Shuddhabrata Sengupta in New Delhi

From Kafila: “Kashmir Comes to Jantar Mantar

“Last evening I went to Jantar Mantar after many years. It is a road I pass often, looking at the sad and melancholic little protests that line the kerb, whispering to an indifferent Capital the million mutinies of our banana plantation republic.

Last evening was different. There were perhaps four to five hundred people, many, but not all Kashmiri, men and women, who had gathered to protest against the wanton destruction of life in the Kashmir valley by the security apparatus of the Indian state in the last few weeks and months. 45 civilian deaths in 8 weeks signals a state losing its head. Especially when the deaths occur when the police and paramilitaries fire live bullets on unarmed or stone pelting mobs. When stones, or unarmed bodies are met with ammunition, you know that the state has no respect whatsoever for bare life. That this should happen in a state that calls itself a democracy should make all of us who are its citizens reflect on how hollow ‘democracy’ feels to the mother or friend of a young boy or girl who is felled by a ‘democratic’ bullet.”

“As a citizen of the Indian republic, I can only hang my head in shame at the venality of the state, and at how it openly sanctions the murder of Kashmiri men, women and children on the streets of the valley. Even a leading member of the Israeli military establishment (not known for their kindness towards occupied Palestinians) has recently admonished India’s hard-line militarist mandarins in Kashmir on the appalling conditions that they administer in Kashmir.”

“I can understand what motivates people to make that claim, even if I cannot make it myself, especially in a situation, where all appeals to mundane, worldly power, seem to have exhausted themselves. A situation where stones are met with bullets and grenades can make even the most sceptical of us lose faith in the grace of the mortals who rule, ultimately, only with the force of arms.”

“Outside the perimter of this protest, stood another – a small group of people associated with organizations that claim to represent the Kashmiri Pandit Diaspora, who were ‘protesting’ against the protest. I recognized a face in this crowd, I follow his self-righteous online outpourings quite regularly. Some of the speakers, including Mr. Geelani, alluded to them, saying that they shared in their pain, and even invited them to come and address the gathering. They however, remained aloof. Holding their placards, with their claim to monopoly of the pain and anguish of Kashmir. Ther stirred to life, when Sanjay Kak, spoke, heckling him, in a now familiar and churlish manner. I felt sad to see them, because they could make claim to suffering only as a means to divide people, not bring people together in solidarity.”

“The occupation of Kashmir by India and Pakistan is an immoral and evil fact of our times. The sooner it ends, the better will it be for all of us in South Asia. True ‘Azaadi’ in Kashmir, for all its inhabitants, and for all those who have been displaced by more than twenty years of violence, can only help us all, in Delhi, and elsewhere, to breathe more freely.”

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