Pankaj Mishra

From Guardian: “Why Silence over Kashmir Speaks Volumes

“Once known for its extraordinary beauty, the valley of Kashmir now hosts the biggest, bloodiest and also the most obscure military occupation in the world. With more than 80,000 people dead in an anti-India insurgency backed by Pakistan, the killings fields of Kashmir dwarf those of Palestine and Tibet. In addition to the everyday regime of arbitrary arrests, curfews, raids, and checkpoints enforced by nearly 700,000 Indian soldiers, the valley’s 4 million Muslims are exposed to extra-judicial execution, rape and torture, with such barbaric variations as live electric wires inserted into penises.”

“Why then does the immense human suffering of Kashmir occupy such an imperceptible place in our moral imagination? After all, the Kashmiris demanding release from the degradations of military rule couldn’t be louder and clearer.”

The hundreds of thousands of demonstrators that fill the streets of Kashmir’s cities today are overwhelmingly young, many in their teens, and armed with nothing more lethal than stones.”

The New York Times this week described the protests as a comprehensive”intifada-like popular revolt”. They indeed have a broader mass base than the Green Movement does in Iran. But no colour-coded revolution is heralded in Kashmir by western commentators. The BBC and CNN don’t endlessly loop clips of little children being shot in the head by Indian soldiers. Bloggers and tweeters in the west fail to keep a virtual vigil by the side of the dead and the wounded. No sooner than his office issued it last week, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, hastened to retract a feeble statement expressing concern over the situation in Kashmir.”

Kashmir has turned out to be a “great suppression story”.

The cautiousness – or timidity – of western politicians is easy to understand. Apart from appearing as a lifeline to flailing western economies, India is a counterweight, at least in the fantasies of western strategists, to China. A month before his election, Barack Obama declared that resolving the “Kashmir crisis” was among his “critical tasks”. Since then, the US president hasn’t uttered a word about this ur-crisis that has seeded all major conflicts in south Asia. David Cameron was advised a similar strategic public silence on his visit to India last fortnight.”

Those western pundits who are always ready to assault illiberal regimes worldwide on behalf of democracy ought not to be so tongue-tied. Here is a well-educated Muslim population, heterodox and pluralist by tradition and temperament, and desperate for genuine democracy. However, intellectuals preoccupied by transcendent, nearly mystical, battles between civilization and barbarism tend to assume that “democratic” India, a natural ally of the “liberal” west, must be doing the right thing in Kashmir, ie fighting “Islamofascism”.

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