. Old powers are waning, new ones rising. Same story, different characters – rich countries plundering poor ones.

Yesterday it was Europe and America, today it’s India and China. Maybe tomorrow it will be Africa. Will there be a tomorrow? Perhaps it’s too late to ask, but then hope has little to do with reason.

Can we expect that an alternative to what looks like certain death for the planet will come from the imagination that has brought about this crisis in the first place? It seems unlikely. The alternative, if there is one, will emerge from the places and the people who have resisted the hegemonic impulse of capitalism and imperialism instead of being co-opted by it. Here in India, even in the midst of all the violence and greed, there is still immense hope.

If anyone can do it, we can do it. We still have a population that has not yet been completely colonised by that consumerist dream. We have a living tradition of those who have struggled for Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of sustainability and self-reliance, for socialist ideas of egalitarianism and social justice. We have B R Ambedkar’s vision, which challenges the Gandhians as well as the socialists in serious ways. We have the most spectacular coalition of resistance movements with experience, understanding and vision. Most important of all, India has a surviving Adivasi population of almost a hundred million. They are the ones who still know the secrets of sustainable living. If they disappear, they will take those secrets with them. Wars such as “Operation Green Hunt” will make them disappear. So victory for the prosecutors of these wars will contain within itself the seeds of destruction, not just for Adivasis, but, in time, for the human race. That is why the war in central India is so important. That
is why we need a real and urgent conversation between all those political formations that are resisting this war.

The day capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognise that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives low down on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle every day to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers, because they know that the forests, the mountains and the rivers protect them.

The first step towards reimagining a world that has now gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imagination – an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism, an imagination that has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfilment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but who may really be the guides to our future. To do this, we have to ask our rulers: Can you leave the water in the rivers? The trees in the forest? Can you leave the bauxite in the mountain? If they say they cannot, then perhaps they should stop preaching morality to the victims of their wars.

Arundhati Roy is the author of “The God of Small Things”, which won the 1997 Booker Prize. Her most recent book is “Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy” (Hamish Hamilton, £14.99)

http://www.newstatesman.com/international-politics/2010/10/india-police-essay-war-mining

Report on systemic human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir released

By Indian People’s Tribunal - 13 September, 2010 - Countercurrents.org

New Delhi: Human Rights Law Network and ANHAD came together to offer a platform to the victims of gross human rights violations in the conflict-torn Kashmir Valley, which culminated in a comprehensive documentation of the anguish and grievances of a generation that has gone under the gun. The report of the two-day ‘Indian People’s Tribunal on Human Rights Violations in Kashmir’, organized in Srinagar in February 20-21, 2010, was released on September 8, 2010 in New Delhi.

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India is a Corporate, Hindu state: Arundhati

Karan Thapar CNN-IBN, Sep 12, 2010

Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. At the end of a week when the Maoists have been on the front pages practically every day, we present a completely different perspective to that of the government's. My guest today is an author, essayist and Booker Prize winner, Arundhati Roy.

 

Karan Thapar: I want to talk to you about how you view the Maoists and how you think the government should respond, but first, how do you view the recent hostage taking in Bihar where four policemen were kidnapped and kept kidnapped for eight days, and one of them - Lukas Tete - murdered?

 

Arundhati Roy: I don't think there is anything revolutionary about killing a person that is in custody. I have made a statement where I said it was as bad as the police killing Azad, as they did, in a fake encounter in Andhra. But, I actually shy away from this atrocity-based analysis that's coming out of our TV screens these days because a part of it is meant for you to lose the big picture about what is this war about, who wants the war? Who needs the war?

 

 

 

 

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about the big picture. But, before I come to that, let me point out something else. In the last one year, the Maoists have beheaded Francis Induwar and Sanjoy Ghosh; they have killed Lokus Tete. They have kidnapped other policemen. There have been devastating attacks in Dantewada, there has been the sabotage of the Gyaneshwari Express. In your eyes, does it amount to legitimate strategy or tactics, or does it detract from the Maoist cause?

 

Arundhati Roy: You can't bundle them all together. For example the train accident. I don't think anybody knows who did it yet.

 

Karan Thapar: Everyone's convinced that the Maoists...

 

Arundhati Roy: Everyone can be convinced. But it is not enough to be convinced. You got to have facts and the facts are unravelling every day.

 

Karan Thapar: What about the Dantewada, the beheadings, the kidnappings?

 

Arundhati Roy: This thing is that now what's happening is that there is a situation of conflict, of war. So, you have set out a litany of the terrible acts of violence that have taken place inflicted by one side and left out the picture of what's going on the other side, which is that you have two hundred thousand paramilitary forces closing in on these poorest villages, evicting people, burning people. Of course, all violence is terrible but if you want to get into what actually is going on, we will have to discuss it in slightly more detail.

 

Karan Thapar: So what you are suggesting is that we have a spiral of violence where what one side does to the other justifies the response and, in a sense, you don't want to blame one or the other. You see them both as equally guilty?

 

Arundhati Roy: No I don't. I don't see both as equally guilty and I don't want to justify anything. I see a government breaking every sort of law in the Constitution that it has about tribal people and assault on the homelands of millions of people and some, there is a resistance force that is resisting that. Now, that situation is becoming violent, becoming ugly. And if you start trying to extract morality out of it, you are going to be in a mess.

 

Karan Thapar: But one thing that is crystal clear from what you said is you see the government as the first person, the first party, at fault. The bigger fault, the first fault, is the government's, you see the Maoists as just responding.

 

Arundhati Roy: I see the government absolutely, as the major aggressor. As far as the Maoists are concerned, of course, their ideology is an ideology of overthrowing the Indian state with violence. However, I don't believe that if the Indian state was a just state, if ordinary people had some minor hope for justice, the Maoists would just be a marginal group of militants with no popular appeal.

 

Karan Thapar: So the Maoists get support and strength from the fact that you don't believe that the Indian state is just.

 

Arundhati Roy: Let me tell you, forget the Maoists Every resistance movement, armed or unarmed, and the Maoists  today are fighting to implement the Constitution, and the government is vandalising it.

 

Karan Thapar: So the real constitutionalists are the Maoists and the real breakers of the Constitution is the government?

 

Arundhati Roy: Not only the Maoists, all resistance groups.

 

Karan Thapar: Let's focus for the moment on the Maoists because they are the ones that have been in the news all this week. The prime minister sees the Maoistsas the single biggest security threat to the country. I take it that your perception of them is completely different. How do you perceive the Maoists?

 

Arundhati Roy: I perceive them as a group of people who have at a most militant end in the bandwidth of resistance movements that exist in the cities, in the planes and in the forests.

 

Karan Thapar: But what are they seeking to do? What is their justification?

 

Arundhati Roy: Well, their ultimate goal, as they say quite clearly, is to overthrow the Indian state and institute the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is their ultimate goal but...

 

Karan Thapar: Do you, Arundhati Roy, support that goal?

 

Arundhati Roy: I don't support that goal in the sense that I don't believe the solution to the problem the world is in right now will come from an imagination either communist or capitalist because...

 

Karan Thapar: That I understand but do you support any attempt to overthrow the Indian state?

 

Arundhati Roy: Well, I can't say I do because they will lead me from here, in chains.

 

Karan Thapar: That technicality apart, it sounds as if you do.

 

Arundhati Roy: However, I believe that the Indian state has abdicated its responsibility to the people. I believe that. I believe that when a state is no longer bound, neither legally nor morally by the Indian Constitution, either we should rephrase the preamble of the Indian Constitution which says...

 

Karan Thapar: Or?

 

Arundhati Roy: Which says we are a sovereign, democratic, secular republic. We should rephrase it and say we are a corporate, Hindu, satellite state.

 

Karan Thapar: Or?

 

Arundhati Roy: Or we have to have a government which respects the Constitution or we change the Constitution.

 

Karan Thapar: Let me be blunt. It sounds very much to the audience as if you are trying to find a clever, subtle way of saying that you do support the Maoists commitment to overthrow the state but you are scared to say it upfront because you are scared that you would be whisked away to jail.

 

Arundhati Roy: If I say that I support the Maoists' desire to overthrow the Indian State, I would be saying that I am a Maoist. But I am not a Maoist.

 

Karan Thapar: But you sympathise with them.

 

Arundhati Roy: I do sympathise with all the movements. I am on this side of the line with a group of people who are saying that here is a State that is willing to bring out the Army against the poorest people not just in the country but in the world. I cannot support that.

 

Karan Thapar: Let me put this to you. You sympathise with the Maoist cause, but what about the tactics that the Maoists use? The problem is that the Maoists want to trade a new democratic order not by persuading people, not by winning legitimate elections but by armed liberation struggle. To many, that is tantamount to civil war. Do you go that far with them?

 

Arundhati Roy: There is already a civil war. I don't believe that a resistance movement that believes only in violence will lead to a new democracy. I don't believe that. Neither do I believe that if you doctrinally say you must only be non-violent, I believe that is a twisted way of supporting the status quo. I believe that has to be a bandwidth of resistance and I certainly believe that when your village is surrounded by 800 CRPF men who are raping and burning and looting, you can't say I am going on a hunger strike. Then, I support people's right to resist that.

 

Karan Thapar: But put this to me. If you support, no matter what qualifications you add, the right of the Maoists to resist with violence: whether you call it armed liberation struggle or whatever.

 

Arundhati Roy: You keep on going to these Maoists.

 

Karan Thapar: If you support that, no matter with what qualification, how then can you deny the State the right to resort to arms to defend itself?

 

Arundhati Roy: The State doesn't have to defend itself. The State is supposed to represent the people and defend the people.

 

Karan Thapar: But if the State is under attack, it is the people that are under attack and...

 

Arundhati Roy: It is not under attack. The State is perpetrating the attack. That is what I am trying to say. The State is going in violation of its own Constitution and perpetrating an attack. If you look at the recent report, the censured chapter in a recent report by the Panchayati Raj, it says so clearly: the State is being completely illegal in its actions. What do you suggest people should do when an army, a police, a paramilitary, an air force is going to start making war on the poor? Do you suggest that they should leave and live in camps and allow the rich and the corporates and the mining sector to take over?

 

Karan Thapar: So you are saying that the Maoists and all the other resistance fighters are left with no option but to fight back?

 

Arundhati Roy: What I am saying is that if a State respects non-violent resistance as has been the case in years, but if you ignore non-violence, by default you privilege violence.

 

Karan Thapar: But are the Maoists actually pursuing their goal, which you share, non-violently, or are they pursuing it with violence? That's the problem. There is a real issue here that the end seems to justify the means. The question is: do they?

 

Arundhati Roy: You are not listening to me. I am saying that there is a juggernaut of injustice that has been moving forward, displacing millions of people. Why do we have 836 million people living in on less than Rs 20 a day? Why do we have 60 million displaced people? Because the government refuses. For the last 25 years, it has refused to listen to non-violence.

 

Karan Thapar: So you see the Maoists as victims?

 

Arundhati Roy: I see the people as victims of something. If you look at the ideology of the Maoists, they don't think of themselves as victims. But that ideology is getting purchased among people, in the popular imagination because of the incredible injustice that is being perpetrated by the Indian State.

 

Karan Thapar: In short, the fault is almost entirely on the government’s side?

 

Arundhati Roy: It is.

 

Karan Thapar: You say that boldly and bluntly?

 

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely.

 

Karan Thapar: I want very much to talk about the prospects of talks but first, let me ask you about Azad. In May, it emerged that the home minister had asked Swami Agnivesh to facilitate talks with the Maoist leadership, and in turn he established contacts with the Maoists' leader Azad. But in July, in an unexplained police encounter, Azad suddenly died. Do you believe that was a deliberate ploy to bring Azad into the open and then murder him?

 

Arundhati Roy: Yes I do.

 

Karan Thapar: You really mean that? The government laid a trap to murder Azad?

 

Arundhati Roy: That's what, from all the facts that are emerging, that's what it seems to point to.

 

Karan Thapar: Why did they do this? Why would they kill the one man with whom they have rational expectations of talks?

 

Arundhati Roy: I have been saying this for few months now that you have to understand that the government needs this war. It needs this war to clear the land, to hand over, to actualise these MoUs that have been signed. If you read the business papers, they are very clear about that.

 

Karan Thapar: If the government wants war, how do you interpret the government's attempt to have talks? One is contradictory to the other.

 

Arundhati Roy: Yeah. It needs the war but it needs to keep this smiling benign mask of democracy. So, it offers talks on the one hand and undermines it on the other.

 

Karan Thapar: But even if you accept this strange theory that the government is Janus-faced, two-faced, why would it destroy that mask by killing Azad? Why would it destroy itself?

 

Arundhati Roy: Because if you look at what was happening, Azad was beginning to sound dangerously reasonable.

 

Karan Thapar: To whom?

 

Arundhati Roy: To all of us.

 

Karan Thapar: On the basis of one interview to The Hindu, you have come to the conclusion about Azad sounding reasonable?

 

Arundhati Roy: Come on Karan, we all know about Azad. He has been around for years. He has written a lot.

 

Karan Thapar: You may but people surely don't. To them, Azad is a mystery.

 

Arundhati Roy: No, not at all. For example, the piece that he wrote in Outlook, it was published after his death but it was sent around before.

 

Karan Thapar: But even if one accepts your theory that the government killed Azad because he was beginning to sound and look reasonable, that would only have made him a credible interlocutor and fit in better into their mask. Surely, that in a sense makes it even more ridiculously contradictory to kill him.

 

Arundhati Roy: Why would it be. Let's say there are two sides at war, there are more than two but everyone wants to make it binary so, for the sake of argument, accept it. When one side sends an envoy and the other side kills them, what does it mean? That one side does not want peace. That's what it means. That's a reasonable assumption.

 

Karan Thapar: So this is a duplicitous government?

 

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely.

 

Karan Thapar: In which case, let me come to the critical issue which I want to discuss. What are the prospects of talks? The government has repeatedly said that it would be willing to talk provided the Maoists abjure violence, not even asking the Maoists  to lay down arms, and many people believe that that's a reasonable and perhaps, even a generous offer. How do you view the government's position on talks?

 

Arundhati Roy: I think that if you were to go down to those forests and see what's going on, when you have these two hundred thousand paramilitaries patrolling the tribal villages, the cordon and search operations are on, the killings are on, the siege is on, what do you mean to abjure violence? If you say that there should be a ceasefire, mutual ceasefire, which is I think the most reasonable thing, then we can be talking. But if you say you should abjure violence, what does that mean?

 

Karan Thapar: So one sided abjuring of violence is not what you think will be acceptable, but a mutual ceasefire on both sides?

 

Arundhati Roy: I think it's absolutely urgent that there should be a ceasefire on both sides.

 

Karan Thapar: Simultaneous?

 

Arundhati Roy: Yes. The government reports have said that these MoUs should be re-examined. Chidambaram himself promised in an interview that he would freeze them. Why doesn't he do that?

 

Karan Thapar: He is probably waiting for a sign from the Maoists that they will respond. He doesn't want to do it unilaterally.

 

Arundhati Roy: They responded in writing now; Azad responded in writing.

 

Karan Thapar: Azad is no more. Let me put this to you. You are beginning to suggest in this interview steps, which if they were taken simultaneously by both sides, will actually in some way facilitate talks. Would you be prepared, since you know the Maoists and trusted by the Maoists, to act as a mediator?

 

Arundhati Roy: Look, if you studied the peace-talks process in Andhra, you see that this business of picking one person and announcing it on the media, both sides have done it. Chidambaram has picked arbitrarily Swami Agnivesh. Maoists arbitrarily announced on the radio that we want this one or that one. That's not how it works. In Andhra, it took almost a year for this committee of citizens to form themselves as responsible people. It should not be one person.

 

Karan Thapar: Swami Agnivesh, who you say was arbitrarily picked, almost succeeded in bringing Azad to some talking point, except for the fact that as you say, he was killed. But he almost succeeded. So I come back, since you are trusted by the Maoists and since you speak a language, that at least in English, the government can understand, would you be prepared to act as a mediator?

 

Arundhati Roy: Look Karan, I don't think it should be one person. I think there should be a group of people who are used to taking decisions collectively.

 

Karan Thapar: Will a committee?

 

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely. That's what happened in Andhra. There was a committee of persons.

 

Karan Thapar: Isn't that a mess?

 

Arundhati Roy: No, it is absolutely vital.

 

Karan Thapar: Would you be a part of it?

 

Arundhati Roy: I don't think I am good at it. I am a maverick.

 

Karan Thapar: Would you be prepared to be one of that committee?

 

Arundhati Roy: Not really. I would not like to be because I don't think I have those skills. But I think there are people who would be very good at it.

 

Karan Thapar: In June, writing in The Hindu, Justice Krishna Aiyar publicly called on the Maoists to unconditionally come forward for talks. Would you make a similar statement?

 

Arundhati Roy: No. Not when there are two hundred thousand paramilitary forces closing in on the villages. I say unconditionally both sides should say there should be a ceasefire. Then you can see.

 

Karan Thapar: But you are not prepared to facilitate that being a mediator or, even part of the committee.

 

Arundhati Roy: I'll try.

 

Karan Thapar: Try! So suddenly you are changing your position.

 

Arundhati Roy: I don't know how to think about this.

 

Karan Thapar: If pushed and persuaded, you could accept.

 

Arundhati Roy: Look, you talk to me like you talk to politicians - will you stand for elections?

 

Karan Thapar: No, I am simply trying to get you to give me a clear answer. What I sense is that you are tempted but you are uncertain.

 

Arundhati Roy: I feel that all of us should do what we can but certainly, I don't feel that I'll be very good at it. But, I think there should be a committee of people with experience in negotiating, with experienced people like BD Sharma, who has such a long experience.

 

Karan Thapar: Let's come to a different issue. The government, particularly the home minister, often look upon people who are sympathetic to Maoists' cause as collaborators, sections of the press even call them traitors. Number one in that category is bound to be Arundhati Roy. How do you respond to such branding?

 

Arundhati Roy: Well, this is an old game.

 

Karan Thapar: But it continues forcefully every time.

 

Arundhati Roy: I think the reason they were also unnerved, the government as well as most of the press, which is clearly on one side in this, is that from being people who are marooned in the jungle in one sense, when operation Green Hunt happened, a number of activists, a number of intellectuals came forward and said look, it is not acceptable to us. And that undermined the position of this open and shut case that was going on all this time.

 

Karan Thapar: So the certainty of the government's position was weakened and undermined by the intellectuals who supported the government which is why the government branded them collaborators?

 

Arundhati Roy: Again you are saying the Maoists.

 

Karan Thapar: But that's why the government called them collaborators?

 

Arundhati Roy: What has happened is that the government has expanded the definition of Maoists to mean everyone who is disagreeing with it. What people like myself have done is to complicate the scenario. Say it's not that simple. Of course it doesn't upset me because I like to say what I think very clearly. I am not worried about being called names.

 

Karan Thapar: And in a sense the government calling you a collaborator is proof that you actually made the government uncomfortable.

 

Arundhati Roy: I am proud if I made the government uncomfortable because it should be bloody uncomfortable with what it's doing.

 

Karan Thapar: A pleasure talking to you.

Kashmir: A Time for Freedom--Angana Chatterji

“A mother, reportedly asked to watch her daughter’s rape by army personnel, pleaded for her release. They refused. She then pleaded that she could not watch, asking to be sent out of the room or be killed. The soldier pointed a gun to her forehead, stating he would grant her wish, and shot her dead before they proceeded to rape the daughter.”

By Angana Chatterji

First published in Greater Kashmir, daily newspaper, Srinagar
September 25, 2010

“Freedom” represents many things across rural and urban spaces in India-ruled  Kashmir. These divergent meanings are steadfastly united in that freedom always signifies an end to India’s authoritarian governance.

In the administration of brutality, India, the postcolony, has proven itself coequal to its former colonial masters. Kashmir is not about “Kashmir.”

Governing Kashmir is about India’s coming of age as a power, its ability to
disburse violence, to manipulate and dominate. Kashmir is about nostalgia,
about resources, and buffer zones. The possession of Kashmir by India renders an imaginary past real, emblematic of India’s triumphant unification as a nation-state. Controlling Kashmir requires that Kashmiri demands for justice be depicted as threatening to India’s integrity. India’s contrived enemy in Kashmir is a plausible one – the Muslim “Other,” India’s historically
manufactured nemesis.

What is at Stake?

Between June 11 and September 22 of 2010, Kashmir witnessed the execution of 109 youth, men, and women by India’s police, paramilitary, and military. Indian forces opened fire on crowds, tortured children, detained elders without explanation, and coerced false confessions. Since June 7, there have been 73 days of curfew and 75 days of strikes and agitation. On September 11, the day of Eid-ul-Fitr, the violence continued. The paramilitary and police verbally abused and physically attacked civil society dissenters. Summer 2010 was not unprecedented. Kashmir has been subjected to much, much worse.

The use of public and summary execution for civic torture has been held necessary to Kashmir’s subjugation by the Indian state. Militarization has
asserted vigilante jurisdiction over space and politics. The violence is staged, ritualistic, and performative, used to re-assert India’s power over
Kashmir’s body. The fabrications of the military — fake encounters, escalating perceptions of cross-border threat — function as the truth-making apparatus of the nation. We are witness to the paradox of history, as calibrated punishment — the lynching of the Muslim body, the object of criminality — enforces submission of a stateless nation (Kashmir) to the once-subaltern postcolony (India).

Kashmir is about the spectacle. The Indian state’s violence functions as an intervention, to discipline and punish, to provoke and dominate. The summer of 2010 evidenced India’s manoeuvring against Kashmir’s determination to decide its future. The use of violence by the Indian forces was deliberate, their tactics cruel and precise, amidst the groundswell of public dissent. This was the third summer, since 2008, of indefatigable civil society uprisings for “Azaadi” (freedom).

What is the Indian state hoping to achieve? One, that Kashmiris would submit to India’s domination, forsaking their claim to separation from India (to be an independent state or, for some, to be assimilated with Pakistan), or their demand for full autonomy. Or, that provoked, grief-stricken, and weary,
Kashmiris would take up arms once again, giving India the opportunity to
fortify its propaganda that Kashmiri civil society dissent against Indian rule
is nurtured and endorsed today by external forces and groups in Pakistan and
Afghanistan. If the latter transpires, India will manipulate this to neutralize
Kashmiri demands for de-militarization and conflict resolution, to extend its
annexation of Kashmir, and further normalize civic and legal states of
exception.

If India succeeds in both provoking local armed struggle and linking Kashmiri
resistance to foreign terror, it will acquire international sanction to
continue its government of Kashmir on grounds of “national security,” and “have
proof” that Kashmiris are not organically debating India’s government of them,
but are pressurized into it by external forces. India can then reinforce its
armed forces in Kashmir, presently 671,000 strong, to prolong the killing
spree.

Such provocation as policy is a mistake. Such legitimation of military rule
will produce intractable conflict and violence. All indications are that
Kashmiri civil society dissent will not abate. It is not externally motivated,
but historically compelled.

Dominant nation-states overlook that freedom struggles are not adherent to the
moralities of violence versus nonviolence, but reflect a desire to be free.
Dominant nation-states forget that the greater the oppression, the more fervent
is resistance. The greater the violence, the more likely is the provocation to
counter-violence.

Whether dissent in Kashmir turns into organized armed struggle or continues as
mass-based peaceful resistance is dependent upon India’s political decisions.
If India’s subjugation persists, it is conceivable that the movement for
nonviolent dissent, mobilized since 2004, will erode. Signs indicate that it is
already slightly threadbare. It is conceivable that India’s brutality will
induce Kashmiri youth to close the distance between stones and petrol bombs, or
more. If India fails to act, if Pakistan acts only in its self-interest, and if
the international community does not insist on an equitable resolution to the
Kashmir dispute, it is conceivable, that, forsaken by the world, Kashmiris will
be compelled to take up arms again.

Misogynist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, al-Qaeda, or the Taliban are
mercenaries looking for takers in Kashmir. By the Indian state’s record, there
are between 500-700 militants in the Kashmir Valley today. These groups have
not been successful because Kashmiris have been disinterested in alliances with
them, and not because the Indian army is successful in controlling them. This
time, an armed mobilization by Kashmiris would include an even stronger mass
movement than that which occurred between 1990 and 2004/2007, led by youth
whose lives have been shaped by the two-decade long violence of militarization.

Who wants that? Can the South Asian Subcontinent, already nuclearized, survive
that? India is accountable to keep this from happening. Not through the use of
unmitigated force, but through listening to the demands for change made by
Kashmiris.

Will to Power

This summer, India’s violence on Kashmir was threaded through with strategic
calculation. The police, military, and paramilitary have, without provocation,
brutalized widespread peaceable protests across Kashmir that were dissenting
the suppression of civil society by Indian forces. Hostile Indian forces acted
with the knowledge and sanction of the Government of India and the Government
of Jammu and Kashmir. The repeated repression by state forces provoked
civilians, whose political means of expression and demands have been
systematically denied, to engage in stone pelting. The conditions of
militarization prompted them to be in non-compliance with declared, undeclared,
and unremitting curfews. In instances, civilians engaged in acts of violence,
including arson.

Each instance of civilian violence was provoked by the unmitigated and first
use of force on civilians and/or extrajudicial killings on the part of Indian
forces. Peaceable civilian protests by women and men dissented the actions of
Indian forces. Individuals, caught in the midst of the unrest, or mourning the
death of a civilian, were fired upon by Indian forces, leading to other
killings by Indian forces, more civilian protests, greater use of force by the
police and paramilitary, use of torture in certain instances by Indian forces,
more killings by Indian forces, larger, even violent, civilian protests, and
further state repression.

In Summer 2010, dominant discourse focused on the use of stone pelting and on
the instances of violence by youth in Kashmir as the reason for armed action on
the part of the state. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh focused on the need
for efficient tactics in “crowd control.” India’s elite intelligentsia,
inculcated into “rational” conduct, and no longer outraged by suffering,
assessed the costs and benefits of militaristic violence.

Civil society demonstrations in Kashmir are not a law and order problem, as
they have been reported. Stone pelting, and incidents of arson and violence,
are not causal to the violence that is routine in Kashmir today. Stone pelting
does not seek to kill, and has not resulted in death. Pro-freedom leaders
(termed “separatists” by the Indian state) have emphasized nonviolent civil
disobedience, and have appealed to civil society to not engage in violent
protests in reaction to the violence and killings by Indian forces.

Indian potentates disregard that suppression acts to catalyze the resistance
movement in Kashmir. The Government of India continues to monitor the
resistance movement, shifting the boundaries of acceptable practise of civil
liberties. Kashmiris are allowed to protest in New Delhi, while in Kashmir
sloganeering (“Go, India, Go Back,” “Indian Dogs Go Home,” “Quit Kashmir,”) is
met with force. When Masarat Alam Bhat, a rising pro-freedom leader, issued an
appeal to Indian soldiers in July to “Quit Kashmir,” Indian authorities banned
its circulation.

Acts of violence by protesting civilians increased as military violence
continued into September. On September 13, crowds in Kashmir torched a
Christian missionary school and some government offices while protesting the
call to desecrate the Qur’an by Florida Pastor Terry Jones. On September 13, 18
civilians were killed by the Indian forces in Kashmir (a police officer also
died). Provocation is easy in a context of sustained brutality. Provoking
Kashmiri dissenters to violence serves to confirm the dominant story of Muslims
as “violent.” Yet again, several pro-freedom leaders condemned the attack on
the Christian school and renewed their call for nonviolent dissent.

On September 13, the Government of India stated its willingness to engage with
Kashmiri groups that reject violence. New Delhi did not apply the same
precondition to itself. Nor did it acknowledge that pro-freedom groups have
repeatedly opposed the use of violence in recent years.

The Kashmiri Muslim is caricatured as violent by India’s dominant political and
media apparatus. There is a refusal to recognize the inequitable
historical-political power relations at play between Muslim-prevalent Kashmir’s
governance by Hindu-dominant India. The racialization of the Muslim, as “Other”
and barbaric, reveals the xenophobia of the Indian state. Distinctions in
method and power, between stone pelter and armed soldier, between “terrorist”
and “freedom fighter,” are inconvenient.

The Indian state’s discourse is animated by the prejudice that Kashmiri
inclinations to violence are subsidized by Pakistan. Such misconceptions ignore
that while Kashmiris did travel to Pakistan to seek arms training, such
activity was largely confined to the early days of the armed militancy, circa
late 1980s through the mid-1990s. Pathologies of “violent Muslims” legitimate
the discursive and physical violence of the Indian “security” forces, which is
presented as necessary protection for the maintenance of the Hindu majoritarian
Indian nation.

I have spent considerable time between July 2006 and July 2010 learning about
Kashmir, working in Kashmir. In undertaking the work of the International
People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir, I
have travelled across Kashmir’s cities and countryside, from Srinagar to
Kupwara, through Shopian and Islamabad (Anantnag), with Parvez Imroz,
Zahir-Ud-Din, and Khurram Parvez. I have witnessed the violence that is
perpetrated on Kashmiris by India’s military, paramilitary, and police. I have
walked through the graveyards that hold Kashmir’s dead, and have met with
grieving families. I have sat with witnesses, young men, who described how
Indian forces chased down and executed their friends for participating in civil
disobedience. I have met women whose sons were disappeared. I have met with
“half-widows.” I have spoken with youth, women and men, who are enraged. I have
also spoken with persons who were violated by militants in the 1990s.

Peoples’ experiences with the reprehensible atrocities of militancy do not imply the
abdication of their desires for self-determination. The Indian state
deliberately conflates militancy with the people’s mass movement for
liberation.

I have met with torture survivors, non-militants and former militants, who
testified to the sadism of the forces. Men who had petrol injected through the
anus. Water-boarding, mutilation, being paraded naked, rape of women, children,
and men, starvation, humiliation, and psychological torture. An eagle tattoo on
the arm of a man was reportedly identified by an army officer as a symbol of
Pakistan-held Azad Kashmir, even as the man clarified the tattoo was from his
childhood. The skin containing it was burned. The officer said, the man
recalled: “When you look at this, think of Azaadi.” A mother, reportedly asked
to watch her daughter’s rape by army personnel, pleaded for her release. They
refused. She then pleaded that she could not watch, asking to be sent out of
the room or be killed. The soldier pointed a gun to her forehead, stating he
would grant her wish, and shot her dead before they proceeded to rape the
daughter.

Who are the forces? Disenfranchised caste and other groups, Assamese, Nagas,
Sikhs, Dalits (erstwhile “untouchable” peoples), and Muslims from Kashmir, are
being used to combat Kashmiris. Why did 34 soldiers commit suicide in Kashmir
in 2008, and 52 fratricidal killings take place between January 21, 2004 and
July 14, 2009? Why did 16 soldiers commit suicide and 2 die in fratricidal
killings between January and early August in 2010?

Laws authorize soldiers to question, raid houses, detain and arrest without
chargesheets, and prolong incarceration without due process. They blur
distinctions between military/paramilitary, “legality”/“illegality.” Citing
“national security,” Indian forces in Kashmir shoot and kill on uncorroborated
suspicion, with impunity from prosecution. Yet, revoking the Armed Forces
Special Powers Act, for example, will not stop the horror in Kashmir. India’s
laws are not the primary contention. India’s political and military existence
in Kashmir is the issue. Legal impunity is the cover for the moral impunity of
Indian rule.

Is the military willing to withdraw from Kashmir? Since 2002, the Government of
India has procured 5 billion US dollars in weaponry from the Israeli state.
Authoritarian alliances between once subjugated peoples mark another irony of
history. Five billion dollars is a colossal sum for India, where 38 percent of
the world’s poor reside. Eight of the poorest states in India are more
impoverished than the 26 poorest countries of the African continent. Five
billion dollars, in addition to the other monies and resources invested in the
militarization of Kashmir, do not evidence an intent to withdraw.

Human rights violations in Kashmir will not stop without removing the military.
The military cannot be removed without surgically rupturing India’s will to
power over Kashmir.

Inflexible Diplomacy

India needs to make the “Kashmir problem” disappear. India’s diplomacy is
directed toward assuming a role as a world power, a world market, and a world
negotiator in global politics. India is also seeking a seat on the United
Nations Security Council.

What constitutes India’s dialogue with Kashmiris in conditions of extreme
subjugation? The Government of India has scheduled a hurried timeframe in
propelling Track II diplomacy into success, to secure a proposal for resolution
that is acceptable to India and Pakistan, and, ostensibly, to Kashmiris. The
terms of reference set by New Delhi exclude discussions of self-determination
or heightened autonomy, boundary negotiations, the Siachen glacier and critical
water-resources, and renegotiations of the Line of Control.

New Delhi and Islamabad appear to be in collusion. If Pakistan overlooks
India’s annexation of Jammu and Kashmir, India would be willing to forget
Pakistan’s occupation of another fragment of Kashmir. The Musharraf Formula is
no longer acceptable to the Government of Pakistan. Afghanistan is the current
priority, not Kashmir. Conversations on the phased withdrawal of troops by
India and Pakistan at the border, local self-government, and the creation of a
joint supervision mechanism in Jammu and Kashmir, involving India, Pakistan,
and Kashmir, are at an impasse.

The Government in New Delhi is looking to neutralize Kashmir’s demand for
self-determination or unabridged autonomy, pushing forward a diluted
“autonomy,” seeking to assimilate Kashmir with finality into the Indian
nation-state. New Delhi is seeking buy-in, which it hopes to push through using
the collaborator coterie in Srinagar. Local self-government would be New
Delhi’s compromise — a weak autonomy — with a joint supervisory apparatus
constituted of India, Pakistan, and Kashmir.

New Delhi hopes that the Kashmiri leadership, including pro-freedom groups, can
be restrained, for a price, and weakened through infighting. Certain segments
of the pro-freedom leadership have, through history, lacked vision, honesty,
and the ability to prioritize collaboration for justice and peace in Kashmir.
Certain segments of the religious and political leadership have been unable to
collaborate meaningfully with civil society, with observant Muslims and those
irreligious, and with non-Muslims. The spiritual commitment to justice in
Islamic tradition has receded as religious determinations embrace instrumental
political rationality. The determination of what “freedom” is has been deferred
since 1931; instead there has been a focus on immediate and small political
gains.

This has plagued and rendered ineffectual segments of the complex Hurriyat
alliance in the present, which is often unable to capitalize on the exuberant
people’s movement on the streets and pathways of Kashmir. Segments of the
pro-freedom leadership have focused on New Delhi rather than Kashmir civil
society. New Delhi has fixated on enabling this dynamic, using vast resources
to create a collaborator class in Srinagar that undermines the will of the
Kashmiri people.

While Pakistan’s politicians have pointed to India’s injustices, they have not
reciprocally addressed issues in the management of Pakistan-held Kashmir,
including the deflation of movements for the unification of Kashmir. The crisis
of state in Pakistan, and the role of its ruling elite in vitiating people’s
democratic processes, remains a pitfall for regional security.

The logic that Muslim-prevalent Kashmir must stay with secular India or join
Muslim-dominated Pakistan is configured by India’s and Pakistan’s internal
ideological needs and identitarian politics. Neither is inevitable. Neither
speak to the foremost aspiration of Kashmiris.

The Government of India’s “inclusive dialogue” this summer has systematically
disregarded Kashmiri civil society demands, thrusting a violent peace brokered
by New Delhi’s agents of change. New Delhi has invited various Kashmiri
stakeholders from civil society as well. Their articulations, however, have not
shifted the agenda, even as bringing people to the table is used to legitimate
India’s visage of inclusivity.

What do a majority of Kashmiris want? First, to secure a good faith agreement
with New Delhi and Islamabad regarding the right of Kashmiris to determine the
course of their future, set a timeframe, and define the interim conditions
necessary to proceed. Following which, civil society and political leaders
would ensue processes to educate, debate, and consult civil society, including
minority groups, in sketching the terms of reference for a resolution, prior to
negotiations with India and Pakistan.

Significantly, pro-freedom leader Syeed Ali Geelani’s statement of August 31
sought to shift the terms of engagement, not requiring the precondition of
self-determination or the engagement of Pakistan. Unless New Delhi responds,
the protests in Kashmir will continue. Geelani’s statement, supported by the
All Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, testifies to this.
The mood in the streets testifies to this.

New Delhi’s current approach repudiates what Kashmiris want. The omissions made
by New Delhi are roadblocks to constituting a minimum agenda for justice and an
enduring and relevant peace process.

The Government of India’s “inclusive dialogue” this summer does not recognize
Kashmir as an international dispute.

The Government of India’s “inclusive dialogue” this summer does not include: An
immediate halt to, and moratorium on, extrajudicial killings by the Indian
military, paramilitary, and police; An immediate halt to, and moratorium on,
the use of torture, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, and gendered violence
by the Indian military, paramilitary, and police; A plan for the release of
political prisoners, the return of those exiled, and contending with the issue
of displacement; Agreements on an immediate “soft border” policy between
Kashmir, India, and Pakistan, to enable the resurgence of Kashmir’s political
economy; Agreements to non-interference in the exercise of civil liberties of
Kashmiris, including the right to civil disobedience, and freedom of speech,
assembly, religion, movement, and travel.

New Delhi has refused to acknowledge the extent of human rights violations, and
how they are integral to maintaining dominion. New Delhi has not explained why
militarization in Kashmir has been disproportionately used to brutalize
Kashmiris, when ostensibly the Indian forces are in Kashmir to secure the
border zones.

The Government of India’s “inclusive dialogue” this summer does not include a
plan for the proactive demilitarization and the immediate revocation of all
authoritarian laws. Nor does it include: A plan for the transparent
identification and dismantling of detention and torture centres, including in
army camps; A plan for the instatement of a Truth and Justice Commission for
political and psychosocial reparation, and reckoning loss; A plan for the
international and transparent investigations into unknown and mass graves
constitutive of crimes against humanity committed by the Indian military,
paramilitary, and police. Such omissions are a travesty of any process
promising “resolution.”

Islamphobia and Realpolitik

New Delhi has been the self-appointed arbitrator in determining the
justifications of Kashmir’s claims to freedom. Kashmir’s claims are
historically unique and bona fide. History — the United Nations Resolutions of
1948, Nehru’s promise of plebiscite (to rethink the temporary accession
determined by the Hindu-descent Maharaja, Hari Singh), Article 370 of the
Indian Constitution — is jettisoned by an amnesic India. Official nationalism
seeks to rewrite history, affixing Kashmir to India, to overwrite memory.
Within the battlefields of knowledge/power, official “truth” becomes the
contagion sustaining cultures of repression and mass atrocity, creating
cultures of grief.

The Indian state is apprehensive that any change in the status quo in Kashmir
would foster internal crises of gigantic proportion in India. Across the nation
there is considerable discontent, as dreams and difference are mortgaged to the
idea of India fabricated by the elite. Adivasis (indigenous peoples), Dalits,
disenfranchised caste groups, women, religious, ethnic, and gender minorities
are fatigued by the nation’s deferred promises. Forty-four million Adivasis
have been displaced since 1947. Central India is torn asunder, and as Maoists
are designated as the latest “national threat,” national memory forgets the
systematic brutalization of peoples in the tribal belt that led to a call to
arms. Then there is the Northeast, Punjab, the massacre of Muslims in Narendra
Modi’s Gujarat, riots against Christians in Orissa, farmer suicides, the plight
of peasants and Adivasis of the Narmada Valley where dams are not the “temples
of India,” but its burial grounds. Kashmir cannot remain India’s excuse to
avoid dealing with its own internal matters.

Indian civil society decries that Kashmir is not deserving of autonomy or
separation, as it, as an assumed Islamist state, would be a threat to India’s
democracy. To assume that a Muslim-majority state in Kashmir will be ruled by
Islamist extremists in support of global terror reflects majoritarian India’s
racism. Dominant Indian (left-oriented) civil society must rethink its
characterization of Kashmiri civil society as prevalently “Jamaati.” Jamaat is
Arabic for assembly. “Jamaati” is used by Indian civil society to imply
Islamist or fundamentalist. The reference can often be translated as Muslim =
Jamaati, and Muslim-observant = fundamentalist.

Indians of Hindu descent largely overlook that India’s democracy is infused
with Hindu cultural dominance. Indian civil society assumes that Islam and
democracy are incompatible, supported by the inflamed Islamphobia in the
polities of the West. Importantly, India forgets that in its own history with
the British, freedom fighters had noted that the oppressor cannot adjudge when
a stateless people are “deserving” of freedom.

Freedom is fundamentally an experiment with risk that Kashmiris must be willing
to take. The global community must support them in making such risk ethical.
Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim majority space. The population of India-held
Kashmir was recorded at approximately 6,900,000 in 2008, of which Muslims are
approximately 95 percent. Kashmir’s future as a democratic, inclusive, and
pro-secular space is linked to what happens within India and Pakistan.

Kashmiris that wish to be separate from India and Pakistan must assess the
difficult alliances yet to be built between Kashmir, Jammu, and Ladakh, and
between Muslims and Hindu Pandits, Dogra Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians,
indigenous groups, and others. Then, there is the question of what lies ahead
between Indian-held Kashmir and Pakistan-held Kashmir. Minority groups, such as
Kashmiri Pandits, must refuse the Indian state’s hyper-nationalist strategy in
using the Pandit community to create opposition between Muslims and Hindus in
Kashmir, as part of a strategy to religionize the issue and govern through
communalization.

Where is the international community on the issue of Kashmir? In present
history, Palestine, Ireland, Tibet, and Kashmir share correspondence. In Tibet,
1.2 million died (1949-1979), and 320,000 were made refugees. In Ireland, 3,710
have died (1969- 2010). For Israel, the occupation of Palestine has resulted in
10,148 dead (1987-2010), with 4.7 million refugees registered with the United
Nations (1987-2008). In Kashmir, 70,000 are dead, over 8,000 have been
disappeared, and 250,000 have been displaced (1989-2010).

During British Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to India, he was
asked to refrain from bringing up the “K” word. United States President Barak
Obama’s proposed visit to New Delhi in November is already laden with
prohibitions. India’s rule in Kashmir and its larger human rights record are
among them. As well, right-wing Hindu advocacy groups have been successful in
securing the silence of many on Capitol Hill on the issue of Kashmir. The
Kashmiri diaspora has been partly effective in bringing visibility to the
issue, even as the community remains ideologically and politically fragmented.
International advocates have propagated an “economic” approach to “normalcy.”
This avoids the fact that militarization impacts every facet of life, making
economic development outside of political change impossible.

The United States and United Kingdom have debated the reasons for their
involvement in Kashmir. In 2010, as of September 23, 351 soldiers from the
United States have died in Afghanistan, while the United Kingdom sustained 92
fatalities. Of paramount concern for both is bringing their forces home without
compromising the principles of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
operations in the region. To accomplish this would require that Pakistan move
sizeable forces from the Indo-Kashmir-Pak border to the Af-Pak frontier. This
cannot be done without cessation in Indo-Pak hostilities, which cannot be
achieved without the resolution of the Kashmir dispute. However, Kashmir’s
resolution cannot mean a sanction to Pakistan’s encroachment on Afghanistan,
which, given the political situation in the region, remains a highly likely
possibility. For the United States and India, the containment of China is
another issue, also linked to Kashmir.

Kashmiris in Kashmir are caught amidst world events and regional machinations,
and the unresolved histories of the Subcontinent. The Indian state’s military
governance penetrates every facet of life. The sounds of war haunt mohallas.
The hyper-presence of militarization forms a graphic shroud over Kashmir:
Detention and interrogation centres, army cantonments, abandoned buildings,
bullet holes, bunkers and watchtowers, detour signs, deserted public squares,
armed personnel, counter-insurgents, and vehicular and electronic espionage.
Armed control regulates and governs bodies. It has been reported that, since
1990, Kashmir’s economy has incurred a reported loss of more than 1,880,000
million Indian Rupees (40.4 million US Dollars). The immensity of psychosocial
losses is impossible to calculate. The conditions of everyday life are in
peril. They elicit suffocating anger and despair, telling a story of the web of
violence in which civil society in Kashmir is interned.

For India, constituting a coherent national collective has required multiple
wars on difference. National governance determines territory and belonging,
disenfranchising subaltern claims. Local struggles for self-determination are
brutalized to reproduce obedient national collectives. Systemic acts of
oppression chart a history, as relations of power are choreographed by
nation-states in the suppression of others. Massacre, gendercide, genocide,
occupation, function within a continuum of tactics in negation/annihilation.

India’s relation to Kashmir is not about Kashmir. Kashmir’s aversion to being
subsumed by the Indian state is not reducible to history. If violence breaks
lives, Kashmir is quite broken. If oppression produces resistance, Kashmir is
profusely resilient. From Michel Foucault to Achille Mbembe, and so much
in-between, we are reminded of the myriad techniques in governance that seek to
subjugate, while naming subjugation as subject formation, as protection,
“security,” law and order, and progress.

Realpolitik triumphs against a backdrop of persistent refusal. Through summer
heat and winter snow, across interminable stretches of concertina wire, broken
windowpanes, walls, barricades, and checkpoints, the dust settles to rise
again. The agony of loss. The desecration of life. Kashmir’s spiritual
fatalities are staggering. The dead are not forgotten. Remembrance and mourning
are habitual practises of dissent. “We are not free. But we know freedom,” KP
tells me. “The movement is our freedom. Our dreams are our freedom. The Indian
state cannot take that away. Our resistance will live.”

Dr. Angana Chatterji is Professor, Department of Anthropology, California
Institute of Integral Studies. She is Co-convener of the International People’s
Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Indian-administered Kashmir.

http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2010/Sep/25/kashmir-a-time-for-freedom-26.asp

Writings and Interviews by Azad

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