Lydia Polygreen

From New York Times: “Memo from Srinagar

“Speaking to the multitudes gathered at New Delhi’s Red Fort on Sunday to commemorate India’s Independence Day, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared, “India’s democracy has the generosity and the flexibility to be able to address the concerns of any area or any group of the country.”

Throughout its history India has managed to accommodate an extraordinary degree of diversity within its much disputed but nevertheless sacrosanct borders.”

“But as the past two months have shown, Kashmir is the one blood-soaked exception. Nearly 60 civilians have died in angry protests against India’s military presence there, and the cry for self-rule seems to grow stronger with each new body interred in this city’s growing Martyrs Graveyard. India has tried brute military force, Indian-style democracy and pork-barrel spending. Nothing has worked.”

“It is Indian political boilerplate to say that Kashmir is an integral part of India. In his Independence Day speech, Mr. Singh uttered this mantra in practically the same breath as he called for dialogue to resolve the crisis in Kashmir. The trouble, analysts and historians say, is that India’s claim on Kashmir is hardly ironclad.

“This is a genuinely international dispute,” said Ramachandra Guha, a historian whose book, “India After Gandhi,” details the messy process by which Kashmir became part of India after partition in 1947. “India has a case for its position, but it is not foolproof.”

“Kashmiris have a habit of correcting visitors who refer to them as Indians — they are, they insist, Kashmiris. But India also has fallen into the habit of not treating Kashmiris like Indians. Life in Kashmir is full of indignities and inconveniences imposed in the name of security. Endless curfews shutter people indoors. Text messaging, beloved by teenagers and mob organizers alike, is often shut down.

The security forces are shielded from scrutiny by special laws, allowing them to use deadly force with little regard for the consequences.”

“The presence of India in Kashmir is the troopers and army and nothing else,” he said in an interview in his studio here, where he has been cooped up for weeks during the curfew. “What is India doing to prove that our future lies with them? They are just bringing more troops to crush us.”

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