News Desk |
On Indian Independence Day, the New York Times has published an award-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy’s scathing rebuke of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s lockdown of Kashmir.
As India celebrates her 73rd year of independence from British rule, she stated, “… it looks very much as though our government has gone rogue” by turning “Kashmir into a giant prison camp. Seven million Kashmiris were barricaded in their homes, internet connections were cut and their phones went dead.”
In her opinion piece, Roy said that the parliament welcomed the passing of the act by the very British tradition of desk-thumping. “The dissolution of the legal entity of the state also means the dissolution of Article 35A, which granted residents rights and privileges that made them stewards of their own territory. So, “being open for business,” it must be clarified, can also include Israeli-style settlements and Tibet-style population transfers,” she stated.
What India has done in Kashmir over the last 30 years is unforgivable. An estimated 70,000 people, civilians, militants and security forces have been killed in the conflict.
Amid vulgar celebrations – misogyny on the internet and the statement of the chief minister of the state of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, that Indians can bring girls from Kashmir – “the loudest sound, however, is the deathly silence from Kashmir’s patrolled, barricaded streets and its approximately seven million caged, humiliated people, stitched down by razor wire, spied on by drones, living under a complete communications blackout,” she wrote.
That in this age of information, she said, a government can so easily cut off a whole population from the rest of the world for days at a time, says something serious about the times we are heading toward.
— Alia Waheed (@AliaWaheed) August 15, 2019
“In the 72 years since [independence], successive Indian governments have undermined terms of the Instrument of Accession until all that was left of it was the skeletal structure. Now even that has been shot to hell,” she added.
Roy continued by saying that today Kashmir is one of the most or perhaps the most densely militarized zone in the world. More than a half-million soldiers have been deployed to counter what the army itself admits is now just a handful of “terrorists.”
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“If there were any doubt earlier it should be abundantly clear by now that their real enemy is the Kashmiri people. What India has done in Kashmir over the last 30 years is unforgivable. An estimated 70,000 people, civilians, militants and security forces have been killed in the conflict. Thousands have been “disappeared,” and tens of thousands have passed through torture chambers that dot the valley like a network of small-scale Abu Ghraibs,” her op-ed read.
The article further stated that Narendra Modi’s hard-line approach in his first term exacerbated the violence in Kashmir – a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian security personnel. “Now two months into Narendra Modi’s second term,” she said, “his government has played its most dangerous card of all. It has tossed a lit match into a powder keg. If that were not bad enough, the cheap, deceitful way in which it did it is disgraceful. In the last week of July, 45,000 extra troops were rushed into Kashmir on various pretexts.”
On August 8, four days into the lockdown, she recalled, Narendra Modi appeared on television to address an ostensibly celebrating India and an incarcerated Kashmir. In his address, she said, he spoke about how Bollywood films would once again be shot in their verdant valley.
It will be used to further inflame the hostility against Indian Muslims who are already being demonized, ghettoized, pushed down the economic ladder, and, with terrifying regularity, lynched.
“He didn’t explain why Kashmiris needed to be locked down and put under a communications blockade while he delivered his stirring speech. He didn’t explain why the decision that supposedly benefited them so hugely was taken without consulting them. He didn’t say how the great gifts of Indian democracy could be enjoyed by a people who live under a military occupation. He remembered to greet them in advance for Eid, a few days away. But he didn’t promise that the lockdown would be lifted for the festival. It wasn’t,” the article read.
She also slammed many in India who are so alert to infringements of their own rights and liberties but have a completely different standard for Kashmiris.
“When it [lockdown] ends, as it must, the violence that will spiral out of Kashmir will inevitably spill into India. It will be used to further inflame the hostility against Indian Muslims who are already being demonized, ghettoized, pushed down the economic ladder, and, with terrifying regularity, lynched. The state will use it as an opportunity to close in on others, too — the activists, lawyers, artists, students, intellectuals, journalists — who have protested courageously and openly,” she continued.
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While alerting of dangers that can come from many directions, she said, the most powerful organization in India is the far-right Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or the R.S.S., with more than 600,000 members including Narendra Modi and many of his ministers, has a trained “volunteer” militia, inspired by Mussolini’s Black Shirts. With each passing day, she said, the R.S.S. tightens its grip on every institution of the Indian state, adding, in truth, it has reached a point when it more or less is the state.
“If Kashmir is occupied by security forces, India is occupied by the mob,” she stated.