On Kashmir, India and the revisionism of Arundhati Roy…

Just been part of a very lively and fascinating discussion on the BBC World Service’s World Have Your Say on the effects of Arundhati Roy’s remarks at the weekend that Kashmir was not part of India.

There has been talk of charges of sedition being prefered, but at the moment these seem to be unlikely to emerge. Many voices on the programme seem to be backing her right to speak her mind (however misguided she may or may not prove to be)…

But several things struck me:

One, freedom of speech in a situation where bullets are flying or there is simple no recourse to law and due process, there is no meaningful ‘freedom of speech’. Roy has it, but she doesn’t live in the valley. In Kashmir, I suspect, there is still no real and widespread freedom to speak your individual conscience. That can only come when the threat of death is withdrawn.

Two, in the context of even an emergent peace agreement it is important to create pools of trust where people can say those things their neighbours find outrageous. But in the post conflict era in Northern Ireland there was a strange counter current of pessimism that got stronger even as normal life returned.

As though somehow opinions were more injurious than discriminate or indiscriminate murder.

In Northern Ireland, as people were more open about their real views they had previously withheld for fear of reprisals. As that corporeal dread receded, so publicly professed politics seemed became harder (and the hardline parties began to subsume the votes of the moderates). Even as their actually policies began to moderate.

There was a time when there was a class of historians journalists and writers in Ireland where cast in a veritable cast of untouchables: ie those who dared to question or subvert the national narrative. For them was reserved the term Revisionists.

Yet after almost a generation of thinking the unthinkable, but acting it out, few in the political class north or south now can claim with much conviction that they have profoundly revised their previously deeply held convictions.

Not everything those revisionists once dared to speak has (or even will) come to pass. But once the guns were substantially silenced, Ireland’s political leaders had few other places to go than accept the previously unacceptable twins of institutional power-sharing and British Northern Ireland.

At any rate, India (as should Ireland) should treasure its national dissenters.

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  • Alias

    “At any rate, India (as should Ireland) should treasure its national dissenters.”

    Unless they’re dissidents, of course…

  • Greenflag

    And here’s Arundhati Roy’s reasons for why Kashmir should not be a part of India and why India has 500,000 troops stationed in the Kashmir Valley where Kashmiri Muslims outnumber Hindus by 97% to 2 %

    http://www.democracynow.org/2010/10/27/acclaimed_indian_author_arundhati_roy_faces

    Somehow I don’t foresee a Northern Ireland with a 97% Nationalist population and a 2% Unionist population still being a part of the Union .

    It’s the same old same old . Serbians laying claim to Kosovo despite the fact that 90% of Kosovars did not see themselves as Serbs or ever wanted to be . Ditto for the non muslims in Southern Sudan who’s chance for independence may yet be successful -and ditto for East Timor , Tibet and the Palestinians and the Chechens .

    Theworlds ‘armed thugs ‘ Russia, India , Israel , China and others are just repeating the 18th and 19th century of Imperialism as practiced by the British , French , Spanish etc etc .

    The political blood brothers of the corporate finance looters who exert their form of thuggery on economies and predate on the world’s poor and underdeveloped 🙁

  • Alias

    It varies according to the region, e.g. Hindus form 67% of the population of Jammu but only 4% of Kashmir Valley. China and Pakistan also administer regions, and the religious/tribal/clan/national vary there too.

  • JoeJoe

    In London in the 90s, Sikh friends claimed that their parents had expected a Hindu (lesser India), Moslem (Pakistan, Bangladesh) and a Sikhestan state out of greater India.

    (Suggestion for a separate thread Mick {and condolences}
    Ní raibh aon caint faoi ‘Seachtar na Cásca ar Tg4, seacht clár fé’n seachtara bhí i gCeannas ar an Eireigh amach 1916. Bhí an ceann anocht ar Éamonn Ceannt thar cionn. Tá siad le fáil ar an b’player’ http://beo.tg4.ie/)

  • Damian O’Loan

    This is a little confused, it’s unclear whether you’re accusing Roy of revisionism or praising her for daring to ‘state truth to power’. In either case, it’s not the best criticism to say she doesn’t live in the area. A vast majority of India’s citizens live in abject poverty and Roy speaks on behalf of the most severely afflicted, spending most of her time in the poorest areas.

    Her points on the nature of Hindu regime are not controversial either. Discrimination against Dalits is a fundamental part of the religion. Human rights abuses in the country are a matter of public record.

    A more direct comparison may be with the Special Powers Act. She wrote in the New Statesman recently:

    “They are aware that, like the people of Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland and Assam, they too have now been stripped of their civil rights by laws such as the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, which criminalise every kind of dissent – by word, deed and even intent.”

    Arundhati Roy isn’t saying anything she hasn’t been saying for years and it takes serious hypocrisy to disagree with the substance of her argument.

  • Damian O’Loan
  • Alias

    He is using ‘revisionist’ as an accolade, not as its more common derogative usage so that’s probably a bit confusing. The point about not living there isn’t to suggest that she doesn’t know what she is talking about (also a more common use) or shouldn’t try to speak for those who do live in the Valley but to point out that those who do live there can’t speak out for fear of violent sanction so it is all the more important that ‘revisionists’ such as her challenge the national narrative in India and bring those messages to the public attention.

  • Damian O’Loan

    I hope you’re correct but I don’t think it your place to say so much so definitively.

  • Alias

    Mick has said it “definitively” and not I. In regard to the revisionists:

    “There was a time when there was a class of historians journalists and writers in Ireland where cast in a veritable cast of untouchables: ie those who dared to question or subvert the national narrative. For them was reserved the term Revisionists.”

    &

    “At any rate, India (as should Ireland) should treasure its national dissenters.”

    And in regard to the limitations paced on free speech by violent sanction:

    “One, freedom of speech in a situation where bullets are flying or there is simple no recourse to law and due process, there is no meaningful ‘freedom of speech’. Roy has it, but she doesn’t live in the valley. In Kashmir, I suspect, there is still no real and widespread freedom to speak your individual conscience. That can only come when the threat of death is withdrawn.”

  • Alias

    Incidentally, using the terms ‘revisionist’ and ‘dissident’ interchangably in the above article is also confusing since these terms are not used as synonyms in an Irish context but are almost antonyms, with revisionists denoting the opposite of what dissidents denote having agendas that diametrically oppose each other.

  • Alias

    Err, dissenters, not dissidents (see post #1). Dissenter would mean, in an British context, Roman Catholics and later Protestants who dissented from the applicable Acts of parliament (Act of Toleration, etc). In an Irish context, it commonly means neither Catholic nor Protestant (but actually means a non-conforming Protestant). Dissident was the derogative form of dissenter. Outside of an Irish or British context, dissenter isn’t used at all and ‘dissident’ isn’t used as a derogative or as a synonym for terrorist. Dissident would have been the correct word to use rather than dissenter but I guess that it was used a euphemism for it.

  • Greenflag

    That entire region of the world could be described as an Asian ‘Balkans’ in waiting . The Kashmir Jammu region is made up several distinct areas and even these areas can be ‘broken up’ into distinct ethnic majority areas such as the Kashmir Valley (97% Kashmiri Muslim). For those who like to see detail to see if there’s a possibility of exporting the NI peace process to that troubled region here’s some more detail .

    Kashmir Jammu is administered by India but claimed by Pakistan .

    Azad Kashmir is administered by Pakistan but claimed by India.

    Northern Area is administered by Pakistan but claimed by India

    The Siachen Glacier is administered India but claimed by Pakistan

    Aksai Chin is administered by China but claimed by India

    Shaksam Valley is administered by China but claimed by India .

    The fact that all of the nations involved in these claims and counterclaims i.e India , Pakistan and China are all nuclear powers should give pause for thought .

    Northern Ireland’s ‘complexity’ is an infant in comparison 😉