Shuddhabrata Sengupta

From “Azadi–The Only Way: a report

“Dear Friends,

I was present and speaking a few hours ago at a meeting titled ‘Azadi: The Only Way’ on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, organized by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners at the Little Theatre Group in Delhi yesterday (21st October). I was not present from the beginning of the meeting as I was traveling from another city, but can vouch for what occurred from around 4:30 pm till the time that the meeting wound up, well after 8:00 pm in the evening.

The meeting took place in the packed to capacity auditorium of the Little Theatre Group on Copernicus Marg at the heart of New Delhi. Several speakers, including the poet Varavara Rao, Prof. Mihir Bhattacharya, Sujato Bhadra, Gursharan Singh, Mr. Shivnandan (?) an activist from Jammu, Professor G.N.Saibaba, Professor Sheikh Showkat Hussain – Professor of Law, Srinagar University, the journalist Najeeb Mubaraki, Dr. N. Venuh of the Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, the writer Arundhati Roy and myself spoke at the meeting. (I may be missing out some names, for which I apologize, but I was not present for a part of the meeting, at the very beginning) The climax of the meeting was a very substantive and significant speech by Syed Ali Shah Geelani of the Hurriyat Conference (G), which spelt out the vision of liberation (Azaadi) and Justice that Syed Ali Shah Geelani held out before the assembled public, of which I will write in detail later in this text.

Yesterday’s meeting needs to be seen in the context of a momentum of different events, which have included public meetings at Jantar Mantar, meetings in the Jawaharlal Nehru Universtiy and Delhi University, film screenings and talks, independently organized exhibitions on the history of Jammu and Kashmir in educational institutions, photographic exhibitions on the situation in Kashmir today that have taken place recently at the India Habitat Centre, while Kashmir has reeled under the brutality of the occupation that has resulted in a hundred and eleven deaths of unarmed or stone pelting people, including children and teenagers. The momentum of this process, which recognizes the urgency of the situation in Kashmir, needs to be taken to its logical conclusion, until the world and the international community sits up and takes notice of the true nature of the hold of the Indian state on Kashmir and its people.We need many more such meetings and gatherings in Delhi, and indeed in every large city in India.

I spoke briefly, about the fact that I was proud that so many of us had gathered in my city, Delhi, putting aside the abstraction of our politically determined, state given construct of citizenship, and standing, here, now, on the grounds of a concrete human solidarity with the people of Kashmir. I spoke of the fact that there are significant voices, even in the mainstream media who have been compelled to recognize the urgency of the situation in Kashmir, by the sheer determination of the youth of Kashmir to get the news of what is happening in Kashmir out to the world. I spoke of the role played by facebook sites like ‘Aalaw’ and blogs, and the fact that the people of India and the world can no longer be kept in the dark by a pliant media, as happened in 1989-90. I spoke of the ways in which the viral circulation of leaked videos of the humiliation of Kashmiri youth on facebook pages and online fora have successfully shown us what the reality of Kashmir is today. I urged media professionals in the mainstream media to introspect and reflect on the role that they may be compelled, against their own professional ehtics, to play in the pyschological and propaganda war that the Indian state is currently conducting. I spoke of my sense of shame and remorse at the evasive and dissimulating role played by sections of the mainstream media in India while reporting (or not reporting) atrocities that make even the images from Abu Gharaib pale in comparison.”

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