“About a week or 10 days ago, I was in Ranchi where there was a Peoples’ Tribunal against Operation Green Hunt– which is the Indian state’s war against the poorest people in this country–and at that tribunal, just as I was leaving, a TV journalist stuck a mic in my face and very aggressively said “Madam, is Kashmir an integral part of India or not? Is Kashmir an integral part of India or not?” about five times.
So I said, look, Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. However aggressively and however often you want to ask me that. Even the Indian government has accepted, in the UN that it’s not an integral part of India. So why are we trying to change that narrative now? See, in 1947, we were told that India became a sovereign nation and a sovereign democracy, but if you look at what the Indian state did from midnight of 1947 onwards, that colonized country, that country that became a country because of the imagination of its colonizer–the British drew the map of India in 1899– so that country became a colonizing power the moment it became independent, and the Indian state has militarily intervened in Manipur, in Nagaland, in Mizoram.. in Mizoram, in Kashmir, in Telangana, during the Naxalbari uprising, in Punjab, in Hyderabad, in Goa, in Junagarh. So often the Indian government, the Indian state, the Indian elite, they accuse the Naxalites of believing in protracted war, but actually you see a State–the Indian State–that has waged protracted war against its own people or what it calls its own people relentlessly since 1947, and when you look at who are those people that it has waged war against– the Nagas, the Mizos, the Manipuris, people in Assam, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Punjab–it’s always a minority, the Muslims, the Tribals, the Christians, the Dalits, the Adivasis, endless war by an upper caste Hindu state, this is what is the modern history of our country.
Now, in 2007, at the time of the uprising in Kashmir against that whole acquisition of land for the Amarnath Yatra, I was in Srinagar and I was walking down the road and I met a young journalist, I think he was from Times of India, and he said to me–he couldn’t believe that he saw some Indian person–walking alone on the road– and he said, “can I have a quote?”, so I said, “yes, do you have a pen? Because I don’t want to be misquoted” and I said, “write down–India needs azaadi from Kashmir just as much as Kashmir needs azaadi from India”, and when I said India, I did not mean the Indian state, I meant the Indian people because I think that the occupation of Kashmir– today there are 700,000 security personnel manning that valley of 12 million people– it is the most militarized zone in the world– and for us, the people of India, to tolerate that occupation is like allowing a kind of moral corrosion to drip into our blood stream.
So for me it’s an intolerable situation to try and pretend that it isn’t happening even if the media blanks it out, all of us know…..or maybe all of us don’t know….but any of us who’ve visited Kashmir know– that Kashmiris cannot inhale and exhale without their breath going through the barrel of an AK-47. So, so many things have been done there, every time there’s an election and people come out to vote, the Indian government goes and says–“Why do you want a referendum? There was a vote and the people have voted for India.”
Now, I actually think that we need to deepen our thinking a little bit because I too am very proud of this meeting today, I think it’s a historic meeting in some ways, it’s a historic meeting taking place in the capital of this very hollow superpower, a superpower where 830 million people live on less than 20 rupees a day. Now, sometimes it’s very difficult to know from what place one stands on as formally a citizen of India, what can one say, what is one allowed to say, because when India was fighting for independence from British colonization– every argument that people now use to problematize the problems of azaadi in Kashmir were certainly used against Indians. Crudely put, “the natives are not ready for freedom, the natives are not ready for democracy”, but every kind of complication was also true, I mean the great debates between Ambedkar and Gandhi and Nehru – they were also real debates and over these last 60 years whatever the Indian State has done, people in this country have argued and debated and deepened the meaning of freedom.
We have also lost a lot of ground because we’ve come to a stage today where India a country that once called itself Non Aligned , that once held its head up in pride has today totally lain down prostrate on the floor at the feet of the USA. So we are a slave nation today, our economy is completely–however much the Sensex may be growing, the fact is the reason that the Indian police, the paramilitary and soon perhaps the army will be deployed in the whole of central India is because it’s an extractive colonial economy that’s being foisted on us.
But the reason that I said what we need to do is to deepen this conversation is because it’s also very easy for us to continue to pat ourselves on the backs as great fighters for resistance for anything whether it’s the Maoists in the forests or whether it’s the stone pelters on the streets – but actually we must understand that we are up against something very serious and I’m afraid that the bows and arrows of the Adivasis and the stones in the hands of the young people are absolutely essential but they are not the only thing that’s going to win us freedom, and for that we need to be tactical, we need to question ourselves, we need to make alliances, serious alliances…. Because… I often say that in 1986 when capitalism won its jihad against soviet communism in the mountains of Afghanistan, the whole world changed and India realigned itself in the unipolar world and in that realignment it did two things, it opened two locks , one was the lock of the Babri Masjid and one was the lock of the Indian markets and it ushered in two kinds of totalitarianism – Hindu fascism, Hindutva fascism and economic totalitarianism and both these manufactured their own kinds of terrorism – so you have Islamist “terrorists” and the Maoist “terrorists” – and this process has made 80 percent of this country live on 20 rupees a day but it has divided us all up and we spend all our time fighting with each other when in fact there should be deep solidarity.
There should be deep solidarity between the struggles in Manipur, the struggles in Nagaland, the struggle in Kashmir, the struggle in central India and in all the poor, squatters, the vendors , all the slum dwellers and so on. But what is it that should link these struggles? It’s the idea of Justice because there can be struggles which are not struggles for justice, there are peoples movements like the VHP is a peoples movement – but it’s a struggle for fascism, it’s a struggle for injustice, we don’t align ourselves with that. So every movement, every person on the street, every slogan is not a slogan for justice.
This is an excerpt from a speech made by Arundhati Roy at a seminar at the LTG Auditorium, New Delhi: ‘Azadi – the Only Way’ on October 21, 2010. The full transcript of the speech can be read at: outlookindia.com