As i sit here listening to samples of songs on the split personality riddim, one of the latest products from Kingston’s teeming studios, I’m actually battling a sense of dread. News has just come of an attack on tourists in India’s capital Delhi, two weeks ahead of the nineteenth staging of the Commonwealth Games there. The attack was accompanied by an email to the Indian media from a group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen. They want vengeance and are threatening retaliation for alleged atrocities in Kashmir. Congratulating India on its hosting of the CWG, the email goes on to say:
“Rejoice! We will now rightfully play Holi with your blood in your own cities. Scores of fidayeen are restless to drop the Evil ones into the hellfire… we Warn you to host the Commonwealth games if you have a grain of salt. We know that preparations for the games are at its peak; Beware!! We too are preparing in full swing for a Great Surprise! The participants will be solely responsible for the outcome, as our bands of Mujahideen love death more than you love life. In Kashmir you have succeeded in usurping our Right of self-determination with all your Chanakya policies.”
The language is accidentally poetic in places, occasionally striking a tragicomic note: Remember! As we bleed, so will you seep…
It’s hard not to weep. India presents a large, slow-moving target and is inadequately equipped to deal with the fallout from situations like the long-standing war over Kashmir. Just yesterday we (#JNSS) distributed “safety catalogues” to foreign tourists in Paharganj came a tweet from Delhi.
Only a short while ago India was faced with the prospect of shooting young 9 and 10 year old boys in Kashmir who were pelting stones at the army. Today the situation in Kashmir has escalated to the point where the nation is now being held hostage. Perhaps its time to let go? Incidentally Arundhati Roy’s advocacy of independence for Kashmir (see video at the end of this post) was one of the issues that earned the person tweeting in her name the wrath of Indian tweeters.
A recent article What Are Kashmir’s Stone Pelters Saying to Us? (Economic and Political Weekly, VOL 45 No. 37 September 11 – September 17, 2010) summed up the problem well:
Like an obstinate nightmare, Kashmir has returned to haunt India’s political discourse, in this third consecutive summer of massive protests. For almost two months now we are witnessing the brazen courage of Kashmiri youth, armed with stones in their hands, in groups of no more than a few hundred at a time, taking on Kashmir’s much vaunted “security grid”. This carefully welded network deploys at least 6,00,000 soldiers in uniform, and another 1,00,000 “civilian” intelligence and surveillance operatives. But pinned down by this summer’s showers of carefully aimed rocks, the grid has begun to appear clumsy and vulnerable.
As the sang-bazan, the stone-pelters, insolently stormed into prime time, they brought with them an intensity that made the newspaper pundits, and the usual chorus of television-studio experts, briefly wilt. Images of boys as young as nine and ten being dragged off into police vehicles, or shot dead by the paramilitary forces, have begun to dent conventional truisms about what is happening in Kashmir. Startling photographs of middle-aged (and middle class) women in the ranks of the stone-pelting protesters have also destabilised those who have hidden behind a morbid panic of the “Islamists”, or the fear of Pakistan’s venality, to obscure their understanding of events in the Valley. Although reluctant to grant this uprising the same political pedigree, at least some Indians seem to be curling their tongues around the word intifada. On the whole, the David and Goliath disproportion of the protests, and its sheer effrontery, has begun to capture the imagination of a growing number of people in India. So beyond their furious defiance, what are Kashmir’s stone-pelters saying to us?