It is ironical to see writer and activist Arundhati Roy facing the allegation of sedition over her recent comments on Kashmir. It has been reported that the security forces have been involved in the killing of Kashmiris, disappearances of hundreds, torture, and rape. The Indian state is known to have done everything it can to suppress dissent in the State. It has used violence, disinformation, propaganda, etc., to subdue the will of the people. In view of all this, instead of castigating Ms Roy, we would do well to introspect.
Mohd Ziyaullah Khan,
Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan was accused of being “false, seditious and impious” and burnt in Oxford along with some other books. Calendars have rolled by, times have changed but the fate of a writer or artist who dares to think differently remains unchanged. The frenzy whipped up over Ms Roy's comment bears testimony to it. Why don't her critics realise that she has just given a more vociferous expression to what an average Kashmiri desires? Why don't we look at the issue from the perspective of those who live in one of the most brutal and inhuman circumstance possible?
The demand to press sedition charges against Ms Roy by those who do not understand the feelings of Kashmiris, those who have perhaps not visited Kashmir more than once as tourists, and those who are unaware of the ground reality there is irrational. The Centre should understand the feelings of Kashmiris caught in the fight between India and Pakistan.
Kashmir is of sentimental value to every Indian but what we often fail to remember is that it has not just beautiful landscape or historical importance but also a people whose aspirations we cannot ignore.
The real wealth of any place is its people. Without their happiness or peace, all that remains is a soulless entity that we can hope to possess and secure. What really matters is the opinion of the ordinary people of Kashmir. Residing in another part of India, I am yet to hear the voice of the common man in Kashmir. That, unfortunately, does not bode well for our democracy.
The issue is not whether Ms Roy or anyone else has the freedom to speak his or her mind, but whether the people of Kashmir have the right to decide their destiny. Invoking either history or narrowly defined nationalism will not help to solve the problem. We have to open our eyes to see the ground reality. Let us first accept that Kashmir is a problem, national or international, which has been lingering for more than six decades. We should ascertain the Kashmiri mind. Can this be done by sending a few interlocutors? I believe that writers like Ms Roy can do a better job.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and all citizens, including Ms Roy, are entitled to it. But the right becomes invaluable only by responsible exercise. While nobody can deny police excesses, particularly in conflict zones, the statement by the eminent writer that the people of Kashmir live under one of the “most brutal military occupations in the world” is unacceptable. She has also said that Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. It could not have been, for the present Indian state is an administrative unit created by the British and politically, the Indian landmass was under the rule of countless kings for ages. Calls for azaadi out of frustration, incitement or police excesses should not be mixed up with misrule by successive governments in the State.
G. Gokul Kishore,
People have a right to know whether the army in Kashmir is behaving like an occupational force or instilling confidence in the minds of people. The news from Shopian and other parts of Kashmir do not lend credence to the belief that the armed forces are treating civilians as our own citizens. Ms Roy expressed her apprehension after visiting different parts of the State. Instead of threatening her with action for sedition, the government should try to resolve the Kashmir issue by enlisting the support of all sections and isolating the terrorists.